Part 2 - Chapter 1
The Indian Ocean
We now come to the second part of our journey under the
sea. The first ended with the moving scene in the coral cemetery, which left such a deep
impression on my mind. Thus, in the midst of this great sea, Captain Nemo's life was
passing even to his grave, which he had prepared in one of its deepest abysses. There, not
one of the ocean's monsters could trouble the last sleep of the crew of the Nautilus,
of those friends riveted to one another in death as in life. "Nor any man
either," had added the captain. Still the same fierce, implacable defiance toward
I could no longer content myself with the hypothesis which
That worthy fellow persisted in seeing in the commander of
the Nautilus one of those unknown savants who return mankind contempt for
indifference. For him, he was a misunderstood genius, who, tired of earth's deceptions,
had taken refuge in this inaccessible medium, where he might follow his instincts freely.
To my mind, this hypothesis explained but one side of Captain Nemo's character.
Indeed, the mystery of that last night, during which we
had been chained in prison, the sleep, and the precaution so violently taken by the
captain of snatching from my eyes the glass I had raised to sweep the horizon, the mortal
wound of the man, due to an unaccountable shock of the Nautilus, all put me on a
new track. No, Captain Nemo was not satisfied with shunning man. His formidable apparatus
not only suited his instinct of freedom, but, perhaps, also the design of some terrible
At this moment, nothing is clear to me; I catch but a
glimpse of light amidst all the darkness, and I must confine myself to writing as events
That day, January 24, 1868, at noon, the second officer
came to take the altitude of the sun. I mounted the platform, lit a cigar, and watched the
operation. It seemed to me that the man did not understand French; for several times I
made remarks in a loud voice, which must have drawn from him some involuntary sign of
attention, if he had understood them; but he remained undisturbed and dumb.
As he was taking observations with the sextant, one of the
sailors of the Nautilus (the strong man who had accompanied us on our first
submarine excursion to the Island of Crespo) came to clean the glasses of the lantern. I
examined the fittings of the apparatus, the strength of which was increased a hundredfold
by lenticular rings, placed similar to those in a lighthouse, and which projected their
brilliance in a horizontal plane. The electric lamp was combined in such a way as to give
its most powerful light. Indeed, it was produced in vacuo, which insured both its
steadiness and its intensity. This vacuum economized the graphite points, between which
the luminous arc was developed - an important point of economy for Captain Nemo, who could
not easily have replaced them; and under these conditions their waste was imperceptible.
When the Nautilus was ready to continue its submarine journey, I went down to the
saloon. The panels were closed, and the course marked direct west.
We were furrowing the waters of the Indian Ocean, a vast
liquid plain, with a surface of 1,200,000,000 of acres, and whose waters are so clear and
transparent that anyone leaning over them would turn giddy. The Nautilus usually
floated between fifty and a hundred fathoms deep. We went on so for some days. To anyone
but myself, who had a great love for the sea, the hours would have seemed long and
monotonous; but the daily walks on the platform, when I steeped myself in the reviving air
of the ocean, the sight of the rich waters through the windows of the saloon, the books in
the library, the compiling of my memoirs, took up all my time, and left me not a moment of
ennui or weariness.
For some days we saw a great number of aquatic birds, sea
mews or gulls. Some were cleverly killed, and, prepared in a certain way, made very
acceptable water game. Among large winged birds, carried a long distance from all lands,
and resting upon the waves from the fatigue of their flight, I saw some magnificent
albatrosses, uttering discordant cries like the braying of an ass, and birds belonging to
the family of the longipennates. The family of the totipalmates was represented by the sea
swallows, which caught the fish from the surface, and by numerous phaetons, or lepturi;
amongst others, the phaeton with red lines, as large as a pigeon, whose white plumage,
tinted with pink, shows off to advantage the blackness of its wings.
As to the fish, they always provoked our admiration when
we surprised the secrets of their aquatic life through the open panels. I saw many kinds
which I never before had a chance of observing.
I shall notice chiefly ostracions peculiar to the Red Sea,
the Indian Ocean, and that part which washes the coast of tropical America. These fishes,
like the tortoise, the armadillo, the sea hedgehog, and the crustacea, are protected by a
breastplate which is neither chalky nor stony, but real bone. In some it takes the form of
a solid triangle, in others of a solid quadrangle. Among the triangular I saw some an inch
and a half in length, with wholesome flesh and a delicious flavor; they are brown at the
tail, and yellow at the fins, and I recommend their introduction into fresh water, to
which a certain number of sea fish easily accustom themselves. I would also mention
quadrangular ostracions, having on the back four large tubercles; some dotted over with
white spots on the lower part of the body, and which may be tamed like birds; trigons
provided with spikes formed by the lengthening of their bony shell, and which, from their
strange gruntings, are called "sea pigs"; also dromedaries with large humps in
the shape of a cone, whose flesh is very tough and leathery.
I now borrow from the daily notes of Master Conseil.
"Certain fish of the genus petrodon peculiar to those seas, with red backs and white
chests, which are distinguished by three rows of longitudinal filaments; and some
electrical seven inches long, decked in the liveliest colors. Then, specimens of other
kinds, some ovoides, resembling an egg of a dark brown color, marked with white bands, and
without tails; diodons, real sea porcupines, furnished with spikes, and capable of
swelling in such a way as to look like cushions bristling with darts; hippocampi, common
to every ocean; some pegasi with lengthened snouts, which their pectoral fins, being much
elongated and formed in the shape of wings, allow, if not to fly, at least to shoot into
the air; pigeon spatulae, with tails covered with many rings of shall; macrognathi with
long jaws, an excellent fish, nine inches long, and bright with most agreeable colors;
pale-colored calliomores with rugged heads; and plenty of chaetodons, with long and
tubular muzzles, which kill insects by shooting them, as from an air gun, with a single
drop of water. These we may call the flycatchers of the seas.
"In the eighty-ninth genus of fishes, classed by
Lacépède, belonging to the second lower class of bony, characterized by opercules and
bronchial membranes, I remarked the scorpaena, the head of which is furnished with spikes,
and which has but one dorsal fin; these creatures are covered, or not, with little shells
according to the subclass to which they belong. The second subclass gives us specimens of
didactyles fourteen or fifteen inches in length, with yellow rays, and heads of a most
fantastic appearance. As to the first subclass, it gives several specimens of that
singular-looking fish appropriately called a "sea frog," with large head,
sometimes pierced with holes, sometimes swollen with protuberances, bristling with spikes,
and covered with tubercles it has irregular and hideous horns; its body and tail are
covered with callosities; its sting makes a dangerous wound; it is both repugnant and
horrible to look at."
