Chapter 6: Elsewhere Across the Plane

Paul Kruger was a passionate Anglophobe. 

Eighty-odd years after his death, Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger is best known outside his native South Africa as the namesake of the gold Krugerrand.  Paul Kruger was once known as founder of the South African Republic.  He came from Huguenot stock on both sides of his family, and he was a member of the puritanical Dopper sect of Calvinists.  About the only thing he ever read was the Bible, and he was especially fond of the Old Testament.  Kruger considered himself divinely guided.  Tolerance played little role in his scheme of things.  When a deputation of Uitlanders (English-speaking settlers) called on him to request legal status for the English language in Transvaal, Kruger refused: “This is my country; these are my laws.  Those who do not like to obey my laws can leave my country.”

Personally, Kruger was one tough customer.  In his youth, he was an avid big game hunter.  On one occasion, he fired both barrels of a double rifle at a rhino.  The second barrel burst, mutilating his left thumb.  The rhino, also wounded, and greatly offended, gave chase, and Kruger barely managed to mount his horse and escape.  The shattered thumb infected, and Kruger finally amputated it with his pocketknife. 

Kruger took part in his first military campaign against the native Africans at age 13.  By 21, he was a veteran fighting man, and at 27 he commanded an expedition against the rebellious Bechuana chief Sechele.  Kruger never lost a drop of blood in any military campaign, though on one occasion his coat was punctured by several bullets.  He considered this evidence of protection from on high. 

Among other things, Kruger was an unrepentant flat-earther.  In his autobiography, he tells how, on a voyage to England, he overheard the captain and some others discussing modern astronomy.  Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore.  “If what you gentlemen are saying is true, I might as well throw my Bible overboard.” [The quote might not be verbatim.]

Late in the 19th century, the retired sea captain Joshua Slocum sailed the 37 foot yacht Spray around the world single-handed, the first time it was ever done.  During his around the world trip he docked at Durban, South Africa.  Durban is a seaport on the eastern coast of South Africa, 6810 sea miles from London round the Cape, or 7785 via the then-new Suez Canal.  Situated at about latitude 30° South, [note 6.1]  its climate is moderate, with the average temperature 70 degrees and average annual rainfall just over 40 inches.  Despite considerable dredging, the narrow entrance to its harbor in the Bay of Natal remained partially obstructed by a huge sandbar, but it was still the only good port between East London and Delagoa Bay.  Gold and diamond discoveries inland magnified Durban’s importance, and it was then the third largest city in South Africa with 60,000 population, roughly half white, a fourth black, and a fourth Asiatic (mostly Indian).  A proud colonial city, Durban boasted a fine botanical garden and a post office with a 164-foot clock tower.  Public transportation consisted of electric trams (“light rail” to modern urban planners) and rickshaws pulled by Zulus. 

Durban also boasted a contingent of flat-earthers.  In his book Sailing Alone Around the World, Slocum describes a visit from some zetetic philosophers when he docked at Durban late in 1897. 

It sounds odd to hear scholars and statesmen say the world is flat; but it is a fact that three Boers favored by the opinion of President Kruger prepared a work to support that contention.  While I was at Durban they came from Pretoria to obtain data from me, and they seemed annoyed when I told them they could not prove it by my experience.  With the advice to call up some ghost from the dark ages for research, I went ashore, and left these three wise men poring over the Spray’s track on a chart of the world, which, however, proved nothing to them, for it was on Mercator’s projection, and behold, it was “flat.” The next morning I met one of the party in a clergyman’s garb, carrying a large Bible, not different from the one I had read.  He tackled me, saying, “If you respect the Word of God, you must admit that the world is flat.” “If the Word of God stands on a flat world—” I began.  “What!” cried he, losing himself in a passion, and making as if he would run me through with an assagai. [note 6.2]  “What!” he shouted in astonishment and rage, while I jumped aside to dodge the imaginary weapon.  Had this good but misguided fanatic been armed with a real weapon, the crew of the Spray would have died a martyr there and then.  The next day, seeing him across the street, I bowed and made curves with my hands.  He responded with a level, swimming movement of his hands, meaning “the world is flat.” A pamphlet by these Transvaal geographers, made up of arguments from sources high and low to prove their theory, was mailed to me before I sailed from Africa on my last stretch around the globe. [ref. 6.1] 

Later, Slocum visited Pretoria and was introduced to president Kruger.  The visit was not entirely smooth. 

