by Robert K.G. Temple

(The Sirius Mistery)

Spanish version

 

 

Let us visit the planet of the amphibians.

What are Sirius and Sirius B like as suns?

 

We know that they revolve around a common centre, which is in fact equivalent to Sirius B revolving around Sirius A in an elliptical orbit.

 

Sirius A, a big, bright star, has two and a half times the mass of our sun. Sirius B has ninety-five per cent of the mass of our sun, but because it is made of degenerate matter and is so tiny, this is not obvious.

 

If Sirius B with its mass were not a white dwarf, we could easily see it from earth as a star of magnitude 2, though the problem of parallax would make it difficult to separate it from Sirius A. In any case, if Sirius B were on its own somewhere at its distance from earth, and were not a white dwarf, it would be one of the brightest stars in the sky.

In reality, Sirius A is ten thousand times brighter than Sirius B. The luminosity of Sirius A is thirty-five and a half times the luminosity of our sun. That makes it a pretty hot number. We can be certain that our planet is not too near it. The 'habitable zone' discussed in Chapter One is much farther out from Sirius than it is from our sun.

 

As for the actual size of Sirius A, its radius is a little more than one and a half times the sun's radius.

 

This means that Sirius will be smaller in the sky than our own sun, seen from the planet. It will be a good deal smaller, but will need to have roughly the same amount of heat, which is not too difficult, considering how terribly hot and bright it is.

 

To us it would be a strange experience to see such a small body in the sky giving out so much heat and light. Looking directly at it would probably be as injurious as staring into an arc lamp.

 

 

 

 

All the more reason to be under water, and not so tempted.

Our planet will probably be quite hot. In fact, it will probably even be covered with a vaporous layer of cloud at most or all times. It might look something like Venus from a distance, though of course Venus does not have temperatures or clouds of the sort which living creatures are likely to find agreeable.

 

It would seem important to keep cool on this probably rather hot and steamy planet.

 

Therefore intelligent life is likely to have evolved as amphibious and never have taken to the land. These amphibians might easily inhabit the surface of the water, of course, for they would need to breathe atmosphere and would not have gills like fish - they would probably need to be mammals of some kind in order to develop the brain sizes and other characteristics necessary for intelligence.

 

They would probably spend a lot of time hanging about marshes and might have developed an indigenous way of life originally which involved the use of woven reeds for huts and transport, and so on. (They would long ago have got past that stage, of course.)

 

But perhaps their first style of life, to which they may even look back with some nostalgia as 'the good old days of simplicity and a carefree existence', was something like that described by Wilfred Thesiger in his book The Marsh Arabs in which the inhabitants of southern Iraq are pictured in the marshes of the lower Tigris and Euphrates (quite near where Oannes and his friends are said to have spent most of the time, one is tempted to note!).

If you were one of these creatures, you would be a good deal like a dolphin with arms and hands. You would, due to your amphibian nature, have a separate blowhole for breathing in addition to your mouth. You would be able to hold your breath for long periods, and when you did breathe through your blowhole, it would be a gasp and make a bit of noise.

 

Your blowhole would open and close almost instantaneously and your breathing would tend to be infrequent but loud and quick. The blowhole might be placed in such a way that it consisted of one or of two small slits, long and thin, just beneath your clavicles (collarbones).

 

In fact, the Dogon have a tradition that their Nommos breathed through their clavicles.

 

 

 

 

You could not go about bare-skinned in any atmosphere for long.

 

You would require moisture on your skin after a few hours at the most; when your skin dried you would be in absolute agony - worse than a human with sunburn.

 

Because you would frequent the surface of the water a great deal, there would inevitably be a considerable contrast between the top half of your body and the bottom half.

 

The tradition known to us of the mermaid expresses this state of affairs quite well. Your lower extremities would be quite fish-like, but you would have articulate limbs and fingers on your upper half and your skin would be more capable of resisting solar radiations and hence would be more like that of a land mammal.

 

Probably cartilaginous structures would have evolved in your head to rigidify your features beyond the simple streamlined form required for a strictly undersea life, and there would be something on your upper body resembling hair - perhaps like the hair of our own walruses.

