Hunting The Boojum

Falling through the Earth – An Imagination Experiment

I was now even further radicalised. What did I have to lose except my sense of humour, my warm self-regard and my acute recognition of bullshit when I scent it? In other words my logic, love and levity. Like the Bellman in the epic poem I started by ditching the conventional signs of both moral and scientific dogma and became empowered by the sheer delight that also informs Carroll’s imaginative writing. Haunted by the strange multilevel synchronicity of the magic number 42, I began to direct my new course towards Antipodes Island with the intention of conducting an imagination experiment on my 42nd birthday.


My plan, as the official Shaman of Melbourne University Union, was to attempt to fall through the Earth, like Alice in Wonderland. Ignoring friction etc. scientific calculations provided in Martin Gardner’s Annotated Alice indicate it would take 21 minutes to reach the centre and then another 21 to reach the opposite pole. A total of 42 minutes! To attempt this brilliant imagination experiment I would have to create an unconventional map in an unconventional frame. In Carroll’s “Agony in Eight Fits” in preparing for their hunt for the elusive Snark the crew had unfortunately left behind the 42 pieces of baggage belonging to the Baker. He was the unfortunate crew member who met with what turned out to be a Boojum and vanished. Without this holding on to the past, like all rootless modernists especially scientists, he had completely lost his identity. The same number 42 occurred as having immense but incomprehensible significance in the BBC radio science fiction series Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, written a few years later, the most imaginative BBC drama since the Goon Show vignettes.


On my 42nd birthday on December 4th 1974, I would also enter the seventh stage of my final set of seven year cycles. 1974 is not only divisible by 42 but is also the 100th anniversary of the writing of The Hunting of The Snark. The inspiration for the poem came to Carroll at the age of 42 in a series of visions. How could I resist? My Motto was now Reductio Ad Absurdum.