20000 Leagues Under the Seas
Part 5 out of 10
Since our weapons made no sound when they went off, they would
have only a moderate effect on these islanders, who reputedly
respect nothing but noisy mechanisms. Without thunderclaps,
lightning bolts would be much less frightening, although the danger
lies in the flash, not the noise.
Just then the dugout canoes drew nearer to the Nautilus, and a cloud
of arrows burst over us.
"Fire and brimstone, it's hailing!" Conseil said.
"And poisoned hail perhaps!"
"We've got to alert Captain Nemo," I said, reentering the hatch.
I went below to the lounge. I found no one there. I ventured
a knock at the door opening into the captain's stateroom.
The word "Enter!" answered me. I did so and found Captain Nemo
busy with calculations in which there was no shortage of X and
other algebraic signs.
"Am I disturbing you?" I said out of politeness.
"Correct, Professor Aronnax," the captain answered me.
"But I imagine you have pressing reasons for looking me up?"
"Very pressing. Native dugout canoes are surrounding us, and in a few
minutes we're sure to be assaulted by several hundred savages."
"Ah!" Captain Nemo put in serenely. "They've come in their dugouts?"
"Well, sir, closing the hatches should do the trick."
"Precisely, and that's what I came to tell you--"
"Nothing easier," Captain Nemo said.
And he pressed an electric button, transmitting an order to
the crew's quarters.
"There, sir, all under control!" he told me after a few moments.
"The skiff is in place and the hatches are closed. I don't imagine
you're worried that these gentlemen will stave in walls that shells
from your frigate couldn't breach?"
"No, captain, but one danger still remains."
"What's that, sir?"
"Tomorrow at about this time, we'll need to reopen the hatches
to renew the Nautilus's air."
"No argument, sir, since our craft breathes in the manner
favored by cetaceans."
"But if these Papuans are occupying the platform at that moment,
I don't see how you can prevent them from entering."
"Then, sir, you assume they'll board the ship?"
"I'm certain of it."
"Well, sir, let them come aboard. I see no reason to prevent them.
Deep down they're just poor devils, these Papuans, and I don't
want my visit to Gueboroa Island to cost the life of a single one
of these unfortunate people!"
On this note I was about to withdraw; but Captain Nemo detained
me and invited me to take a seat next to him. He questioned me
with interest on our excursions ashore and on our hunting, but seemed
not to understand the Canadian's passionate craving for red meat.
Then our conversation skimmed various subjects, and without being
more forthcoming, Captain Nemo proved more affable.
Among other things, we came to talk of the Nautilus's circumstances,
aground in the same strait where Captain Dumont d'Urville had
nearly miscarried. Then, pertinent to this:
"He was one of your great seamen," the captain told me,
"one of your shrewdest navigators, that d'Urville! He was
the Frenchman's Captain Cook. A man wise but unlucky!
Braving the ice banks of the South Pole, the coral of Oceania,
the cannibals of the Pacific, only to perish wretchedly in a train wreck!
If that energetic man was able to think about his life in its
last seconds, imagine what his final thoughts must have been!"
As he spoke, Captain Nemo seemed deeply moved, an emotion I felt
was to his credit.
Then, chart in hand, we returned to the deeds of the French navigator:
his voyages to circumnavigate the globe, his double attempt at
the South Pole, which led to his discovery of the Adélie Coast
and the Louis-Philippe Peninsula, finally his hydrographic surveys
of the chief islands in Oceania.
"What your d'Urville did on the surface of the sea," Captain Nemo
told me, "I've done in the ocean's interior, but more easily,
more completely than he. Constantly tossed about by hurricanes,
the Zealous and the new Astrolabe couldn't compare with the Nautilus,
a quiet work room truly at rest in the midst of the waters!"
"Even so, captain," I said, "there is one major similarity between
Dumont d'Urville's sloops of war and the Nautilus."
"What's that, sir?"
"Like them, the Nautilus has run aground!"
"The Nautilus is not aground, sir," Captain Nemo replied icily.
"The Nautilus was built to rest on the ocean floor, and I don't
need to undertake the arduous labors, the maneuvers d'Urville
had to attempt in order to float off his sloops of war.
The Zealous and the new Astrolabe wellnigh perished, but my Nautilus
is in no danger. Tomorrow, on the day stated and at the hour stated,
the tide will peacefully lift it off, and it will resume its navigating
through the seas."
"Captain," I said, "I don't doubt--"
"Tomorrow," Captain Nemo added, standing up, "tomorrow at
2:40 in the afternoon, the Nautilus will float off and exit
the Torres Strait undamaged."
Pronouncing these words in an extremely sharp tone, Captain Nemo gave
me a curt bow. This was my dismissal, and I reentered my stateroom.
There I found Conseil, who wanted to know the upshot of my interview
with the captain.
"My boy," I replied, "when I expressed the belief that these Papuan
natives were a threat to his Nautilus, the captain answered
me with great irony. So I've just one thing to say to you:
have faith in him and sleep in peace."
"Master has no need for my services?"
"No, my friend. What's Ned Land up to?"
"Begging master's indulgence," Conseil replied, "but our friend Ned
is concocting a kangaroo pie that will be the eighth wonder!"
I was left to myself; I went to bed but slept pretty poorly.
I kept hearing noises from the savages, who were stamping on
the platform and letting out deafening yells. The night passed
in this way, without the crew ever emerging from their usual inertia.
They were no more disturbed by the presence of these man-eaters
than soldiers in an armored fortress are troubled by ants running
over the armor plate.
I got up at six o'clock in the morning. The hatches weren't open.
So the air inside hadn't been renewed; but the air tanks were kept
full for any eventuality and would function appropriately to shoot
a few cubic meters of oxygen into the Nautilus's thin atmosphere.
I worked in my stateroom until noon without seeing Captain Nemo
even for an instant. Nobody on board seemed to be making any
preparations for departure.
I still waited for a while, then I made my way to the main lounge.
Its timepiece marked 2:30. In ten minutes the tide would reach its
maximum elevation, and if Captain Nemo hadn't made a rash promise,
the Nautilus would immediately break free. If not, many months
might pass before it could leave its coral bed.
But some preliminary vibrations could soon be felt over the boat's hull.
I heard its plating grind against the limestone roughness of
that coral base.
At 2:35 Captain Nemo appeared in the lounge.
"We're about to depart," he said.
"Ah!" I put in.
"I've given orders to open the hatches."
"What about the Papuans?"
"What about them?" Captain Nemo replied, with a light shrug
of his shoulders.
"Won't they come inside the Nautilus?"
"How will they manage that?"
"By jumping down the hatches you're about to open."
"Professor Aronnax," Captain Nemo replied serenely, "the Nautilus's
hatches aren't to be entered in that fashion even when they're open."
I gaped at the captain.
"You don't understand?" he said to me.
"Not in the least."
"Well, come along and you'll see!"
I headed to the central companionway. There, very puzzled,
Ned Land and Conseil watched the crewmen opening the hatches,
while a frightful clamor and furious shouts resounded outside.
The hatch lids fell back onto the outer plating.
Twenty horrible faces appeared. But when the first islander laid
hands on the companionway railing, he was flung backward by some
invisible power, lord knows what! He ran off, howling in terror
and wildly prancing around.
Ten of his companions followed him. All ten met the same fate.
Conseil was in ecstasy. Carried away by his violent instincts,
Ned Land leaped up the companionway. But as soon as his hands
seized the railing, he was thrown backward in his turn.
"Damnation!" he exclaimed. "I've been struck by a lightning bolt!"
These words explained everything to me. It wasn't just a railing
that led to the platform, it was a metal cable fully charged with
the ship's electricity. Anyone who touched it got a fearsome shock--
and such a shock would have been fatal if Captain Nemo had thrown
the full current from his equipment into this conducting cable!
It could honestly be said that he had stretched between himself and his
assailants a network of electricity no one could clear with impunity.
Meanwhile, crazed with terror, the unhinged Papuans beat a retreat.
