Part 1 - Chapter 9
Ned Land's Tempers
How long we slept I do not know; but our sleep must have
lasted long, for it rested us completely from our fatigues. I woke first. My companions
had not moved, and were still stretched in their corner.
Hardly roused from my somewhat hard couch, I felt my brain
freed, my mind clear. I then began an attentive examination of our cell. Nothing was
changed inside. The prison was still a prison- the prisoners, prisoners. However, the
steward, during our sleep, had cleared the table. I breathed with difficulty. The heavy
air seemed to oppress my lungs. Although the cell was large, we had evidently consumed a
great part of the oxygen that it contained. Indeed, each man consumes, in one hour, the
oxygen contained in more than 176 pints of air, and this air, charged (as then) with a
nearly equal quantity of carbonic acid, becomes unbreathable.
It became necessary to renew the atmosphere of our prison,
and no doubt the whole in the submarine boat. That gave rise to a question in my mind. How
would the commander of this floating dwelling place proceed? Would he obtain air by
chemical means, in getting by heat the oxygen contained in chlorate of potash, and in
absorbing carbonic acid by caustic potash? Or, a more convenient, economical and
consequently more probable alternative, would he be satisfied to rise and take breath at
the surface of the water, like a cetacean, and so renew for twenty-four hours the
In fact, I was already obliged to increase my respirations
to eke out of this cell the little oxygen it contained, when suddenly I was refreshed by a
current of pure air, and perfumed with saline emanations. It was an invigorating sea
breeze, charged with iodine. I opened my mouth wide, and my lungs saturated themselves
with fresh particles.
At the same time I felt the boat rolling. The iron-plated
monster had evidently just risen to the surface of the ocean to breathe, after the fashion
of whales. I found out from that the mode of ventilating the boat.
When I had inhaled this air freely, I sought the conduit
which conveyed to us the beneficial whiff, and I was not long in finding it. Above the
door was a ventilator, through which volumes of fresh air renewed the impoverished
atmosphere of the cell.
I was making my observations, when Ned and Conseil awoke
almost at the same time, under the influence of this reviving air. They rubbed their eyes,
stretched themselves, and were on their feet in an instant.
"Did master sleep well?" asked Conseil with his
"Very well, my brave boy. And you, Mr. Land?"
"Soundly, Professor. But I don't know if I am right
or not, there seems to be a sea breeze!"
A seaman could not be mistaken, and I told the Canadian
all that had passed during his sleep.
"Good!" said he; "that accounts for those
roarings we heard, when the supposed narwhal sighted the Abraham Lincoln."
"Quite so, Master Land; it was taking breath."
"Only, Mr. Aronnax, I have no idea what o'clock it
is, unless it is dinner time."
"Dinner time! my good fellow? Say rather breakfast
time, for we certainly have begun another day."
"So," said Conseil, "we have slept
"That is my opinion."
"I will not contradict you," replied Ned Land.
"But dinner or breakfast, the steward will be welcome, whichever he brings."
"Master Land, we must conform to the rules, and I
suppose our appetites are in advance of the dinner hour."
"That is just like you, friend Conseil," said
Ned, impatiently. "You are never out of temper, always calm; you would return thanks
before grace, and die of hunger rather than complain!"
Time was getting on, and we were fearfully hungry; and
this time the steward did not appear. It was rather too long to leave us, if they really
had good intentions toward us. Ned Land, tormented by the cravings of hunger, got still
more angry; and, notwithstanding his promise, I dreaded an explosion when he found himself
with one of the crew.
For two hours more, Ned Land's temper increased; he cried,
he shouted, but in vain. The walls were deaf. There was no sound to be heard in the boat:
all was still as death. It did not move, for I should have felt the trembling motion of
the hull under the influence of the screw. Plunged in the depths of the waters, it
belonged no longer to earth- this silence was dreadful.
I felt terrified, Conseil was calm, Ned Land roared.
Just then a noise was heard outside. Steps sounded on the
metal flags. The locks were turned, the door opened, and the steward appeared.
Before I could rush forward to stop him, the Canadian had
thrown him down, and held him by the throat. The steward was choking under the grip of his
Conseil was already trying to unclasp the harpooner's hand
from his half-suffocated victim, and I was going to fly to the rescue, when suddenly I was
nailed to the spot by hearing these words in French:
"Be quiet, Master Land; and you, Professor, will you
be so good as to listen to me?" It was the commander of the vessel who thus spoke.
Part 1 - Chapter 10
The Man of the Seas
At these words, Ned Land rose suddenly. The steward,
nearly strangled, tottered out on a sign from his master; but such was the power of the
commander on board, that not a gesture betrayed the resentment which this man must have
felt toward the Canadian. Conseil interested in spite of himself, I stupefied, awaited in
silence the result of this scene.
The commander, leaning against a corner of the table with
his arms folded, scanned us with profound attention. Did he hesitate to speak? Did he
regret the words which he had just spoken in French? One might almost think so.
After some moments of silence, which not one of us dreamed
of breaking, "Gentlemen," said he, in a calm and penetrating voice, "I
speak French, English, German, and Latin equally well. I could, therefore, have answered
you at our first interview, but I wished to know you first, then to reflect. The story
told by each one, entirely agreeing in the main points, convinced me of your identity. I
know now that chance has brought before me Monsieur Pierre Aronnax, Professor of Natural
History at the Museum of Paris, entrusted with a scientific mission abroad, Conseil his
servant, and Ned Land, of Canadian origin, harpooner on board the frigate Abraham Lincoln
of the navy of the United States of America."
