The Sea of Crises -The Moon
Easily seen from Scarborough if you look up at certain times of the month. On the lunar surface, nestling amongst the beautifully named Seas of Tranquility, Nectar and Fertility, is the Sea of Crises. It is the small, oval-shaped ‘sea’ at the top right-hand corner.
The Sea of Crises is not a sea but 68,000 square miles of lunar basalt rock. It was named in 1651 by Italian astronomer and priest Giovanni Riccioli, for reasons unknown. The area has had its name changed by lunar cartographers many times throughout history.
It was even called Britain at one time, on a lunar map drawn up by English astronomer William Gilbert. Later lunar and celestial maps became regulated and standardised by the International Astronomical Union to prevent anyone with a telescope drawing up their own lunar map and labelling its features as whatever they wanted.
The Sea of Crises has always been an object of fascination. Over the last 200 years, there have been 12 official reports of transient lunar phenomenon, or unexplained flashes. The Sea of Crises has a magnetic field anomaly, which causes an unusually high concentration of gravity specific to that locality, as well as being the location of a rare geological fault where the moon’s surface crust is so thin it exposes the mantle underneath.
The anomalies and reports of strange flashes inspired Arthur C Clarke’s short story The Sentinel, developed by Stanley Kubrick in his movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the story, the Sea of Crises was the location of the mysterious black stone monolith which appears to mankind just before a great evolutionary step. In 1788, German astronomer Johann Schröter theorised that the Sea of Crises was the home of the Selenites, the original inhabitants of the moon.
The great English writer and one of the founders of science fiction, HG Wells, used this idea in his story, The First Men in the Moon, published in 1901. Using a new building material that is impervious to gravity, two protagonists journey to the moon and meet an ancient race of moon dwellers. Wells named them after Selene, the Greek goddess of the moon.
Wells was a pacifist and an outspoken socialist. His stories were widely read and his books were a favourite of Winston Churchill who used some of Wells’ lines in his early speeches. The Wells book, The Rights of Man (1940), laid the groundwork for the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations.
Wells greatly influenced sci-fi writers such as Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who understood how writing positively about the future could influence and inspire future generations to do the same.
Wells was despised by Adolf Hitler, who put him top of his hit list of notable British figures to expunge, if and when the opportunity arose.
According to conspiracy theorists, the Sea of Crises was the location of a secret Nazi sublunar base. The theory formed the basis of the sci-fi novel Rocket Ship Galileo, published by Robert A Heinlein in 1947. The story tells of a secret Nazi moon base established at the end of the second world war.
Conspiracy theorists believe the rapid rise in UFO sightings, initially known as Foo Fighters, were Nazi test craft whose air base was relocated to the moon along with Adolf Hitler and senior members of the SS after WW2. Many people who claim to have been abducted by UFOs say they have visited the Sea of Crises and observed vast hangers harbouring gigantic spacecraft.
Besides ‘seas’, the moon has other features on its landscape that have inspired creative names. They include the Marsh of Epidemics, the Seething Bay, the Bay of Rainbows and the Lake of Death.
The largest crater in the Sea of Crises is called Picard, after 17th century French astronomer Jean-Felix Picard. Seeing how the Sea of Crises is such a sci-fi hotspot, the crater could have been the inspiration for the name of Star Trek captain Jean-Luc Picard.
Just to the left of the Sea of Crises is a place of special significance for humanity. The Sea of Tranquility is where Neil Armstrong stepped on the lunar surface. Apollo 11’s landing site, Tranquility Base, is close to the southern edge.
English poet Robert Graves wrote: “Poetry derives its magic from the moon. The fact that so many scholars are barbarians does not matter much, so long as a few of them are ready to help the few independent thinkers, that is to say the poets, who try to keep civilisation alive”.
Reporting live from the Moon