As for us, half laughing, we massaged and comforted poor Ned Land,
who was swearing like one possessed.
But just then, lifted off by the tide's final undulations, the Nautilus
left its coral bed at exactly that fortieth minute pinpointed
by the captain. Its propeller churned the waves with lazy majesty.
Gathering speed little by little, the ship navigated on the surface
of the ocean, and safe and sound, it left behind the dangerous
narrows of the Torres Strait.
*Latin: "troubled dreams." Ed.
THE FOLLOWING DAY, January 10, the Nautilus resumed its travels
in midwater but at a remarkable speed that I estimated to be at
least thirty-five miles per hour. The propeller was going so fast
I could neither follow nor count its revolutions.
I thought about how this marvelous electric force not only
gave motion, heat, and light to the Nautilus but even protected it
against outside attack, transforming it into a sacred ark no profane
hand could touch without being blasted; my wonderment was boundless,
and it went from the submersible itself to the engineer who
had created it.
We were traveling due west and on January 11 we doubled Cape Wessel,
located in longitude 135 degrees and latitude 10 degrees north,
the western tip of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Reefs were still
numerous but more widely scattered and were fixed on the chart
with the greatest accuracy. The Nautilus easily avoided
the Money breakers to port and the Victoria reefs to starboard,
positioned at longitude 130 degrees on the tenth parallel,
which we went along rigorously.
On January 13, arriving in the Timor Sea, Captain Nemo raised
the island of that name at longitude 122 degrees. This island,
whose surface area measures 1,625 square leagues, is governed by rajahs.
These aristocrats deem themselves the sons of crocodiles, in other words,
descendants with the most exalted origins to which a human
being can lay claim. Accordingly, their scaly ancestors infest
the island's rivers and are the subjects of special veneration.
They are sheltered, nurtured, flattered, pampered, and offered
a ritual diet of nubile maidens; and woe to the foreigner who lifts
a finger against these sacred saurians.
But the Nautilus wanted nothing to do with these nasty animals.
Timor Island was visible for barely an instant at noon while the chief
officer determined his position. I also caught only a glimpse
of little Roti Island, part of this same group, whose women have a
well-established reputation for beauty in the Malaysian marketplace.
After our position fix, the Nautilus's latitude bearings were modulated
to the southwest. Our prow pointed to the Indian Ocean. Where would
Captain Nemo's fancies take us? Would he head up to the shores
of Asia? Would he pull nearer to the beaches of Europe? Unlikely choices
for a man who avoided populated areas! So would he go down south?
Would he double the Cape of Good Hope, then Cape Horn, and push
on to the Antarctic pole? Finally, would he return to the seas
of the Pacific, where his Nautilus could navigate freely and easily?
Time would tell.
After cruising along the Cartier, Hibernia, Seringapatam, and Scott reefs,
the solid element's last exertions against the liquid element,
we were beyond all sight of shore by January 14. The Nautilus
slowed down in an odd manner, and very unpredictable in its ways,
it sometimes swam in the midst of the waters, sometimes drifted
on their surface.
During this phase of our voyage, Captain Nemo conducted interesting
experiments on the different temperatures in various strata of the sea.
Under ordinary conditions, such readings are obtained using
some pretty complicated instruments whose findings are dubious
to say the least, whether they're thermometric sounding lines,
whose glass often shatters under the water's pressure, or those devices
based on the varying resistance of metals to electric currents.
The results so obtained can't be adequately double-checked. By contrast,
Captain Nemo would seek the sea's temperature by going himself
into its depths, and when he placed his thermometer in contact
with the various layers of liquid, he found the sought-for degree
immediately and with certainty.
And so, by loading up its ballast tanks, or by sinking obliquely
with its slanting fins, the Nautilus successively reached
depths of 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, 7,000, 9,000, and 10,000 meters,
and the ultimate conclusion from these experiments was that,
in all latitudes, the sea had a permanent temperature of 4.5 degrees
centigrade at a depth of 1,000 meters.
I watched these experiments with the most intense fascination.
Captain Nemo brought a real passion to them. I often wondered
why he took these observations. Were they for the benefit
of his fellow man? It was unlikely, because sooner or later
his work would perish with him in some unknown sea!
Unless he intended the results of his experiments for me.
But that meant this strange voyage of mine would come to an end,
and no such end was in sight.
Be that as it may, Captain Nemo also introduced me to the different
data he had obtained on the relative densities of the water
in our globe's chief seas. From this news I derived some personal
enlightenment having nothing to do with science.
It happened the morning of January 15. The captain, with whom I
was strolling on the platform, asked me if I knew how salt water
differs in density from sea to sea. I said no, adding that there
was a lack of rigorous scientific observations on this subject.
"I've taken such observations," he told me, "and I can vouch
for their reliability."
"Fine," I replied, "but the Nautilus lives in a separate world,
and the secrets of its scientists don't make their way ashore."
"You're right, professor," he told me after a few moments of silence.
"This is a separate world. It's as alien to the earth as the planets
accompanying our globe around the sun, and we'll never become
familiar with the work of scientists on Saturn or Jupiter. But since
fate has linked our two lives, I can reveal the results of my
observations to you."
"I'm all attention, captain."
"You're aware, professor, that salt water is denser than fresh water,
but this density isn't uniform. In essence, if I represent
the density of fresh water by 1.000, then I find 1.028 for
the waters of the Atlantic, 1.026 for the waters of the Pacific,
1.030 for the waters of the Mediterranean--"
Aha, I thought, so he ventures into the Mediterranean?
"--1.018 for the waters of the Ionian Sea, and 1.029 for the waters
of the Adriatic."
Assuredly, the Nautilus didn't avoid the heavily traveled seas
of Europe, and from this insight I concluded that the ship would
take us back--perhaps very soon--to more civilized shores.
I expected Ned Land to greet this news with unfeigned satisfaction.
For several days our work hours were spent in all sorts of experiments,
on the degree of salinity in waters of different depths,
or on their electric properties, coloration, and transparency,
and in every instance Captain Nemo displayed an ingenuity equaled
only by his graciousness toward me. Then I saw no more of him
for some days and again lived on board in seclusion.
On January 16 the Nautilus seemed to have fallen asleep just a few meters
beneath the surface of the water. Its electric equipment had been
turned off, and the motionless propeller let it ride with the waves.
I assumed that the crew were busy with interior repairs,
required by the engine's strenuous mechanical action.
My companions and I then witnessed an unusual sight.
The panels in the lounge were open, and since the Nautilus's beacon
was off, a hazy darkness reigned in the midst of the waters.
Covered with heavy clouds, the stormy sky gave only the faintest
light to the ocean's upper strata.
I was observing the state of the sea under these conditions,
and even the largest fish were nothing more than ill-defined shadows,
when the Nautilus was suddenly transferred into broad daylight.
At first I thought the beacon had gone back on and was casting
its electric light into the liquid mass. I was mistaken,
and after a hasty examination I discovered my error.
The Nautilus had drifted into the midst of some phosphorescent
strata, which, in this darkness, came off as positively dazzling.
This effect was caused by myriads of tiny, luminous animals
whose brightness increased when they glided over the metal hull
of our submersible. In the midst of these luminous sheets of water,
I then glimpsed flashes of light, like those seen inside a blazing
furnace from streams of molten lead or from masses of metal
brought to a white heat--flashes so intense that certain areas
of the light became shadows by comparison, in a fiery setting
from which every shadow should seemingly have been banished.
No, this was no longer the calm emission of our usual lighting!
This light throbbed with unprecedented vigor and activity!
You sensed that it was alive!
In essence, it was a cluster of countless open-sea infusoria,
of noctiluca an eighth of an inch wide, actual globules of
transparent jelly equipped with a threadlike tentacle, up to 25,000
of which have been counted in thirty cubic centimeters of water.
And the power of their light was increased by those glimmers
unique to medusas, starfish, common jellyfish, angel-wing clams,
and other phosphorescent zoophytes, which were saturated with grease
from organic matter decomposed by the sea, and perhaps with mucus
secreted by fish.