I bowed assent. It was not a question that the commander
put to me. Therefore there was no answer to be made. This man expressed himself with
perfect ease, without any accent. His sentences were well turned, his words clear, and his
fluency of speech remarkable.
He continued the conversation in these terms:
"You have doubtless thought, Sir, that I have delayed
long in paying you this second visit. The reason is that, your identity recognized, I
wished to weigh maturely what part to act toward you. I have hesitated much. Most annoying
circumstances have brought you into the presence of a man who has broken all the ties of
humanity. You have come to trouble my existence."
"Unintentionally!" said I.
"Unintentionally?" replied the stranger, raising
his voice a little; "was it unintentionally that the Abraham Lincoln pursued
me all over the seas? Was it unintentionally that you took passage in this frigate? Was it
unintentionally that your cannon balls rebounded off the plating of my vessel? Was it
unintentionally that Mr. Ned Land struck me with his harpoon?"
I detected a restrained irritation in these words. But to
these recriminations I had a very natural answer to make, and I made it.
"Sir," said I, "no doubt you are ignorant
of the discussions which have taken place concerning you in America and Europe. You do not
know that divers accidents, caused by collisions with your submarine machine, have excited
public feeling in the two continents. I omit the hypotheses without number by which it was
sought to explain the inexplicable phenomenon of which you alone possess the secret. But
you must understand that, in pursuing you over the high seas of the Pacific, the Abraham
Lincoln believed itself to be chasing some sea monster, of which it was necessary to
rid the ocean at any price."
A half smile curled the lips of the commander.
"M. Aronnax," he replied, "dare you affirm
that your frigate would not as soon have pursued and cannonaded a submarine boat as a
This question embarrassed me, for certainly Captain
Farragut might not have hesitated. He might have thought it his duty to destroy a
contrivance of this kind, as he would a gigantic narwhal.
"You understand then, Sir," continued the
stranger, "that I have the right to treat you as enemies?"
I answered nothing, purposely. For what good would it be
to discuss such a proposition, when force could destroy the best arguments?
"I have hesitated for some time," continued the
commander; "nothing obliged me to show you hospitality. If I chose to separate myself
from you, I should have no interest in seeing you again; I could place you upon the deck
of this vessel which has served you as a refuge, I could sink beneath the waters, and
forget that you had ever existed. Would not that be my right?"
"It might be the right of a savage," I answered,
"but not that of a civilized man."
"Professor," replied the commander quickly,
"I am not what you call a civilized man! I have done with society entirely, for
reasons which I alone have the right of appreciating. I do not therefore obey its laws,
and I desire you never to allude to them before me again!"
This was said plainly. A flash of anger and disdain
kindled in the eyes of the unknown, and I had a glimpse of a terrible past in the life of
this man. Not only had he put himself beyond the pale of human laws, but he had made
himself independent of them, free in the strictest acceptation of the word, quite beyond
their reach who then would dare to pursue him at the bottom of the sea, when, on its
surface, he defied all attempts made against him? What vessel could resist the shock of
his submarine monitor? What cuirass, however thick, could withstand the blows of his spur?
No man could demand from him an account of his actions; God, if he believed in one- his
conscience, if he had one- were the sole judges to whom he was answerable.
These reflections crossed my mind rapidly, while the
stranger personage was silent, absorbed, and as if wrapped up in himself. I regarded him
with fear mingled with interest, as, doubtless, Oedipus regarded the Sphinx.
After rather a long silence, the commander resumed the
"I have hesitated," said he, "but I have
thought that my interest might be reconciled with that pity to which every human being has
a right. You will remain on board my vessel, since fate has cast you there. You will be
free; and in exchange for this liberty, I shall only impose one single condition. Your
word of honor to submit to it will suffice."
"Speak, Sir," I answered, "I suppose this
condition is one which a man of honor may accept?"
"Yes, Sir; it is this. It is possible that certain
events, unforeseen, may oblige me to consign you to your cabins for some hours or some
days, as the case may be. As I desire never to use violence, I expect from you, more than
all the others, a passive obedience. In thus acting, I take all, the responsibility; I
acquit you entirely, for I make it an impossibility for you to see, what ought not to be
seen. Do you accept this condition?"
Then things took place on board which, to say the least,
were singular, and which ought not to be seen by people who were not placed beyond the
pale of social laws. Among the surprises which the future was preparing for me, this might
not be the least.
"We accept," I answered; "only I will ask
your permission, Sir, to address one question to you, one only."
"You said that we should be free on board."
"I ask you, then, what you mean by this
"Just the liberty to go, to come, to see, to observe
even all that passes here, save under rare circumstances, the liberty, in short, which we
ourselves enjoy, my companions and I."
It was evident that we did not understand each other.
"Pardon me, Sir," I resumed, "but this
liberty is only what every prisoner has of pacing his prison. It cannot suffice us."
"It must suffice you, however."
"What! we must renounce forever seeing our country,
our friends, our relations again?"
"Yes, Sir. But to renounce that unendurable worldly
yoke which men believe to be liberty, is not perhaps so painful as you think."
"Well," exclaimed Ned Land, "never will I
give my word of honor not to try to escape."
"I did not ask you for your word of honor, Master
Land," answered the commander, coldly.
"Sir," I replied, beginning to get angry in
spite of myself, "you abuse your situation toward us; it is cruelty."
