Part 2 - Chapter 5
The Arabian Tunnel
That same evening, in 21° 30' north latitude, the Nautilus
floated on the surface of the sea, approaching the Arabian coast. I saw Djeddah, the most
important countinghouse of Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and India. I distinguished clearly enough
its buildings, the vessels anchored at the quays, and those whose draught of water obliged
them to anchor in the roads. The sun, rather low on the horizon, struck full on the houses
of the town, bringing out their whiteness. Outside, some wooden cabins, and some made of
reeds, showed the quarter inhabited by the Bedouins. Soon Djeddah was shut out from view
by the shadows of night, and the Nautilus found herself under water slightly
The next day, February 10, we sighted several ships
running to windward. The Nautilus returned to its submarine navigation; but at
noon, when her bearings were taken, the sea being deserted, she rose again to her water
Accompanied by Ned and Conseil, I seated myself on the
platform. The coast on the eastern side looked like a mass faintly printed upon a damp
We were leaning on the sides of the pinnace, talking of
one thing and another, when Ned Land, stretching out his hand toward a spot on the sea,
"Do you see anything there?"
"No, Ned," I replied; "but I have not your
eyes, you know."
"Look well," said Ned,"there, on the
starboard beam, about the height of the lantern! Do you not see a man which seems to
"Certainly," said I, after close attention;
"I see something like a long black body on the top of the water."
And certainly before long the black object was not more
than a mile from us. It looked like a great sand bank deposited in the open sea. It was a
Ned Land looked eagerly. His eyes shone with covetousness
at the sight of the animal. His hand seemed ready to harpoon it. One would have thought he
was awaiting the moment to throw himself into the sea, and attack it in its element.
At this instant Captain Nemo appeared on the platform. He
saw the dugong, understood the Canadian's attitude, and addressing him, said-
"If you held a harpoon in your hand just now, Master
Land, would it not burn your hand?"
"Just so, Sir."
"And you would not be sorry to go back, for one day,
to your trade of a fisherman, and add this cetacean to the list of those you have already
"I should not, Sir."
"Well you can try."
"Thank you, Sir," said Ned Land, his eyes
"Only," continued the captain, "I advise
you for your own sake not to miss the creature."
"Is the dugong dangerous to attack?" I asked, in
spite of the Canadian's shrug of the shoulders.
"Yes," replied the captain; "sometimes the
animal turns upon its assailants and overturns their boat. But for Master Land, this
danger is not to be feared. His eye is prompt, his arm sure."
At this moment seven men of the crew, mute and immovable
as ever, mounted the platform. One carried a harpoon and a line similar to those employed
in catching whales. The pinnace was lifted from the bridge, pulled from its socket, and
let down into the sea. Six oarsmen took their seats, and the coxswain went to the tiller.
Ned, Conseil, and I went to the back of the boat.
"You are not coming, Captain?" I asked.
"No, Sir; but I wish you good sport."
The boat put off, and lifted by the six rowers, drew
rapidly toward the dugong, which floated about two miles from the Nautilus.
Arrived some cables' length from the cetacean, the speed
slackened, and the oars dipped noiselessly into the quiet waters. Ned Land, harpoon in
hand, stood in the fore part of the boat. The harpoon used for striking the whale is
generally attached to a very long cord, which runs out rapidly as the wounded creature
draws it after him. But here the cord was not more than ten fathoms long, and the
extremity was attached to a small barrel, which, by floating, was to show the course the
dugong took under the water.
I stood, and carefully watched the Canadian's adversary.
This dugong, which also bears the name of the halicore, closely resembles the manatee; its
oblong body terminated in a lengthened tail, and its lateral fins in perfect fingers. Its
difference from the manatee consisted in its upper jaw, which was armed with two long and
pointed teeth, which formed on each side diverging tusks.
This dugong, which Ned Land was preparing to attack, was
of colossal dimensions; it was more than seven yards long. It did not move, and seemed to
be sleeping on the waves, which circumstance made it easier to capture.
The boat approached within six yards of the animal. The
oars rested on the rowlocks. I half rose. Ned Land, his body thrown a little back,
brandished the harpoon in his experienced hand.
Suddenly a hissing noise was heard, and the dugong
disappeared. The harpoon, although thrown with great force, had apparently only struck the
"Curse it!" exclaimed the Canadian, furiously;
"I have missed it!"
"No," said I; "the creature is wounded-
look at the blood; but your weapon has not stuck in his body."
"My harpoon! my harpoon!" cried Ned Land.
The sailors rowed on, and the coxswain made for the
floating barrel. The harpoon regained, we followed in pursuit of the animal.
The latter came now and then to the surface to breathe.
Its wound had not weakened it, for it shot onward with great rapidity.
The boat, rowed by strong arms, flew on its track. Several
times it approached within some few yards, and the Canadian was ready to strike, but the
dugong made off with a sudden plunge, and it was impossible to reach it.
Imagine the passion which excited impatient Ned Land! He
hurled at the unfortunate creature the most energetic expletives in the English tongue.
For my part, I was only vexed to see the dugong escape all our attacks.
We pursued it without relaxation for an hour, and I began
to think it would prove difficult to capture, when the animal, possessed with the perverse
idea of vengeance, of which he had cause to repent, turned upon the pinnace and assailed
us in turn.
This maneuver did not escape the Canadian.
"Look out!" he cried.
The coxswain said some words in his outlandish tongue,
doubtless warning the men to keep on their guard.
The dugong came within twenty feet of the boat, stopped,
sniffed the air briskly with its large nostrils (not pierced at the extremity, but in the
upper part of its muzzle). Then taking a spring he threw himself upon us.
The pinnace could not avoid the shock, and half upset,
shipped at least two tons of water, which had to be emptied; but thanks to the coxswain,
we caught it sideways, not full front, so we were not quite overturned. While Ned Land,
clinging to the bows, belabored the gigantic animal with blows from his harpoon, the
creature's teeth were buried in the gunwale, and it lifted the whole thing out of the
water, as a lion does a roebuck. We were upset over one another, and I know not how the
adventure would have ended, if the Canadian, still enraged with the beast, had not struck
it to the heart.
I heard its teeth grind on the iron plate, and the dugong
disappeared, carrying the harpoon with him. But the barrel soon returned to the surface,
and shortly after the body of the animal, turned on its back. The boat came up with it,
took it in tow, and made straight for the Nautilus.