From January 21 to January 23 the Nautilus went at
the rate of two hundred fifty leagues in twenty-four hours, being five hundred forty
miles, or twenty-two miles an hour. If we recognized so many different varieties of fish,
it was because, attracted by the electric light, they tried to follow us; the greater
part, however, were soon distanced by our speed, though some kept their place in the
waters of the Nautilus for a time. The morning of January 24, in 12° 5' south
latitude, and 94° 33' longitude, we observed Keeling Island, a madrepore formation,
planted with magnificent cocoas, and which had been visited by Mr. Darwin and Captain
Fitzroy. The Nautilus skirted the shores of this desert island for a little
distance. Its nets brought up numerous specimens of polypi, and curious shells of
mollusca. Some precious productions of the species of delphinulae enriched the treasures
of Captain Nemo, to which I added an astraea punctifera, a kind of parasite polypus often
found fixed to a shell. Soon Keeling Island disappeared from the horizon, and our course
was directed to the northwest in the direction of the Indian Peninsula.
From Keeling Island our course was slower and more
variable, often taking us into great depths. Several times they made use of the inclined
planes, which certain internal levers placed obliquely to the water line. In that way we
went about two miles, but without ever obtaining the greatest depths of the Indian Sea,
which soundings of seven thousand fathoms have never reached. As to the temperature of the
lower strata, the thermometer invariably indicated 4 degrees above zero. I only observed
that, in the upper regions, the water was always colder in the high levels than at the
surface of the sea.
On January 25, the ocean was entirely deserted; the Nautilus
passed the day on the surface, beating the waves with its powerful screw, and making them
rebound to great height. Who under such circumstances would not have taken it for a
gigantic cetacean? Three parts of this day I spent on the platform. I watched the sea.
Nothing on the horizon, till about four o'clock a steamer running west on our counter. Her
masts were visible for an instant, but she could not see the Nautilus, being too
low in the water. I fancied this steamboat belonged to the P. O. Company, which runs from
Ceylon to Sydney, touching at King George's Point and Melbourne.
At five o'clock in the evening, before that fleeting
twilight which binds night to day in tropical zones, Conseil and I were astonished by a
It was a shoal of argonauts traveling along on the surface
of the ocean. We could count several hundreds. They belonged to the tubercle kind which
are peculiar to the Indian seas.
These graceful mollusks moved backward by means of their
locomotive tube, through which they propelled the water already drawn in. Of their eight
tentacles, six were elongated, and stretched out floating on the water, while the other
two, rolled up flat, were spread to the wind like a light sail. I saw their spiral-shaped
and fluted shells, which Cuvier justly compares to an elegant skiff. A boat indeed! It
bears the creature which secretes it without its adhering to it.
For nearly an hour the Nautilus floated in the
midst of this shoal of mollusks. Then I know not what sudden fright they took. But as if
at a signal every sail was furled, the arms folded, the body drawn in, the shells turned
over, changing their center of gravity, and the whole fleet disappeared under the waves.
Never did the ships of a squadron maneuver with more unity.
At that moment night fell suddenly, and the reeds,
scarcely raised by the breeze, lay peaceably under the sides of the Nautilus.
The next day, January 26, we cut the equator at the
eighty-second meridian, and entered the northern hemisphere. During the day, a formidable
troop of sharks accompanied us, terrible creatures, which multiply in these seas, and make
them very dangerous. They were "cestracio philippi" sharks, with brown backs and
whitish bellies, armed with eleven rows of teeth-eyed sharks - their throat being marked
with a large black spot surrounded with white like an eye. There were also some Isabella
sharks, with rounded snouts marked with dark spots. These powerful creatures often hurled
themselves at the windows of the saloon with such violence as to make us feel very
insecure. At such times Ned Land was no longer master of himself. He wanted to go to the
surface and harpoon the monsters, particularly certain smooth hound sharks, whose mouth is
studded with teeth like a mosaic; and large tiger sharks nearly six yards long, the last
named of which seemed to excite him more particularly. But the Nautilus,
accelerating her speed, easily left the most rapid of them behind.
On January 27, at the entrance of the vast Bay of Bengal,
we met repeatedly a forbidding spectacle, dead bodies floating on the surface of the
water. They were the dead of the Indian villages, carried by the Ganges to the level of
the sea, and which the vultures, the only undertakers of the country, had not been able to
devour. But the sharks did not fail to help them at their funereal work.
About seven o'clock in the evening, the Nautilus,
half immersed, was sailing in a sea of milk. At first sight the ocean seemed lactified.
Was it the effect of the lunar rays? No, for the moon, scarcely two days old, was still
lying hidden under the horizon in the rays of the sun. The whole sky, though lit by the
sidereal rays, seemed black by contrast with the whiteness of the waters.
Conseil could not believe his eyes, and questioned me as
to the cause of this strange phenomenon. Happily I was able to answer him.
"It is called a milk sea," I explained, "a
large extent of white wavelets often to be seen on the coasts of Amboyna, and in these
parts of the sea."
"But, Sir," said Conseil, "can you tell me
what causes such an effect? for I suppose the water is not really turned into milk."
"No, my boy; and the whiteness which surprises you is
caused only by the presence of myriads of infusoria, a sort of luminous little worm,
gelatinous and without color, of the thickness of a hair, and whose length is not more
than the seven-thousandth of an inch. These insects adhere to one another sometimes for
"Several leagues!" exclaimed Conseil.
"Yes, my boy; and you need not try to compute the
number of these infusoria. You will not be able; for, if I am not mistaken, ships have
floated on these milk seas for more than forty miles."
Toward midnight the sea suddenly resumed its usual color;
but behind us, even to the limits of the horizon, the sky reflected the whitened waves,
and for a long time seemed impregnated with the vague glimmerings of an aurora borealis.
Part 2 - Chapter 2
A Novel Proposal of Captain Nemo's
On January 28, when at noon the Nautilus came to
the surface of the sea, in 9° 4' north latitude, there was land in sight about eight
miles to westward. The first thing I noticed was a range of mountains about two thousand
feet high, the shapes of which were most capricious. On taking the bearings, I knew that
we were nearing the Island of Ceylon, the pearl which hangs from the lobe of the Indian
Captain Nemo and his second appeared at this moment. The
captain glanced at the map. Then, turning to me, said:
"The Island of Ceylon, noted for its pearl fisheries.
Would you like to visit one of them, M. Aronnax?"