"No, Sir, it is clemency. You are my prisoners of
war. I keep you, when I could, by a word, plunge you into the depths of the ocean. You
attacked me. You came to surprise a secret which no man in the world must penetrate, the
secret of my whole existence. And you think that I am going to send you back to that world
which must know me no more? Never! In retaining you, it is not you whom I guard, it is
These words indicated a resolution taken on the part of
the commander, against which no arguments would prevail.
"So, Sir," I rejoined, "you give us simply
the choice between life and death?"
"My friends," said I, "to a question thus
put, there is nothing to answer. But no word of honor binds us to the master of this
"None, Sir," answered the unknown.
Then, in a gentler tone, he continued:
"Now, permit me to finish what I have to say to you.
I know you, M. Aronnax. You and your companions will not, perhaps, have so much to
complain of in the chance which has bound you to my fate. You will find among the books
which are my favorite study the work which you have published on 'the depths of the sea.'
I have often read it. You have carried your work as far as terrestrial science permitted
you. But you do not know all, you have not seen all. Let me tell you then, Professor, that
you will not regret the time passed on board my vessel. You are going to visit the land of
These words of the commander had a great effect upon me. I
cannot deny it. My weak point was touched; and I forgot, for a moment, that the
contemplation of these sublime subjects was not worth the loss of liberty. Besides, I
trusted to the future to decide this grave question. So I contented myself with saying:
"By what name ought I to address you?"
"Sir," replied the commander, "I am nothing
to you but Captain Nemo; and you and your companions are nothing to me but the passengers
of the Nautilus."
Captain Nemo called. A steward appeared. The captain gave
him his orders in that strange language which I did not understand. Then, turning toward
the Canadian and Conseil:
"A repast awaits you in your cabin," said he.
"Be so good as to follow this man."
"And now, M. Aronnax, our breakfast is ready. Permit
me to lead the way."
"I am at your service, Captain."
I followed Captain Nemo; and as soon as I had passed
through the door, I found myself in a kind of passage lighted by electricity, similar to
the waist of a ship. After we had proceeded a dozen yards, a second door opened before me.
I then entered a dining room, decorated and furnished in
severe taste. High oaken sideboards, inlaid with ebony, stood at the two extremities of
the room, and upon their shelves glittered china, porcelain, and glass of inestimable
value. The plate on the table sparkled in the rays which the luminous ceiling shed around,
while the light was tempered and softened by exquisite paintings.
In the center of the room was a table richly laid out.
Captain Nemo indicated the place I was to occupy.
The breakfast consisted of a certain number of dishes, the
contents of which were furnished by the sea alone; and I was ignorant of the nature and
mode of preparation of some of them. I acknowledged that they were good, but they had a
peculiar flavor, which I easily became accustomed to. These different aliments appeared to
me to be rich in phosphorus, and I thought they must have a marine origin.
Captain Nemo looked at me. I asked him no questions, but
he guessed my thoughts, and answered of his own accord the questions which I was burning
to address to him.
"The greater part of these dishes are unknown to
you," he said to me. "However, you may partake of them without fear. They are
wholesome and nourishing. For a long time I have renounced the food of the earth, and I am
never ill now. My crew, who are healthy, are fed on the same food."
"So," said I, "all these eatables are the
produce of the sea?"
"Yes, Professor, the sea supplies all my wants.
Sometimes I cast my nets in tow, and I draw them in ready to break. Sometimes I hunt in
the midst of this element, which appears to be inaccessible to man, and quarry the game
which dwells in my submarine forests. My flocks, like those of Neptune's old shepherds,
graze fearlessly in the immense prairies of the ocean. I have a vast property there, which
I cultivate myself, and which is always sown by the hand of the Creator of all
"I can understand perfectly, Sir, that your nets
furnish excellent fish for your table; I can understand also that you hunt aquatic game in
your submarine forests; but I cannot understand at all how a particle of meat, no matter
how small, can figure in your bill of fare."
"This, which you believe to be meat, Professor, is
nothing else than fillet of turtle. Here are also some dolphin's livers, which you take to
be ragout of pork. My cook is a clever fellow, who excels in dressing these various
products of the ocean. Taste all these dishes. Here is a preserve of holothuria, which a
Malay would declare to be unrivaled in the world; here is a cream, of which the milk has
been furnished by the cetacea, and the sugar by the great fucus of the North Sea; and
lastly, permit me to offer you some preserve of anemones, which is equal to that of the
most delicious fruits."
I tasted, more from curiosity than as a connoisseur, while
Captain Nemo enchanted me with his extraordinary stories.
"You like the sea, Captain?"
"Yes; I love it! The sea is everything. It covers
seven-tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense
desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides. The sea is
only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. It is nothing but love and
emotion; it is the 'Living Infinite', as one of your poets has said. In fact, Professor,
Nature manifests herself in it by her three kingdoms, mineral, vegetable, and animal. The
sea is the vast reservoir of Nature. The globe began with sea, so to speak; and who knows
if it will not end with it? In it is supreme tranquility. The sea does not belong to
despots. Upon its surface men can still exercise unjust laws, fight, tear one another to
pieces, and be carried away with terrestrial horrors. But at thirty feet below its level,
their reign ceases, their influence is quenched, and their power disappears. Ah! Sir,
live- live in the bosom of the waters! There only is independence! There I recognize no
masters! There I am free!"