It required tackle of enormous strength to hoist the
dugong on to the platform. It weighed 10,000 lbs.
The next day, February 11, the larder of the Nautilus
was enriched by some more delicate game. A flight of sea swallows rested on the Nautilus.
It was a species of the Sterna nilotica, peculiar to Egypt; its beak is black, head gray
and pointed, the eye surrounded by white spots, the back, wings, and tail of a grayish
color, the belly and throat white, and claws red. They also took some dozen of Nile ducks,
a wild bird of high flavor, its throat and upper part of the head white with black spots.
About five o'clock in the evening we sighted to the north
the Cape of Ras-Mohammed. This cape forms the extremity of Arabia Petraea, comprised
between the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Acabah.
The Nautilus penetrated into the Straits of Jubal,
which leads to the Gulf of Suez. I distinctly saw a high mountain, towering between the
two gulfs of Ras-Mohammed. It was Mount Horeb, that Sinai at the top of which Moses saw
God face to face.
At six o'clock the Nautilus, sometimes floating,
sometimes immersed, passed some distance from Tor, situated at the end of the bay, the
waters of which seemed tinted with red, an observation already made by Captain Nemo. Then
night fell in the midst of a heavy silence, sometimes broken by the cries of the pelican,
and other night birds, and the noise of the waves breaking upon the shore, chafing against
the rocks, or the panting of some far-off steamer beating the waters of the Gulf with its
From eight to nine o'clock the Nautilus remained
some fathoms under the water. According to my calculation we must have been very near
Suez. Through the panel of the saloon I saw the bottom of the rocks brilliantly lit up by
our electric lamp. We seemed to be leaving the Straits behind us more and more.
At a quarter after nine, the vessel having returned to the
surface, I mounted the platform. Most impatient to pass through Captain Nemo's tunnel, I
could not stay in one place, so came to breathe the fresh night air.
Soon in the shadow I saw a pale light, half discolored by
the fog, shining about a mile from us.
"A floating lighthouse!" said someone near me.
I turned, and saw the captain.
"It is the floating light of Suez," he
continued. "It will not be long before we gain the entrance to the tunnel."
"The entrance cannot be easy?"
"No, Sir; and for that reason I am accustomed to go
into the steersman's cage, and myself direct our course. And now if you will go down, M.
Aronnax, the Nautilus is going under the waves, and will not return to the surface
until we have passed through the Arabian Tunnel."
Captain Nemo led me toward the central staircase; halfway
down he opened a door, traversed the upper deck, and landed in the pilot's cage, which it
may be remembered rose at the extremity of the platform. It was a cabin measuring six feet
square, very much like that occupied by the pilot on the steamboats of the Mississippi or
Hudson. In the midst worked a wheel, placed vertically, and caught to the tiller rope,
which ran to the back of the Nautilus. Four light ports with lenticular glasses,
let in a groove in the partition of the cabin, allowed the man at the wheel to see in all
This cabin was dark; but soon my eyes accustomed
themselves to the obscurity, and I perceived the pilot, a strong man, with his hands
resting on the spokes of the wheel. Outside, the sea appeared vividly lit up by the
lantern, which shed its rays from the back of the cabin to the other extremity of the
"Now," said Captain Nemo, "let us try to
make our passage."
Electric wires connected the pilot's cage with the
machinery room, and from there the captain could communicate simultaneously to his Nautilus
the direction and the speed. He pressed a metal knob, and at once the speed of the screw
I looked in silence at the high straight wall we were
running by at this moment, the immovable base of a massive sandy coast. We followed it
thus for an hour only some few yards off.
Captain Nemo did not take his eye from the knob, suspended
by its two concentric circles in the cabin. At a simple gesture, the pilot modified the
course of the Nautilus every instant.
I had placed myself at the port-scuttle, and saw some
magnificent substructures of coral, zoophytes, seaweed, and fucus, agitating their
enormous claws, which stretched out from the fissures of the rock.
At a quarter past ten, the captain himself took the helm.
A large gallery, black and deep, opened before us. The Nautilus went boldly into
it. A strange roaring was heard round its sides. It was the waters of the Red Sea, which
the incline of the tunnel precipitated violently toward the Mediterranean. The Nautilus
went with the torrent, rapid as an arrow, in spite of the efforts of the machinery, which,
in order to offer more effective resistance, beat the waves with reversed screw.
On the walls of the narrow passage I could see nothing but
brilliant rays, straight lines, furrows of fire, traced by the great speed, under the
brilliant electric light. My heart beat fast.
At thirty-five minutes past ten, Captain Nemo quitted the
helm; and, turning to me, said:
In less than twenty minutes, the Nautilus, carried
along by the torrent, had passed through the Isthmus of Suez.
Part 2 - Chapter 6
The Grecian Archipelago
The next day, February 12, at the dawn of day, the Nautilus
rose to the surface. I hastened on to the platform. Three miles to the south the dim
outline of Pelusium was to be seen. A torrent had carried us from one sea to the other.
About seven o'clock Ned and Conseil joined me.
"Well, Sir Naturalist," said the Canadian, in a
slightly jovial tone, "and the Mediterranean?"
"We are floating on its surface, friend Ned."
"What!" said Conseil, "this very
"Yes, this very night; in a few minutes we have
passed this impassable isthmus."
"I do not believe it," replied the Canadian.
"Then you are wrong, Master Land," I continued;
"this low coast which rounds off to the south is the Egyptian coast. And you, who
have such good eyes, Ned, you can see the jetty of Port Said stretching into the
The Canadian looked attentively.
"Certainly you are right, Sir, and your captain is a
first-rate man. We are in the Mediterranean. Good! Now, if you please, let us talk of our
own little affair, but so that no one hears us."
I saw what the Canadian wanted, and, in any case, I
thought it better to let him talk, as he wished it; so we all three went and sat down near
the lantern, where we were less exposed to the spray of the blades.
"Now, Ned, we listen; what have you to tell us?"
"What I have to tell you is very simple. We are in
Europe; and before Captain Nemo's caprices drag us once more to the bottom of the polar
seas, or lead us into Oceania, I ask to leave the Nautilus."
I wished in no way to shackle the liberty of my
companions, but I certainly felt no desire to leave Captain Nemo.