"Well, the thing is easy. Though if we see the
fisheries, we shall not see the fishermen. The annual exportation has not yet begun. Never
mind, I will give orders to make for the Gulf of Manaar, where we shall arrive in the
The captain said something to his second, who immediately
went out. Soon the Nautilus returned to her native element, and the manometer
showed that she was about thirty feet deep.
"Well, Sir," said Captain Nemo, "you and
your companions shall visit the Bank of Manaar, and if by chance some fisherman should be
there, we shall see him at work."
"Agreed, Captain! By the by, M. Aronnax, you are not
afraid of sharks?"
"Sharks!" exclaimed I.
This question seemed a very hard one.
"Well?" continued Captain Nemo.
"I admit, Captain, that I am not yet very familiar
with that kind of fish."
"We are accustomed to them," replied
Captain Nemo, "and in time you will be too. However, we shall be armed, and on the
road we may be able to hunt some of the tribe It is interesting. So, till tomorrow, Sir,
This said in a careless tone, Captain Nemo left the
saloon. Now, if you were invited to hunt the bear in the mountains of Switzerland, what
would you say? "Very well! tomorrow we will go and hunt the bear." If you were
asked to hunt the lion in the plains of Atlas, or the tiger in the Indian jungles, what
would you say? "Ha! ha! it seems we are going to hunt the tiger or the lion!"
But when you are invited to hunt the shark in its natural element, you would perhaps
reflect before accepting the invitation. As for myself, I passed my hand over my forehead,
on which stood large drops of cold perspiration. "Let us reflect," said I,
"and take our time. Hunting otters in submarine forests, as we did in the Island of
Crespo, will pass; but going up and down at the bottom of the sea, where one is almost
certain to meet sharks, is quite another thing! I know well that in certain countries,
particularly in the Andaman Islands, the negroes never hesitate to attack them with a
dagger in one hand and a running noose in the other; but I also know that few who affront
those creatures ever return alive. However, I am not a negro, and, if I were, I think a
little hesitation in this case would not be ill-timed."
At this moment, Conseil and the Canadian entered, quite
composed, and even joyous. They knew not what awaited them.
"Faith, Sir," said Ned Land, "your Captain
Nemo- the devil take him!- has just made us a very pleasant offer."
"Ah!" said I, "you know?"
"If agreeable to you, Sir," interrupted Conseil,
"the Commander of the Nautilus has invited us to visit the magnificent Ceylon
fisheries tomorrow, in your company; he did it kindly, and behaved like a real
"He said nothing more?"
"Nothing more, except that he had already spoken to
you of this little walk."
"Sir," said Conseil, "would you give us
some details of the pearl fishery?"
"As to the fishing itself," I asked, "or
the incidents, which?"
"On the fishing," replied the Canadian;
"before entering upon the ground, it is as well to know something about it."
"Very well; sit down, my friends, and I will teach
Ned and Conseil seated themselves on an ottoman, and the
first thing the Canadian asked was,
"Sir, what is a pearl?"
"My worthy Ned," I answered, "to the poet,
a pearl is a tear of the sea; to the Orientals, it is a drop of dew solidified; to the
ladies, it is a jewel of an oblong shape, of a brilliancy of mother-of-pearl substance,
which they wear on their fingers, their necks, or their ears; for the chemist, it is a
mixture of phosphate and carbonate of lime, with a little gelatine; and lastly, for
naturalists, it is simply a morbid secretion of the organ that produces the
mother-of-pearl among certain bivalves."
"Branch of mollusca," said Conseil, "class
of acephali, order of testacea."
"Precisely so, my learned Conseil; and, among these
testacea, the ear shell, the tridacnae, the turbots, in a word, all those which secrete
mother-of-pearl, that is, the blue, bluish, violet, or white substance which lines the
interior of their shells, are capable of producing pearls."
"Mussels, too?" asked the Canadian.
"Yes, mussels of certain waters in Scotland, Wales,
Ireland, Saxony, Bohemia, and France."
"Good! For the future I shall pay attention,"
replied the Canadian.
"But," I continued, "the particular mollusk
which secretes the pearl is the pearl oyster, the meleagrina margaritifera,
that precious pintadine. The pearl is nothing but a nacreous formation, deposited in a
globular form, either adhering to the oyster shell, or buried in the folds of the
creature. On the shell it is fast; in the flesh it is loose; but always has for a kernel a
small hard substance, maybe a barren egg, maybe a grain of sand, around which the pearly
matter deposits itself year after year successively, and by thin concentric layers."
"Are many pearls found in the same oyster?"
"Yes, my boy. There are some pintadines a perfect
casket. One oyster has been mentioned, though I allow myself to doubt it, as having
contained no less than a hundred fifty sharks."
"A hundred fifty sharks!" exclaimed Ned Land.
"Did I say sharks?" said I, hurriedly. "I
meant to say a hundred fifty pearls. Sharks would not be sense."
"Certainly not," said Conseil; "but will
you tell us now by what means they extract these pearls?"
"They proceed in various ways. When they adhere to
the shell, the fishermen often pull them off with pincers; but the most common way is to
lay the pintadines on mats of the seaweed which covers the banks. Thus they die in the
open air; and at the end of ten days they are in a forward state of decomposition. They
are then plunged into large reservoirs of sea water; then they are opened and washed. Now
begins the double work of the sorters. First they separate the layers of pearl, known in
commerce by the name of artificial whites and artificial blacks, which are delivered in
boxes of two hundred fifty and three hundred pounds each. Then they take the parenchyma of
the oyster, boil it, and pass it through a sieve in order to extract the very smallest
"The price of these pearls varies according to their
size?" asked Conseil.
"Not only according to their size," I answered,
"but also according to their shape, their water (that is, their color), and
their luster; that is, that bright and diapered sparkle which makes them so charming to
the eye. The most beautiful are called virgin pearls or paragons. They are formed alone in
the tissue of the mollusk, are white, often opaque, and sometimes have the transparency of
an opal; they are generally round or oval. The round are made into bracelets, the oval
into pendants; and, being more precious, are sold singly. Those adhering to the shell of
the oyster are more irregular in shape, and are sold by weight. Lastly, in a lower order,
are classed those small pearls known under the name of seed pearls; they are sold by
measure, and are especially used in embroidery for church ornaments."
"But," said Conseil, "is this pearl fishing
"No," I answered quickly; "particularly if
certain precautions are taken."
"What does one risk in such a calling?" said Ned
Land; the swallowing of some mouthfuls of sea water?
"As you say, Ned. By the by," said I, trying to
take Captain Nemo's careless tone, "are you afraid of sharks, brave Ned?"