Captain Nemo suddenly became silent in the midst of this
enthusiasm, by which he was quite carried away. For a few moments he paced up and down,
much agitated. Then he became more calm, regained his accustomed coldness of expression,
and turning toward me:
"Now, Professor," said he, "if you wish to
go over the Nautilus, I am at your service."
Captain Nemo rose. I followed him. A double door,
contrived at the back of the dining room, and I entered a room equal in dimensions to that
I had just quitted.
It was a library. High pieces of furniture, of black
violet ebony inlaid with brass, supported upon their wide shelves a great number of books
uniformly bound. They followed the shape of the room, terminating at the lower part in
huge divans, covered with brown leather, which were curved, to afford the greatest
comfort. Light movable desks, made to slide in and out at will, allowed one to rest one's
book while reading. In the center stood an immense table, covered with pamphlets, among
which were some newspapers, already of old date. The electric light flooded everything; it
was shed from four unpolished globes half sunk in the volutes of the ceiling. I looked
with real admiration at this room, so ingeniously fitted up, and I could scarcely believe
"Captain Nemo," said I to my host, who had just
thrown himself on one of the divans, "this is a library which would do honor to more
than one of the continental palaces, and I am absolutely astounded when I consider that it
can follow you to the bottom of the sea."
"Where could one find greater solitude or silence,
Professor?" replied Captain Nemo. "Did your study in the Museum afford you such
"No, Sir; and I must confess that it is a very poor
one after yours. You must have six or seven thousand volumes here."
"Twelve thousand, M. Aronnax. These are the only ties
which bind me to the earth. But I had done with the world on the day when my Nautilus
plunged for the first time beneath the waters. That day I bought my last volumes, my last
pamphlets, my last papers, and from that time I wish to think that men no longer think or
write. These books, Professor, are at your service besides, and you can make use of them
I thanked Captain Nemo, and went up to the shelves of the
library. Works on science, morals, and literature abounded in every language; but I did
not see one single work on political economy; that subject appeared to be strictly
proscribed. Strange to say, all these books were irregularly arranged, in whatever
language they were written; and this medley proved that the Captain of the Nautilus
must have read the books which he took up by chance.
"Sir," said I to the captain, "I thank you
for having placed this library at my disposal. It contains treasures of science, and I
shall profit by them."
"This room is not only a library," said Captain
Nemo, "it is also a smoking room."
"A smoking room!" I cried. "Then one may
smoke on board?"
"Then, Sir, I am forced to believe that you have kept
up a communication with Havana."
"Not any," answered the captain. "Accept
this cigar, M. Aronnax; and though it does not come from Havana, you will be pleased with
it, if you are a connoisseur."
I took the cigar which was offered me; its shape recalled
the London ones, but it seemed to be made of leaves of gold. I lighted it at a little
brazier, which was supported upon an elegant bronze stem, and drew the first whiffs with
the delight of a lover of smoking who has not smoked for two days.
"It is excellent," said I, "but it is not
"No!" answered the captain, "this tobacco
comes neither from Havana nor from the East. It is a kind of seaweed, rich in nicotine,
with which the sea provides me, but somewhat sparingly."
At that moment Captain Nemo opened a door which stood
opposite to that by which I had entered the library and I passed into an immense drawing
room. splendidly lighted.
It was a vast four-sided room, thirty feet long, eighteen
wide, and fifteen high. A luminous ceiling, decorated with light arabesques, shed a soft,
clear light over all the marvels accumulated in this museum. For it was in fact a museum,
in which an intelligent and prodigal hand had gathered all the treasures of nature and
art, with the artistic confusion which distinguishes a painter's studio.
Thirty first-rate pictures, uniformly framed, separated by
bright drapery, ornamented the walls, which were hung with tapestry of severe design. I
saw works of great value, the greater part of which I had admired in the special
collections of Europe, and in the exhibitions of paintings. The several schools of the old
masters were represented by a Madonna of Raphael, a Virgin of Leonardo da Vinci, a nymph
of Correggio, a woman of Titian, an Adoration of Veronese, an Assumption of Murillo, a
portrait of Holbein, a monk of Velasquez, a martyr of Ribeira, a fair of Rubens, two
Flemish landscapes of Teniers, three little genre pictures of Gerard Dow, Metsu, and Paul
Potter, two specimens of Gericault and Prudhon, and some sea pieces of Backhuysen and
Vernet. Among the works of modern painters were pictures with the signatures of Delacroix,
Ingres, Decamp, Troyon, Meissonnier, Daubigny, etc.; and some admirable statues in marble
and bronze, after the finest antique models, stood upon pedestals in the corners of this
magnificent museum. Amazement, as the captain of the Nautilus had predicted, had
already begun to take possession of me.
"Professor," said this strange man, "you
must excuse the unceremonious way in which I receive you, and the disorder of this
"Sir," I answered, "without seeking to know
who you are, I recognize in you an artist."
"An amateur, nothing more, Sir. Formerly I loved to
collect these beautiful works created by the hand of man. I sought them greedily, and
ferreted them out indefatigably, and I have been able to bring together some objects of
great value. These are my last souvenirs of that world which is dead to me. In my eyes,
your modern artists are already old; they have two or three thousand years of existence; I
confound them in my own mind. Masters have no age."
"And these musicians?" said I, pointing out some
works of Weber, Rossini, Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Meyerbeer, Hérold, Wagner, Auber,
Gounod, and a number of others, scattered over a large model piano-organ which occupied
one of the panels of the drawing room.