Thanks to him, and thanks to his apparatus, I was each day
nearer the completion of my submarine studies; and I was rewriting my book of submarine
depths in its very element. Should I ever again have such an opportunity of observing the
wonders of the ocean? No, certainly not! And I could not bring myself to the idea of
abandoning the Nautilus before the cycle of investigation was accomplished.
"Friend Ned, answer me frankly, are you tired of
being on board? Are you sorry that destiny has thrown us into Captain Nemo's hands?"
The Canadian remained some moments without answering. Then
crossing his arms, he said:
"Frankly, I do not regret this journey under the
seas. I shall be glad to have made it; but now that it is made, let us have done with it.
That is my idea."
"It will come to an end, Ned."
"Where and when?"
"Where I do not know- when I cannot say; or rather, I
suppose it will end when these seas have nothing more to teach us."
"Then what do you hope for?" demanded the
"That circumstances may occur as well six months
hence as now by which we may and ought to profit."
"Oh!" said Ned Land, "and where shall we be
in six months, if you please, Sir Naturalist?"
"Perhaps in China; you know the Nautilus is a
rapid traveler. It goes through water as swallows through the air, or as an express on the
land. It does not fear frequented seas; who can say that it may not beat the coasts of
France, England, or America, on which flight may be attempted as advantageously as
"M. Aronnax," replied the Canadian, "your
arguments are rotten at the foundation. You speak in the future, 'We shall be there! we
shall be here!' I speak in the present, 'We are here, and we must profit by it.'"
Ned Land's logic pressed me hard, and I felt myself beaten
on that ground. I knew not what argument would now tell in my favor.
"Sir," continued Ned, "let us suppose an
impossibility; if Captain Nemo should this day offer you your liberty, would you accept
"I do not know," I answered.
"And if," he added, "the offer he made you
this day was never to be renewed, would you accept it?"
"Friend Ned, this is my answer. Your reasoning is
against me. We must not rely on Captain Nemo's good will. Common prudence forbids him to
set us at liberty. On the other side, prudence bids us profit by the first opportunity to
leave the Nautilus."
"Well, M. Aronnax, that is wisely said."
"Only one observation- just one. The occasion must be
serious, and our first attempt must succeed; if it fails, we shall never find another, and
Captain Nemo will never forgive us."
"All that is true," replied the Canadian.
"But your observation applies equally to all attempts at flight, whether in two
years' time, or in two days. But the question is still this: If a favorable opportunity
presents itself, it must be seized."
"Agreed! and now, Ned, will you tell me what you mean
by a favorable opportunity?"
"It will be that which, on a dark night, will bring
the Nautilus a short distance from some European coast."
"And you will try and save yourself by
"Yes, if we were near enough to the bank, and if the
vessel was floating at the time. Not if the bank was far away, and the boat was under the
"And in that case?"
"In that case, I should seek to make myself master of
the pinnace. I know how it is worked. We must get inside, and the bolts once drawn, we
shall come to the surface of the water, without even the pilot, who is in the bows,
perceiving our flight."
"Well Ned, watch for the opportunity; but do not
forget that a hitch will ruin us."
"I will not forget."
"And now, Ned, would you like to know what I think of
"Certainly, M. Aronnax."
"Well, I think, I do not say I hope, I think that
this favorable opportunity will never present itself."
"Because Captain Nemo cannot hide from himself that
we have not given up all hope of regaining our liberty, and he will be on his guard, above
all, in the seas, and in the sight of European coasts."
"We shall see," replied Ned Land, shaking his
"And now, Ned Land," I added, "let us stop
here. Not another word on the subject. The day that you are ready, come and let us know,
and we will follow you. I rely entirely upon you."
Thus ended a conversation which, at no very distant time,
led to such grave results. I must say here that facts seemed to confirm my foresight, to
the Canadian's great despair. Did Captain Nemo distrust us in these frequented seas? or
did he only wish to hide himself from the numerous vessels, of all nations, which plowed
the Mediterranean? I could not tell; but we were oftener between waters, and far from the
coast. Or, if the Nautilus did emerge, nothing was to be seen but the pilot's cage;
and sometimes it went to great depths, for, between the Grecian Archipelago and Asia
Minor, we could not touch the bottom by more than a thousand fathoms.
Thus I only knew we were near the Island of Carpathos, one
of the Sporades, by Captain Nemo reciting these lines from Virgil -
"Est in Carpathio Neptuni gurgite vates,
as he pointed to a spot on the planisphere. It was indeed the ancient abode of Proteus,
the old shepherd of Neptune's flocks, now the Island of Scarpanto, situated between Rhodes
and Crete. I saw nothing but the granite base through the glass panels of the saloon.
The next day, February 14, I resolved to employ some hours
in studying the fishes of the Archipelago; but for some reason or other, the panels
remained hermetically sealed. Upon taking the course of the Nautilus I found that
we were going toward Candia, the ancient Isle Crete. At the time I embarked on the Abraham
Lincoln, the whole of this island had risen in insurrection against the despotism of
the Turks. But how the insurgents had fared since that time I was absolutely ignorant, and
it was not Captain Nemo, deprived of all land communications, who could tell me.
I made no allusion to this event when that night I found
myself alone with him in the saloon. Besides, he seemed to be taciturn and preoccupied.
Then, contrary to his custom, he ordered both panels to be opened, and going from one to
the other, observed the mass of waters attentively. To what end I could not guess; so, on
my side, I employed my time in studying the fish passing before my eyes.
Among others, I remarked some gobies, mentioned by
Aristotle, and commonly known by the name of sea braches, which are more particularly met
with in the salt waters lying near the delta of the Nile. Near them rolled some sea bream,
half phosphorescent, a kind of sparus, which the Egyptians ranked amongst their sacred
animals, whose arrival in the waters of their river announced a fertile overflow, and was
celebrated by religious ceremonies. I also noticed some cheilines about nine inches long,
a bony fish with transparent shell, whose livid, color is mixed with red spots; they are
great eaters of marine vegetation, which gives them an exquisite flavor. These cheilines
were much sought after by the epicures of ancient Rome; the inside, dressed with the soft
roe of the lamprey, peacocks' brains, and tongues of the phenicoptera, composed that
divine dish of which Vitellius was so enamored.