For several hours the Nautilus drifted in this brilliant tide,
and our wonderment grew when we saw huge marine animals
cavorting in it, like the fire-dwelling salamanders of myth.
In the midst of these flames that didn't burn, I could see swift,
elegant porpoises, the tireless pranksters of the seas,
and sailfish three meters long, those shrewd heralds of hurricanes,
whose fearsome broadswords sometimes banged against the lounge window.
Then smaller fish appeared: miscellaneous triggerfish,
leather jacks, unicornfish, and a hundred others that left stripes
on this luminous atmosphere in their course.
Some magic lay behind this dazzling sight! Perhaps some
atmospheric condition had intensified this phenomenon?
Perhaps a storm had been unleashed on the surface of the waves?
But only a few meters down, the Nautilus felt no tempest's fury,
and the ship rocked peacefully in the midst of the calm waters.
And so it went, some new wonder constantly delighting us.
Conseil observed and classified his zoophytes, articulates, mollusks,
and fish. The days passed quickly, and I no longer kept track of them.
Ned, as usual, kept looking for changes of pace from our standard fare.
Like actual snails, we were at home in our shell, and I can vouch
that it's easy to turn into a full-fledged snail.
So this way of living began to seem simple and natural to us,
and we no longer envisioned a different lifestyle on the surface
of the planet earth, when something happened to remind us of
our strange circumstances.
On January 18 the Nautilus lay in longitude 105 degrees and latitude 15
degrees south. The weather was threatening, the sea rough and billowy.
The wind was blowing a strong gust from the east. The barometer,
which had been falling for some days, forecast an approaching
struggle of the elements.
I had climbed onto the platform just as the chief officer was taking
his readings of hour angles. Out of habit I waited for him to pronounce
his daily phrase. But that day it was replaced by a different phrase,
just as incomprehensible. Almost at once I saw Captain Nemo appear,
lift his spyglass, and inspect the horizon.
For some minutes the captain stood motionless, rooted to the spot
contained within the field of his lens. Then he lowered his
spyglass and exchanged about ten words with his chief officer.
The latter seemed to be in the grip of an excitement he tried in vain
to control. More in command of himself, Captain Nemo remained cool.
Furthermore, he seemed to be raising certain objections that his
chief officer kept answering with flat assurances. At least that's
what I gathered from their differences in tone and gesture.
As for me, I stared industriously in the direction under observation
but without spotting a thing. Sky and water merged into a perfectly
clean horizon line.
Meanwhile Captain Nemo strolled from one end of the platform
to the other, not glancing at me, perhaps not even seeing me.
His step was firm but less regular than usual. Sometimes he
would stop, cross his arms over his chest, and observe the sea.
What could he be looking for over that immense expanse?
By then the Nautilus lay hundreds of miles from the nearest coast!
The chief officer kept lifting his spyglass and stubbornly
examining the horizon, walking up and down, stamping his foot,
in his nervous agitation a sharp contrast to his superior.
But this mystery would inevitably be cleared up, and soon,
because Captain Nemo gave orders to increase speed; at once the engine
stepped up its drive power, setting the propeller in swifter rotation.
Just then the chief officer drew the captain's attention anew.
The latter interrupted his strolling and aimed his spyglass
at the point indicated. He observed it a good while.
As for me, deeply puzzled, I went below to the lounge and brought
back an excellent long-range telescope I habitually used.
Leaning my elbows on the beacon housing, which jutted from the stern
of the platform, I got set to scour that whole stretch of sky and sea.
But no sooner had I peered into the eyepiece than the instrument
was snatched from my hands.
I spun around. Captain Nemo was standing before me, but I almost
didn't recognize him. His facial features were transfigured.
Gleaming with dark fire, his eyes had shrunk beneath his frowning brow.
His teeth were half bared. His rigid body, clenched fists,
and head drawn between his shoulders, all attested to a fierce
hate breathing from every pore. He didn't move. My spyglass fell
from his hand and rolled at his feet.
Had I accidentally caused these symptoms of anger? Did this
incomprehensible individual think I had detected some secret
forbidden to guests on the Nautilus?
No! I wasn't the subject of his hate because he wasn't even looking
at me; his eyes stayed stubbornly focused on that inscrutable point
of the horizon.
Finally Captain Nemo regained his self-control. His facial appearance,
so profoundly changed, now resumed its usual calm. He addressed
a few words to his chief officer in their strange language,
then he turned to me:
"Professor Aronnax," he told me in a tone of some urgency, "I ask
that you now honor one of the binding agreements between us."
"Which one, captain?"
"You and your companions must be placed in confinement until I see
fit to set you free."
"You're in command," I answered, gaping at him. "But may I address
a question to you?"
"You may not, sir."
After that, I stopped objecting and started obeying,
since resistance was useless.
I went below to the cabin occupied by Ned Land and Conseil,
and I informed them of the captain's decision. I'll let the reader
decide how this news was received by the Canadian. In any case,
there was no time for explanations. Four crewmen were waiting
at the door, and they led us to the cell where we had spent our
first night aboard the Nautilus.
Ned Land tried to lodge a complaint, but the only answer he got
was a door shut in his face.
"Will master tell me what this means?" Conseil asked me.
I told my companions what had happened. They were as astonished
as I was, but no wiser.
Then I sank into deep speculation, and Captain Nemo's strange facial
seizure kept haunting me. I was incapable of connecting two ideas
in logical order, and I had strayed into the most absurd hypotheses,
when I was snapped out of my mental struggles by these words
from Ned Land:
"Well, look here! Lunch is served!"
Indeed, the table had been laid. Apparently Captain Nemo had given
this order at the same time he commanded the Nautilus to pick up speed.
"Will master allow me to make him a recommendation?"
Conseil asked me.
"Yes, my boy," I replied.
"Well, master needs to eat his lunch! It's prudent, because we
have no idea what the future holds."
"You're right, Conseil."
"Unfortunately," Ned Land said, "they've only given us the standard menu."
"Ned my friend," Conseil answered, "what would you say if they'd
given us no lunch at all?"
This dose of sanity cut the harpooner's complaints clean off.
We sat down at the table. Our meal proceeded pretty much in silence.
I ate very little. Conseil, everlastingly prudent, "force-fed" himself;
and despite the menu, Ned Land didn't waste a bite. Then, lunch over,
each of us propped himself in a corner.
Just then the luminous globe lighting our cell went out,
leaving us in profound darkness. Ned Land soon dozed off,
and to my astonishment, Conseil also fell into a heavy slumber.
I was wondering what could have caused this urgent need
for sleep, when I felt a dense torpor saturate my brain.
I tried to keep my eyes open, but they closed in spite of me.
I was in the grip of anguished hallucinations. Obviously some
sleep-inducing substance had been laced into the food we'd just eaten!
So imprisonment wasn't enough to conceal Captain Nemo's plans from us--
sleep was needed as well!
Then I heard the hatches close. The sea's undulations,
which had been creating a gentle rocking motion, now ceased.
Had the Nautilus left the surface of the ocean? Was it reentering
the motionless strata deep in the sea?
I tried to fight off this drowsiness. It was impossible.
My breathing grew weaker. I felt a mortal chill freeze
my dull, nearly paralyzed limbs. Like little domes of lead,
my lids fell over my eyes. I couldn't raise them.
A morbid sleep, full of hallucinations, seized my whole being.
Then the visions disappeared and left me in utter oblivion.
The Coral Realm
THE NEXT DAY I woke up with my head unusually clear. Much to
my surprise, I was in my stateroom. No doubt my companions had been
put back in their cabin without noticing it any more than I had.
Like me, they would have no idea what took place during the night, and to
unravel this mystery I could count only on some future happenstance.
I then considered leaving my stateroom. Was I free or still a prisoner?
Perfectly free. I opened my door, headed down the gangways,
and climbed the central companionway. Hatches that had been closed
the day before were now open. I arrived on the platform.
Ned Land and Conseil were there waiting for me. I questioned them.
They knew nothing. Lost in a heavy sleep of which they had no memory,
they were quite startled to be back in their cabin.