His Excellency received me cordially enough; but my friend Judge Beyers, the gentleman who presented me, by mentioning that I was on a voyage around the world, unwittingly gave offense to the venerable statesman, which we both regretted deeply.  Mr. Kruger corrected the judge rather sharply, reminding him that the world is flat.  “You don’t mean round the world,” said the president; “it is impossible!  You mean in the world.  Impossible!” he said, “impossible!” and not another word did he utter either to the judge or to me.  The judge looked at me and I looked at the judge, who should have known his ground, so to speak, and Mr. Kruger glowered at us both.  My friend the judge seemed embarrassed, but I was delighted; the incident pleased me more than anything else that could have happened. [ref. 6.2] 

As it happens, another zetetic philosopher, Thomas Winship, visited Slocum and recorded his own version of the events aboard the Spray:

In December, 1897, I met Captain Slocum on board the “Spray.” This navigator told me that he had sailed his little craft 33,000 miles by plane sailing.  Rather a LONG voyage, it must be admitted.  A PLANE or LEVEL SURFACE for 33,000 miles, and yet the world a globe?  To the pre-historic “man of science” at the North Pole, and the Darwinian Ape at the South Pole (?) of the astronomer’s imaginary globe, with such a delusion. [ref. 6.3] 

Thomas Winship was a well-known accountant in Durban.  Born at Newcastle-on-Tyne in September, 1860, he emigrated to South Africa at the age of 21.  He was well-known in Durban yachting circles and was once wrecked in his yacht off Port Shepstone, a Durban tug having to go to his rescue.  Winship went first to Capetown, and then settled in Durban with his family in 1897.  Winship died at his Durban residence after a short illness on July 30, 1942, at the age of 82.  He was survived by his daughters, Miss Louisa Winship, Mrs. Anna Edith Sparks and Mrs. Dorothy Amelia Lutkens, and sons Mr. Harry Winship and Mr. Albert Winship.  His wife, Amelia Hester Winship, had died three years previously. [ref. 6.4] 

In March 1893, Winship was aboard the USS Trojan, on a voyage which took him near St. Helena.  In May 1895, Winship was a passenger on the USS Goth and gave a lecture in Algoa Bay. [ref. 6.5]  In March 1897, Winship sailed from Capetown to England on an unnamed ship. [ref. 6.6]  He wrote, “On a steamer in March, 1897, when near St. Helena my attention was called to a large vessel.  … Between Teneriffe and Southampton we sighted a large four-masted steamer astern of us.” [ref. 6.7] 

It is a bit odd that during its great flowering in the 1890s, the British flat-earth movement produced not a single book.  Winship remedied that by producing two. 

In the preface to the second edition of Zetetic Cosmogony, Winship wrote:

Many have been enabled to see through the delusions of modern astronomy.  Letters from various parts testify that, in some cases, men and women have begun to make use of their brain-power, which had been stunted and dwarfed by the acceptation, without the slightest proof, of the unscientific, unreasonable, unnatural, and infidel teachings of men foisted upon a credulous public in the name of “Science.” [ref. 6.8] 

The preface is dated November 1899. 