Another inhabitant of these seas drew my attention, and
led my mind back to recollections of antiquity. It was the remora, that fastens on to the
shark's belly. This little fish, according to the ancients, hooking on to the ship's
bottom, could stop its movements; and one of them, by keeping back Antony's ship during
the battle of Actium, helped Augustus to gain the victory. On how little hangs the destiny
of nations! I observed some fine anthiae, which belong to the order of lutjans, a fish
held sacred by the Greeks, who attributed to them the power of hunting the marine monsters
from waters they frequented. Their name signifies flower, and they justify their
appellation by their shaded colors, their shades comprising the whole gamut of reds, from
the paleness of the rose to the brightness of the ruby, and the fugitive tints that
clouded their dorsal fin. My eyes could not leave these wonders of the sea, when they were
suddenly struck an unexpected apparition.
In the midst of the waters a man appeared, a diver,
carrying at his belt a leather purse. It was not a body abandoned to the waves; it was a
living man, swimming with a strong hand, disappearing occasionally to take breath at the
I turned toward Captain Nemo, and in an agitated voice
"A man shipwrecked! He must be saved at any
The captain did not answer me, but came and leaned against
The man had approached, and with his face flattened
against the glass, was looking at us.
To my great amazement, Captain Nemo signed to him. The
diver answered with his hand, mounted immediately to the surface of the water, and did not
"Do not be uncomfortable," said Captain Nemo.
"It is Nicholas of Cape Matapan, surnamed Pesca. He is well known in all the
Cyclades. A bold diver! water is his element, and he lives more in it than on land, going
continually from one island to another, even as far as Crete."
"You know him, Captain?"
"Why not, M. Aronnax?"
Saying which, Captain Nemo went toward a piece of
furniture standing near the left panel of the saloon. Near this piece of furniture, I saw
a chest bound with iron, on the cover of which was a copper plate, bearing the insignia of
the Nautilus with its device.
At that moment, the captain, without noticing my presence,
opened the piece of furniture, a sort of strong box, which held a great many ingots.
They were ingots of gold. From whence came this precious
metal, which represented an enormous sum? Where did the captain gather this gold from? and
what was he going to do with it?
I did not say one word. I looked. Captain Nemo took the
ingots one by one, and arranged them methodically in the chest, which he filled entirely.
I estimated the contents at more than four thousand pounds weight of gold, that is to say,
near one million dollars.
The chest was securely fastened, and the captain wrote an
address on the lid, in characters which must have belonged to modern Greece.
This done, Captain Nemo pressed a knob, the wire of which
communicated with the quarters of the crew. Four men appeared, and, not without some
trouble, pushed the chest out of the saloon. Then I heard them hoisting it up the iron
staircase by means of pulleys.
At that moment, Captain Nemo turned to me.
"And you were saying, Sir?" said he.
"I was saying nothing, Captain."
"Then, if you will allow me, I will wish you good
Whereupon he turned and left the saloon.
I returned to my room much troubled, as one may believe. I
vainly tried to sleep- I sought the connecting link between the apparition of the diver
and the chest filled with gold. Soon, I felt, by certain movements of pitching and
tossing, that the Nautilus was leaving the depths and returning to the surface.
Then I heard steps upon the platform; and I knew they were
unfastening the pinnace, and launching it upon the waves. For one instant it struck the
side of the Nautilus, then all noise ceased.
Two hours after, the same noise, the same going and coming
was renewed; the boat was hoisted on board, replaced in its socket, and the Nautilus
again plunged under the waves.
So these millions had been transported to their address.
To what point of the Continent? Who was Captain Nemo's correspondent?
The next day, I related to Conseil and the Canadian the
events of the night, which had excited my curiosity to the highest degree. My companions
were not less surprised than myself.
"But where does he take his millions to?" asked
To that there was no possible answer. I returned to the
saloon after having breakfast, and set to work. Till five o'clock in the evening, I
employed myself in arranging my notes. At that moment- ought I to attribute it to some
peculiar idiosyncrasy- I felt so great a heat that I was obliged to take off my coat of
byssus! It was strange, for we were not under low latitudes; and even then, the Nautilus,
submerged as it was, ought to experience no change of temperature. I looked at the
manometer; it showed a depth of sixty feet, to which atmospheric heat could never attain.
I continued my work, but the temperature rose to such a
pitch as to be intolerable.
"Could there be fire on board?" I asked myself.
I was leaving the saloon, when Captain Nemo entered; he
approached the thermometer, consulted it, and turning to me, said:
"I have noticed it, Captain," I replied;
"and if it gets much hotter we cannot bear it."
"Oh! it will not get hotter if we do not wish
"You can reduce it as you please, then?"
"No; but I can go farther from the stove which
"It is outward then!"
"Certainly; we are floating in a current of boiling
"Is it possible!" I exclaimed.
The panels opened, and I saw the sea entirely white all
round. A sulphurous smoke was curling amid the waves, which boiled like water in a copper.
I placed my hand on one of the panes of glass, but the heat was so great that I quickly
took it off again.
"Where are we?" I asked.
"Near the island of Santorin, sir," replied the
captain, "and just in the canal which separates Nea Kamenni from Pali Kamenni. I
wished to give you a sight of the curious spectacle of a submarine eruption."
"I thought," said I, "that the formation of
these new islands was ended."
"Nothing is ever ended in the volcanic parts of the
sea," replied Captain Nemo; "and the globe is always being worked by
subterranean fires. Already, in the nineteenth year of our era, according to Cassiodorus
and Pliny, a new island, Theia (the divine), appeared in the very place where these islets
have recently been formed. Then they sank under the waves, to rise again in the year 69,
when they again subsided. Since that time to our days, the Plutonian work has been
suspended. But, on February 3, 1866, a new island which they named George Island, emerged
from the midst of the sulphurous vapor near Nea Kamenni, and settled again the sixth of
the same month. Seven days after, February 13, the Island of Aphroessa appeared, leaving
between Nea Kamenni and itself a canal ten yards broad. I was in these seas when the
phenomenon occurred, and I was able, therefore, to observe all the different phases. The
Island of Aphroessa, of round form, measured three hundred feet in diameter, and thirty
feet in height. It was composed of black and vitreous lava, mixed with fragments of
feldspar. And lastly, on March 10, a smaller island, called Reka showed itself near Nea
Kamenni, and, since then, these three have joined together, forming but one and the same
"And the canal in which we are at this moment?"