"These musicians," replied Captain Nemo,
"are the contemporaries of Orpheus; for in the memory of the dead all chronological
differences are effaced; and I am dead, Professor; as much dead as those of your friends
who are sleeping six feet under the earth!"
Captain Nemo was silent, and seemed lost in a profound
reverie. I contemplated him with deep interest, analyzing in silence the strange
expression of his countenance. Leaning on his elbow against an angle of a costly mosaic
table, he no longer saw me, he had forgotten my presence.
I did not disturb this reverie, and continued my
observation of the curiosities which enriched this drawing room.
Under elegant glass cases, fixed by copper rivets, were
classed and labeled the most precious productions of the sea which had ever been presented
to the eye of a naturalist. My delight as a professor may be conceived.
The division containing the zoophytes presented the most
curious specimens of the two groups of polypi and echinodermes. In the first group, the
tubipores, were gorgones arranged like a fan, soft sponges of Syria, ises of the Molukkas,
pennatules, an admirable virgularia of the Norwegian seas, variegated umbellulairae,
alcyonariae, a whole series of madrepores, which my master Milne Edwards has so cleverly
classified, among which I remarked some wonderful flabellinae, oculinae of the Island of
Bourbon, the "Neptune's car" of the Antilles, superb varieties of corals, in
short, every species of those curious polypi of which entire islands are formed, which
will one day become continents. Of the echinodermes, remarkable for their coating of
spines, asteri, sea stars, pantacrinae, comatules, astérophons, echini, holothuri, etc.,
represented individually a complete collection of this group.
A somewhat nervous conchyliologist would certainly have
fainted before other more numerous cases, in which were classified the specimens of
mollusks. It was a collection of inestimable value, which time fails me to describe
minutely. Among these specimens, I will quote from memory only the elegant royal hammer
fish of the Indian Ocean, whose regular white spots stood out brightly on a red and brown
ground, an imperial spondyle, bright-colored, bristling with spines, a rare specimen in
the European museums (I estimated its value at not less than $5,000); a common hammer fish
of the seas of New Holland, which is only procured with difficulty; exotic buccardia of
Senegal; fragile white bivalve shells, which a breath might shatter like a soap bubble;
several varieties of the aspirgillum of Java, a kind of calcareous tube, edged with leafy
folds, and much debated by amateurs; a whole series of trochi, some a greenish yellow,
found in the American seas, others a reddish brown, natives of Australian waters; others
from the Gulf of Mexico, remarkable for their imbricated shell; stellari found in the
southern seas; and last, the rarest of all, the magnificent of New Zealand; and every
description of delicate and fragile shells to which science has given appropriate names.
Apart, in separate compartments, were spread out chaplets
of pearls of the greatest beauty, which reflected the electric light in little sparks of
fire; pink pearls, torn from the pinna-marina of the Red Sea; green pearls of the
haliotyde iris; yellow, blue, and black pearls, the curious productions of the divers
mollusks of every ocean, and certain mussels of the watercourses of the North; lastly,
several specimens of inestimable value which had been gathered from the rarest pintadines.
Some of these pearls were larger than a pigeon's egg, and were worth as much and more than
that which the traveler Tavernier sold to the Shah of Persia for three millions, and
surpassed the one in the possession of the Imam of Maskat, which I had believed to be
unrivaled in the world.
Therefore to estimate the value of this collection was
simply impossible. Captain Nemo must have expended millions in the acquirement of these
various specimens, and I was thinking what source he could have drawn from, to have been
able thus to gratify his fancy for collecting, when I was interrupted by these words:
"You are examining my shells, Professor?
Unquestionably they must be interesting to a naturalist; but for me they have a far
greater charm, for I have collected them all with my own hand, and there is not a sea on
the face of the globe which has escaped my researches."
"I can understand, Captain, the delight of wandering
about in the midst of such riches. You are one of those who have collected their treasures
themselves. No museum in Europe possesses such a collection of the produce of the ocean.
But if I exhaust all my admiration upon it, I shall have none left for the vessel which
carries it. I do not wish to pry into your secrets; but I must confess that this Nautilus
with the motive power which is confined in it, the contrivances which enable it to be
worked, the powerful agent which propels it, all excite my curiosity to the highest pitch.
I see suspended on the walls of this room instruments of whose use I am ignorant."
"You will find these same instruments in my own room,
Professor, where I shall have much pleasure in explaining their use to you. But first come
and inspect the cabin which is set apart for your own use. You must see how you will be
accommodated on board the Nautilus."
I followed Captain Nemo, who, by one of the doors opening
from each panel of the drawing room, regained the waist. He conducted me towards the bow,
and there I found, not a cabin, but an elegant room, with a bed, dressing table, and
several other pieces of furniture.
I could only thank my host.
"Your room adjoins mine," said he, opening a
door, "and mine opens into the drawing room that we have just quitted."
I entered the captain's room: it had a severe, almost a
monkish, aspect. A small iron bedstead, a table, some articles for the toilet; the whole
lighted by a skylight. No comforts, the strictest necessities only.
Captain Nemo pointed to a seat.
"Be so good as to sit down," he said. I seated
myself, and he began thus:
Part 1 - Chapter 11
All By Electricity
"Sir," said Captain Nemo, showing me the
instruments hanging on the walls of his room, "here are the contrivances required for
the navigation of the Nautilus. Here, as in the drawing room, I have them always
under my eyes, and they indicate my position and exact direction in the middle of the
ocean. Some are known to you, such as the thermometer, which gives the internal
temperature of the Nautilus; the barometer, which indicates the weight of the air
and foretells the changes of the weather; the hygrometer, which marks the dryness of the
atmosphere; the storm glass, the contents of which, by decomposing, announce the approach
of tempests; the compass, which guides my course; the sextant, which shows the latitude by
the altitude of the sun; chronometers, by which I calculate the longitude; and glasses for
day and night, which I use to examine the points of the horizon, when the Nautilus
rises to the surface of the waves."
