Part 1 - Chapter 13
The Black River
The portion of the terrestrial globe which is covered by
water is estimated at upwards of eighty millions of acres. This fluid mass comprises two
billions two hundred fifty millions of cubic miles, forming a spherical body of a diameter
of sixty leagues, the weight of which would be three quintillions of tons. To comprehend
the meaning of these figures, it is necessary to observe that a quintillion is to a
billion as a billion is to unity; in other words, there are as many billions in a
quintillion as there are units in a billion. This mass of fluid is equal to about the
quantity of water which would be discharged by all the rivers of the earth in forty
During the geological epochs, the igneous period succeeded
to the aqueous. The ocean originally prevailed everywhere. Then by degrees, in the
silurian period, the tops of the mountains began to appear, the islands emerged, then
disappeared in partial deluges, reappeared, became settled, formed continents, till at
length the earth became geographically arranged, as we see in the present day. The solid
had wrested from the liquid thirty-seven million six hundred fifty-seven square miles,
equal to twelve billions nine hundred sixty millions of acres.
The shape of continents allows us to divide the waters
into five great portions: the Arctic or Frozen Ocean, the Antarctic or Frozen Ocean, the
Indian, the Atlantic, and the Pacific Oceans.
The Pacific Ocean extends from north to south between the
two polar circles, and from east to west between Asia and America, over an extent of 145
degrees of longitude. It is the quietest of seas; its currents are broad and slow; it has
medium tides, and abundant rain. Such was the ocean that my fate destined me first to
travel over under these strange conditions.
"Sir," said Captain Nemo, "we will, if you
please, take our bearings and fix the starting point of this voyage. It is a quarter to
twelve, I will go up again to the surface."
The Captain pressed an electric clock three times. The
pumps began to drive the water from the tanks; the needle of the manometer marked by a
different pressure the ascent of the Nautilus, then it stopped.
"We have arrived," said the Captain.
I went to the central staircase which opened on to the
platform, clambered up the iron steps, and found myself on the upper part of the Nautilus.
The platform was only three feet out of water. The front
and back of the Nautilus were of that spindle shape which caused it justly to be
compared to a cigar. I noticed that its iron plates, slightly overlaying one another,
resembled the shell which clothes the bodies of our large terrestrial reptiles. It
explained to me how natural it was, in spite of all glasses, that this boat should have
been taken for a marine animal.
Toward the middle of the platform, the longboat, half
buried in the hull of the vessel, formed a slight excrescence. Fore and aft rose two cages
of medium height with inclined sides, and partly closed by thick lenticular glasses; one
destined for the steersman who directed the Nautilus the other containing a
brilliant lantern to give light on the road.
The sea was beautiful, the sky pure. Scarcely could the
long vehicle feel the broad undulations of the ocean. A light breeze from the east rippled
the surface of the waters. The horizon, free from fog, made observation easy. Nothing was
in sight. Not a quicksand, not an island. A vast desert.
Captain Nemo, by the help of his sextant, took the
altitude of the sun, which ought also to give the latitude. He waited for some moments
till its disc touched the horizon. While taking observations, not a muscle moved, the
instrument could not have been more motionless in a hand of marble.
"Twelve o'clock, sir," said he. "When you
I cast a last look upon the sea, slightly yellowed by the
Japanese coast, and descended to the saloon.
"And now, sir, I leave you to your studies,"
added the captain; "our course is E.N.E., our depth is twenty-six fathoms. Here are
maps on a large scale by which you may follow it. The saloon is at your disposal, and with
your permission I will retire." Captain Nemo bowed, and I remained alone, lost in
thoughts all bearing on the commander of the Nautilus.
For a whole hour was I deep in these reflections, seeking
to pierce this mystery so interesting to me. Then my eyes fell upon the vast planisphere
spread upon the table, and I placed my finger on the very spot where the given latitude
and longitude crossed.
The sea has its large rivers like the continents. They are
special currents known by their temperature and their color. The most remarkable of these
is known by the name of the Gulf Stream. Science has decided on the globe the direction of
five principal currents: one in the North Atlantic, a second in the South, a third in the
North Pacific, a fourth in the South, and a fifth in the southern Indian Ocean. It is even
probable that a sixth current existed at one time or another in the northern Indian Ocean,
when the Caspian and Aral seas formed but one vast sheet of water.
At this point indicated on the planisphere, one of these
currents was rolling the Kuro-Scivo of the Japanese, the Black River which, leaving the
Gulf of Bengal where it is warmed by the perpendicular rays of a tropical sun, crosses the
Straits of Malacca along the coast of Asia, turns into the North Pacific to the Aleutian
Islands, carrying with it trunks of camphor trees and other indigenous productions, and
edging the waves of the ocean with the pure indigo of its warm water. It was this current
that the Nautilus was to follow. I followed it with my eye; saw it lose itself in
the vastness of the Pacific, and felt myself drawn with it, when Ned Land and Conseil
appeared at the door of the saloon.
My two brave companions remained petrified at the sight of
the wonders spread before them.
"Where are we, where are we?" exclaimed the
Canadian. "In the Museum at Quebec?"
