A Way to Harness Free Electric Currents – Nikola Tesla

In March of 1896, Nikola Tesla and a colleague attempted to send electrical signals through the ground. Their experiment was a success as reported in the “World Sunday Magazine”.

Here is the article as it appeared…


The World Sunday Magazine — March 8, 1896

A Way to Harness Free Electric Currents Discovered by Nikola Tesla

The World is on the eve of an astounding revelation.  The conditions under which we exist will be changed.  The end has come to telegraph and telephone monopolies with a crash.  Incidentally, all the other monopolies that depend on power of any kind will come to a sudden stop.  The earth currents of electricity are to be harnessed.  Nature supplies them free of charge.  The cost of power and light and heat will be practically nothing.

The scientist-electricians who have for years been trying to master the mystery of electrical earth currents with which the ground beneath your feet is filled, are on the threshold of success.  The success of the experiments they have under way means much to them, but vastly more to the people.  It means that if Nikola Tesla succeeds in harnessing the electrical earth currents and putting then to work for man there will be an end to oppressive, extortionate monopolies in steam, telephone, telegraphs and the other commercial uses of electricity, and that the grasping millionaires who have for two decades milked the people’s purse with electrical fingers will have to relinquish their monopoly.

Nikola Tesla has discovered the secret of the electric earth currents of nature, and they will be adapted to the use of man.  He has succeeded in transmitting sound by the currents that make an electric riot of the earth.  The transmission of power will follow.  His experiments reduced to commercially practicable uses will be able to tap the electric currents of the earth and make them serve the purposes of industry and of trade just as a well digger over on Long Island taps water or a Pennsylvania miner opens a vein of coal.  The mighty electrical energy that has been stored up in the earth for ages will be harnessed and made to move the machinery of men.

Electricity will be as free as the air.  For the privilege of its use legislatures will not have to be bribed or men corrupted at the polls, and public boards will not have to be —seen— to bestow exclusive franchises upon corporations organized to use public property for purposes of private gain, and make the people pay the original cost of their investment and excessive charges for service in order to squeeze dividends out of copiously watered shares.

Monopolies for purveying steams power too will be forced to capitulate to free electricity, for with the latter manufactures will only have to connect their dynamos with the earth currents to set their machinery in motion.  The successful adaptation of Tesla’s discovery will administer a death-blow to the most galling slavery that has ever yoked the activities of men to the treadmill of monopoly.  Tesla is the wizard who is going to emancipate modern industries from the shackles of corrupting, dividend-grabbing, monopolistic corporations.

Sound travels with amazing speed, but electrical vibrations travel so swiftly that it is difficult to conjure up a figure which will graphically illustrate their speed.  Here is one that will perhaps convey a vivid and lucid impression.  In fancy place yourself at a table with a revolver in one hand and a finger of the other hand on the key of a telegraph instrument connected with a wire that girdles the globe seven times and laps over on the eighth turn a distance equal to 11,000 miles.  Pull the trigger of the pistol and simultaneously press the telegraph key.  While the sound of the report of the revolver is traveling 1,100 feet the electrical impulse imparted by the pressure on the key will pass seven and a half times around the world through the wire with which the key is connected.

Sound travels 1,250 feet a second and electrical impulse 186,000 miles a second.  If the electrical currents with which the earth is filled can be harnessed and put to work a new era in electricity will have dawned.  It is to the mastering of the mystery of these earth currents and their adaptation that scientist like Tesla have been striving.

In the course of Tesla’s experiments it is reported he found that in the vicinity of large cities there were so many conflicting earth currents that satisfactory results could not be obtained.  So he went out to Denver and near there found a better field for experimenting.  There he met a friend interested in electrical research.  They went to Pike’s Peak.  Conspicuous among their baggage were two auto-harps.

Tesla and his friend scaled the rugged sides of the peak.  At an elevation agreed upon they separated.  Tesla skirted the peak and on reaching a point precisely opposite the place at which he left his friend he stopped.  The two experimenters, on a line drawn straight through the peak, were thus separated by four miles of stratified rock.  The two auto-harps had been very delicately attuned before the scientists parted, and a time fixed for Mr. Tesla’s comrade to play an air (also agreed upon) on the auto-harp.

Tesla waited patiently the arrival of the appointed time.  Then he connected his harp with the ground in such a way as to secure harmonic resonance with the earth current.  The manner and medium of this connection are secrets.  The receiving auto-harp was equipped with a microphone.  As the time approached for his friend on the other side of the peak to strum the appointed tune Tesla listened with rapt attention.

At last, as a tuning-fork responds to its harmonic note sounded on the strings of a piano, the auto-harp in Mr. Tesla’s hands gave out the harmonic tunes of “Ben Bolt” which his companion at his station four miles away straight through the peak was plucking from the tense wires of his instrument.  The experiment was a success.  After many tunes had been played Tesla and his companion descended the peak.  A statement of the facts and results of the experiment was written and attested before a notary public as a matter of scientific record.

The electric currents are in the earth.  Their strength is great enough to furnish all the power and light man needs.  Mr. Tesla has overcome the initial difficulty, and has located and tapped the earth—s currents.  The rest will follow, as followed the telephone, Prof. Bell’s discovery of how to transmit speech over a wire.

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