Write down all the swindles that ever were perpetrated; name all the hoaxes you ever heard of or read about; include all the impostures and bubbles ever exposed; make a list of all the snares that popular credulity could ever be exposed to, and you will fail in getting within sight or hearing of an imposture so gross, a hoax so ingenious, or a bubble of such gigantic proportions as has been perpetrated and forced upon unthinking multitudes in the name of science, and as proved incontrovertible fact, by the expounders of modern astronomy. [ref. 6.9] 

Winship quoted extensively from Earth Review

There was a substantial flat-earth contingent in New Zealand by 1892, and they were apparently having some success.  Several of them were in correspondence with William Carpenter, who wrote:

From New Zealand, we learn, from three correspondents, that our principles are gaining ground despite the fact of a little difficulty existing which would seem to throw a doubt in the way of Prof. Proctor’s admission that the motions of the heavenly bodies may all be explained on a flat-earth basis.  Anyway, if demonstrable facts turn out to be old wives’ fancies, and God’s truths mere fables, then are we in a worse condition than the Apes of Darwin’s creation: for whereas they had the full play of their instincts, we should have been making fools of ourselves with what we call “reason.” Once show the possibility of such a state of affairs and man has nothing left!  But our New Zealand friends have sense enough to keep them in the path of reason. [ref. 6.10] 

Presumably, Carpenter’s three correspondents were Dines, Revell, and Runciman.  The Kiwis must have already been grappling with the motion of the southern stars. 

J. T. B. Dines was the UZS agent in New Zealand.  W. M. Runciman delivered flat-earth lectures in New Plymouth (and presumably other cities) in New Zealand.  Runciman was also New Plymouth agent for Earth Review

In 1892, J. T. B. Dines, Joseph King, and W. M. Runciman took a voyage together which proved (to them, at least) that the earth is flat.  They apparently reached Australia safely, but it’s not clear how that proves the earth flat. [ref. 6.11] 

J. T. B. Dines, Russel-street, Arch Hill, Auckland, N.Z., was named an agent for Earth Review in the April 1893 issue (p. iii).  He continued in that capacity through the last issue, dated April–June 1897.  In the notes to One Hundred Proofs, p. 79, Carpenter wrote, “From New Zealand, again, we have received of Mr. T. B. Dines, Auckland, from week to week, copies of the ‘Observer,’ in which paper he has been ably defending the Zetetic cause against Newton’s sharp-shooters.” This note dates to late 1892. 

George Revell of Auckland, New Zealand, has a letter on p. 12 of the January 1893 issue of Earth Review asking for literature and information on “the absurdity of atmospheric pressure.” He also has another letter on p. 13, so obviously the Kiwis were already in active contact with the UZS.  In the July 1893 issue, he had another letter on p. 15. 

Revell has two letters to Albert Smith on p. 14f of the October 1893 Earth Review.  The first refers to Smith’s health, which is not good, and also says, “I hope the S.D.A. Church in England will make you some restitution, eventually, for what you have suffered for the truth of God’s creation.” In the second, Revell reaffirms the motions of the southern stars. 

Revell has a letter in the May 1894 Earth Review, p. 161, in which he says there is no mistake about his remarks regarding stars in southern hemisphere.  The lowest position of the Southern Cross is 180 degrees out from the highest position.  It seems to invert. 

William Runciman, a Zetetic of New Plymouth, New Zealand, is mentioned in a letter from Caldwell Harpur on p. 13 of the January 1893 Earth Review.  Harpur had been corresponding with Runciman about the nonsetting Southern Cross. 

Earth Review, January 1894, p. 114, has a letter from William Runciman, Justice of the Peace: “I enclose you a cutting from our daily paper of Sept. 22nd, 1893, and a few pamphlets to shew you what I have been doing—my lecture was delivered before the Mutual Improvement Class of this town—and although it was the last night of the session, it is admitted on all hands to have been the best; there was [sic] nearly 200 persons present.” Runciman spoke for 2½ hours, and then published a challenge seeking someone to debate him.  There were no takers.  The text of the article (or part of it) is reprinted on p. 118f, where the article is credited to the New Plymouth Daily Paper.  (According to Keith Lockett, late editor of the New Zealand Skeptic, this paper was the Taranaki Herald.)