"Here it is," replied Captain Nemo, showing me a
map of the archipelago. "You see I have marked the new islands."
I returned to the glass. The Nautilus was no longer
moving, the heat was becoming unbearable. The sea, which till now had been white, was red,
owing to the presence of salts of iron. In spite of the ship's being hermetically sealed,
an insupportable smell of sulphur filled the saloon, and the brilliancy of the electricity
was entirely extinguished by bright scarlet flames. I was in a bath, I was choking, I was
"We can remain no longer in this boiling water,"
said I to the captain.
"It would not be prudent," replied the impassive
An order was given; the Nautilus tacked about and
left the furnace it could not brave with impunity. A quarter of an hour after we were
breathing fresh air on the surface. The thought then struck me that, if Ned Land had
chosen this part of the sea for our flight, we should never come alive out of this sea of
The next day, February 16, we left the basin which,
between Rhodes and Alexandria, is reckoned about fifteen hundred fathoms in depth, and the
Nautilus, passing some distance from Cerigo, quitted the Grecian archipelago after
having doubled Cape Matapan.
Part 2 - Chapter 7
The Mediterranean in Forty-Eight Hours
The Mediterranean, the blue sea par excellence, "the
great sea" of the Hebrews, "the sea" of the Greeks, the "mare
nostrum" of the Romans, bordered by orange trees, aloes, cacti, and sea pines;
embalmed with the perfume of the myrtle, surrounded by rude mountains, saturated with pure
and transparent air, but incessantly worked by underground fires, a perfect battlefield in
which Neptune and Pluto still dispute the empire of the world!
It is upon these banks, and on these waters, says
Michelet, that man is renewed in one of the most powerful climates of the globe. But,
beautiful as it was, I could only take a rapid glance at the basin whose superficial area
is two millions of square miles. Even Captain Nemo's knowledge was lost to me, for this
enigmatical person did not appear once during our passage at full speed. I estimated the
course which the Nautilus took under the waves of the sea at about six hundred
leagues, and it was accomplished in forty-eight hours. Starting on the morning of February
16 from the shores of Greece, we had crossed the Straits of Gibraltar by sunrise on the
It was plain to me that this Mediterranean, inclosed in
the midst of those countries which he wished to avoid, was distasteful to Captain Nemo.
Those waves and those breezes brought back too many remembrances, if not too many regrets.
Here he had no longer that independence and that liberty of gait which he had had when in
the open seas, and his Nautilus felt itself cramped between the close shores of
Africa and Europe.
Our speed was now twenty-five miles an hour. It may be
well understood that Ned Land, to his great disgust, was obliged to renounce his intended
flight. He could not launch the pinnace, going at the rate of twelve or thirteen yards
every second. To quit the Nautilus under such conditions, would be as bad as
jumping from a train going at full speed- an imprudent thing, to say the least of it.
Besides, our vessel only mounted to the surface of the waves at night to renew its stock
of air; it was steered entirely by the compass and the log.
I saw no more of the interior of this Mediterranean than a
traveler by express train perceives of the landscape which flies before his eyes! that is
to say, the distant horizon, and not the nearer objects which pass like a flash of
In the midst of the mass of waters brightly lit up by the
electric light, glided some of those lampreys, more than a yard long, common to almost
every climate. Some of the oxyrhynchi, a kind of ray five feet broad, with white belly and
gray spotted back, spread out like a large shawl carried along by the current. Other rays
passed so quickly that I could not see if they deserved the name of eagles which was given
to them by the ancient Greeks, or the qualification of rats, toads, and bats, with which
modern fishermen have loaded them. A few milander sharks, twelve feet long, and much
feared by divers, struggled among them. Sea foxes eight feet long, endowed with wonderful
fineness of scent, appeared like large blue shadows. Some dorades of the shark kind, some
of which measured seven and a half feet, showed themselves in their dress of blue and
silver, encircled by small bands which struck sharply against the somber tints of their
fins, a fish consecrated to Venus, the eyes of which are incased in a socket of gold, a
precious species, friend of all waters, fresh or salt, an inhabitant of rivers, lakes, and
oceans, living in all climates, and bearing all temperatures; a race belonging to the
geological era of the earth, and which has preserved all the beauty of its first days.
Magnificent sturgeons, nine or ten yards long, creatures of great speed, striking the
panes of glass with their strong tails, displayed their bluish backs with small brown
spots; they resemble the sharks, but are not equal to them in. strength, and are to be met
with in all seas.
But of all the diverse inhabitants of the Mediterranean,
those I observed to the greatest advantage, when the Nautilus approached the
surface, belonged to the sixty-third genus of bony fish. They were a kind of tunny, with
bluish black backs, and silvery breast-plates, whose dorsal fins threw out sparkles of
gold. They are said to follow in the wake of vessels whose refreshing shade they seek from
the fire of a tropical sky, and they did not belie the saying, for they accompanied the Nautilus
as they did in former times the vessel of La Perouse. For many a long hour they struggled
to keep up with our vessel. I was never tired of admiring these creatures really built for
speed- their small heads, their bodies lithe and cigar-shaped, which in some were more
than three yards long, their pectoral fins and forked tail endowed with remarkable
strength. They swam in a triangle, like certain flocks of birds, whose rapidity they
equaled, and of which the ancients used to say that they understood geometry and strategy.
But still they do not escape the pursuit of the Provencals, who esteem them as highly as
the inhabitants of the Propontis and of Italy used to do; and these precious, but blind
and foolhardy creatures, perish by millions in the nets of the Marseillaise.
With regard to the species of fish common to the Atlantic
and the Mediterranean, the giddy speed of the Nautilus prevented me from observing
them with any degree of accuracy.
As to marine mammals, I thought, in passing the entrance
of the Adriatic, that I saw two or three cachalots, furnished with one dorsal fin, of the
genus physetera, some dolphins of the genus globicephali, peculiar to the Mediterranean,
the back part of the head being marked like a zebra with small lines; also, a dozen of
seals, with white bellies and black hair, known by the name of monks, and which really
have the air of a Dominican; they are about three yards in length.