"My friends," I answered, making a sign for them
to enter, "you are not in Canada, but on board the Nautilus fifty yards below
the level of the sea."
"But, M. Aronnax," said Ned Land, "can you
tell me how many men there are on board? Ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred?"
"I cannot answer you, Mr. Land; it is better to
abandon for a time all idea of seizing the Nautilus or escaping from it. This ship
is a masterpiece of modern industry, and I should be sorry not to have seen it. Many
people would accept the situation forced upon us, if only to move among such wonders. So
be quiet and let us try and see what passes around us."
"See!" exclaimed the harpooner, "but we can
see nothing in this iron prison! We are walking, we are sailing blindly."
Ned Land had scarcely pronounced these words when all was
suddenly darkness. The luminous ceiling was gone, and so rapidly that my eyes received a
We remained mute, not stirring, and not knowing what
surprise awaited us, whether agreeable or disagreeable. A sliding noise was heard: one
would have said that panels were working at the sides of the Nautilus.
"It is the end of the end!" said Ned land.
Suddenly light broke at each side of the saloon, through
two oblong openings. The liquid mass appeared vividly lit up by the electric gleam. Two
crystal plates separated us from the sea. At first I trembled at the thought that this
frail partition might break, but strong bands of copper bound them, giving an almost
infinite power of resistance.
The sea was distinctly visible for a mile all round the Nautilus.
What a spectacle! What pen can describe it? Who could paint the effects of the light
through those transparent sheets of water, and the softness of the successive gradations
from the lower to the superior strata of the ocean?
We know the transparency of the sea, and that its
clearness is far beyond that of rock water. The mineral and organic substances, which it
holds in suspension, heightens its transparency. In certain parts of the ocean at the
Antilles, under seventy-five fathoms of water, can be seen with surprising clearness a bed
of sand. The penetrating power of the solar rays does not seem to cease for a depth of one
hundred fifty fathoms. But in this middle fluid traveled over by the Nautilus, the
electric brightness was produced even in the bosom of the waves. It was no longer luminous
water, but liquid light.
On each side a window opened into this unexplored abyss.
The obscurity of the saloon showed to advantage the brightness outside, and we looked out
as if this pure crystal had been the glass of an immense aquarium.
"You wished to see, friend Ned; well, you see
"Curious! curious!" muttered the Canadian, who,
forgetting his ill temper, seemed to submit to some irresistible attraction; "and one
would come farther than this to admire such a sight!"
"Ah!" thought I to myself, "I understand
the life of this man; he has made a world apart for himself, in which he treasures all his
For two whole hours an aquatic army escorted the Nautilus.
During their games, their bounds, while rivaling one another in beauty, brightness, and
velocity, I distinguished the green labre; the banded mullet, marked by a double line of
black; the round-tailed goby, of a white color, with violet spots on the back; the
Japanese scombrus, a beautiful mackerel of these seas, with a blue, body and silvery head;
the brilliant azurors, whose name alone defies description; some banded spares, with
variegated fins of blue and yellow; some aclostons, the woodcocks of the seas, some
specimens of which attain a yard in length; Japanese salamanders, spider lampreys,
serpents six feet long, with eyes small and lively, and a huge mouth bristling with teeth;
with many other species.
Our imagination was kept at its height, interjections
followed quickly on one another. Ned named the fish, and Conseil classed them. I was in
ecstasies with the vivacity of their movements and the beauty of their forms. Never had it
been given to me to surprise these animals, alive and at liberty, in their natural
element. I will not mention all the varieties which passed before my dazzled eyes, all the
collection of the seas of China and Japan. These fish, more numerous than the birds of the
air, came, attracted, no doubt, by the brilliant focus of the electric light.
Suddenly there was daylight in the saloon, the iron panels
closed again, and the enchanting vision disappeared. But for a long time I dreamt on till
my eyes fell on the instruments hanging on the partition. The compass still showed the
course to be E.N.E., the manometer indicated a pressure of five atmospheres, equivalent to
a depth of twenty-five fathoms, and the electric log gave a speed of fifteen miles an
hour. I expected Captain Nemo, but he did not appear. The clock marked the hour of five.
Ned Land and Conseil returned to their cabin, and I
retired to my chamber. My dinner was ready. It was composed of turtle soup made of the
most delicate hawks-bills, of a surmullet served with puff paste (the liver of which,
prepared by itself, was most delicious), and fillets of the emperor-holacanthus, the savor
of which seemed to me superior even to salmon.
I passed the evening reading, writing, and thinking. Then
sleep overpowered me, and I stretched myself on my couch of zostera, and slept profoundly,
while the Nautilus was gliding rapidly through the current of the Black River.
Part 1 - Chapter 14
A Note of Invitation
The next day was November 9. I awoke after a long sleep of
twelve hours. Conseil came, according to custom, to know "how I had passed the
night," and to offer his services. He had left his friend the Canadian sleeping like
a man who had never done anything else all his life. I let the worthy fellow chatter as he
pleased, without caring to answer him. I was preoccupied by the absence of the captain
during our sitting of the day before, and hoping to see him today.