As for the Nautilus, it seemed as tranquil and mysterious as ever.
It was cruising on the surface of the waves at a moderate speed.
Nothing seemed to have changed on board.
Ned Land observed the sea with his penetrating eyes. It was deserted.
The Canadian sighted nothing new on the horizon, neither sail nor shore.
A breeze was blowing noisily from the west, and disheveled by the wind,
long billows made the submersible roll very noticeably.
After renewing its air, the Nautilus stayed at an average depth
of fifteen meters, enabling it to return quickly to the surface
of the waves. And, contrary to custom, it executed such a maneuver
several times during that day of January 19. The chief officer
would then climb onto the platform, and his usual phrase would ring
through the ship's interior.
As for Captain Nemo, he didn't appear. Of the other men on board,
I saw only my emotionless steward, who served me with his
usual mute efficiency.
Near two o'clock I was busy organizing my notes in the lounge,
when the captain opened the door and appeared. I bowed to him.
He gave me an almost imperceptible bow in return, without saying a word
to me. I resumed my work, hoping he might give me some explanation
of the previous afternoon's events. He did nothing of the sort.
I stared at him. His face looked exhausted; his reddened eyes
hadn't been refreshed by sleep; his facial features expressed
profound sadness, real chagrin. He walked up and down,
sat and stood, picked up a book at random, discarded it immediately,
consulted his instruments without taking his customary notes,
and seemed unable to rest easy for an instant.
Finally he came over to me and said:
"Are you a physician, Professor Aronnax?"
This inquiry was so unexpected that I stared at him a good
while without replying.
"Are you a physician?" he repeated. "Several of your
scientific colleagues took their degrees in medicine,
such as Gratiolet, Moquin-Tandon, and others."
"That's right," I said, "I am a doctor, I used to be on call
at the hospitals. I was in practice for several years before
joining the museum."
My reply obviously pleased Captain Nemo. But not knowing what
he was driving at, I waited for further questions, ready to reply
as circumstances dictated.
"Professor Aronnax," the captain said to me, "would you consent
to give your medical attentions to one of my men?"
"Someone is sick?"
"I'm ready to go with you."
I admit that my heart was pounding. Lord knows why, but I saw a definite
connection between this sick crewman and yesterday's happenings,
and the mystery of those events concerned me at least as much
as the man's sickness.
Captain Nemo led me to the Nautilus's stern and invited me into
a cabin located next to the sailors' quarters.
On a bed there lay a man some forty years old, with strongly
molded features, the very image of an Anglo-Saxon.
I bent over him. Not only was he sick, he was wounded.
Swathed in blood-soaked linen, his head was resting on a folded pillow.
I undid the linen bandages, while the wounded man gazed with great
staring eyes and let me proceed without making a single complaint.
It was a horrible wound. The cranium had been smashed open
by some blunt instrument, leaving the naked brains exposed,
and the cerebral matter had suffered deep abrasions. Blood clots had
formed in this dissolving mass, taking on the color of wine dregs.
Both contusion and concussion of the brain had occurred. The sick
man's breathing was labored, and muscle spasms quivered in his face.
Cerebral inflammation was complete and had brought on a paralysis
of movement and sensation.
I took the wounded man's pulse. It was intermittent.
The body's extremities were already growing cold, and I saw that death
was approaching without any possibility of my holding it in check.
After dressing the poor man's wound, I redid the linen bandages
around his head, and I turned to Captain Nemo.
"How did he get this wound?" I asked him.
"That's not important," the captain replied evasively.
"The Nautilus suffered a collision that cracked one of the engine levers,
and it struck this man. My chief officer was standing beside him.
This man leaped forward to intercept the blow. A brother lays down his
life for his brother, a friend for his friend, what could be simpler?
That's the law for everyone on board the Nautilus. But what's
your diagnosis of his condition?"
I hesitated to speak my mind.
"You may talk freely," the captain told me. "This man
doesn't understand French."
I took a last look at the wounded man, then I replied:
"This man will be dead in two hours."
"Nothing can save him?"
Captain Nemo clenched his fists, and tears slid from his eyes,
which I had thought incapable of weeping.
For a few moments more I observed the dying man, whose life was
ebbing little by little. He grew still more pale under the electric
light that bathed his deathbed. I looked at his intelligent head,
furrowed with premature wrinkles that misfortune, perhaps misery,
had etched long before. I was hoping to detect the secret of his
life in the last words that might escape from his lips!
"You may go, Professor Aronnax," Captain Nemo told me.
I left the captain in the dying man's cabin and I repaired
to my stateroom, very moved by this scene. All day long I was
aquiver with gruesome forebodings. That night I slept poorly,
and between my fitful dreams, I thought I heard a distant moaning,
like a funeral dirge. Was it a prayer for the dead, murmured in
that language I couldn't understand?
The next morning I climbed on deck. Captain Nemo was already there.
As soon as he saw me, he came over.
"Professor," he said to me, "would it be convenient for you to make
an underwater excursion today?"
"With my companions?" I asked.
"If they're agreeable."
"We're yours to command, captain."
"Then kindly put on your diving suits."
As for the dead or dying man, he hadn't come into the picture. I rejoined
Ned Land and Conseil. I informed them of Captain Nemo's proposition.
Conseil was eager to accept, and this time the Canadian proved
perfectly amenable to going with us.
It was eight o'clock in the morning. By 8:30 we were suited up for this
new stroll and equipped with our two devices for lighting and breathing.
The double door opened, and accompanied by Captain Nemo with a dozen
crewmen following, we set foot on the firm seafloor where the Nautilus
was resting, ten meters down.
A gentle slope gravitated to an uneven bottom whose depth was
about fifteen fathoms. This bottom was completely different
from the one I had visited during my first excursion under
the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Here I saw no fine-grained sand,
no underwater prairies, not one open-sea forest. I immediately recognized
the wondrous region in which Captain Nemo did the honors that day.
It was the coral realm.
In the zoophyte branch, class Alcyonaria, one finds the order Gorgonaria,
which contains three groups: sea fans, isidian polyps, and coral polyps.
It's in this last that precious coral belongs, an unusual substance that,
at different times, has been classified in the mineral, vegetable,
and animal kingdoms. Medicine to the ancients, jewelry to the moderns,
it wasn't decisively placed in the animal kingdom until 1694,
by Peysonnel of Marseilles.
A coral is a unit of tiny animals assembled over a polypary
that's brittle and stony in nature. These polyps have a unique
generating mechanism that reproduces them via the budding process,
and they have an individual existence while also participating
in a communal life. Hence they embody a sort of natural socialism.
I was familiar with the latest research on this bizarre zoophyte--
which turns to stone while taking on a tree form, as some naturalists
have very aptly observed--and nothing could have been more fascinating
to me than to visit one of these petrified forests that nature has
planted on the bottom of the sea.
We turned on our Ruhmkorff devices and went along a coral shoal
in the process of forming, which, given time, will someday close
off this whole part of the Indian Ocean. Our path was bordered
by hopelessly tangled bushes, formed from snarls of shrubs
all covered with little star-shaped, white-streaked flowers.
Only, contrary to plants on shore, these tree forms become attached
to rocks on the seafloor by heading from top to bottom.
Our lights produced a thousand delightful effects while playing over
these brightly colored boughs. I fancied I saw these cylindrical,
membrane-filled tubes trembling beneath the water's undulations.
I was tempted to gather their fresh petals, which were adorned with
delicate tentacles, some newly in bloom, others barely opened, while
nimble fish with fluttering fins brushed past them like flocks of birds.
But if my hands came near the moving flowers of these sensitive,
lively creatures, an alarm would instantly sound throughout the colony.
The white petals retracted into their red sheaths, the flowers vanished
before my eyes, and the bush changed into a chunk of stony nipples.