"These are the usual nautical instruments," I
replied, "and I know the use of them. But these others, no doubt, answer to the
particular requirements of the Nautilus. This dial with the movable needle is a
manometer, is it not?"
"It is actually a manometer. But by communication
with the water, whose external pressure it indicates, it gives our depth at the same
"And these other instruments, the use of which I
"Here, Professor, I ought to give you some
explanations. Will you be kind enough to listen to me?"
He was silent for a few moments, then he said:
"There is a powerful agent, obedient, rapid, easy,
which conforms to every use, and reigns supreme on board my vessel. Everything is done by
means of it. It lights it, warms it, and is the soul of my mechanical apparatus. This
agent is electricity."
"Electricity?" I cried in surprise.
"Nevertheless, Captain, you possess an extreme
rapidity of movement, which does not agree well with the power of electricity. Until now,
its dynamic force has remained under restraint, and has only been able to produce a small
amount of power."
"Professor," said Captain Nemo, "my
electricity is not everybody's. You know what sea water is composed of. In a thousand
grams are found 96 1/2 per cent of water, and about 2 2/3 per cent of chloride of sodium;
then, in a smaller quantity, chlorides of magnesium and of potassium, bromide of
magnesium, sulphate of magnesia, sulphate and carbonate of lime. You see, then, that
chloride of sodium forms a large part of it. So it is this sodium that I extract from sea
water, and of which I compose my ingredients, I owe all to the ocean; it produces
electricity, and electricity gives heat, light, motion, and, in a word, life to the Nautilus."
"But not the air you breathe?"
"Oh! I could manufacture the air necessary for my
consumption, but it is useless, because I go up to the surface of the water when I please.
However, if electricity does not furnish me with air to breathe, it works at least the
powerful pumps that are stored in spacious reservoirs, and which enable me to prolong at
need, and as long as I will, my stay in the depths of the sea. It gives a uniform and
unintermittent light, which the sun does not. Now look at this clock; it is electrical,
and goes with a regularity that defies the best chronometers. I have divided it into
twenty-four hours, like the Italian clocks, because for me there is neither night nor day,
sun nor moon, but only that factitious light that I take with me to the bottom of the sea.
Look! just now, it is ten o'clock in the morning."
"Another application of electricity. This dial
hanging in front of us indicates the speed of the Nautilus. An electric thread puts
it in communication with the screw, and the needle indicates the real speed. Look now we
are spinning along with a uniform speed of fifteen miles an hour."
"It is marvelous! and I see, Captain, you were right
to make use of this agent that takes the place of wind, water, and steam."
"We have not finished, M. Aronnax," said Captain
Nemo, rising; "if you will follow me, we will examine the stern of the Nautilus."
Really, I knew already the anterior part of this submarine
boat, of which this is the exact division, starting from the ship's head: the dining room,
five yards long, separated from the library by a water-tight partition; the library, five
yards long; the large drawing room, ten yards long, separated from the captain's room by a
second watertight partition; the said room, five yards in length; mine, two and a half
yards; and lastly, a reservoir of air, seven and a half yards, that extended to the bows.
Total length thirty-five yards, or one hundred five feet. The partitions had doors that
were shut hermetically by means of India-rubber instruments, and they insured the safety
of the Nautilus in case of a leak.
I followed Captain Nemo through the waist, and arrived at
the center of the boat. There was a sort of well that opened between two partitions. An
iron ladder, fastened with an iron hook to the partition, led to the upper end. I asked
the captain what the ladder was used for.
"It leads to the small boat," he said.
"What! have you a boat?" I exclaimed, in
"Of course; an excellent vessel, light and
insubmersible, that serves either as a fishing or as a pleasure boat."
"But then, when you wish to embark, you are obliged
to come to the surface of the water?"
"Not at all. This boat is attached to the upper part
of the hull of the Nautilus, and it occupies a cavity made for it. It is decked,
quite water-tight, and held together by solid bolts. This ladder leads to a manhole made
in the hull of the Nautilus, that corresponds with a similar hole made in the side
of the boat. By this double opening I get into the small vessel. They shut the one
belonging to the Nautilus, I shut the other by means of screw pressure. I undo the
bolts, and the little boat goes up to the surface of the sea with prodigious rapidity. I
then open the panel of the bridge, carefully shut till then; I mast it, hoist my sail,
take my oars, and I'm off."
"But how do you get back on board?"
"I do not come back, M. Aronnax; the Nautilus
comes to me."
"By your orders?"
"By my orders. An electric thread connects us. I
telegraph to it, and that is enough."
"Really," I said, astonished at these marvels,
"nothing can be more simple."
After having passed by the cage of the staircase that led
to the platform, I saw a cabin six feet long, in which Conseil and Ned Land, enchanted
with their repast, were devouring it with avidity. Then a door opened into a kitchen nine
feet long, situated between the large storerooms. There electricity, better than gas
itself, did all the cooking. The streams under the furnaces gave out to the sponges of
platina a heat which was regularly kept up and distributed. They also heated a distilling
apparatus, which, by evaporation, furnished excellent drinkable water. Near this kitchen
was a bathroom comfortable furnished, with hot and cold water taps.