As soon as I was dressed, I went into the saloon. It was
I plunged into the study of the conchological treasures
hidden behind the glasses. I reveled also in great herbals filled with the rarest marine
plants, which, although dried up, retained their lovely colors. Among these precious
hydrophytes I remarked some vorticellae, pavonariae, delicate ceramies with scarlet tints,
some fan-shaped agari, and some natabuli like flat mushrooms, which at one time used to be
classed as zoophytes; in short, a perfect series of algae.
The whole day passed without my being honored by a visit
from Captain Nemo. The panels of the saloon did not open. Perhaps they did not wish us to
tire of these beautiful things.
The course of the Nautilus was E.N.E., her speed
twelve knots, the depth below the surface between twenty-five and thirty fathoms.
The next day, November 10, the same desertion, the same
solitude. I did not see one of the ship's crew. Ned and Conseil spent the greater part of
the day with me. They were astonished at the inexplicable absence of the captain. Was this
singular man ill? Had he altered his intentions with regard to us?
After all, as Conseil said, we enjoyed perfect liberty, we
were delicately and abundantly fed. Our host kept to his terms of the treaty. We could not
complain, and, indeed, the singularity of our fate reserved such wonderful compensation
for us, that we had no right to accuse it as yet.
That day I commenced the journal of these adventures which
has enabled me to relate them with more scrupulous exactitude and minute detail. I wrote
it on paper made from the zosteria marina.
November 11, early in the morning. The fresh air spreading
over the interior of the Nautilus told me that we had come to the surface of the
ocean to renew our supply of oxygen. I directed my steps to the central staircase, and
mounted the platform.
It was six o'clock, the weather was cloudy, the sea gray
but calm. Scarcely a billow. Captain Nemo, whom I hoped to meet, would he be there? I saw
no one but the steersman imprisoned in his glass cage. Seated upon the projection formed
by the hull of the pinnace, I inhaled the salt breeze with delight.
By degrees the fog disappeared under the action of the
sun's rays, the radiant orb rose from behind the eastern horizon. The sea flamed under its
glance like a train of gunpowder. The clouds scattered in the heights were colored with
lively tints of beautiful shades, and numerous "mare's tails," which betokened
wind for that day. But what was wind to this Nautilus which tempests could not
I was admiring this joyous rising of the sun, so gay and
so life-giving, when I heard steps approaching the platform. I was prepared to salute
Captain Nemo, but it was his second (whom I had already seen on the captain's first visit)
who appeared. He advanced on the platform not seeming to see me. With his powerful glass
to his eye he scanned every point of the horizon with great attention. This examination
over, he approached the panel and pronounced a sentence in exactly these terms. I have
remembered it, for every morning it was repeated under exactly the same conditions. It was
"Nautron respoc lorni virch."
What it meant, I could not say.
These words pronounced, the second descended. I thought
that the Nautilus was about to return to its submarine navigation. I regained the
panel and returned to my chamber.
Five days sped thus, without any change in our situation.
Every morning I mounted the platform. The same phrase was pronounced by the same
individual. But Captain Nemo did not appear.
I had made up my mind that I should never see him again,
when, on November 16, on returning to my room with Ned and Conseil, I found upon my table
a note addressed to me. I opened it impatiently. It was written in a bold, clear hand, the
characters rather pointed, recalling the German type. The note was worded as follows:
"TO PROFESSOR ARONNAX, on board the Nautilus.
"16th of November 1867.
"Captain Nemo invites Professor Aronnax to
a hunting party, which will take place tomorrow morning in the forests of the Island of
Crespo. He hopes that nothing will prevent the Professor from being present, and he will
with pleasure see him joined by his companions.
"CAPTAIN NEMO, Commander of the Nautilus."
"A hunt!" exclaimed Ned.
"And in the forests of the Island of Crespo!"
"Oh! then the gentleman is going on terra firma?"
replied Ned Land.
"That seems to me to be clearly indicated," said
I, reading the letter once more.
"Well, we must accept," said the Canadian.
"But once more on dry ground, we shall know what to do. Indeed, I shall not be sorry
to eat a piece of fresh venison."
Without seeking to reconcile what was contradictory
between Captain Nemo's manifest aversion to islands and continents, and his invitation to
hunt in a forest, I contented myself with replying:
"Let us first see where the Island of Crespo
I consulted the planisphere, and in 32° 40' north
latitude, and 157° 50' west longitude, I found a small island, recognized in 1801 by
Captain Crespo, and marked in the ancient Spanish maps as Rocca de la Plata, the meaning
of which is "The Silver Rock." We were then about eighteen hundred miles from
our starting point, and the course of the Nautilus, a little changed, was bringing
it back toward the southeast.
I showed this little rock lost in the midst of the North
Pacific to my companions.
"If Captain Nemo does sometimes go on dry
ground," said I, "he at least chooses desert islands."
Ned Land shrugged his shoulders without speaking, and
Conseil and he left me.
After supper, which was served by the steward, mute and
impassive, I went to bed, not without some anxiety.
The next morning, November 17, on awakening I felt that
the Nautilus was perfectly still. I dressed quickly and entered the saloon.
Captain Nemo was there, waiting for me. He rose, bowed,
and asked me if it was convenient for me to accompany him. As he made no allusion to his
absence during the last eight days, I did not mention it, and simply answered that my
companions and myself were ready to follow him.
