CHAPTER 2: The Pros and Cons
DURING THE PERIOD in which these developments were occurring,
I had returned from a scientific undertaking organized to explore
the Nebraska badlands in the United States. In my capacity as
Assistant Professor at the Paris Museum of Natural History, I had
been attached to this expedition by the French government.
After spending six months in Nebraska, I arrived in New York laden
with valuable collections near the end of March. My departure
for France was set for early May. In the meantime, then, I was busy
classifying my mineralogical, botanical, and zoological treasures
when that incident took place with the Scotia.
I was perfectly abreast of this question, which was the big news
of the day, and how could I not have been? I had read and reread every
American and European newspaper without being any farther along.
This mystery puzzled me. Finding it impossible to form any views,
I drifted from one extreme to the other. Something was out there,
that much was certain, and any doubting Thomas was invited to place
his finger on the Scotia's wound.
When I arrived in New York, the question was at the boiling point.
The hypothesis of a drifting islet or an elusive reef, put forward
by people not quite in their right minds, was completely eliminated.
And indeed, unless this reef had an engine in its belly, how could
it move about with such prodigious speed?
Also discredited was the idea of a floating hull or some other
enormous wreckage, and again because of this speed of movement.
So only two possible solutions to the question were left,
creating two very distinct groups of supporters: on one side,
those favoring a monster of colossal strength; on the other,
those favoring an "underwater boat" of tremendous motor power.
Now then, although the latter hypothesis was completely admissible,
it couldn't stand up to inquiries conducted in both the New World
and the Old. That a private individual had such a mechanism at his
disposal was less than probable. Where and when had he built it,
and how could he have built it in secret?