The Methane Saga

The Production of Methane Gas Described in the British Style of Finnish Epic Poetry

In a land, and in a season,

There was once a blacksmith sturdy.

Ana Jima, dark of feature,

Laboured long upon the anvil

Set the metals in the furnace

Learned the secrets of their changes

Studied all their transformations.

Yet she felt of knowledge lacking,

That there were more secrets waiting.

As she studied and she pondered,

Came to her to study carbon

In the many forms she knew it

Coal and charcoal, soot and tarpit.

Its importance to her metals.

Many questions did she ponder

And at length was her decision

To invoke the carbon spirit

To converse with elementals

Thus the secrets to unravel

So she called upon this spirit

In the very words which follow

‘Carbon spirit, mighty being!

Come attend to me thy daughter

Ignorant you have me living

Secrets are there for my learning

Come instruct thy eager daughter

I await thy intervention!’

And the carbon spirit summoned

Spoke these words to Ana Jima

‘You can understand my nature.

Know that I have many guises;

In the wood of mighty forest

In the marsh gas flaming brightly

Even in the diamond’s sparkle

Would you learn my transformations?’

Eagerly spoke Ana Jima

‘I would learn these transformations!

For the mystery has but deepened.

How can you be gas and diamond?

Coal and soot perplex me greatly

How does one become the other?’

Thus replied the carbon spirit

In the very words which follow

‘I will show you of my changes

I will change my very substance

I will show you transformation.

‘Listen well, O Ana Jima!

Hearken to my words, O blacksmith!

Gather tools and light thy furnace.

Make a tub of strongest metal

Not from copper, lead or silver

Cast it from the rusting metal

Cast it from the molten iron

Melt it in your furnace fires

In a crucible dissolve it.

‘Make a lid of large dimensions

Covering the tub completely

Clamp this firmly to the structure

In the side of your construction

Near the top of your construction

Make a hole to place a pipe in

Make a pipe of any metal

Not so fierce the heat in this place

Not so fierce to melt the copper

Not so fierce to burn the silver

Fix the pipe into the side wall

Fasten it with strong construction

That if water were to fill it

If the whole device held water

There would be no drops escaping

Leaking from this strongest structure

Now you need a pool of water – ‘

‘Wait!’ said Ana Jima, angry;

Ana Jima, sturdy blacksmith.

‘You would show me transformation

Show me how your nature changes?

Yet it seems that I have laboured

Worked for many days in labour

And there is no sign of changes

Nothing yet for understanding.

Now I need a pool of water!

Would that you had told me sooner!

My construction is no light one

And the reservoir is distant!’

‘Calm yourself, O Ana Jima’

Answered now the carbon spirit,

‘You would seek the inner secrets

Understand the transformations?

Great the dangers there inherent

Great the peril there attending

Careless work will bring destruction

Thoughtlessness will bring down ruin!

Many days of careful labour

Is the price of transformation

Is the value of these secrets.

‘And besides, O Ana Jima

Angry woman, dark of feature,

Not much depth of pool is needed.

Better that the pond be tranquil

And no ripples stir its surface.

Use your quenching trough for this work

Use the stone trough over yonder.

From the pipe in your construction

Bring a second pipe in this wise;

Clamp it firmly to the metal

Not too near the furnace body

From your metal tub an arm’s length

From the side the pipe of metal

Should protrude for a whole arm’s length.

At the end attach the second

This can be of lesser substance

Not of metal need it be formed

But material more fragile

Firm and watertight it must be

Long and flexible it should be.

Bring it to the trough directly

Do not cut this pipe too quickly

Measure to the trough and then more

Two whole arm’s lengths should you measure

More than from device to water.

Now with twine attach this end piece

Tie it to the trough all ready.

‘Now fetch you some good dry timber

Seasoned oak and seasoned pinewood

Cut in pieces quite substantial

Chopped as for the winter fires

Lift the lid of your construction

Take some charcoal from your smithy

Glowing charcoal from your furnace

Empty this into your vessel

Into your construction place it

Add the logs and set them burning.

Then replace the lid and clamp it

Tighten all the seals with vigour.’

Ana Jime, sturdy blacksmith,

Laboured long on this direction.

Many times she lit the fires

Many times they were extinguished

Finally the task was finished

Finally performed correctly.

Hot the metal tub construction

Scorched the grass beneath its framework

Scorched the hair of Ana Jima.

Spoke the carbon spirit to her

‘Cool your hands under the water

Cool your face in yonder water

Let us to the trough attend now.’