We entered the dining room, where breakfast was served.
"M. Aronnax," said the captain, "pray,
share my breakfast without ceremony; we will chat as we eat. For though I promised you a
walk in the forest, I did not undertake to find hotels there. So breakfast as a man who
will most likely not have his dinner till very late."
I did honor to the repast. It was composed of several
kinds of fish, and slices of holothuridae (excellent zoophytes), and different sorts of
seaweed. Our drink consisted of pure water, to which the captain added some drops of a
fermented liquor, extracted by the Kamchatka method from a seaweed known under the name of
Rhodomenia palmata. Captain Nemo ate at first without saying a word. Then he began:
"Sir, when I proposed to you to hunt in my submarine
forest of Crespo, you evidently thought me mad. Sir, you should never judge lightly of any
"But, Captain, believe me"-
"Be kind enough to listen, and you will then see
whether you have any cause to accuse me of folly and contradiction."
"You know as well as I do, Professor, that man can
live under water, providing he carries with him a sufficient supply of breathable air. In
submarine works, the workman, clad in an impervious dress, with his head in a metal
helmet, receives air from above by means of forcing pumps and regulators."
"That is a diving apparatus," said I.
"Just so, but under these conditions the man is not
at liberty; he is attached to the pump which sends him air through an India-rubber tube,
and if we were obliged to be thus held to the Nautilus, we could not go far."
"And the means of getting free?" I asked.
"It is to use the Rouquayrol apparatus, invented by
two of your own countrymen, which I have brought to perfection for my own use, and which
will allow you to risk yourself under these new physiological conditions, without any
organ whatever suffering. It consists of a reservoir of thick iron plates, in which I
store the air under a pressure of fifty atmospheres. This reservoir is fixed on the back
by means of braces, like a soldier's knapsack. Its upper part forms a box in which the air
is kept by means of a bellows, and therefore cannot escape unless at its normal tension.
In the Rouquayrol apparatus such as we use, two India-rubber pipes leave this box and join
a sort of tent which holds the nose and mouth; one is to introduce fresh air, the other to
let out the foul, and the tongue closes one or the other according to the wants of the
respirator. But I, in encountering great pressure at the bottom of the sea, was obliged to
shut my head, like that of a diver, in a ball of copper; and it is to this ball of copper
that the two pipes, the inspirator and the expirator, open."
"Perfectly, Captain Nemo; but the air that you carry
with you must soon be used; when it only contains fifteen per cent of oxygen, it is no
longer fit to breathe."
"Right! but I told you, M. Aronnax, that the pumps of
the Nautilus allow me to store the air under considerable pressure, and on those
conditions, the reservoir of the apparatus can furnish breathable air for nine or ten
"I have no further objections to make," I
answered; "I will only ask you one thing, Captain: how can you light your road at the
bottom of the sea?"
"With the Ruhmkorff apparatus, M. Aronnax; one is
carried on the back, the other is fastened to the waist. It is composed of a Bunsen pile,
which I do not work with bichromate of potash, but with sodium. A wire is introduced which
collects the electricity produced, and directs it toward a particularly made lantern. In
this lantern is a spiral glass which contains a small quantity of carbonic gas. When the
apparatus is at work, this gas becomes luminous, giving out a white and continuous light.
Thus provided, I can breathe and I can see."
"Captain Nemo, to all my objections you make such
crushing answers, that I dare no longer doubt. But if I am forced to admit the Rouquayrol
and Ruhmkorff apparatus, I must be allowed some reservations with regard to the gun I am
"But it is not a gun for powder," answered the
"Then it is an air gun."
"Doubtless! How would you have me manufacture
gunpowder on board, without either saltpeter, sulphur, or charcoal?"
"Besides," I added, "to fire under water in
a medium eight hundred fifty-five times denser than the air, we must conquer very
"That would be no difficulty. There exist guns,
according to Fulton, perfected in England by Philip. Coles and Burley, in France by Furcy,
and in Italy by Landi, which are furnished with a peculiar system of closing, which can
fire under these conditions. But I repeat, having no powder, I use air under great
pressure, which the pumps of the Nautilus furnish abundantly."
"But this air must be rapidly used?"
"Well, have I not my Rouquayrol reservoir, which can
furnish it at need? A tap is all that is required. Besides, M. Aronnax, you must see
yourself that, during our submarine hunt, we can spend but little air and but few
"But it seems to me that in this twilight, and in the
midst of this fluid, which is very dense compared with the atmosphere, shots could not go
far, nor easily prove mortal."
"Sir, on the contrary, with this gun every blow is
mortal; and however lightly the animal is touched, it falls as if struck by a
"Because the balls sent by this gun are not ordinary
balls, but little cases of glass (invented by Leniebroek, an Austrian chemist), of which I
have a large supply. These glass cases are covered with a case of steel, and weighted with
a pellet of lead; they are real Leyden bottles, into which the electricity is forced to a
very high tension. With the slightest shock they are discharged, and the animal, however
strong it may be, falls dead. I must tell you that these cases are size number four, and
that the charge for an ordinary gun would be ten."
