El periodista del New York Sun Richard Adams Locke decidió inventarse en el año 1835 lo que se conoce como La Gran Patraña de la Luna. En esos días Sir John Herschel se encontraba en Cabo de Buena Esperanza realizando observaciones astronómicas con el telescopio más potente del planeta. Según Locke, el aparato permitía acercarse a la luna con una distancia ocular de 137 m. Así pudo ver flores, playas blancas, una enorme roca preciosa, seguramente rubí, rebaños de bisontes pequeños, unicornios azules, osos con cuernos, criaturas medio humanas medio murciélagos. Con todas esas alucinaciones su periódico consiguió un aumento espectacular de las ventas. Durante varios días fueron contado por entregas todo lo que el astrónomo parecía haber visto, ilustrado con dibujos en los que se representaban los seres que supuestamente habitaban la superficie lunar. El fenómeno periodístico tuvo tanta repercusión que pronto, en 1836, se hizo una versión en Italia realizada por Leopoldo Galluzzo: Altre scoverte fatte nella luna dal Sigr. Herschel.
A beach of brilliant white sand, girt with wild castellated rocks, apparently of green marble, varied at chasms, occurring every two or three hundred feet, with grotesque blocks of chalk or gypsum, and feathered and festooned at the summit with the clustering foliage of unknown trees, moved along the bright wall of our apartment until we were speechless with admiration. The water, we obtained a view of it, was nearly as blue as that of the deep ocean, and broke in large white billows upon the strand.
Having continued this close inspection of nearly two hours, during which we passed over a wide tract of country, chiefly of a rugged and apparent volcanic character; and having seen few additional varieties of vegetation, except some species of lichen, which grew everywhere in great abundance, Dr. Herschel proposed that we should take out all our lenses, give a rapid speed to the panorama, and search for some of the principal valleys known to astronomers, as the most likely method to reward our first night’s observation with the discovery of animated beings.
Several of these famous valleys, which are bounded by lofty hills of so perfectly conical a form as to render them less like works of nature than or art, passed the canvass before we had time to check their flight; but presently a train of scenery met our eye, of features so entirely novel, that Dr. Herschel signalled for the lowest convenient gradation of movement. It was a lofty chain of obelisk-shaped, or very slender pyramids, standing in irregular groups, each composed of about thirty or forty spires, every one of which was perfectly square, and as accurately truncated as the finest specimens of Cornish crystal. They were of a faint lilac hue, and very resplendent. I now thought that we had assuredly fallen on productions of art; but Dr. Herschel shrewdly remarked, that if the Lunarians could build thirty or forty miles of such monuments as these, we should ere now have discovered others of a less equivocal character.
In the shade of the woods on the south-eastern side, we beheld continuous herds of brown quadrupeds, having all the external characteristics of the bison, but more diminutive than any species of the bos genus in our natural history. Its tail is like that of our bos grunniens; but in its semi-circular horns, the hump on its shoulders, and the depth of its dewlap, and the length of its shaggy hair, it closely resembled the species to which I first compared it. It had, however, one widely distinctive feature, which we afterwards found common to nearly every lunar quadruped we have discovered; namely, a remarkable fleshy appendage over the eyes, crossing the whole breadth of the forehead and united to the ears. We could most distinctly perceive this hairy veil, which was shaped like the upper front outline of a cap known to the ladies as Mary Queen of Scots’ cap, lifted and lowered by means of the ears. It immediately occurred to the acute mind of Dr. Herschel, that this was a providential contrivance to protect the eyes of the animal from the extremes of light and darkness to which all the inhabitants of our side of the moon are periodically subjected.
The next animal perceived would be classed on earth as a monster. It was of a bluish lead color, about the size of a goat, with a head and beard like him, and a single horn, slightly inclined forward from the perpendicular. The female was destitute of horn and beard, but had a much longer tail. It was gregarious, and chiefly abounded on the acclivitous glades of the woods. In elegance of symmetry it rivalled the antelope, and like him it seemed an agile sprightly creature, running with great speed, and springing from the green turf with all the unaccountable antics of a young lamb or kitten. This beautiful creature afforded us the most exquisite amusement. The mimicry of its movements upon our white painted canvass was as faithful and luminous as that of animals within a few yards of the camera obscrua, when seen pictures upon its tympan.
On examining the centre of this delightful valley, we found a large branching river, abounding with lovely islands, and water-birds of numerous kinds. A species of grey pelican was the most numerous; but a black and white crane, with unreasonably long legs and bill, were also quite common. We watched their pisciverous experiments a long time, in hopes of catching sight of a lunar fish; but although we were not gratified in this respect, we could easily guess the purpose with which they plunged their long necks so deeply beneath the water. Near the upper extremity of one of these islands we obtained a glimpse of a strange amphibious creature, of a spherical form, which rolled with great velocity across the pebbly beach, and was lost sight of in the strong current which set off from this angle of the island. We were compelled, however, to leave this prolific valley unexplored, on account of clouds which were evidently accumulating in the lunar atmosphere, our own being perfectly translucent. But this was itself an interesting discovery, for more distant observers had questioned or denied the existence of any humid atmosphere in this planet.
It was not, however, without regret that we left the splendid valley of the red mountains, which, in compliment to the arms of our royal patron, we denominated «the Valley of the Unicorn;» and it may be found in Blunt’s map, about midway between the Mare Faecunditatis and the Mare Nectaris.
Richard Adams Locke
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