"I!" replied the Canadian; "a harpooner by
profession? It is my trade to make light of them."
"But," said I, "it is not a question of
fishing for him with an iron swivel, hoisting them into the vessel, cutting off their
tails with a blow of a chopper, ripping them up, and throwing their heart into the
"Then, it is a question of -"
"In the water?"
"In the water."
"Faith, with a good harpoon! You know, Sir, these
sharks are ill-fashioned beasts. They must turn on their bellies to seize you, and in that
Ned Land had a way of saying "seize," which made
my blood run cold.
"Well, and you, Conseil, what do you think of
"Me!" said Conseil. "I will be frank,
"So much the better," thought I.
"If you mean to face the sharks, I do not see why
your faithful servant should not face them with you."
Part 2 - Chapter 3
A Pearl of Ten Millions
The next morning at four o'clock I was awakened by the
steward, whom Captain Nemo had placed at my service. I rose hurriedly, dressed, and went
into the saloon.
Captain Nemo was awaiting me.
"M. Aronnax," said he, "are you ready to
"I am ready."
"Then, please to follow me."
"And my companions, Captain?"
"They have been told, and are waiting."
"Are we not to put on our diver's suits?" I
"Not yet. I have not allowed the Nautilus to
come too near this coast, and we are some distance from the Manaar Bank; but the boat is
ready, and will take us to the exact point of disembarking, which will save us a long way.
It carries our diving apparatus, which we will put on when we begin our submarine
Captain Nemo conducted me to the central staircase, which
led on to the platform. Ned and Conseil were ready there, delighted at the idea of the
"pleasure party" which was preparing. Five sailors from the Nautilus,
with their oars, waited in the boat, which had been made fast against the side.
The night was still dark. Layers of clouds covered the
sky, allowing but few stars to be seen. I looked on the side where the land lay, and saw
nothing but a dark line inclosing three parts of the horizon, from southwest to northwest.
The Nautilus, having returned during the night up the western coast of Ceylon, was
now west of the bay, or rather gulf, formed by the mainland and the island of Manaar.
There, under the dark waters, stretched the pintadine bank, an inexhaustible field of
pearls, the length of which is more than twenty miles.
Captain Nemo, Ned Land, Conseil, and I, took our places in
the stern of the boat. The master went to the tiller; his four companions leaned on their
oars, the painter was cast off, and we sheered off.
The boat went toward the south; the oarsmen did not hurry.
I noticed that their strokes, strong in the water, only followed each other every ten
seconds, according to the method generally adopted in the navy. While the craft was
running by its own velocity, the liquid drops struck the dark depths of the waves crisply
like spats of melted lead. A little billow, spreading wide, gave a slight roll to the
boat, and some samphire reeds flapped before it.
We were silent. Of what was Captain Nemo thinking? Perhaps
of the land he was approaching, and which he found too near to him, contrary to the
Canadian's opinion, who thought it too far off. As to Conseil, he was merely there from
About half after five, the first tints on the horizon
showed the upper line of coast more distinctly. Flat enough in the east, it rose a little
to the south. Five miles still lay between us, and it was indistinct owing to the mist on
the water. At six o'clock it became suddenly daylight, with that rapidity peculiar to
tropical regions, which know neither dawn nor twilight. The solar rays pierced the curtain
of clouds, piled up on the eastern horizon, and the radiant orb rose rapidly. I saw land
distinctly, with a few trees scattered here and there. The boat neared Manaar Island,
which was rounded to the south. Captain Nemo rose from his seat and watched the sea.
At a sign from him the anchor was dropped, but the chain
scarcely ran, for it was little more than a yard deep, and this spot was one of the
highest points of the bank of pintadines.
"Here we are, M. Aronnax," said Captain Nemo.
"You see that inclosed bay? Here, in a month, will be assembled the numerous fishing
boats of the exporters, and these are the waters their divers will ransack so boldly.
Happily, this bay is well situated for that kind of fishing. It is sheltered from the
strongest winds; the sea is never very rough here, which makes it favorable for the
diver's work. We will now put on our suits, and begin our walk."
I did not answer, and while watching the suspected waves,
began with the help of the sailors to put on my heavy sea outfit. Captain Nemo and my
companions were also dressing. None of the Nautilus men were to accompany us on
this new excursion.
Soon we were enveloped to the throat in India-rubber
clothing, the air apparatus fixed to our backs by braces. As to the Ruhmkorff apparatus,
there was no necessity for it. Before putting my head into the copper cap, I had asked the
question of the captain.
"They would be useless," he replied. "We
are going to no great depth, and the solar rays will be enough to light our walk. Besides,
it would not be prudent to carry the electric light in these waters; its brilliancy might
attract some of the dangerous inhabitants of the coast most inopportunely."
As Captain Nemo pronounced these words, I turned to
Conseil and Ned Land. But my two friends had already incased their heads in the metal cap,
and they could neither hear nor answer.
One last question remained to ask of Captain Nemo.
"And our arms?" asked I; "our guns?"
"Guns! what for? Do not mountaineers attack the bear
with a dagger in their hand, and is not steel surer than lead? Here is a strong blade; put
it in your belt, and we start."
I looked at my companions; they were armed like us, and,
more than that, Ned Land was brandishing an enormous harpoon, which he had placed in the
boat before leaving the Nautilus.
Then, following the captain's example, I allowed myself to
be dressed in the heavy copper helmet, and our reservoirs of air were at once in activity.
An instant after we were landed, one after the other, in about two yards of water upon an
even sand. Captain Nemo made a sign with his hand, and we followed him by a gentle
declivity till we disappeared under the waves.
Over our feet, like coveys of snipe in a bog, rose shoals
of fish, of the genus monoptera, which have no other fins but their tail. I recognized the
Javanese, a real serpent two and a half feet long, of a livid color underneath, and which
might easily be mistaken for a conger eel if it was not for the golden stripes on its
sides. In the genus stromateus, whose bodies are very flat and oval, I saw some of the
most brilliant colors, carrying their dorsal fin like a scythe; an excellent eating fish,
which, dried and pickled, is known by the name of Karawade; then some tranquebars,
belonging to the genus apsiphoroides, whose body is covered with a shell cuirass of eight
The heightening sun lit the mass of waters more and more.
The soil changed by degrees. To the fine sand succeeded a perfect causeway of boulders,
covered with a carpet of mollusks and zoophytes. Among the specimens of these branches I
noticed some placenae, with thin unequal shells, a kind of ostracion peculiar to the Red
Sea and the Indian Ocean; some orange lucinae with rounded shells; rockfish three and a
half feet long, which raised themselves under the waves like hands ready to seize one.