"I will argue no longer," I replied, rising from
the table; "I have nothing left me but to take my gun. At all events, I will go where
Captain Nemo then led me aft; and in passing before Ned
and Conseil's cabin, I called my two companions, who followed immediately. We then came to
a kind of cell near the machinery room, in which we were to put on our walking suits.
Part 1 - Chapter 15
A Walk on the Bottom of the Sea
This cell was, to speak correctly, the arsenal and
wardrobe of the Nautilus. A dozen diving apparatus hung from the partition waiting
Ned Land, on seeing them, showed evident repugnance to
dress himself in one.
"But, my worthy Ned, the forests of the Island of
Crespo are nothing but submarine forests."
"Good!" said the disappointed harpooner, who saw
his dreams of fresh meat fade away. "And you, M. Aronnax, are you going to dress
yourself in those clothes?"
"There is no alternative, Master Ned."
"As you please, sir," replied the harpooner,
shrugging his shoulders; "but as for me, unless I am forced, I will never get into
"No one will force you, Master Ned," said
"Is Conseil going to risk it?" asked Ned.
"I follow my master wherever he goes," replied
At the captain's call two of the ship's crew came to help
us to dress in these heavy and impervious clothes, made of India rubber without seam, and
constructed expressly to resist considerable pressure. One would have thought it a suit of
armor, both supple and resisting. This suit formed trousers and waistcoat. The trousers
were finished off with thick boots, weighted with heavy leaden soles. The texture of the
waistcoat was held together by bands of copper, which crossed the chest, protecting it
from the great pressure of the water, and leaving the lungs free to act; the sleeves ended
in gloves, which in no way restrained the movement of the hands. There was a vast
difference noticeable between these consummate apparatus and the old cork breastplates,
jackets, and other contrivances in vogue during the eighteenth century.
Captain Nemo and one of his companions (a sort of
Hercules, who must have possessed great strength), Conseil, and myself, were soon
enveloped in the suits. There remained nothing more to be done but to inclose our heads in
the metal box. But before proceeding to this operation, I asked the captain's permission
to examine the guns we were to carry.
One of the Nautilus men gave me a simple gun, the
butt end of which, made of steel, hollow in the center, was rather large. It served as a
reservoir for compressed air, which a valve, worked by a spring, allowed to escape into a
metal tube. A box of projectiles, in a groove in the thickness of the butt end, contained
about twenty of these electric balls, which, by means of a spring, were forced into the
barrel of the gun. As soon as one shot was fired, another was ready.
"Captain Nemo," said I, "this arm is
perfect, and easily handled; I only ask to be allowed to try it. But how shall we gain the
bottom of the sea?"
"At this moment, Professor, the Nautilus is
stranded in five fathoms, and we have nothing to do but to start."
"But how shall we get off?"
"You shall see."
Captain Nemo thrust his head into the helmet, Conseil and
I did the same, not without hearing an ironical, "Good sport!" from the
Canadian. The upper part of our suit terminated in a copper collar, upon which was screwed
the metal helmet. Three holes, protected by thick glass, allowed us to see in all
directions, by simply turning our head in the interior of the headdress. As soon as it was
in position, the Rouquayrol apparatus on our backs began to act; and, for my part, I could
breathe with ease.
With the Ruhmkorff lamp hanging from my belt, and the gun
in my hand, I was ready to set out. But to speak the truth, imprisoned in these heavy
garments, and glued to the deck by my leaden soles, it was impossible for me to take a
But this state of things was provided for. I felt myself
being pushed into a little room contiguous to the wardrobe room. My companions followed,
towed along in the same way. I heard a water-tight door, furnished with stopper plates,
close upon us, and we were wrapped in profound darkness.
After some minutes, a loud hissing was heard. I felt the
cold mount from my feet to my chest. Evidently from some part of the vessel they had, by
means of a tap, given entrance to the water, which was invading us, and with which the
room was soon filled. A second door cut in the side of the Nautilus then opened. We
saw a faint light. In another instant our feet trod the bottom of the sea.
And now, how can I retrace the impression left upon me by
that walk under the waters? Words are impotent to relate such wonders! Captain Nemo walked
in front; his companion followed some steps behind. Conseil and I remained near each
other, as if an exchange of words had been possible through our metallic cases. I no
longer felt the weight of my clothing or of my shoes, of my reservoir of air or my thick
helmet, in the midst of which my head rattled like an almond in its shell.
The light, which lit the soil thirty feet below the
surface of the ocean, astonished me by its power. The solar rays shone through the watery
mass easily, and dissipated all color, and I clearly distinguished objects at a distance
of a hundred fifty yards. Beyond that, the tints darkened into fine gradations of
ultramarine, and faded into vague obscurity. Truly this water which surrounded me was but
another air denser than the terrestrial atmosphere, but almost as transparent. Above me
was the calm surface of the sea. We were walking on fine, even sand, not wrinkled, as on a
flat shore, which retains the impression of the billows. This dazzling carpet, really a
reflector, repelled the rays of the sun with wonderful intensity, which accounted for the
vibration which penetrated every atom of liquid. Shall I be believed when I say that, at
the depth of thirty feet, I could see as if I was in broad daylight?