Sheer chance had placed me in the presence of the most valuable
specimens of this zoophyte. This coral was the equal of those fished
up from the Mediterranean off the Barbary Coast or the shores
of France and Italy. With its bright colors, it lived up to those
poetic names of blood flower and blood foam that the industry
confers on its finest exhibits. Coral sells for as much as 500
francs per kilogram, and in this locality the liquid strata hid
enough to make the fortunes of a whole host of coral fishermen.
This valuable substance often merges with other polyparies,
forming compact, hopelessly tangled units known as "macciota,"
and I noted some wonderful pink samples of this coral.
But as the bushes shrank, the tree forms magnified.
Actual petrified thickets and long alcoves from some fantastic
school of architecture kept opening up before our steps.
Captain Nemo entered beneath a dark gallery whose gentle slope
took us to a depth of 100 meters. The light from our glass coils
produced magical effects at times, lingering on the wrinkled roughness
of some natural arch, or some overhang suspended like a chandelier,
which our lamps flecked with fiery sparks. Amid these shrubs
of precious coral, I observed other polyps no less unusual:
melita coral, rainbow coral with jointed outgrowths, then a few
tufts of genus Corallina, some green and others red, actually a type
of seaweed encrusted with limestone salts, which, after long disputes,
naturalists have finally placed in the vegetable kingdom.
But as one intellectual has remarked, "Here, perhaps, is the actual
point where life rises humbly out of slumbering stone, but without
breaking away from its crude starting point."
Finally, after two hours of walking, we reached a depth of about
300 meters, in other words, the lowermost limit at which coral
can begin to form. But here it was no longer some isolated bush
or a modest grove of low timber. It was an immense forest,
huge mineral vegetation, enormous petrified trees linked by garlands
of elegant hydras from the genus Plumularia, those tropical
creepers of the sea, all decked out in shades and gleams.
We passed freely under their lofty boughs, lost up in the shadows
of the waves, while at our feet organ-pipe coral, stony coral,
star coral, fungus coral, and sea anemone from the genus Caryophylia
formed a carpet of flowers all strewn with dazzling gems.
What an indescribable sight! Oh, if only we could share our feelings!
Why were we imprisoned behind these masks of metal and glass!
Why were we forbidden to talk with each other! At least let us
lead the lives of the fish that populate this liquid element,
or better yet, the lives of amphibians, which can spend long hours
either at sea or on shore, traveling through their double domain
as their whims dictate!
Meanwhile Captain Nemo had called a halt. My companions and I
stopped walking, and turning around, I saw the crewmen form
a semicircle around their leader. Looking with greater care,
I observed that four of them were carrying on their shoulders
an object that was oblong in shape.
At this locality we stood in the center of a huge clearing
surrounded by the tall tree forms of this underwater forest.
Our lamps cast a sort of brilliant twilight over the area,
making inordinately long shadows on the seafloor. Past the boundaries
of the clearing, the darkness deepened again, relieved only by little
sparkles given off by the sharp crests of coral.
Ned Land and Conseil stood next to me. We stared, and it
dawned on me that I was about to witness a strange scene.
Observing the seafloor, I saw that it swelled at certain points from
low bulges that were encrusted with limestone deposits and arranged
with a symmetry that betrayed the hand of man.
In the middle of the clearing, on a pedestal of roughly piled rocks,
there stood a cross of coral, extending long arms you would have
thought were made of petrified blood.
At a signal from Captain Nemo, one of his men stepped forward and,
a few feet from this cross, detached a mattock from his belt
and began to dig a hole.
I finally understood! This clearing was a cemetery, this hole a grave,
that oblong object the body of the man who must have died during
the night! Captain Nemo and his men had come to bury their companion
in this communal resting place on the inaccessible ocean floor!
No! My mind was reeling as never before! Never had ideas of such impact
raced through my brain! I didn't want to see what my eyes saw!
Meanwhile the grave digging went slowly. Fish fled here and
there as their retreat was disturbed. I heard the pick ringing
on the limestone soil, its iron tip sometimes giving off sparks
when it hit a stray piece of flint on the sea bottom. The hole
grew longer, wider, and soon was deep enough to receive the body.
Then the pallbearers approached. Wrapped in white fabric made from
filaments of the fan mussel, the body was lowered into its watery grave.
Captain Nemo, arms crossed over his chest, knelt in a posture
of prayer, as did all the friends of him who had loved them. . . .
My two companions and I bowed reverently.
The grave was then covered over with the rubble dug from the seafloor,
and it formed a low mound.
When this was done, Captain Nemo and his men stood up; then they
all approached the grave, sank again on bended knee, and extended
their hands in a sign of final farewell. . . .
Then the funeral party went back up the path to the Nautilus,
returning beneath the arches of the forest, through the thickets,
along the coral bushes, going steadily higher.
Finally the ship's rays appeared. Their luminous trail guided us
to the Nautilus. By one o'clock we had returned.
After changing clothes, I climbed onto the platform, and in the grip
of dreadfully obsessive thoughts, I sat next to the beacon.
Captain Nemo rejoined me. I stood up and said to him:
"So, as I predicted, that man died during the night?"
"Yes, Professor Aronnax," Captain Nemo replied.
"And now he rests beside his companions in that coral cemetery?"
"Yes, forgotten by the world but not by us! We dig the graves,
then entrust the polyps with sealing away our dead for eternity!"
And with a sudden gesture, the captain hid his face in his clenched fists,
vainly trying to hold back a sob. Then he added:
"There lies our peaceful cemetery, hundreds of feet beneath
the surface of the waves!"
"At least, captain, your dead can sleep serenely there, out of
the reach of sharks!"
"Yes, sir," Captain Nemo replied solemnly, "of sharks and men!"
END OF THE FIRST PART
*Author's Note: About 106 meters. An English foot is only 30.4 centimeters.
*German: "Bulletin." Ed.
*Author's Note: A pier is a type of wharf expressly set aside for an individual vessel.
*Author's Note: Tenders are small steamboats that assist the big liners.
*Author's Note: A Bowie knife is a wide-bladed dagger that Americans are forever carrying around.
*Author's Note: A steward is a waiter on board a steamer.
*Latin: nemo means "no one." Ed.
*Latin: "in a class by itself." Ed.
**Author's Note: And sure enough, there's now talk of such a discovery, in which a new set of levers generates
considerable power. Did its inventor meet up with Captain Nemo?
*Author's Note: "Ladyfingers" are small, thin, white clouds with ragged edges.
*Latin: a spigot "just for that purpose." Ed.
*Latin: "troubled dreams." Ed.
2 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
8 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
A Runaway Reef · 9
A Runaway Reef · 11
16 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Pros and Cons · 17
18 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
As Master Wishes · 19
22 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
As Master Wishes · 23
28 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Ned Land · 27
30 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
At Random! · 29
· Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
At Random! · 31
32 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
At Random! · 35
At Random! · 37
42 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
At Full Steam · 43
46 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
At Full Steam · 47
52 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
A Whale of Unknown Species · 53
54 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
"Mobilis in Mobili" · 54
"Mobilis in Mobili" · 53
54 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
60 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
"Mobilis in Mobili" · 61
62 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Tantrums of Ned Land · 62
The Tantrums of Ned Land · 61
64 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
70 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Tantrums of Ned Land · 69
76 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Man of the Waters · 77
78 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
80 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
86 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Nautilus · 87
94 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Everything through Electricity · 93
96 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Some Figures · 96
Some Figures · 95
102 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Some Figures · 101
Some Figures · 103
112 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Black Current · 111
The Black Current ·
114 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
An Invitation in Writing · 113
Strolling the Plains · 121
122 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Strolling the Plains · 123
124 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Strolling the Plains · 124
Strolling the Plains · 125
126 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
130 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
An Underwater Forest · 129
94 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas 94 ·
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
131 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
140 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Four Thousand Leagues Under the Pacific · 139
148 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Vanikoro · 147
· Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Torres Strait ·
The Torres Strait · 149
156 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Torres Strait · 155
158 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Some Days Ashore · 158
Some Days Ashore · 157
168 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Some Days Ashore · 167
170 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Lightning Bolts of Captain Nemo · 170
The Lightning Bolts of Captain Nemo · 169
180 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Lightning Bolts of Captain Nemo · 179
182 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
184 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
"Aegri Somnia" · 131
186 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
190 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
"Aegri Somnia" · 189
192 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Coral Realm · 193
194 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
198 · Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Coral Realm · 197
The Indian Ocean
NOW WE BEGIN the second part of this voyage under the seas.