There were also some panopyres, slightly luminous; and lastly, some oculines, like
magnificent fans, forming one of the richest vegetations of these seas.
In the midst of these living plants, and under the arbors
of the hydrophytes, were layers of clumsy articulates, particularly some raninae, whose
carapace formed a slightly rounded triangle; and some horrible-looking parthenopes.
At about seven o'clock we found ourselves at last
surveying the oyster banks, on which the pearl oysters are reproduced by millions.
Captain Nemo pointed with his hand to the enormous heap of
oysters; and I could well understand that this mine was inexhaustible, for Nature's
creative power is far beyond man's instinct of destruction. Ned Land, faithful to his
instinct, hastened to fill a net which he carried by his side with some of the finest
specimens. But we could not stop. We must follow the captain, who seemed to guide himself
by paths known only to himself. The ground was sensibly rising, and sometimes, on holding
up my arm, it was above the surface of the sea. Then the level of the bank would sink
capriciously. Often we rounded high rocks scarped into pyramids. In their dark fissures
huge crustacea, perched upon their high claws like some war machine, watched us with fixed
eyes, and under our feet crawled various kinds of annelides.
At this moment there opened before us a large grotto, dug
in a picturesque heap of rocks, and carpeted with all the thick warp of the submarine
flora. At first it seemed very dark to me. The solar rays seemed to be extinguished by
successive gradations, until its vague transparency became nothing more than drowned
light. Captain Nemo entered; we followed. My eyes soon accustomed themselves to this
relative state of darkness. I could distinguish the arches springing capriciously from
natural pillars, standing broad upon their granite base, like the heavy columns of Tuscan
architecture. Why had our incomprehensible guide led us to the bottom of this submarine
crypt? I was soon to know. After descending a rather sharp declivity, our feet trod the
bottom of a kind of circular pit. There Captain Nemo stopped, and with his hand indicated
an object I had not yet perceived. It was an oyster of extraordinary dimensions, a
gigantic tridacne, a goblet which could have contained a whole lake of holy water, a basin
the breadth of which was more than two yards and a half, and consequently larger than that
ornamenting the saloon of the Nautilus. I approached this extraordinary mollusk. It
adhered by its byssus to a table of granite, and there, isolated, it developed itself in
the calm waters of the grotto. I estimated the weight of this tridacne at 600 pounds. Such
an oyster would contain thirty pounds of meat; and one must have the stomach of a
Gargantua, to demolish some dozens of them.
Captain Nemo was evidently acquainted with the existence
of this bivalve, and seemed to have a particular motive in verifying the actual state of
this tridacne. The shells were a little open; the captain came near and put his dagger
between to prevent them from closing; then with his hand he raised the membrane with its
fringed edges, which formed a cloak for the creature. There, between the folded plaits, I
saw a loose pearl, whose size equalled that of a coconut. Its globular shape, perfect
clearness, and admirable luster made it altogether a jewel of inestimable value. Carried
away by my curiosity I stretched out my hand to seize it, weigh it, and touch it; but the
captain stopped me, made a sign of refusal, and quickly withdrew his dagger, and the two
shells closed suddenly. I then understood Captain Nemo's intention. In leaving this pearl
hidden in the mantle of the tridacne, he was allowing it to grow slowly. Each year the
secretions of the mollusk would add new concentric circles. I estimated its value at over
two million dollars at least.
After ten minutes Captain Nemo stopped suddenly. I thought
he had halted previously to returning. No; by a gesture he bade us crouch beside him in a
deep fracture of the rock, his hand pointed to one part of the liquid mass, which I
About five yards from me a shadow appeared, and sank to
the ground. The disquieting idea of sharks shot through my mind, but I was mistaken; and
once again it was not a monster of the ocean that we had anything to do with.
It was a man, a living man, an Indian, a fisherman, a poor
devil who, I suppose, had come to glean before the harvest. I could see the bottom of his
canoe anchored some feet above his head. He dived and went up successively. A stone held
between his feet, cut in the shape of a sugar loaf, while a rope fastened him to his boat,
helped him to descend more rapidly. This was all his apparatus. Reaching the bottom about
five yards deep, he went on his knees and filled his bag with oysters picked up at random.
Then he went up, emptied it, pulled up his stone, and began the operation once more, which
lasted thirty seconds.
The diver did not see us. The shadow of the rock hid us
from sight. And how should this poor Indian ever dream that men, beings like himself,
should be there under the water watching his movements, and losing no detail of the
fishing? Several times he went up in this way, and dived again. He did not carry away more
than ten at each plunge, for he was obliged to pull them from the bank to which they
adhered by means of their strong byssus. And how many of those oysters for which he risked
his life had no pearl in them! I watched him closely, his maneuvers were regular; and, for
the space of half an hour, no danger appeared to threaten him.
I was beginning to accustom myself to the sight of this
interesting fishing, when suddenly, as the Indian was on the ground, I saw him make a
gesture of terror, rise, and make a spring to return to the surface of the sea.
I understood his dread. A gigantic shadow appeared just
above the unfortunate diver. It was a shark of enormous size advancing diagonally, his
eyes on fire, and his jaws open. I was mute with horror, and unable to move.
The voracious creature shot toward the Indian, who threw
himself on one side in order to avoid the shark's fins; but not its tail, for it struck
his chest, and stretched him on the ground.
This scene lasted but a few seconds: the shark returned,
and, turning on his back, prepared himself for cutting the Indian in two, when I saw
Captain Nemo rise suddenly, and then, dagger in hand, walk straight to the monster, ready
to fight face to face with him. The very moment the shark was going to snap the unhappy
fisherman in two, he perceived his new adversary, and turning over, made straight toward
I can still see Captain Nemo's position. Holding himself
well together, he waited for the shark with admirable coolness; and, when it rushed at
him, threw himself on one side with wonderful quickness, avoiding the shock, and burying
his dagger deep into its side. But it was not all over. A terrible combat ensued.
The shark had seemed to roar, if I might say so. The blood
rushed in torrents from its wound. The sea was dyed red, and through the opaque liquid I
could distinguish nothing more. Nothing more until the moment when, like lightning, I saw
the undaunted captain hanging on to one of the creature's fins, struggling, as it were,
hand to hand With the monster, and dealing successive blows at his enemy, yet still unable
to give a decisive one.
The shark's struggles agitated the water with such fury
that the rocking threatened to upset me.
I wanted to go to the captain's assistance, but, nailed to
the spot with horror, I could not stir.