For a quarter of an hour I trod on this sand, sown with
the impalpable dust of shells. The hull of the Nautilus, resembling a long shoal,
disappeared by degrees; but its lantern, when darkness should overtake us in the waters,
would help to guide us on board by its distinct rays.
Soon forms of objects outlined in the distance were
discernible. I recognized magnificent rocks, hung with a tapestry of zoophytes of the most
beautiful kind, and I was at first struck by the peculiar effect of this medium.
It was then ten in the morning; the rays of the sun struck
the surface of the waves at rather an oblique angle, and at the touch of their light,
decomposed by refraction as through a prism, flowers, rocks, plants, shells, and polypi
were shaded at the edges by the seven solar colors. It was marvelous, a feast for the
eyes, this complication of colored tints, a perfect kaleidoscope of green, yellow, orange,
violet, indigo, and blue; in one word, the whole palette of an enthusiastic colorist! Why
could I not communicate to Conseil the lively sensations which were mounting to my brain,
and rival him in expressions of admiration? For aught I knew, Captain Nemo and his
companion might be able to exchange thoughts by means of signs previously agreed upon. So,
for want of better, I talked to myself; I declaimed in the copper box which covered my
head, thereby expending more air in vain words than was perhaps expedient.
Various kinds of isis, clusters of pure tuft coral,
prickly fungi, and anemones, formed a brilliant garden of flowers, enameled with
porphitae, decked with their collarettes of blue tentacles, sea stars studding the sandy
bottom, together with asterophytons like fine lace embroidered by the hands of naiads,
whose festoons were waved by the gentle undulations caused by our walk. It was a real
grief to me to crush under my feet the brilliant specimens of mollusks which strewed the
ground by thousands, of hammerheads, donaciae (veritable bounding shells), of staircases,
and red helmet shells, angel wings, and many others produced by this inexhaustible ocean.
But we were bound to walk, so we went on, while above our heads waved shoals of physalides
leaving their tentacles to float in their train, medusae whose umbrellas of opal or rose
pink, escalloped with a band of blue, sheltered us from the rays of the sun and fiery
pelagiae, which, in the darkness, would have strewn our path with phosphorescent light.
All these wonders I saw in the space of a quarter of a
mile, scarcely stopping, and following Captain Nemo, who beckoned me on by signs. Soon the
nature of the soil changed; to the sandy plain succeeded an extent of slimy mud, which the
Americans call ooze, composed of equal parts of siliceous and calcareous shells. We then
traveled over a plain of seaweed of wild and luxuriant vegetation. This sward was of close
texture, and soft to the feet, and rivaled the softest carpet woven by the hand of man.
But while verdure was spread at our feet, it did not abandon our heads. A light network of
marine plants, of that inexhaustible family of seaweeds of which more than two thousand
kinds are known, grew on the surface of the water. I saw long ribbons of fucus floating,
some globular, others tuberous; laurenciae and cladostephi of most delicate foliage, and
some rhodymeniae palmatae, resembling the fan of a cactus. I noticed that the green plants
kept nearer the top of the sea, while the red were at a greater depth, leaving to the
black or brown hydrophytes the care of forming gardens and parterres in the remote beds of
We had quitted the Nautilus about an hour and a
half. It was near noon; I knew by the perpendicularity of the sun's rays, which were no
longer refracted. The magical colors disappeared by degrees, and the shades of emerald and
sapphire were effaced. We walked with a regular step, which rang upon the ground with
astonishing intensity; the slightest noise was transmitted with a quickness to which the
ear is unaccustomed on the earth; indeed, water is a better conductor of sound than air,
in the ratio of four to one. At this period the earth sloped downward; the light took a
uniform tint. We were at a depth of a hundred five yards and twenty inches, undergoing a
pressure of six atmospheres.
At this depth I could still see the rays of the sun,
though feebly; to their intense brilliancy had succeeded a reddish twilight, the lowest
state between day and night; but we could still see well enough; it was not necessary to
resort to the Ruhmkorff apparatus as yet. At this moment Captain Nemo stopped; he waited
till I joined him, and then pointed to an obscure mass, looming in the shadow, at a short
"It is the forest of the Island of Crespo,"
thought I- and I was not mistaken.
Part 1 - Chapter 16
A Submarine Forest
We had at last arrived on the borders of this forest,
doubtless one of the finest of Captain Nemo's immense domains. He looked upon it as his
own, and considered he had the same right over it that the first men had in the first days
of the world. And, indeed, who would have disputed with him the possession of this
submarine property? What other hardier pioneer would come, hatchet in hand, to cut down
the dark copses?
This forest was composed of large tree plants; and, the
moment we penetrated under its vast arcades, I was struck by the singular position of
their branches- a position I had not yet observed.
Not an herb which carpeted the ground, not a branch which
clothed the trees, was either broken or bent, nor did they extend horizontally; all
stretched up to the surface of the ocean. Not a filament, not a ribbon, however thin they
might be, but kept as straight as a rod of iron. The fuci and llianas grew in rigid
perpendicular lines, due to the density of the element which had produced them.