Ana Jima cooled her hands there

Soothed the burns under the water

Splashed the soot from her dark features

‘Now O carbon spirit’ said she,

‘Show me of your transformation

Show me how your nature changes’

And the carbon spirit answered

In these very words it answered,

‘Take the pipe that you have tethered

Take the pipe beside the water

Plunge it underneath the surface,

See the bubbles then escaping.

Take a stone and weigh the end down

Firmly pin it to the trough bed

Yet do not compress it fully

Let the bubbles still be rising,

Go and fetch a lighted lantern

Even though the the sun is shining

Fetch a lantern and a taper.

Then to you I’ll show my changes

Then you’ll see the transformation.’

Ana Jima brought the lantern

Lit the taper from the lantern

Held it near the water surface

Watched the bubbles burst in fire

Watched the blue flame on the water

Saw that air seemed somehow different

Saw a useful transformation.

‘Fetch a jar,’ the spirit told her

‘Fetch an empty jar from glass made

That the wonder you may look at

That you can collect these gases.’

Ana Jima, metal worker,

Brought a jar from out the smithy.

Plunged it in the trough completely

Full of water did she make it

Moved it over to the pipe end

Upside down and underwater

Gathering the bubbles coming

Till the water all had emptied.

Then the carbon spirit chuckled,

Mocking the dark metal worker,

In the very words which follow,

‘In your hands you hold great power

Many things can follow from it

Yet you know not how to use it

If you lift the jar from water

All the gas will fall out from it

If you upright turn the vessel

All the gas will rise up from it.

Yet you cannot see this happening!

How can you detect its presence?

There’s a puzzle, Ana Jima!

‘For the moment, contemplation

Stand aside and watch these bubbles –

You should breathe not of the vapour –

Comtemplate their inner nature.

How can they be made of carbon?

Like the charcoal and the tarpits

Contemplate, O Ana Jima!’

Ana Jima, glad to rest her,

Meditated on the gases

How their substance was unlike coal

Not resembling charcoal either

Nor the powdery soot from lanterns

though within it there was carbon.

‘Speak with me,’ called Ana Jima

‘Speak to me O carbon spirit!

Tell me why your nature changes

Tell me of your transformation.’

And the carbon spirit answered

In these very words it answered

‘In my house there are four gateways.

All these gateways stand unbolted

Open to the guests, unbolted

Pleasing to me is the welcome

Camping by the gate the strangers.

‘Now I welcome four fair maidens,

Delicate and full of beauty

Light their touch and free their movements.

In this gentle combination

Up we soar into the heavens

Light as air we join the heavens.

‘And if you compress us tightly,

Hold us in a jar of metal,

Clamp it with a lid of metal.

Angry we will seek releasing.

Tame us with the greatest caution.

Fiery we can be in anger,

Subtle to escape your cages.

Build them well, O Ana Jima!

‘Build them of the strongest metal

Or of fabric which holds water

Let there be no flame brought near them

Let us not be let loose quickly

Lest we steal the air inside you

Lest we find ourselves some fire

And we tear your cage asunder

Tear the rafter from the ceiling

Tear the walls from their support beams.

‘So be cunning, Ana Jima!

Bring us fire for our enjoyment

Make us come to it but slowly.

Build a pipe of firm construction

Build it from the things which burn not

Add to it a valve for closing

Add to it a tap releasing,

Let the vapour we inhabit

All controlled encounter fire

All in order to the furnace.

Let us heat what you direct us

Let us cook the food from harvest

Let us melt the ore from mining

Let us harden pots from earth made.

‘But if breaks the pipe of metal

If the firm construction falters –

Let the valve be quickly closèd

Let the tap be closed directly

Let the flames be ended swiftly!

Lest we tear your cage asunder

Tear the rafter from the ceiling

Tear the walls from their support beams.

‘Thus the place of our involvement

Must be far from habitation.

Must not be near to the homestead;

Must not share a wall with dwellings.

‘Thus I teach you, Ana Jima

Thus I share my inner secrets

Use them for your village welfare

For your people use them wisely.

There are many other mysteries

Hidden in this simple knowledge.

Some for you and some for others

Some for those who come hereafter

Those who know you but as legend.

‘Now I leave, O Ana Jima.

Heed you well to my instruction

Use my gift with circumspection

And with care avoid explosion.

Many things can you discover

With the power of transformation

Use it wisely, Ana Jima.’

And the carbon spirit left her

Left her contemplating mysteries

Contemplating dancing gases

Contemplating new devices.

Ana Jima is an entirely fictitious character. She is already a skilled metal worker. Fire, methane and molten metal are all very dangerous. Casting metal is not something you want to learn by trial and error. Why not challenge yourself to take a course as part of your Resilience Plan?