As to zoophytes, for some instants I was able to admire a
beautiful orange galeolaria, which had fastened itself to the port panel; it held on by a
long filament, and was divided into an infinity of branches, terminated by the finest lace
which could ever have been woven by the rivals of Arachne herself. Unfortunately, I could
not take this admirable specimen; and doubtless no other Mediterranean zoophyte would have
offered itself to my observation, if, on the night of the sixteenth, the Nautilus
had not, singularly enough, slackened its speed, under the following circumstances.
We were then passing between Sicily and the coast of
Tunis. In the narrow space between Cape Bon and the Straits of Messina, the bottom of the
sea rose almost suddenly. There was a perfect bank, on which there was not more than nine
fathoms of water, while on either side the depth was ninety fathoms.
The Nautilus had to maneuver very carefully so as
not to strike against this submarine barrier.
I showed Conseil, on the map of the Mediterranean, the
spot occupied by this reef.
"But if you please, Sir," observed Conseil,
"it is like a real isthmus joining Europe to Africa."
"Yes, my boy, it forms a perfect bar to the Straits
of Lybia, and the soundings of Smith have proved that in former times the continents
between Cape Boco and Cape Furina were joined."
"I can well believe it," said Conseil.
"I will add," I continued, "that a similar
barrier exists between Gibraltar and Ceuta, which in geological times formed the entire
"What if some volcanic burst should one day raise
these two barriers above the waves?"
"It is not probable, Conseil."
"Well, but allow me to finish, please, Sir; if this
phenomenon should take place, it will be troublesome for M. Lesseps, who has taken so much
pains to pierce the isthmus."
"I agree with you; but I repeat, Conseil, this
phenomenon will never happen. The violence of subterranean force is ever diminishing.
Volcanoes, so plentiful in the first days of the world, are being extinguished by degrees;
the internal heat is weakened, the temperature of the lower strata of the globe is lowered
by a perceptible quantity every century to the detriment of our globe, for its heat is its
"But the sun?"
"The sun is not sufficient, Conseil. Can it give heat
to a dead body?"
"Not that I know of."
"Well, my friend, this earth will one day be that
cold corpse; it will become uninhabitable and uninhabited like the moon, which has long
since lost all its vital heat."
"In how many centuries?"
"In some hundreds of thousands of years, my
"Then," said Conseil, "we shall have time
to finish our journey, that is, if Ned Land does not interfere with it."
And Conseil, reassured, returned to the study of the bank,
which the Nautilus was skirting at a moderate speed.
There, beneath the rocky and volcanic bottom, lay
outspread a living flora of sponges and reddish cydippes, which emitted a slight
phosphorescent light, commonly known by the name of sea cucumbers; and walking comatulae
more than a yard long, the purple of which completely colored the water around
The Nautilus having now passed the high bank on the
Libyan Straits, returned to the deep waters and its accustomed speed.
From that time no more mollusks, no more articulates, no
more zoophytes; barely a few large fish passing like shadows.
During the nights of February 16 and 17, we had entered
the second Mediterranean basin, the greatest depth of which was 1,450 fathoms. The Nautilus,
by the action of its screw, slid down the inclined planes, and buried itself in the lowest
depths of the sea.
On February 18, about three o'clock in the morning, we
were at the entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar. There once existed two currents: an upper
one, long since recognized, which conveys the waters of the ocean into the basin of the
Mediterranean; and a lower countercurrent, which reasoning has now shown to exist. Indeed,
the volume of water in the Mediterranean, incessantly added to by the waves of the
Atlantic, and by rivers falling into it, would each year raise the level of this sea, for
its evaporation is not sufficient to restore the equilibrium. As it is not so, we must
necessarily admit the existence of an undercurrent, which empties into the basin of the
Atlantic, through the Strait of Gibraltar, the surplus waters of the Mediterranean. A
fact, indeed; and it was this countercurrent by which the Nautilus profited. It
advanced rapidly by the narrow pass. For one instant I caught a glimpse of the beautiful
ruins of the temple of Hercules, buried in the ground, according to Pliny, and with the
low island which supports it; and a few minutes later we were floating on the Atlantic.
Part 2 - Chapter 8
The Atlantic! a vast sheet of water, whose superficial
area covers twenty-five millions of square miles, the length of which is nine thousand
miles, with a mean breadth of two thousand seven hundred- an ocean whose parallel winding
shores embrace an immense circumference, watered by the largest rivers of the world, the
St. Lawrence, the Mississippi, the Amazon, the Plata, the Orinoco, the Niger, the Senegal,
the Elbe, the Loire, and the Rhine, which carry water from the most civilized, as well as
from the most savage countries! Magnificent field of water, incessantly plowed by vessels
of every nation, sheltered by the flags of every nation, and which terminates in those two
terrible points so dreaded by mariners, Cape Horn, and the Cape of Tempests!
The Nautilus was piercing the water with its sharp
spur, after having accomplished nearly ten thousand leagues in three months and a half, a
distance greater than the great circle of the earth. Where were we going now? And what was
reserved for the future? The Nautilus, leaving the Strait of Gibraltar, had gone
far out. It returned to the surface of the waves, and our daily walks on the platform were
restored to us.
I mounted at once, accompanied by Ned Land and Conseil. At
a distance of about twelve miles, Cape St. Vincent was dimly to be seen, forming the
southwestern point of the Spanish peninsula. A strong southerly gale was blowing. The sea
was swollen and billowy; it made the Nautilus rock violently. It was almost
impossible to keep one's footing on the platform, which the heavy rolls of the sea beat
over every instant. So we descended after inhaling some mouthfuls of fresh air.
I returned to my room, Conseil to his cabin; but the
Canadian, with a preoccupied air, followed me. Our rapid passage across the Mediterranean
had not allowed him to put his project into execution, and he could not help showing his
disappointment. When the door of my room was shut, he sat down and looked at me silently.
"Friend Ned," said I, "I understand you;
but you cannot reproach yourself. To have attempted to leave the Nautilus under the
circumstances would have been folly."
Ned Land did not answer; his compressed lips and frowning
brow showed with him the violent possession this fixed idea had taken of his mind.
"Let us see," I continued; "we need not
despair yet. We are going up the coast of Portugal again; France and England are not far
off, where we can easily find refuge. Now, if the Nautilus, on leaving the Strait
of Gibraltar, had gone to the south, if it had carried us toward regions where there were
no continents, I should share your uneasiness. But we know now that Captain Nemo does not
fly from civilized seas, and in some days I think you can act with security."