Motionless, yet, when bent to one side by the hand, they directly resumed their former
position. Truly it was the region of perpendicularity!
I soon accustomed myself to this fantastic position, as
well as to the comparative darkness which surrounded us. The soil of the forest seemed
covered with sharp blocks, difficult to avoid. The submarine flora struck me as being very
perfect, and richer even than it would have been in the arctic or tropical zones, where
these productions are not so plentiful. But for some minutes I involuntarily confounded
the genera, taking zoophytes for hydrophtyes, animals for plants; and who would not have
been mistaken? The fauna and the flora are too closely allied in this submarine world.
These plants are self-propagated, and the principle of
their existence is in the water, which upholds and nourishes them. The greater number,
instead of leaves, shoot forth blades of capricious shapes, comprised within a scale of
colors- pink, carmine, green, olive, fawn, and brown. I saw there (but not dried up, as
our specimens of the Nautilus are) pavonari spread like a fan, as if to catch the
breeze; scarlet ceramies, whose laminaries extended their edible shoots of fern-shaped
nereocysti, which grow to a height of fifteen feet; clusters of acetabuli, whose stems
increase in size upward; and numbers of other marine plants, all devoid of flowers!
"Curious anomaly, fantastic element!" said an
ingenious naturalist, "in which the animal kingdom blossoms, and the vegetable does
Under these numerous shrubs (as large trees of the
temperate zone), and under their damp shadow, were massed together real bushes of living
flowers, hedges of zoophytes, on which blossomed some zebrameandrines, with crooked
grooves, some yellow caryophylliae; and, to complete the illusion, the fish flies flew
from branch to branch like a swarm of humming birds, while yellow lepisacomthi, with
bristling jaws, dactylopteri, and monocentrides rose at our feet like a flight of snipes.
In about an hour Captain Nemo gave the signal to halt. I,
for my part, was not sorry, and we stretched ourselves under an arbor of alariae, the
long, thin blades of which stood up like arrows.
This short rest seemed delicious to me; there was nothing
wanting but the charm of conversation; but, impossible to speak, impossible to answer, I
only put my great copper head to Conseil's. I saw the worthy fellow's eyes glistening with
delight, and, to show his satisfaction, he shook himself in his breastplate of air, in the
most comical way in the world.
After four hours of this walking, I was surprised not to
find myself dreadfully hungry. How to account for this state of the stomach I could not
tell. But, instead, I felt an insurmountable desire to sleep, which happens to all divers.
And my eyes soon closed behind the thick glasses, and I fell into a heavy slumber, which
the movement alone had prevented before. Captain Nemo and his robust companion, stretched
in the clear crystal, set us the example.
How long I remained buried in this drowsiness, I cannot
judge; but when I woke, the sun seemed sinking toward the horizon. Captain Nemo had
already risen, and I was beginning to stretch my limbs, when an unexpected apparition
brought me briskly to my feet.
A few steps off, a monstrous sea spider, about
thirty-eight inches high, was watching me with squinting eyes, ready to spring upon me.
Though my diver's dress was thick enough to defend me from the bite of this animal, I
could not help shuddering with horror. Conseil and the sailor of the Nautilus awoke
at this moment. Captain Nemo pointed out the hideous crustacean, which a blow from the
butt end of the gun knocked over, and I saw the horrible claws of the monster writhe in
terrible convulsions. This accident reminded me that other animals more to be feared might
haunt these obscure depths, against whose attacks my diving dress would not protect me. I
had never thought of it before, but I now resolved to be upon my guard. Indeed, I thought
that this halt would mark the termination of our walk; but I was mistaken, for, instead of
returning to the Nautilus, Captain Nemo continued his bold excursion. The ground
was still on the incline, its declivity seemed to be getting greater, and to be leading us
to greater depths. It must have been about three o'clock when we reached a narrow valley,
between high perpendicular walls, situated about seventy-five fathoms deep. Thanks to the
perfection of our apparatus, we were forty-five fathoms below the limit which nature seems
to have imposed on man as to his submarine excursions.
I say seventy-five fathoms, though I had no instrument by
which to judge the distance. But I knew that even in the clearest waters the solar rays
could not penetrate farther. And accordingly the darkness deepened. At ten paces not an
object was visible. I was groping my way, when I suddenly saw a brilliant white light.
Captain Nemo had just put his electric apparatus into use; his companion did the same, and
Conseil and I followed their example. By turning a screw, I established a communication
between the wire and the spiral glass, and the sea, lit by our four lanterns, was
illuminated for a circle of thirty-six yards.
Captain Nemo was still plunging into the dark depths of
the forest, whose trees were getting scarcer at every step. I noticed that vegetable life
disappeared sooner than animal life. The medusae had already abandoned the arid soil, from
which great number of animals, zoophytes, articulata, mollusks, and fishes, still obtained
As we walked, I thought the light of our Ruhmkorff
apparatus could not fail to draw some inhabitant from its dark couch. But if they did
approach us, they at least kept at a respectful distance from the hunters. Several times I
saw Captain Nemo stop, put his gun to his shoulder, and after some moments drop it and
walk on. At last, after about four hours, this marvelous excursion came to an end. A wall
of superb rocks, in an imposing mass, rose before us, a heap of gigantic blocks, an
enormous, steep, granite short, forming dark grottoes, but which presented no practicable
slope; it was the prop of the Island of Crespo. It was the earth! Captain Nemo stopped
suddenly. A gesture of his brought us all to a halt; and however desirous I might be to
scale the wall, I was obliged to stop. Here ended Captain Nemo's domains. And he would not
go beyond them. Farther on was a portion of the globe he might not trample upon.