Next to the kitchen was the berth room of the vessel,
sixteen feet long. But the door was shut, and I could not see the management of it, which
might have given me an idea of the number of men employed on board the Nautilus.
At the bottom was a fourth partition that separated this
office from the engine room. A door opened, and I found myself in the compartment where
Captain Nemo- certainly an engineer of a very high order- had arranged his locomotive
machinery. This engine room, clearly lighted, did not measure less than sixty-five feet in
length. It was divided into two parts; the first contained the materials for producing
electricity, and the second the machinery that connected it with the screw. I examined it
with great interest, in order to understand the machinery of the Nautilus.
"You see," said the captain, "I use
Bunsen's contrivances, not Ruhmkorff's. Those would not have been powerful enough.
Bunsen's are fewer in number, but strong and large, which experience proves to be the
best. The electricity produced passes forward, where it works, by electromagnets of great
size, on a system of levers and cogwheels that transmit the movement to the axle of the
screw. This one, the diameter of which is nineteen feet, and the thread twenty-three feet,
performs about a hundred twenty revolutions in a second."
"And you get then?"
"A speed of fifty miles an hour."
"I have seen the Nautilus maneuver before the Abraham
Lincoln, and I have my own ideas as to its speed. But this is not enough. We must see
where we go. We must be able to direct it to the right, to the left, above, below. How do
you get to the great depths, where you find an increasing resistance, which is rated by
hundreds of atmospheres? How do you return to the surface of the ocean? And how do you
maintain yourselves in the requisite medium? Am I asking too much?
"Not at all, Professor," replied the captain,
with some hesitation; "since you may never leave this submarine boat. Come into the
saloon, it is our usual study, and there you will learn all you want to know about the Nautilus."
Part 1 - Chapter 12
A moment after we were seated on a divan in the saloon
smoking. The captain showed me a sketch that gave the plan, section, and elevation of the Nautilus.
Then he began his description in these words:
"Here, M. Aronnax, are the several dimensions of the
boat you are in. It is an elongated cylinder with conical ends. It is very like a cigar in
shape, a shape already adopted in London in several constructions of the same sort. The
length of this cylinder, from stern to stern, is exactly 232 feet, and its maximum breadth
is 26 feet. It is not built quite like your long-voyage steamers, but its lines are
sufficiently long, and its curves prolonged enough, to allow the water to slide off
easily, and oppose no obstacle to its passage. These two dimensions enable you to obtain
by a simple calculation the surface and cubic contents of the Nautilus. Its area
measures 6,032 feet; and its contents about 1,500 cubic yards; that is to say, when
completely immersed it displaces 50,000 feet of water, or weighs 1,500 tons.
"When I made the plans for this submarine vessel, I
meant that nine tenths should be submerged; consequently it ought only to displace nine
tenths of its bulk; that is to say, only to weigh that number of tons. I ought not,
therefore, to have exceeded that weight, constructing it on the aforesaid dimensions.
"The Nautilus is composed of two hulls, one
inside, the other outside, joined by T-shaped irons, which render it very strong. Indeed,
owing to this cellular arrangement it resists like a block, as if it were solid. Its sides
cannot yield; it coheres spontaneously, and not by the closeness of its rivets; and the
homogeneity of its construction, due to the perfect union of the materials, enables it to
defy the roughest seas.
"These two hulls are composed of steel plates, whose
density is from .7 to .8 that of water. The first is not less than two inches and a half
thick, and weighs 394 tons. The second envelope, the keel, twenty inches high and ten
thick, weighs alone sixty-two tons. The engine, the ballast, the several accessories and
apparatus appendages, the partitions and bulkheads, weigh 961.62 tons. Do you follow all
"Then, when the Nautilus is afloat under these
circumstances, one tenth is out of the water. Now, if I have made reservoirs of a size
equal to this tenth, or capable of holding 150 tons, and if I fill them with water, the
boat, weighing then 1,507 tons, will be completely immersed. That would happen, Professor.
These reservoirs are in the lower parts of the Nautilus. I turn on taps and they
fill, and the vessel sinks that had just been level with the surface."
"Well Captain, but now we come to the real
difficulty. I can understand your rising to the surface; but diving below the surface,
does not your submarine contrivance encounter a pressure, and consequently undergo an
upward thrust of one atmosphere for every thirty feet of water, just about fifteen pounds
to a square inch?"
"Just so, Sir."
"Then, unless you quite fill the Nautilus, I
do not see how you can draw it down to those depths."
"Professor, you must not confound statics with
dynamics, or you will be exposed to grave errors. There is very little labor spent in
attaining the lower regions of the ocean, for all bodies have a tendency to sink. When I
wanted to find out the necessary increase of weight required to sink the Nautilus,
I had only to calculate the reduction of volume that sea water acquires according to the
"That is evident."
"Now, if water is not absolutely incompressible, it
is at least capable of very slight compression. Indeed, after the most recent calculations
this reduction is only .000436 of an atmosphere for each thirty feet of depth. If we want
to sink 3,000 feet, I should keep account of the reduction of bulk under a pressure equal
to that of a column of water of a thousand feet. The calculation is easily verified. Now,
I have supplementary reservoirs capable of holding a hundred tons. Therefore I can sink to
a considerable depth. When I wish to rise to the level of the sea, I only let off the
water, and empty all the reservoirs if I want the Nautilus to emerge from the tenth
part of her total capacity."