Earth Review March 1894, p. iii, gives an address for Runciman: Egmont Boot Factory, New Plymouth, New Zealand.  Runciman appears again on p. 48 of the January 1895 issue, with a query.  At some point, he became an agent for Earth Review and continued in that capacity through the last issue, dated April–June 1897. 

A dispute arose between the New Zealand and the British flat-earthers when the second (April 1893) issue of Earth Review opened flat-earthism’s largest can of worms.  The donnybrook was triggered by a letter from antizetetic gadfly Caldwell Harpur, who had been corresponding with Runciman regarding the nonsetting Southern Cross.  Harpur wrote that the motions described to him by Runciman were exactly what astronomer Richard Proctor said they would be. [ref. 6.12]  Editor Albert Smith shrugged off the second-hand Runciman statements as “hearsay evidence.” Proctor had lost his credibility by declining to debate Rowbotham, according to Smith, and he demanded good evidence for the motion of the Southern Cross. 

If zetetic astronomy is true—if the known, inhabitable earth is shaped like a phonograph record, with the north pole in the center and Antarctica smeared about the outer edge—there is no south pole.  According to zetetic astronomy, the heavenly bodies do not appear to circle the north star Polaris, they do circle it quite literally.  Yet William Runciman, a faithful Zetetic from New Plymouth, New Zealand, reported by letter that, in his part of the world, the celestial bodies appear to circle the Southern Cross.  The editor felt constrained to shrug it off as “hearsay evidence.” In subsequent issues, however, Runciman’s southern colleagues came to his defense.  Revell, another New Zealander, wrote to say there was no mistake about his remarks regarding stars in southern hemisphere.  In its lowest position, the Southern Cross is rotated 180 degrees from the highest position.  It appears to invert. 

The editor was in some difficulty over sunrise–sunset and star tracks in the southern hemisphere.  But, he wrote, even if reports are true, it would be no proof, etc.  He claims that he has previously shown that the data are at least inconsistent with globular theory (in a completely cock-eyed proof).  Later, in regard to the southern midnight sun, the editor wants a signed statement from the whole crew of the reporting ship, including the cabin-boy! 

Carpenter, by now living in America, wrote to dispute a New Zealand writer’s remarks on the Southern Cross.  Carpenter claimed the New Zealander’s account was confused and clearly wrong. 

Reverend David Neild first appears in Earth Review, March 1894, p. 134, where the editor (Smith) complains that Lux misplaced something he wrote: “Perhaps this so-called anti-infidel paper prefers after all the infidel’s globe before Natural and Biblical Cosmography?  Yet the editor promised (Aug. 16th, 1893), to let our reply to D. Neild’s article appear.” The promise might have been in a letter.  In Earth Review September–December 1896, p. 59, a reply is directed to Rev. D. Neild, clearly a skeptic.  Presumably, this is the same person. 

DeFord, on p. 12, quotes p. 48 of David Neild’s The Earth a Globe to claim there are no tides in Tahiti.  This quote seems to have been lifted by Goudey, presumably from DeFord’s earlier edition.  He says Neild was from Wellington, N.Z.  On pp. 44 and 50, he quotes or cites him again without giving page references.  Neild was also cited by other American flat-earthers, who may have lifted their references from DeFord. 

F. Wells Jansz was editor of the Ceylon Evangelist, apparently a monthly, in about 1898.  On p. 12 of her tract The Lord’s Day …, Lady Blount quotes him from “the September issue of his paper” as follows:

The Sabbath question has exercised our mind for several years, but the opportunity for coming to a final decision was only afforded at our recent visit to Calcutta, where we had the privilege of having sweet communion together with some of the brethern and sisters who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and who are now engaged in preaching the entire message of the gospel to the deluded and priest-ridden nations of India.  Conscientious of responsibility to our day and generation and constrained by the grace of God who willeth and worketh in us of his good pleasure, we feel it our duty, along with other long-forgotten and despised but vital doctrines of Christianity, to proclaim the truth on the Sabbath question as well for the benefit of those who are appointed heirs of salvation.  We render grateful and heart-felt thanks to God, the Father of all light for bringing us to a further knowledge of his truth—a truth which is necessary and required to be observed by all those living in the last days. 