The return began. Captain Nemo had returned to the head of
his little band, directing their course without hesitation. I thought we were not
following the same road to return to the Nautilus. The new road was very steep, and
consequently very painful. We approached the surface of the sea rapidly. But this return
to the upper strata was not so sudden as to cause relief from the pressure too rapidly,
which might have produced serious disorder in our organization, and brought on internal
lesions, so fatal to divers. Very soon light reappeared and grew, and the sun being low on
the horizon, the refraction edged the different objects with a spectral ring. At ten yards
and a half deep, we walked amidst a shoal of little fishes of all kinds, more numerous
than the birds of the air, and also more agile; but no aquatic game worthy of a shot had
as yet met our gaze, when at that moment I saw the captain shoulder his gun quickly, and
follow a moving object into the shrubs. He fired- I heard a slight hissing, and a creature
fell stunned at some distance from us. It was a magnificent sea otter, an enhydrus, the
only exclusively marine quadruped. This otter was five feet long, and must have been very
valuable. Its skin, chestnut-brown above, and silvery underneath, would have made one of
those beautiful furs so sought after in the Russian and Chinese markets; the fineness and
the luster of its coat would certainly fetch £80. I admired this curious mammal, with its
rounded head ornamented with short ears, its round eyes, and white whiskers like those of
a cat, with webbed feet and nails, and tufted tail. This precious animal, hunted and
tracked by fishermen, has now become very rare, and taken refuge chiefly in the northern
parts of the Pacific, or probably its race would soon become extinct.
Captain Nemo's companion took the beast, threw it over his
shoulder, and we continued our journey. For one hour a plain of sand lay stretched before
us. Sometimes it rose to within two yards and some inches of the surface of the water. I
then saw our image clearly reflected, drawn inversely, and above us appeared an identical
group reflecting our movements and our actions; in a word, like us in every point, except
that they walked with their heads downward and their feet in the air.
Another effect I noticed, which was the passage of thick
clouds which formed and vanished rapidly; but on reflection I understood that these
seeming clouds were due to the varying thickness of the reeds at the bottom, and I could
even see the fleecy foam which their broken tops multiplied on the water, and the shadows
of large birds passing above our heads, whose rapid flight I could discern on the surface
of the sea.
On this occasion, I was witness to one of the finest
gunshots which ever made the nerves of a hunter thrill. A large bird of great breadth of
wing, clearly visible, approached hovering over us. Captain Nemo's companion shouldered
his gun and fired, when it was only a few yards above the waves. The creature fell
stunned, and the force of its fall brought it within the reach of the dexterous hunter's
grasp. It was an albatross of the finest kind.
Our march had not been interrupted by this incident. For
two hours we followed these sandy plains, then fields of algae very disagreeable to cross.
Candidly, I could do no more when I saw a glimmer of light, which, for a half mile, broke
the darkness of the waters. It was the lantern of the Nautilus. Before twenty
minutes were over, we should be on board, and I should be able to breathe with ease, for
it seemed that my reservoir supplied air very deficient in oxygen. But I did not reckon on
an accidental meeting, which delayed our arrival for some time.
I had remained some steps behind, when I presently saw
Captain Nemo coming hurriedly toward me. With his strong hand he bent me to the ground,
his companion doing the same to Conseil. At first I knew not what to think of this sudden
attack, but I was soon reassured by seeing the captain lie down beside me, and remain
I was stretched on the ground, just under shelter of a
bush of algae, when, raising my head, I saw some enormous mass, casting phosphorescent
gleams, pass blusteringly by.
My blood froze in my veins as I recognized two formidable
sharks which threatened us. It was a couple of tintoreas, terrible creatures, with
enormous tails and a dull glassy stare, the phosphorescent matter ejected from holes
pierced around the muzzle. Monstrous brutes! which would crush a whole man in their iron
jaws. I did not know whether Conseil stopped to classify them; for my part, I noticed
their silver bellies, and their huge mouths bristling with teeth, from a very unscientific
point of view, and more as a possible victim than as a naturalist.
Happily the voracious creatures do not see well. They
passed without seeing us, brushing us with their brownish fins, and we escaped by a
miracle from a danger certainly greater than meeting a tiger full face in the forest. Half
an hour after, guided by the electric light, we reached the Nautilus. The outside
door had been left open, and Captain Nemo closed it as soon as we had entered the first
cell. He then pressed a knob. I heard the pumps working in the midst of the vessel; I felt
the water sinking from around me, and in a few moments the cell was entirely empty. The
inside door then opened, and we entered the vestry.
There our diving dress was taken off, not without some
trouble; and, fairly worn out from want of food and sleep, I returned to my room, in great
wonder at this surprising excursion at the bottom of the sea.