Saturday, 12 July 2014

Maury Station

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 21 Sept 2013.

In Poul Anderson's The Byworlder (London, 1974), Maury Station, staffed by respectable, conventional scientists, must be Ortho, not Byworld? pp. 100-104 present some minimal information about the Station. Still rereading the novel with 80 pages left, I cannot remember whether there is more about sea life later.

The purpose of summarizing interesting details from Anderson's novels is to convey an appreciation of the imaginative depth and wealth crowded into each work.

Fifty kilometers from the Oregan coast, platforms with projecting piers support buildings, machinery and a shaft with an elevator descending fifty fathoms to the central undersea dome which is surrounded by a ring of others kept at ambient pressure and connected by tunnels. Laboratory experiments include producing alcohol from plankton. When the Viking fleet delivers a cargo of refined metals, its flag ship, too large to dock, anchors at a safe distance while the concentrator ship lays alongside a pier.

"McPherson 'gills'..." (p. 103) extract oxygen for the artificially generated merfolk who are evolving dialects appropriate to the high-pitched speech caused by the helium content of the air in the decompression chambers joining to the tunnels to the main dome. In the water, a man directs an orca. I think that there were earlier references to cetacean speech although I cannot find them looking back. There are transparent submarines. Soon, there will be a new undersea civilization. The oceans cover what, two thirds of the Earth's surface?

That is it. In mid-paragraph, the viewpoint characters who have visited the Station are back with the Viking fleet. I am sure that Anderson would have worked out a lot more detail for Maury Station and there might be more of it later in the book.

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