The first ended in that moving scene at the coral cemetery,
which left a profound impression on my mind. And so Captain Nemo
would live out his life entirely in the heart of this immense sea,
and even his grave lay ready in its impenetrable depths.
There the last sleep of the Nautilus's occupants, friends bound together
in death as in life, would be disturbed by no monster of the deep!
"No man either!" the captain had added.
Always that same fierce, implacable defiance of human society!
As for me, I was no longer content with the hypotheses
that satisfied Conseil. That fine lad persisted in seeing
the Nautilus's commander as merely one of those unappreciated
scientists who repay humanity's indifference with contempt.
For Conseil, the captain was still a misunderstood genius who,
tired of the world's deceptions, had been driven to take refuge in this
inaccessible environment where he was free to follow his instincts.
But to my mind, this hypothesis explained only one side of Captain Nemo.
In fact, the mystery of that last afternoon when we were locked in
prison and put to sleep, the captain's violent precaution of snatching
from my grasp a spyglass poised to scour the horizon, and the fatal
wound given that man during some unexplained collision suffered
by the Nautilus, all led me down a plain trail. No! Captain Nemo
wasn't content simply to avoid humanity! His fearsome submersible
served not only his quest for freedom, but also, perhaps, it was
used in lord-knows-what schemes of dreadful revenge.
Right now, nothing is clear to me, I still glimpse only glimmers
in the dark, and I must limit my pen, as it were, to taking
dictation from events.
But nothing binds us to Captain Nemo. He believes that escaping from
the Nautilus is impossible. We are not even constrained by our word
of honor. No promises fetter us. We're simply captives, prisoners
masquerading under the name "guests" for the sake of everyday courtesy.
Even so, Ned Land hasn't given up all hope of recovering his freedom.
He's sure to take advantage of the first chance that comes his way.
No doubt I will do likewise. And yet I will feel some regret at making
off with the Nautilus's secrets, so generously unveiled for us by
Captain Nemo! Because, ultimately, should we detest or admire this man?
Is he the persecutor or the persecuted? And in all honesty,
before I leave him forever, I want to finish this underwater
tour of the world, whose first stages have been so magnificent.
I want to observe the full series of these wonders gathered under
the seas of our globe. I want to see what no man has seen yet,
even if I must pay for this insatiable curiosity with my life!
What are my discoveries to date? Nothing, relatively speaking--
since so far we've covered only 6,000 leagues across the Pacific!
Nevertheless, I'm well aware that the Nautilus is drawing near
to populated shores, and if some chance for salvation becomes
available to us, it would be sheer cruelty to sacrifice my
companions to my passion for the unknown. I must go with them,
perhaps even guide them. But will this opportunity ever arise?
The human being, robbed of his free will, craves such an opportunity;
but the scientist, forever inquisitive, dreads it.
That day, January 21, 1868, the chief officer went at noon to take
the sun's altitude. I climbed onto the platform, lit a cigar,
and watched him at work. It seemed obvious to me that this man didn't
understand French, because I made several remarks in a loud voice
that were bound to provoke him to some involuntary show of interest
had he understood them; but he remained mute and emotionless.
While he took his sights with his sextant, one of the Nautilus's sailors--
that muscular man who had gone with us to Crespo Island during our first
underwater excursion--came up to clean the glass panes of the beacon.
I then examined the fittings of this mechanism, whose power was
increased a hundredfold by biconvex lenses that were designed
like those in a lighthouse and kept its rays productively focused.
This electric lamp was so constructed as to yield its maximum
illuminating power. In essence, its light was generated in a vacuum,
insuring both its steadiness and intensity. Such a vacuum also reduced
wear on the graphite points between which the luminous arc expanded.
This was an important savings for Captain Nemo, who couldn't
easily renew them. But under these conditions, wear and tear
were almost nonexistent.
When the Nautilus was ready to resume its underwater travels,
I went below again to the lounge. The hatches closed once more,
and our course was set due west.
We then plowed the waves of the Indian Ocean, vast liquid plains
with an area of 550,000,000 hectares, whose waters are so transparent
it makes you dizzy to lean over their surface. There the Nautilus
generally drifted at a depth between 100 and 200 meters.
It behaved in this way for some days. To anyone without my grand
passion for the sea, these hours would surely have seemed long
and monotonous; but my daily strolls on the platform where I was
revived by the life-giving ocean air, the sights in the rich waters
beyond the lounge windows, the books to be read in the library,
and the composition of my memoirs, took up all my time and left me
without a moment of weariness or boredom.
All in all, we enjoyed a highly satisfactory state of health.
The diet on board agreed with us perfectly, and for my part,
I could easily have gone without those changes of pace that Ned Land,
in a spirit of protest, kept taxing his ingenuity to supply us.
What's more, in this constant temperature we didn't even have to
worry about catching colds. Besides, the ship had a good stock of
the madrepore Dendrophylia, known in Provence by the name sea fennel,
and a poultice made from the dissolved flesh of its polyps will
furnish an excellent cough medicine.
For some days we saw a large number of aquatic birds with webbed feet,
known as gulls or sea mews. Some were skillfully slain, and when cooked
in a certain fashion, they make a very acceptable platter of water game.
Among the great wind riders--carried over long distances from every
shore and resting on the waves from their exhausting flights--
I spotted some magnificent albatross, birds belonging to the Longipennes
(long-winged) family, whose discordant calls sound like the braying
of an ass. The Totipalmes (fully webbed) family was represented
by swift frigate birds, nimbly catching fish at the surface,
and by numerous tropic birds of the genus Phaeton, among others
the red-tailed tropic bird, the size of a pigeon, its white plumage
shaded with pink tints that contrasted with its dark-hued wings.
The Nautilus's nets hauled up several types of sea turtle from
the hawksbill genus with arching backs whose scales are highly prized.
Diving easily, these reptiles can remain a good while underwater
by closing the fleshy valves located at the external openings of their
nasal passages. When they were captured, some hawksbills were still
asleep inside their carapaces, a refuge from other marine animals.
The flesh of these turtles was nothing memorable, but their eggs
made an excellent feast.
As for fish, they always filled us with wonderment when, staring through
the open panels, we could unveil the secrets of their aquatic lives.
I noted several species I hadn't previously been able to observe.
I'll mention chiefly some trunkfish unique to the Red Sea, the sea
of the East Indies, and that part of the ocean washing the coasts
of equinoctial America. Like turtles, armadillos, sea urchins,
and crustaceans, these fish are protected by armor plate that's
neither chalky nor stony but actual bone. Sometimes this armor takes
the shape of a solid triangle, sometimes that of a solid quadrangle.
Among the triangular type, I noticed some half a decimeter long,
with brown tails, yellow fins, and wholesome, exquisitely tasty flesh;
I even recommend that they be acclimatized to fresh water, a change,
incidentally, that a number of saltwater fish can make with ease.
I'll also mention some quadrangular trunkfish topped by four large
protuberances along the back; trunkfish sprinkled with white spots on
the underside of the body, which make good house pets like certain birds;
boxfish armed with stings formed by extensions of their bony crusts,
and whose odd grunting has earned them the nickname "sea pigs";
then some trunkfish known as dromedaries, with tough, leathery flesh
and big conical humps.