It is not our intention to ask our readers to be satisfied with a mere statement that Sunday observance is unscriptural, or that it is obligatory on all Christians to keep the seventh day of the week as God’s appointed rest day—a day to remember him and all his works.  Our object being to lead all others into the truth, we shall give from time to time, our reasons and also our authority for holding to the seventh-day Sabbath.  The conclusion we have now reached is the result of over five years of patient, thoughtful, and prayerful investigation, during which time we have had both written and oral argument with scores of brethern on both sides, who have made the Sabbath question a life study.  Like all errors which today are sapping the life-blood of Christianity, the observance of Sunday as the Sabbath day, is a pagan innovation which was fostered and later on introduced into the Christian Canon by the Roman Church.  In fact, the Roman Catholics boastfully claim to-day the honor of having changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday! [ref. 6.13] 

Jansz was a long-time agent for Earth Review, which listed him as agent for India and gave his address as 15, Ingham Street, Slave Island, Colombo, Ceylon. 

The flat-earth movement still thrived in Canada, of course, where its leading exponent was Arthur Veitch White. 

Arthur V. White was born in Woodstock, Ontario, on August 21, 1871.  His father, James, was a prominent pioneer merchant and was once clerk of Oxford County.  His mother was Dorothy Jessie McLeod White.  Arthur attended public school and high school in Woodstock and later the University of Toronto, from which he graduated in mechanical and electrical engineering. 

White married Aidine Squire of Seattle, Washington.  Her father was Watson C. Squire, a former U.S. Senator, and her mother Ida was a daughter of Philo Remington, a founder of Remington Arms Company.  The Whites had three children, James Arthur, Remington, and Caroline Lathrop. 

Part of the chronology of Arthur V. White’s career is uncertain.  At various times he was chief draftsman for Canadian General Electric, works manager for Hyslops in Toronto, and lecturer in mechanical drawing and machine design at the Toronto Technical School.  He also spent five years as a consultant to Brown Brothers of London. 

In 1911, White was consulting engineer for Canada for the International Joint Commission, and he contributed to a Lake of the Woods investigation associated with the Boundary Waters Treaty.  White was a consulting engineer for the Canadian Federal Conservation Commission from its founding in 1910 to its dissolution in 1919.  In 1921, he joined the Hydro-Electric Power Commission as consulting engineer to the executive, and he served until he retired in 1934.  He also served in the Department of Public Works in Ottawa and was consulting engineer to the Commission of Conservation, Ottawa. 

Though educated in mechanical and electrical engineering, White often functioned as a civil or hydraulic engineer.  He was an authority on issues related to international waters between the U.S. and Canada.  He was author of many government reports on water resources and water power including Fishways in the Inland Waters of British Columbia, Power Possibilities on the St. Lawrence River, Niagara Power Shortage, Report on the International Joint Commission Relating to Official Reference Re Lake of the Woods Levels, Water Powers of British Columbia, and Water Powers of Canada

His Canadian Who’s Who entry doesn’t mention it, but White was an unrepentant flat-earther.  For some years, he wrote a syndicated newspaper column called “Science and Scripture,” and he published a carefully worded flat-earth article in the University of Toronto Monthly.  White considered the latter sufficiently important that he had it reprinted as a pamphlet.  (A copy of it is in the Firestone Library at Princeton University.) His flat-earth views are glowingly referred to in Voliva’s special flat-earth issue of Leaves of Healing

On December 7, 1950, Arthur V. White died at his home at 2 Earl Street, Toronto, after a brief illness.  He was survived by his wife Aidine and his three children.  His daughter Caroline was living at home, his son James in Toronto, and his son Remington in Beaverton.  It’s not known whether he retained his flat-earth views to the end.