I saw the haggard eye; I saw the different phases of the
fight. The captain fell to the earth, upset by the enormous mass which leant upon him. The
shark's jaws opened wide, like a pair of factory shears, and it would have been an over
with the captain; but, quick as thought, harpoon in hand, Ned Land rushed toward the shark
and struck it with its sharp point.
The waves were impregnated with a mass of blood. They
rocked under the shark's movements, which beat them with indescribable fury. Ned Land had
not missed his aim. It was the monster's death rattle. Struck to the heart, it struggled
in dreadful convulsions, the shock of which overthrew Conseil.
But Ned Land had disentangled the captain, who, getting up
without any wound, went straight to the Indian, quickly, cut the cord which held him to
his stone, took him in his arms, and, with a sharp blow of his heel, mounted to the
We all three followed in a few seconds, saved by a
miracle, and reached the fisherman's boat.
Captain Nemo's first care was to recall the unfortunate
man to life again. I did not think he could succeed. I hoped so, for the poor creature's
immersion was not long; but the blow from the shark's tail might have been his deathblow.
Happily, with the captain's and Conseil's sharp friction,
I saw consciousness return by degrees. He opened his eyes. What was his surprise, his
terror even, at seeing four great copper heads leaning over him! And, above all, what must
he have thought when Captain Nemo, drawing from the pocket of his suit a bag of pearls,
placed it in his hand! This munificent charity from the man of the waters to the poor
Singhalese was accepted with a trembling hand. His wondering eyes showed that he knew not
to what superhuman beings he owed both fortune and life.
At a sign from the captain we regained the bank, and
following the road already traversed, came in about half an hour to the anchor which held
the canoe of the Nautilus to the earth.
Once on board, we each, with the help of the sailors, got
rid of the heavy copper helmet.
Captain Nemo's first word was to the Canadian.
"Thank you, Master Land," said he.
"It was in revenge, Captain," replied Ned Land.
"I owed you that."
A ghastly smile passed across the captain's lips, and that
"To the Nautilus," said he.
The boat flew over the waves. Some minutes after, we met
the shark's dead body floating. By the black marking of the extremity of its fins, I
recognized the terrible melanopteron of the Indian Seas, of the species of shark properly
so called. It was more than twenty-five feet long; its enormous mouth occupied one third
of its body. It was an adult, as was known by its six rows of teeth placed in an isosceles
triangle in the upper jaw.
Conseil looked at it with scientific interest, and I am
sure that he placed it, and not without reason, in the cartilaginous class, of the
chondropterygian order, with fixed gills, of the selacian family, in the genus of the
While I was contemplating this inert mass, a dozen of
these voracious beasts appeared round the boat; and, without noticing us, threw themselves
upon the dead body and fought with one another for the pieces.
At half after eight we were again on board the Nautilus.
There I reflected on the incidents which had taken place in our excursion to the Manaar
Two conclusions I must inevitably draw from it- one
bearing upon the unparalleled courage of Captain Nemo, the other upon his devotion to a
human being, a representative of that race from which he fled beneath the sea. Whatever he
might say, this strange man had not yet succeeded in entirely crushing his heart.
When I made this observation to him, he answered in a
slightly moved tone:
"That Indian, Sir, is an inhabitant of an oppressed
country; and I am still, and shall be, to my last breath, one of them!"
Part 2 - Chapter 4
The Red Sea
In the course of the day of January 29, the Island of
Ceylon disappeared under the horizon, and the Nautilus, at a speed of twenty miles
an hour, slid into the labyrinth of canals which separate the Maldives from the
Laccadives. It coasted even the Island of Kiltan, a land originally madreporic, discovered
by Vasco da Gama in 1499, and one of the nineteen principal islands of the Laccadive
Archipelago, situated between 10° and 14° 30' north latitude, and 69° 50' 72" east
We had made 16,220 miles or 7,500 (French) leagues from
our starting point in the Japanese Seas.
The next day (January 30), when the Nautilus went
to the surface of the ocean, there was no land in sight. Its course was N.N.E., in the
direction of the Sea of Oman, between Arabia and the Indian Peninsula, which serves as an
outlet to the Persian Gulf. It was evidently a block without any possible egress. Where
was Captain Nemo taking us? I could not say. This, however, did not satisfy the Canadian,
who that day came to me asking where we were going
"We are going where our captain's fancy takes us,
"His fancy cannot take us far, then," said the
Canadian. "The Persian Gulf has no outlet; and if we do go in, it will not be long
before we are out again."
"Very well, then, we will come out again, Master Ned;
and if, after the Persian Gulf, the Nautilus would like to visit the Red Sea, the
Straits of Bab-el-mandeb are there to give us entrance."
"I need not tell you, sir," said Ned Land,
"that the Red Sea is as much closed as the Gulf, as the Isthmus of Suez is not yet
cut; and if it was, a boat as mysterious as ours would not risk itself in a canal cut with
sluices. And again, the Red Sea is not the road to take us back to Europe."
"But I never said we were going back to Europe."
"What do you suppose, then?"
"I suppose that, after visiting the curious coasts of
Arabia and Egypt, the Nautilus will go down the Indian Ocean again, perhaps cross
the Channel of Mozambique, perhaps off the Mascarenhas, so as to gain the Cape of Good
"And at the Cape of Good Hope?" asked the
Canadian, with peculiar emphasis.
"Well, we shall penetrate into that Atlantic which we
do not yet know. Ah! friend Ned, you are getting tired of this journey under the sea; you
are surfeited with the incessantly varying spectacle of submarine wonders. For my part, I
shall be sorry to see the end of a voyage which it is given to so few men to make."
For four days, till February 3, the Nautilus
scoured the Sea of Oman, at various speeds and at various depths. It seemed to go at
random, as if hesitating as to which road it should follow, but we never passed the tropic
In quitting this sea we sighted Maskat for an instant, one
of the most important towns of the country of Oman. I admired its strange aspect,
surrounded by black rocks upon which its white houses and forts stood in relief. I saw the
rounded domes of its mosques, the elegant points of its minarets, its fresh and verdant
terraces. But it was only a vision! the Nautilus soon sank under the waves of that
part of the sea.