From the daily notes kept by Mr. Conseil, I also retrieve
certain fish from the genus Tetradon unique to these seas:
southern puffers with red backs and white chests distinguished by
three lengthwise rows of filaments, and jugfish, seven inches long,
decked out in the brightest colors. Then, as specimens of other genera,
blowfish resembling a dark brown egg, furrowed with white bands,
and lacking tails; globefish, genuine porcupines of the sea,
armed with stings and able to inflate themselves until they look
like a pin cushion bristling with needles; seahorses common to
every ocean; flying dragonfish with long snouts and highly distended
pectoral fins shaped like wings, which enable them, if not to fly,
at least to spring into the air; spatula-shaped paddlefish whose
tails are covered with many scaly rings; snipefish with long jaws,
excellent animals twenty-five centimeters long and gleaming with
the most cheerful colors; bluish gray dragonets with wrinkled heads;
myriads of leaping blennies with black stripes and long pectoral fins,
gliding over the surface of the water with prodigious speed;
delicious sailfish that can hoist their fins in a favorable current
like so many unfurled sails; splendid nurseryfish on which nature
has lavished yellow, azure, silver, and gold; yellow mackerel
with wings made of filaments; bullheads forever spattered with mud,
which make distinct hissing sounds; sea robins whose livers are thought
to be poisonous; ladyfish that can flutter their eyelids; finally,
archerfish with long, tubular snouts, real oceangoing flycatchers,
armed with a rifle unforeseen by either Remington or Chassepot:
it slays insects by shooting them with a simple drop of water.
From the eighty-ninth fish genus in Lacépède's system of classification,
belonging to his second subclass of bony fish (characterized by gill
covers and a bronchial membrane), I noted some scorpionfish whose
heads are adorned with stings and which have only one dorsal fin;
these animals are covered with small scales, or have none at all,
depending on the subgenus to which they belong. The second subgenus
gave us some Didactylus specimens three to four decimeters long,
streaked with yellow, their heads having a phantasmagoric appearance.
As for the first subgenus, it furnished several specimens of that
bizarre fish aptly nicknamed "toadfish," whose big head is sometimes
gouged with deep cavities, sometimes swollen with protuberances;
bristling with stings and strewn with nodules, it sports hideously
irregular horns; its body and tail are adorned with callosities;
its stings can inflict dangerous injuries; it's repulsive and horrible.
From January 21 to the 23rd, the Nautilus traveled at the rate of 250
leagues in twenty-four hours, hence 540 miles at twenty-two miles
per hour. If, during our trip, we were able to identify these different
varieties of fish, it's because they were attracted by our electric
light and tried to follow alongside; but most of them were outdistanced
by our speed and soon fell behind; temporarily, however, a few
managed to keep pace in the Nautilus's waters.
On the morning of the 24th, in latitude 12 degrees 5'
south and longitude 94 degrees 33', we raised Keeling Island,
a madreporic upheaving planted with magnificent coconut trees,
which had been visited by Mr. Darwin and Captain Fitzroy. The Nautilus
cruised along a short distance off the shore of this desert island.
Our dragnets brought up many specimens of polyps and echinoderms
plus some unusual shells from the branch Mollusca. Captain Nemo's
treasures were enhanced by some valuable exhibits from the delphinula
snail species, to which I joined some pointed star coral, a sort
of parasitic polypary that often attaches itself to seashells.
Soon Keeling Island disappeared below the horizon, and our course
was set to the northwest, toward the tip of the Indian peninsula.
"Civilization!" Ned Land told me that day. "Much better than
those Papuan Islands where we ran into more savages than venison!
On this Indian shore, professor, there are roads and railways,
English, French, and Hindu villages. We wouldn't go five miles
without bumping into a fellow countryman. Come on now, isn't it
time for our sudden departure from Captain Nemo?"
"No, no, Ned," I replied in a very firm tone. "Let's ride it out,
as you seafaring fellows say. The Nautilus is approaching
populated areas. It's going back toward Europe, let it take us there.
After we arrive in home waters, we can do as we see fit.
Besides, I don't imagine Captain Nemo will let us go hunting
on the coasts of Malabar or Coromandel as he did in the forests
of New Guinea."
"Well, sir, can't we manage without his permission?"
I didn't answer the Canadian. I wanted no arguments. Deep down,
I was determined to fully exploit the good fortune that had put me
on board the Nautilus.
After leaving Keeling Island, our pace got generally slower.
It also got more unpredictable, often taking us to great depths.
Several times we used our slanting fins, which internal levers could
set at an oblique angle to our waterline. Thus we went as deep
as two or three kilometers down but without ever verifying the lowest
depths of this sea near India, which soundings of 13,000 meters have
been unable to reach. As for the temperature in these lower strata,
the thermometer always and invariably indicated 4 degrees centigrade.
I merely observed that in the upper layers, the water was always
colder over shallows than in the open sea.
On January 25, the ocean being completely deserted, the Nautilus spent
the day on the surface, churning the waves with its powerful propeller
and making them spurt to great heights. Under these conditions,
who wouldn't have mistaken it for a gigantic cetacean? I spent
three-quarters of the day on the platform. I stared at the sea.
Nothing on the horizon, except near four o'clock in the afternoon
a long steamer to the west, running on our opposite tack.
Its masting was visible for an instant, but it couldn't have
seen the Nautilus because we were lying too low in the water.
I imagine that steamboat belonged to the Peninsular & Oriental line,
which provides service from the island of Ceylon to Sidney,
also calling at King George Sound and Melbourne.
At five o'clock in the afternoon, just before that brief twilight
that links day with night in tropical zones, Conseil and I marveled
at an unusual sight.
It was a delightful animal whose discovery, according to the ancients,
is a sign of good luck. Aristotle, Athenaeus, Pliny, and Oppian
studied its habits and lavished on its behalf all the scientific poetry
of Greece and Italy. They called it "nautilus" and "pompilius."
But modern science has not endorsed these designations, and this
mollusk is now known by the name argonaut.
Anyone consulting Conseil would soon learn from the gallant lad
that the branch Mollusca is divided into five classes; that the first
class features the Cephalopoda (whose members are sometimes naked,
sometimes covered with a shell), which consists of two families,
the Dibranchiata and the Tetrabranchiata, which are distinguished
by their number of gills; that the family Dibranchiata includes
three genera, the argonaut, the squid, and the cuttlefish, and that
the family Tetrabranchiata contains only one genus, the nautilus.
After this catalog, if some recalcitrant listener confuses
the argonaut, which is acetabuliferous (in other words, a bearer
of suction tubes), with the nautilus, which is tentaculiferous
(a bearer of tentacles), it will be simply unforgivable.
Now, it was a school of argonauts then voyaging on the surface
of the ocean. We could count several hundred of them.
They belonged to that species of argonaut covered with protuberances
and exclusive to the seas near India.
These graceful mollusks were swimming backward by means of their
locomotive tubes, sucking water into these tubes and then expelling it.
Six of their eight tentacles were long, thin, and floated
on the water, while the other two were rounded into palms
and spread to the wind like light sails. I could see perfectly
their undulating, spiral-shaped shells, which Cuvier aptly
compared to an elegant cockleboat. It's an actual boat indeed.
It transports the animal that secretes it without the animal
sticking to it.
"The argonaut is free to leave its shell," I told Conseil,
"but it never does."
"Not unlike Captain Nemo," Conseil replied sagely. "Which is why
he should have christened his ship the Argonaut."
For about an hour the Nautilus cruised in the midst of this school
of mollusks. Then, lord knows why, they were gripped with a sudden fear.
As if at a signal, every sail was abruptly lowered; arms folded,
bodies contracted, shells turned over by changing their center
of gravity, and the whole flotilla disappeared under the waves.
It was instantaneous, and no squadron of ships ever maneuvered
with greater togetherness.
Just then night fell suddenly, and the waves barely surged in the breeze,
spreading placidly around the Nautilus's side plates.
The next day, January 26, we cut the equator on the 82nd meridian
and we reentered the northern hemisphere.
During that day a fearsome school of sharks provided us with an escort.
Dreadful animals that teem in these seas and make them
extremely dangerous. There were Port Jackson sharks with a brown back,
a whitish belly, and eleven rows of teeth, bigeye sharks with necks
marked by a large black spot encircled in white and resembling an eye,
and Isabella sharks whose rounded snouts were strewn with dark speckles.