Ned Land still looked at me fixedly; at length his fixed
lips parted, and he said, "It is for tonight."
I drew myself up suddenly. I was, I admit, little prepared
for this communication. I wanted to answer the Canadian, but words would not come.
"We agreed to wait for an opportunity,"
continued Ned Land, "and the opportunity has arrived. This night we shall be but a
few miles from the Spanish coast. It is cloudy. The wind blows freely. I have your word,
M. Aronnax, and I rely upon you."
As I was still silent, the Canadian approached me.
"Tonight, at nine o'clock," said he. "I
have warned Conseil. At that moment, Captain Nemo will be shut up in his room, probably in
bed. Neither the engineers nor the ship's crew can see us. Conseil and I will gain the
central staircase, and you, M. Aronnax, will remain in the library, two steps from us,
waiting my signal. The oars, the mast, and the sail, are in the canoe. I have even
succeeded in getting in some provisions. I have procured an English wrench, to unfasten
the bolts which attach it to the shell of the Nautilus. So all is ready, till
"The sea is bad."
"That I allow," replied the Canadian; "but
we must risk that. Liberty is worth paying for; besides, the boat is strong, and a few
miles with a fair wind to carry us, is no great thing. Who knows but by tomorrow we may be
a hundred leagues away? Let circumstances only favor us, and by ten or eleven o'clock we
shall have landed on some spot of terra firma, alive or dead. But adieu now till
With these words the Canadian withdrew, leaving me almost
dumb. I had imagined that, the chance gone, I should have time to reflect and discuss the
matter. My obstinate companion had given me no time; and, after all, what could I have
said to him? Ned Land was perfectly right. There was almost the opportunity to profit by.
Could I retract my word, and take upon myself the responsibility of compromising the
future of my companions? Tomorrow Captain Nemo might take us far from all land.
At that moment a rather loud hissing told me that the
reservoirs were filling, and that the Nautilus was sinking under the waves of the
A sad day I passed, between the desire of regaining my
liberty of action, and of abandoning the wonderful Nautilus, and leaving my
submarine studies incomplete.
What dreadful hours I passed thus! sometimes seeing myself
and companions safely landed, sometimes wishing, in spite of my reason, that some
unforeseen circumstances would prevent the realization of Ned Land's project.
Twice I went to the saloon. I wished to consult the
compass. I wished to see if the direction the Nautilus was taking was bringing us
nearer or taking us farther from the coast. But no; the Nautilus kept in Portuguese
I must therefore take my part, and prepare for flight. My
luggage was not heavy; my notes, nothing more.
As to Captain Nemo, I asked myself what he would think of
our escape; what trouble, what wrong it might cause him, and what he might do in case of
its discovery or failure. Certainly I had no cause to complain of him; on the contrary,
never was hospitality freer than his. In leaving him, I could not be taxed with
ingratitude. No oath bound us to him. It was on the strength of circumstances he relied,
and not upon our word, to fix us forever.
I had not seen the captain since our visit to the Island
of Santorin. Would chance bring me to his presence before our departure? I wished it, and
I feared it at the same time. I listened if I could hear him walking in the room
contiguous to mine. No sound reached my ear. I felt an unbearable uneasiness. This day of
waiting seemed eternal. Hours struck too slowly to keep pace with my impatience.
My dinner was served in my room as usual. I ate but
little; I was too preoccupied. I left the table at seven o'clock. A hundred and twenty
minutes (I counted them) still separated me from the moment in which I was to join Ned
Land. My agitation redoubled. My pulse beat violently. I could not remain quiet. I went
and came, hoping to calm my troubled spirit by constant movement. The idea of failure in
our bold enterprise was the least painful of my anxieties; but the thought of seeing our
project discovered before leaving the Nautilus, of being brought before Captain
Nemo, irritated, or, what was worse, saddened at my desertion, made my heart beat.
I wanted to see the saloon for the last time. I descended
the stairs, and arrived in the museum where I had passed so many useful and agreeable
hours. I looked at all its riches, all its treasures, like a man on the eve of an eternal
exile, who was leaving never to return. These wonders of Nature, these masterpieces of
art, among which, for so many days, my life had been concentrated, I was going to abandon
them forever! I should like to have taken a last look through the windows of the saloon
into the waters of the Atlantic: but the panels were hermetically closed, and a cloak of
steel separated me from that ocean which I had not yet explored.
In passing through the saloon, I came near the door, let
into the angle, which opened into the captain's room. To my great surprise, this door was
ajar. I drew back, involuntarily. If Captain Nemo should be in his room, he could see me.
But, hearing no noise, I drew nearer. The room was deserted. I pushed open the door, and
took some steps forward. Still the same monklike severity of aspect.
Suddenly the clock struck eight. The first beat of the
hammer on the bell awoke me from my dreams. I trembled as if an invisible eye had plunged
into my most secret thoughts, and I hurried from the room.
There my eye fell upon the compass. Our course was still
north. The log indicated moderate speed, the manometer a depth of about sixty feet.
I returned to my room, clothed myself warmly-sea boots, an
otterskin cap, a great coat of byssus, lined with sealskin; I was ready, I was waiting.
The vibration of the screw alone broke the deep silence which reigned on board. I listened
attentively. Would no loud voice suddenly inform me that Ned Land had been surprised in
his projected flight? A mortal dread hung over me, and I vainly tried to regain my
At a few minutes to nine, I put my ear to the captain's
door. No noise. I left my room and returned to the saloon, which was half in obscurity,
I opened the door communicating with the library. The same
insufficient light, the same solitude. I placed myself near the door leading to the
central staircase, and there waited for Ned Land's signal.
At that moment the trembling of the screw sensibly
diminished, then it stopped entirely. The silence was now only disturbed by the beatings
of my own heart. Suddenly a slight shock was felt; and I knew that the Nautilus had
stopped at the bottom of the ocean. My uneasiness increased. The Canadian's signal did not
come. I felt inclined to join Ned Land and beg of him to put off his attempt. I felt that
we were not sailing under our usual conditions.
At this moment the door of the large saloon opened, and
Captain Nemo appeared. He saw me, and, without further preamble, began in an amiable tone
"Ah, Sir! I have been looking for you. Do you know
the history of Spain?"