We passed along the Arabian coast of Mahrah and Hadramaut,
for a distance of six miles, its undulating line of mountains being occasionally relieved
by some ancient ruin. On February 5 we at last entered the Gulf of Aden, a perfect funnel
introduced into the neck of Bab-el-mandeb, through which the Indian waters entered the Red
On February 6, the Nautilus floated in sight of
Aden, perched upon a promontory which a narrow isthmus joins to the mainland, a kind of
inaccessible Gibraltar, the fortifications of which were rebuilt by the English after
taking possession in 1839. I caught a glimpse of the octagon minarets of this town, which
was at one time, according to the historian Edrisi, the richest commercial magazine on the
I certainly thought that Captain Nemo, arrived. at this
point, would back out again; but I was mistaken, for he did no such thing, much to my
The next day, February 7, we entered the Straits of
Bab-el-mandeb, the name of which, in the Arab tongue, means "The gate of tears."
To twenty miles in breadth, it is only thirty-two in
length. And for the Nautilus, starting at full speed, the crossing was scarcely the
work of an hour. But I saw nothing, not even the Island of Perim, with which the British
Government has fortified the position of Aden. There were too many English or French
steamers of the line of Suez to Bombay, Calcutta to Melbourne, and from Bourbon to the
Mauritius, furrowing this narrow passage, for the Nautilus to venture to show
itself. So it remained prudently below. At last, about noon, we were in the waters of the
I would not even seek to understand the caprice which had
decided Captain Nemo upon entering the gulf. But I quite approved of the Nautilus
entering it. Its speed was lessened; sometimes it kept on the surface, sometimes it dived
to avoid a vessel, and thus I was able to observe the upper and lower parts of this
On February 8, at the first dawn of day, Mocha came in
sight, now a ruined town, whose walls would fall at a gunshot, yet which shelters here and
there some verdant date trees; once an important city, containing six public markets, and
twenty-six mosques, and whose walk, defended by fourteen forts, formed a girdle of two
miles in circumference.
The Nautilus then approached the African shore,
where the depth of the sea was greater. There, between two waters clear as crystal,
through the open panels we were allowed to contemplate the beautiful bushes of brilliant
coral, and large blocks of rock clothed with a splendid fur of green algae and fuci. What
an indescribable spectacle, and what variety of sites and landscapes along these sand
banks and volcanic islands which bound the Libyan coast! But where these shrubs appeared
in all their beauty was on the eastern coast, which the Nautilus soon gained. It
was on the coast of Tehama, for there not only did this display of zoophytes flourish
beneath the level of the sea, but they also formed picturesque interlacings which unfolded
themselves about sixty feet above the surface, more capricious but less highly colored
than those whose freshness was kept up by the vital power of the waters.
What charming hours I passed thus at the window of the
saloon! What new specimens of submarine flora and fauna did I admire under the brightness
of our electric lantern!
There grew sponges of all shapes, pediculated, foliated,
globular, and digital. They certainly justified the names of baskets, cups, distaffs,
elk's horns, lion's feet, peacock's tails, and Neptune's gloves, which have been given to
them by the fishermen, greater poets than the savants.
Other zoophytes which multiply near the sponges consist
principally of medusae of a most elegant kind. The mollusks were represented by varieties
of the calmar (which, according to Orbigny, are peculiar to the Red Sea); and reptiles by
the virgata turtle, of the genus of cheloniae, which furnished a wholesome and delicate
food for our table.
As to the fish, they were abundant, and often remarkable.
The following are those which the nets of the Nautilus brought more frequently on
Rays of a red-brick color, with bodies marked with blue
spots, and easily recognizable by their double spikes; some superb caranxes, marked with
seven transverse bands of, jet-black, blue and yellow fins, and gold and silver scales;
mullets with yellow heads; gobies, and a thousand other species, common to the ocean which
we had just traversed.
On February 9, the Nautilus floated in the broadest
part of the Red Sea, which is comprised between Suakin, on the west coast, and Koomfidah,
on the east coast, with a diameter of ninety miles.
That day at noon, after the bearings were taken, Captain
Nemo mounted the platform, where I happened to be, and I was determined not to let him go
down again without at least pressing him regarding his ulterior projects. As soon as he
saw me he approached, and graciously offered me a cigar.
"Well, Sir, does this Red Sea please you? Have you
sufficiently observed the wonders it covers, its fishes, its zoophytes, its parterres of
sponges, and its forests of coral? Did you catch a glimpse of the towns on its
"Yes, Captain Nemo," I replied; "and the Nautilus
is wonderfully fitted for such a study. Ah! it is an intelligent boat!"
"Yes, Sir, intelligent and invulnerable. It fears
neither the terrible tempests of the Red Sea, nor its currents, nor its sand banks."
"Certainly," said I, "this sea is quoted as
one of the worst, and in the time of the ancients, if I am not mistaken, its reputation
"Detestable, M. Aronnax. The Greek and Latin
historians do not speak favorably of it, and Strabo says it is very dangerous during the
Etesian winds, and in the rainy season. The Arabian Edrisi portrays it under the name of
the Gulf of Colzoum, and relates that vessels perished there in great numbers on the sand
banks, and that no one would risk sailing in the night. It is, he pretends, a sea subject
to fearful hurricanes, strewn with inhospitable islands, and 'which offers nothing good
either on its surface or in its depths.' Such, too, is the opinion of Arrian,
Agatharcides, and Artemidorus."
"One may see," I replied, "that these
historians never sailed on board the Nautilus."
"Just so," replied the captain, smiling;
"and in that respect moderns are not more advanced than the ancients. It required
many ages to find out the mechanical power of steam. Who knows if, in another hundred
years, we may not see a second Nautilus? Progress is slow, M. Aronnax."
"It is true," I answered; "your boat is at
least a century before its time, perhaps an era. What a misfortune that the secret of such
an invention should die with its inventor!"
Captain Nemo did not reply. After some minutes' silence he
"You were speaking of the opinions of ancient
historians upon the dangerous navigation of the Red Sea."
"It is true," said I; "but were not their
"Yes and no, M. Aronnax," replied Captain Nemo,
who seemed to know the Red Sea by heart. "That which is no longer dangerous for a
modern vessel, well rigged, strongly built, and master of its own course, thanks to
obedient steam, offered all sorts of perils to the ships of the ancients. Picture to
yourself those first navigators venturing in ships made of planks sewn with the cords of
the palm tree, saturated with the grease of the sea dog, and covered with powdered resin
They had not even instruments wherewith to take their bearings, and they went by guess
amongst currents of which they scarcely knew anything. Under such conditions shipwrecks
were, and must have, been, numerous. But in our time, steamers running between Suez and
the South Seas have nothing more to fear from the fury of this gulf, in spite of contrary
trade winds. The captain and passengers do not prepare for their departure by offering
propitiatory sacrifices: and, on their return, they no longer go ornamented with wreaths
and gilt fillets to thank the gods in the neighboring temple."