Your teeth would probably be feeble compared with those of ferocious carnivores such as sharks. You would probably have evolved from more peaceful creatures capable of feeding on small fish in considerable numbers. Your ancestors would have run in packs as the dolphins do and you would be extremely sociable because you evolved in schools (packs).

 

Nudity is probably the natural state of your species.

 

Overpopulation is not one of your problems because most of your planet is water and all of the water is habitable. Even on the planet Earth, it is estimated that dolphins outnumber human beings two-to-one, and the oceans are hardly overcrowded.

As one of these creatures, you might find human beings repulsive, for many reasons. Their rough hair, dry skins, bony limbs, and particularly their pungent smells might disturb you greatly. Their sweat is not continually washed away in the way that your skin is continually cleansed by the watery medium which you inhabit.

 

And as an amphibian you have exceedingly well developed senses of smell and taste. You 'taste' smells or spoor-substances underwater at enormous distances and though your sense of smell is not quite as acute, it is competent enough. Unlike yourself, human beings tend to have areas in or near their dwellings which smell of their excrement and urine - places to which they habitually return to perform these functions.

 

As an amphibian whose waste products dissipate in the water, you find such an idea revolting. How can human beings stand going back to those same odors day after day?

One of the most disturbing sights to you is to watch human beings walking.

When humans stand still with their legs together, they look almost normal. But then suddenly they 'split' into two and begin walking, which makes you slightly dizzy and upsets you. It makes you feel nervous with the thought of how dreadful it would be for you if you 'split' and thereby became a cripple in the water.

 

You admire the agility of the humans on dry land.

 

They can climb trees and cliffs, all of which is terribly impressive. They can go at a great speed on land with what they call 'running', they even have a certain capacity to jump over obstacles; they are not as swift on land as you are in water, but they do passably well. You do have difficulty in seeing them sometimes because, as you are in a watery environment, your vision is not good at long range.

 

And the humans, being dry, do not stand out against their background as much as you could wish. When they move you can instantly detect motion without optical definition, but a stationary human who is even approximately camouflaged and blends with this background is impossible for you to differentiate with your unaided eye. You rely on your sense of smell, like a rhinoceros.

 

But when the wind is against you, you have no hope. A human can easily elude your perception on dry land if he knows what he is doing and you do not have your goggles or technical aids with you.

You would have an extremely agile mathematical mind. Your ancestors developed from the primitive state by computing the intricate astronomical phenomena and radiations falling on your planet without benefit of direct optical observations.

 

The brains of your species were thus engendered to conceive and solve vast intricate abstractions. Your powers of holding complicated mathematical structures suspended in your mind's eye while performing mathematical operations on them is extraordinary.

 

You have a phenomenal conceptual and generalizing faculty. It is easy for you to conceive of invisible, and even imperceptible, forces, because your daily environment is a suggestive, allusive one. You taste and smell your ambience rather than see it. Your powers of telepathy may be extremely highly evolved - possibly a characteristic of your species from their earliest history.

The climate range of your planet is greater even than the Earth's because there are no ice caps, due to there being more radiation from the two or three stars in your multi-solar system. Your oceans are all the more extensive, therefore, for not being locked up in ice caps at the poles.

Space flight is less uncomfortable for you than for humans, as the state of weightlessness is often approximated under water (indeed, on Earth the astronauts train under water). Your blood circulation is thus better suited to the weightless condition than is the case with humans and you do not at all mind living in the gigantic water tanks orbiting your planet which constitute your many satellite space cities.

 

It is not as difficult to simulate a watery environment in space as it is to simulate a dry land environment. Your wants are few, your existence simple. You do not eat cooked food and you do not have stoves to keep warm.

 

Farming for you is mostly the breeding of delicious small fish, and meals are an adventure as you love a good chase and the satisfaction of catching your food.

 

Dinner is a family sport.

The amphibians must have a name, and the Dogon name for them of 'the Monitors' may be the best to consider using. 'Monitor' is more specific than 'Instructor', and 'Masters of the Water' is too long. There is no point using the euphemism the 'Annedoti', knowing that it means the 'Repulsive Ones'.

 

A more generic and neutral term, I suppose, would be simply the 'Sirians'.

 

If we ever come into contact with them again, they will probably be called the 'Sirians' officially, and their civilization will be the 'Sirian civilization'.