Often these powerful animals rushed at the lounge window with a
violence less than comforting. By this point Ned Land had lost
all self-control. He wanted to rise to the surface of the waves
and harpoon the monsters, especially certain smooth-hound sharks whose
mouths were paved with teeth arranged like a mosaic, and some big
five-meter tiger sharks that insisted on personally provoking him.
But the Nautilus soon picked up speed and easily left astern
the fastest of these man-eaters.
On January 27, at the entrance to the huge Bay of Bengal,
we repeatedly encountered a gruesome sight: human corpses floating
on the surface of the waves! Carried by the Ganges to the high seas,
these were deceased Indian villagers who hadn't been fully devoured
by vultures, the only morticians in these parts. But there was no
shortage of sharks to assist them with their undertaking chores.
Near seven o'clock in the evening, the Nautilus lay
half submerged, navigating in the midst of milky white waves.
As far as the eye could see, the ocean seemed lactified.
Was it an effect of the moon's rays? No, because the new moon was barely
two days old and was still lost below the horizon in the sun's rays.
The entire sky, although lit up by stellar radiation, seemed pitch-black
in comparison with the whiteness of these waters.
Conseil couldn't believe his eyes, and he questioned me about
the causes of this odd phenomenon. Luckily I was in a position
to answer him.
"That's called a milk sea," I told him, "a vast expanse of white waves
often seen along the coasts of Amboina and in these waterways."
"But," Conseil asked, "could master tell me the cause of this effect,
because I presume this water hasn't really changed into milk!"
"No, my boy, and this whiteness that amazes you is merely due
to the presence of myriads of tiny creatures called infusoria,
a sort of diminutive glowworm that's colorless and gelatinous
in appearance, as thick as a strand of hair, and no longer than
one-fifth of a millimeter. Some of these tiny creatures stick
together over an area of several leagues."
"Several leagues!" Conseil exclaimed.
"Yes, my boy, and don't even try to compute the number of
these infusoria. You won't pull it off, because if I'm not mistaken,
certain navigators have cruised through milk seas for more
than forty miles."
I'm not sure that Conseil heeded my recommendation, because he seemed
to be deep in thought, no doubt trying to calculate how many
one-fifths of a millimeter are found in forty square miles.
As for me, I continued to observe this phenomenon. For several
hours the Nautilus's spur sliced through these whitish waves,
and I watched it glide noiselessly over this soapy water, as if it
were cruising through those foaming eddies that a bay's currents
and countercurrents sometimes leave between each other.
Near midnight the sea suddenly resumed its usual hue, but behind us
all the way to the horizon, the skies kept mirroring the whiteness
of those waves and for a good while seemed imbued with the hazy
glow of an aurora borealis.
A New Proposition from Captain Nemo
ON JANUARY 28, in latitude 9 degrees 4' north, when the Nautilus returned
at noon to the surface of the sea, it lay in sight of land some eight
miles to the west. Right off, I observed a cluster of mountains
about 2,000 feet high, whose shapes were very whimsically sculpted.
After our position fix, I reentered the lounge, and when our bearings
were reported on the chart, I saw that we were off the island of Ceylon,
that pearl dangling from the lower lobe of the Indian peninsula.
I went looking in the library for a book about this island, one of
the most fertile in the world. Sure enough, I found a volume entitled
Ceylon and the Singhalese by H. C. Sirr, Esq. Reentering the lounge,
I first noted the bearings of Ceylon, on which antiquity lavished
so many different names. It was located between latitude 5 degrees 55'
and 9 degrees 49' north, and between longitude 79 degrees 42'
and 82 degrees 4' east of the meridian of Greenwich; its length
is 275 miles; its maximum width, 150 miles; its circumference,
900 miles; its surface area, 24,448 square miles, in other words,
a little smaller than that of Ireland.
Just then Captain Nemo and his chief officer appeared.
The captain glanced at the chart. Then, turning to me:
"The island of Ceylon," he said, "is famous for its pearl fisheries.
Would you be interested, Professor Aronnax, in visiting one
of those fisheries?"
"Fine. It's easily done. Only, when we see the fisheries,
we'll see no fishermen. The annual harvest hasn't yet begun.
No matter. I'll give orders to make for the Gulf of Mannar,
and we'll arrive there late tonight."
The captain said a few words to his chief officer who went
out immediately. Soon the Nautilus reentered its liquid element,
and the pressure gauge indicated that it was staying at a depth
of thirty feet.
With the chart under my eyes, I looked for the Gulf of Mannar. I found
it by the 9th parallel off the northwestern shores of Ceylon. It was
formed by the long curve of little Mannar Island. To reach it we
had to go all the way up Ceylon's west coast.
"Professor," Captain Nemo then told me, "there are pearl fisheries
in the Bay of Bengal, the seas of the East Indies, the seas
of China and Japan, plus those seas south of the United States,
the Gulf of Panama and the Gulf of California; but it's off Ceylon
that such fishing reaps its richest rewards. No doubt we'll be
arriving a little early. Fishermen gather in the Gulf of Mannar
only during the month of March, and for thirty days some 300 boats
concentrate on the lucrative harvest of these treasures from the sea.
Each boat is manned by ten oarsmen and ten fishermen.
The latter divide into two groups, dive in rotation, and descend
to a depth of twelve meters with the help of a heavy stone clutched
between their feet and attached by a rope to their boat."
"You mean," I said, "that such primitive methods are still all
that they use?"
"All," Captain Nemo answered me, "although these fisheries belong
to the most industrialized people in the world, the English,
to whom the Treaty of Amiens granted them in 1802."
"Yet it strikes me that diving suits like yours could perform yeoman
service in such work."
"Yes, since those poor fishermen can't stay long underwater.
On his voyage to Ceylon, the Englishman Percival made much of a Kaffir
who stayed under five minutes without coming up to the surface,
but I find that hard to believe. I know that some divers can last up
to fifty-seven seconds, and highly skillful ones to eighty-seven;
but such men are rare, and when the poor fellows climb back on board,
the water coming out of their noses and ears is tinted with blood.
I believe the average time underwater that these fishermen can
tolerate is thirty seconds, during which they hastily stuff
their little nets with all the pearl oysters they can tear loose.
But these fishermen generally don't live to advanced age:
their vision weakens, ulcers break out on their eyes, sores form
on their bodies, and some are even stricken with apoplexy on
the ocean floor."
"Yes," I said, "it's a sad occupation, and one that exists only
to gratify the whims of fashion. But tell me, captain, how many
oysters can a boat fish up in a workday?"
"About 40,000 to 50,000. It's even said that in 1814, when the English
government went fishing on its own behalf, its divers worked just
twenty days and brought up 76,000,000 oysters."
"At least," I asked, "the fishermen are well paid, aren't they?"
"Hardly, professor. In Panama they make just $1.00 per week.
In most places they earn only a penny for each oyster that has a pearl,
and they bring up so many that have none!"
"Only one penny to those poor people who make their employers rich!
"On that note, professor," Captain Nemo told me, "you and your
companions will visit the Mannar oysterbank, and if by chance some
eager fisherman arrives early, well, we can watch him at work."
"That suits me, captain."
"By the way, Professor Aronnax, you aren't afraid of sharks, are you?"
"Sharks?" I exclaimed.
This struck me as a pretty needless question, to say the least.
"Well?" Captain Nemo went on.
"I admit, captain, I'm not yet on very familiar terms with that
genus of fish."
"We're used to them, the rest of us," Captain Nemo answered.
"And in time you will be too. Anyhow, we'll be armed, and on our
way we might hunt a man-eater or two. It's a fascinating sport.
So, professor, I'll see you tomorrow, bright and early."
This said in a carefree tone, Captain Nemo left the lounge.
If you're invited to hunt bears in the Swiss mountains, you might say:
"Oh good, I get to go bear hunting tomorrow!" If you're invited
to hunt lions on the Atlas plains or tigers in the jungles of India,
you might say: "Ha! Now's my chance to hunt lions and tigers!"
But if you're invited to hunt sharks in their native element,
you might want to think it over before accepting.
As for me, I passed a hand over my brow, where beads of cold sweat
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