"I agree with you," said I; "and steam
seems to have killed all gratitude in the hearts of sailors. But, Captain, since you seem
to have especially studied this sea, can you tell me the origin its name?"
"There exist several explanations on the subject, M.
Aronnax. Would you like to know the opinion of a chronicler of the fourteenth
"This fanciful writer pretends that its name was
given to it after the passage of the Israelites, when Pharaoh perished in the waves which
closed at the voice of Moses."
"A poet's explanation, Captain Nemo," I replied;
"but I cannot content myself with that. I ask you for your personal opinion."
"Here it is, M. Aronnax. According to my idea, we
must see in this appellation of the Red Sea a translation of the Hebrew word 'Edom'; and
if the ancients gave it that name, it was on account of the particular color of its
"But up to this time I have seen nothing but
transparent waves and without any particular color."
"Very likely; but as we advance to the bottom of the
gulf, you will see this singular appearance. I remember seeing the Bay of Tor entirely
red, like a sea of blood."
"And you attribute this color to the presence of a
"Yes; it is a mucilaginous purple matter, produced by
the restless little plants known by the name of trichodesmia, and of which it requires
40,000 to occupy the space of a square .04 of an inch. Perhaps we shall meet some when we
get to Tor."
"So, Captain Nemo, it is not the first time you have
overrun the Red Sea on board the Nautilus?"
"As you spoke a while ago of the passage of the
Israelites, and of the catastrophe to the Egyptians, I will ask whether you have met with
traces under the water of this great historical fact?"
"No, Sir; and for a very good reason."
"What is it?"
"It is, that the spot where Moses and his people
passed is now so blocked up with sand, that the camels can barely bathe their legs there.
You can well understand that there would not be water enough for my Nautilus."
"And the spot?" I asked.
"The spot is situated a little above the Isthmus of
Suez, in the arm which formerly made a deep estuary, when the Red Sea extended to the Salt
Lakes. Now, whether this passage were miraculous or not, the Israelites, nevertheless,
crossed there to reach the Promised Land, and Pharaoh's army perished precisely on that
spot and I think that excavations made in the middle of the sand would bring to light a
large number of arms and instruments of Egyptian origin."
"That is evident," I replied; "and for the
sake of archaeologists let us hope that these excavations will be made sooner or later,
when new towns are established on the isthmus, after the construction of the Suez Canal; a
canal, however, very useless to a vessel like the Nautilus."
"Very likely; but useful to the whole world,"
said Captain Nemo. "The ancients well understood the utility of a communication
between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean for their commercial affairs: but they did not
think of digging a canal direct, and took the Nile as an intermediate. Very probably the
canal which united the Nile to the Red Sea was begun by Sesostris, if we may believe
tradition. One thing is certain, that in the year 615 before Jesus Christ, Necos undertook
the works of an alimentary canal to the waters of the Nile, across the plain of Egypt,
looking toward Arabia, It took four days to go up this canal, and it was so wide that two
triremes could go abreast. It was carried on by Darius, the son of Hystaspes, and probably
finished by Ptolemy II. Strabo saw it navigated; but its decline from the point of
departure, near Bubastes, to the Red Sea was so slight, that it was only navigable for a
few months in the year. This canal answered all commercial purposes to the age of
Antoninus, when it was abandoned and blocked up with sand. Restored by order of the Caliph
Omar, it was definitively destroyed in 761 or 762 by Caliph Al-Mansor, who wished to
prevent the arrival of provisions to Mohammed-ben-Abdallah, who had revolted against him.
During the expedition into Egypt, your General Bonaparte discovered traces of the works in
the Desert of Suez; and surprised by the tide, he nearly perished before regaining
Hadjaroth, at the very place where Moses had encamped three thousand years before
"Well, Captain, what the ancients dared not
undertake, this junction between the two seas, which will shorten the road from Cadiz to
India, M. de Lesseps has succeeded in doing; and before long he will have changed Africa
into an immense island."
"Yes, M. Aronnax; you have the right to be proud of
your countryman. Such a man brings more honor to a nation than great captains. He began,
like so many others, with disgust and rebuffs; but he has triumphed, for he has the genius
of will. And it is sad to think that a work like that, which ought to have been an
international work, and which would have sufficed to make a reign illustrious, should have
succeeded by the energy of one man. All honor to M. de Lesseps!"
"Yes, honor to the great citizen!" I replied,
surprised by the manner in which Captain Nemo had just spoken.
"Unfortunately," he continued, "I cannot
take you through the Suez Canal; but you will be able to see the long jetty of Port Said
after tomorrow, when we shall be in the Mediterranean."
"The Mediterranean!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, Sir; does that astonish you?"
"What astonishes me is to think that we shall be
there the day after tomorrow."
"Yes, Captain, although by this time I ought to have
accustomed myself to be surprised at nothing since I have been on board your boat."
"But the cause of this surprise?"
"Well it is the fearful speed you will have to put on
the Nautilus, if the day after tomorrow she is to be in the Mediterranean, having
made the round of Africa, and doubled the Cape of Good Hope!"
"Who told you that she would make the round of
Africa, and double the Cape of Good Hope, Sir?"
"Well, unless the Nautilus sails on dry land,
and passes above the isthmus"-
"Or beneath it, M. Aronnax."
"Certainly," replied Captain Nemo, quietly.
"A long time ago Nature made under this tongue of land what man has this day made on
"What! such a passage exists?"
"Yes; a subterranean passage, which I have named the
Arabian Tunnel. It takes us beneath Suez, and opens into the Gulf of Pelusium."
"But this isthmus is composed of nothing but
"To a certain depth. But at fifty-five yards only,
there is a solid layer of rock."
"Did you discover this passage by chance?" I
asked, more and more surprised.
"Chance and reasoning, Sir; and by reasoning even
more than by chance. Not only does this passage exist, but I have profited by it several
times. Without that I should not have ventured this day into the impassable Red Sea. I
noticed that in the Red Sea and in the Mediterranean there existed a certain number of
fishes of a kind perfectly identical- ophidia, fiatoles, girelles, and exocoeti. Certain
of that fact, I asked myself was it possible that there was no communication between the
two seas? If there was, the subterranean current must necessarily run from the Red Sea to
the Mediterranean, from the sole cause of difference of level. I caught a large number of
fishes in the neighborhood of Suez. I passed a copper ring through their tails, and threw
them back into the sea. Some months later, on the coast of Syria, I caught some of my fish
ornamented with the ring. Thus the communication between the two was proved. I then sought
for it with my Nautilus; I discovered it, ventured into it, and before long, Sir,
you too will have passed through my Arabian tunnel!"