I had nothing to object to these reasonings.
"I admit your calculations, Captain," I replied;
"I should be wrong to dispute them since daily experience confirms them; I foresee a
real difficulty in the way."
"When you are about 1,000 feet deep, the walls of the
Nautilus bear a pressure of 100 atmospheres. If, then, just now you were to empty
the supplementary reservoirs, to lighten the vessel, and to go up to the surface, the
pumps must overcome the pressure of 100 atmospheres, which is 1,500 lbs. to a square inch.
From that a power"-
"That electricity alone can give," said the
captain, hastily. "I repeat, Sir, that the dynamic power of my engines is almost
infinite. The pumps of the Nautilus have an enormous power, as you must have
observed when their jets of water burst like a torrent upon the Abraham Lincoln.
Besides I use subsidiary reservoirs only to attain a mean depth of 750 to 1,000 fathoms,
and that with a view of managing my machines. Also, when I have a mind to visit the depths
of the ocean five or six miles below the surface, I make use of slower but not less
"What are they, Captain?"
"That involves my telling you how the Nautilus
"I am impatient to learn."
"To steer this boat to starboard or port, to turn, in
a word, following a horizontal plane, I use an ordinary rudder fixed on the back of the
sternpost, and with one wheel and some tackle to steer by. But I can also make the Nautilus
rise and sink, and sink and rise, by a vertical movement by means of two inclined planes
fastened to its sides, opposite the center of flotation, planes that move in every
direction, and that are worked by powerful levers from the interior. If the planes are
kept parallel with the boat, it moves horizontally. If slanted, the Nautilus,
according to this inclination, and under the influence of the screw, either sinks,
diagonally or rises diagonally as it suits me. And even if I wish to rise more quickly to
the surface, I ship the screw, and the pressure of the water causes the Nautilus to
rise vertically like a balloon filled with hydrogen."
"Bravo, Captain! But how can the steersman follow the
route in the middle of the waters?"
"The steersman is placed in a glazed box, that is
raised above the hull of the Nautilus, and furnished with lenses."
"Are these lenses capable of resisting such
"Perfectly. Glass, which breaks at a blow, is,
nevertheless, capable of offering considerable resistance. During some experiments of
fishing by electric light in 1864 in the northern seas, we saw plates less than a third of
an inch thick resist a pressure of sixteen atmospheres. Now, the glass that I use is not
less than thirty times thicker."
"Granted. But, after all, in order to see, the light
must exceed the darkness, and in the midst of the darkness in the water, how can you
"Behind the steersman's cage is placed a powerful
electric reflector, the rays from which light up the sea for half a mile in front."
"Ah! bravo, bravo, Captain! Now I can account for
this phosphorescence in the supposed narwhal that puzzled us so. I now ask you if the
boarding of the Nautilus and of the Scotia, that has made such a noise, has
been the result of a chance rencontre?"
"Quite accidental, Sir. I was sailing only one fathom
below the surface of the water, when the shock came. It had no bad result."
"None, Sir. But now, about your rencontre with the Abraham
"Professor, I am sorry for one of the best vessels in
the American navy; but they attacked me, and I was bound to defend myself. I contented
myself, however, with putting the frigate hors de combat; she will not have any
difficulty in getting repaired at the next port."
"Ah, Commander! your Nautilus is certainly a
"Yes, Professor; and I love it as if it were part of
myself. If danger threatens one of your vessels on the ocean, the first impression is the
feeling of an abyss above and below. On the Nautilus men's hearts never fail them.
No defects to be afraid of, for the double shell is as firm as iron; no rigging to attend
to; no sails for the wind to carry away; no boilers to burst; no fire to fear, for the
vessel is made of iron, not of wood; no coal to run short, for electricity is the only
mechanical agent; no collision to fear, for it alone swims in deep water; no tempest to
brave, for when it dives below the water, it reaches absolute tranquility. There, Sir!
that is the perfection of vessels! And if it is true that the engineer has more confidence
in the vessel than the builder, and the builder than the captain himself, you understand
the trust I repose in my Nautilus; for I am at once, captain, builder, and
"But how could you construct this wonderful Nautilus
"Each separate portion, M. Aronnax, was brought from
different parts of the globe. The keel was forged at Creusot, the shaft of the screw at
Penn & Co.'s, London, the iron plates of the hull at Laird's of Liverpool, the screw
itself at Scott's at Glasgow. The reservoirs were made by Cail & Co. at Paris, the
engine by Krupp in Prussia, its beak in Motala's workshop in Sweden, its mathematical
instruments by Hart Brothers, of New York, etc.; and each of these people had my orders
under different names."
"But these parts had to be put together and
"Professor, I had set up my workshops upon a desert
island in the ocean. There my workmen, that is to say, the brave men that I instructed and
educated, and myself have put together our Nautilus. Then, when the work was
finished, fire destroyed all trace of our proceedings on this island, that I could have
jumped over if I had liked."
"Then the cost of this vessel is great?"
"M. Aronnax, an iron vessel costs £45 a ton. Now the
Nautilus weighed 1,500. It came therefore to £67,500, and £80,000 more for
fitting it and about £200,000 with the works of art and the collections it
"One last question, Captain Nemo."
"Ask it, Professor."
"You are rich?"
"Immensely rich, Sir; and I could, without missing
it, pay the national debt of France."
I stared at the singular person: who spoke thus. Was he
playing upon my credulity? The future would decide that.