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Journey To The Centre Of The Earth - The Accuracies and Inaccuracies - Chapter VI

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Journey To The Centre Of The Earth - The Accuracies and Inaccuracies - Chapter VI

The discussions that take place in this passage between the professor and his nephew Axel are that of the possibilities of a journey to the centre of the Earth. It is here that many fundamental scientific views are presented signifying the knowledge of the scientific community at the time, and, it is in this essay that these theories will be critically analysed against current understandings.

The statement explaining that the internal temperature of the Earth rises 1°Fahrenheit for every 70 feet in depth is the foremost scientific inaccuracy for which many further discrepancies are formulated upon. At present an advanced understanding has been gained in this field which counter's Verne's proclamation of such a constant being found throughout the Earth. Knowledge of the geotherm (the change of temperature with depth) is found to be 20° to 30°C per Km in normal continental crust. The steep geothermal gradient near Earth's surface tells us that heat is transported through the lithosphere by conduction. Below this depth, the temperature does not rise as rapidly; the temperature rises at a rate of less than half a degree per kilometre, countering Verne’s opinion.

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        Continental Crust has an average thickness of 32 km and the conditions below the crust can be revealed by lavas and rocks erupted in volcanoes. The data indicates that temperatures near the base of the lithosphere are approximately 1300°/1600º F. These temperatures are very near the melting point of mantle rocks but vary from about 900 °C at the base of 30 km thick crust and about 2700 °C at the base of 90 km thick crust. To reach an 'impassable limit' at a certain depth is not feasible proposition as the temperature still increases with depth until the core is reached whereupon the maximum temperature is reached. Some regulation is present preventing exponential increases of the internal temperature in the mantle. Again this is achieved by convection averaging the temperature differences and therefore preventing such proliferate temperatures.

        Jules Verne correctly indicates that 'the interior of the globe neither gas or water, nor any of the heaviest minerals known, for in none of these cases would the Earth weigh what it does.' The inner core is not a gaseous or liquid province but encompasses a predominantly impure iron-nickel region with a composition including minor amounts of some lighter element such as oxygen and sulphur. In laboratory simulations it is proved that this mixture is of the correct density to clarify the known mass of the core.

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Correctly J. Verne indicates that the Earth's crust does contain Sodium and Potassium as well as other metal elements, but the proposal that atmospheric vapours caused numerous volcanoes by water penetrating into the fissures of the crust, braking into fresh combustion with explosions and eruptions is untrue. The quantities of such elements are small in their amounts (Sodium 3.1 an potassium 2.9 [average composition in granite - andesite]) within the crust and it is known that sea floor spreading causes such volcanic eruptions, the subduction of lithospheric plates at plate boundaries and mantle plumes creating hot spots. However he is partly correct that water does increase the intensity of such events, but the water concerned here is primarily from the ocean in recycled oceanic crust whereby water remains trapped between the sediment grains and is slowly released as the temperature increases causing the rocks to melt at lower temperatures than usual, increasing the gaseous content, causing volcanic arcs.

An ‘Exciting Discussion about an Unparalleled Enterprise’ highlights many of the misconceptions and lack of understanding at the time, portrayed here by Jules Verne’s observations. Primarily Verne’s theories are either partially correct yet out of context, or, for the most part, incorrect. It seems that the majority of the misconceptions about the interior of the globe are based on flaws relating the to geotherm as an erroneous constant throughout the Earth and the formation thereof.

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