Now, one might know the history of one's own country by
heart; but in the condition I was at the time, with troubled mind and head quite lost, I
could not have said a word of it.
"Well," continued Captain Nemo, "you heard
my question? Do you know the history of Spain?"
"Very slightly," I answered.
"Well, here are learned men having to learn,"
said the captain. "Come, sit down, and I will tell you a curious episode in this
history. Sir, listen well," said he; "this history will interest you on one
side, for it will answer a question which doubtless you have not been able to solve."
"I listen, Captain," said I, not knowing what my
interlocutor was driving at, and asking myself if this incident was bearing on our
"Sir, if you have no objection, we will go back to
1702. You cannot be ignorant that your king, Louis XIV., thinking that the gesture of a
potentate was sufficient to bring the Pyrenees under his yoke, had imposed the Duke of
Anjou, his grandson, on the Spaniards. This prince reigned more or less badly under the
name of Philip V., and had a strong party against him abroad. Indeed, the preceding year,
the royal houses of Holland, Austria, and England, had concluded a treaty of alliance at
The Hague, with the intention of plucking the crown of Spain from the head of Philip V.,
and placing it on that of an arch-duke to whom they prematurely gave the title of Charles
"Spain must resist this coalition; but she was almost
entirely unprovided with either soldiers or sailors. However, money would not fail them,
provided that their galleons, laden with gold and silver from America, once entered their
ports. And about the end of 1702 they expected a rich convoy which France was escorting
with a fleet of twenty-three vessels, commanded by Admiral Chateau-Renaud, for the ships
of the coalition were already beating the Atlantic. This convoy was to go to Cadiz, but
the Admiral, hearing that an English fleet was cruising in those waters, resolved to make
for a French port.
"The Spanish commanders of the convoy objected to
this decision. They wanted to be taken to a Spanish port, and if not to Cadiz, into Vigo
Bay, situated on the northwest coast of Spain, and which was not blocked.
"Admiral Chateau-Renaud had the rashness to obey this
injunction, and the galleons entered Vigo Bay.
"Unfortunately, it formed an open road which could
not be defended in any way. They must therefore hasten to unload the galleons before the
arrival of the combined fleet; and time would not have failed them had not a miserable
question of rivalry suddenly arisen.
"You are following the chain of events?" asked
"Perfectly," said I, not knowing the end
proposed by this historical lesson.
"I will continue. This is what passed. The merchants
of Cadiz had a privilege by which they had the right of receiving all merchandise coming
from the West Indies. Now, to disembark these ingots at the port of Vigo, was depriving
them of their rights. They complained at Madrid, and obtained the consent of the
weak-minded Philip that the convoy, without discharging its cargo, should remain
sequestered in the roads of Vigo until the enemy had disappeared.
"But while coming to this decision, on October 22,
1702, the English vessels arrived in Vigo Bay, when Admiral Chateau-Renaud, in spite of
inferior forces, fought bravely. But seeing that the treasure must fall into the enemy's
hands, he burned and scuttled every galleon, which. went to the bottom with their immense
Captain Nemo stopped. I admit I could not yet see why this
history should interest me.
"Well?" I asked.
"Well, M. Aronnax," replied Captain Nemo,
"we are in that Vigo Bay; and it rests with yourself whether you will penetrate its
The captain rose, telling me to follow him. I had had time
to recover. I obeyed. The saloon was dark, but through the transparent glass the waves
were sparkling. I looked.
For half a mile around the Nautilus, the waters
seemed bathed in electric light. The sandy bottom was clean and bright. Some of the ship's
crew in their diving dresses were clearing away half rotten barrels and empty cases from
the midst of the blackened wrecks. From these cases and from these barrels escaped ingots
of gold and silver, cascades of piastres and jewels. The sand was heaped up with them.
Laden with their precious booty the men returned to the Nautilus, disposed of their
burden, and went back to this inexhaustible fishery of gold and silver.
I understood now. This was the scene of the battle of
October 22, 1702. Here on this very spot the galleons laden for the Spanish government had
sunk. Here Captain Nemo came, according to his wants, to pack up those millions with which
he burdened the Nautilus. It was for him and him alone America had given up her
precious metals. He was heir direct, without anyone to share, in those treasures torn from
the Incas and from the conquered of Hernando Cortes.
"Did you know, Sir," he asked, smiling,
"that the sea contained such riches?"
"I knew," I answered, "that they value the
money held in suspension in these waters at two millions."
"Doubtless; but to extract this money the expense
would be greater than the profit. Here, on the contrary, I have but to pick up what man
has lost- and not only in Vigo Bay, but in a thousand other spots where shipwrecks have
happened, and which are marked on my submarine map. Can you understand now the source of
the millions I am worth?"
"I understand, Captain. But allow me to tell you that
in exploring Vigo Bay you have only been beforehand with a rival society."
"A society which has received from the Spanish
government the privilege of seeking these buried galleons. The shareholders are led on by
the allurement of an enormous bounty, for they value these rich shipwrecks at five hundred
"Five hundred millions they were," answered
Captain Nemo, "but they are so no longer."
"Just so," said I; "and a warning to those
shareholders would be an act of charity. But who knows if it would be well received? What
gamblers usually regret above all is less the loss of their money, than of their foolish
hopes. After all, I pity them less than the thousands of unfortunates to whom so much
riches well distributed would have been profitable, while for them they will be forever
I had no sooner expressed this regret than I felt that it
must have wounded Captain Nemo.
"Barren!" he exclaimed with animation. "Do
you think then, Sir, that these riches are lost because I gather them? Is it for myself
alone, according to your idea, that I take the trouble to collect these treasures? Who
told you that I did not make a good use of it? Do you think I am ignorant that there are
suffering beings and oppressed races on this earth, miserable creatures to console,
victims to avenge? Do you not understand?"
Captain Nemo stopped at these last words, regretting
perhaps that he had spoken so much. But I had guessed that whatever the motive which had
forced him to seek independence under the sea, it had left him still a man, that his heart
still beat for the sufferings of humanity, and that his immense charity was for oppressed
races as well as individuals. And I then understood for whom those millions were destined,
which were forwarded by Captain Nemo when the Nautilus was in the waters of Crete.