Part 2 - Chapter 9
A Vanished Continent
THE next morning, February 19, I saw the Canadian enter my
room. I expected this visit. He looked very disappointed.
"Well Sir?" said he.
"Well Ned, fortune was against us yesterday."
"Yes; that captain must needs stop exactly at the
hour we intended leaving his vessel."
"Yes, Ned, he had business at his bankers."
"Or rather his banking house; by that I mean the
ocean, where his riches are safer than in the chests of the State."
I then related to the Canadian the incidents of the
preceding night, hoping to bring him back to the idea of not abandoning the captain; but
my recital had no other result than an energetically expressed regret from Ned, that he
had not been able to take a walk on the battle field of Vigo on his own account.
"However," said he, "all is not ended. It
is only a blow of the harpoon lost. Another time we must succeed; and tonight, if
"In what direction is the Nautilus
going?" I asked.
"I do not know," replied Ned.
"Well, at noon we shall see the point."
The Canadian returned to Conseil. As soon as I was
dressed, I went into the saloon. The compass was not reassuring. The course of the Nautilus
was S.S.W. We were turning our backs on Europe.
I waited with some impatience till the ship's place was
pricked on the chart. At about half-past eleven the reservoirs were emptied, and our
vessel rose to the surface of the ocean. I rushed toward the platform. Ned Land had
preceded me. No more land in sight. Nothing but an immense sea. Some sails on the horizon,
doubtless those going to San Roque in search of favorable winds for doubling the Cape of
Good Hope. The weather was cloudy. A gale of wind was preparing. Ned raved, and tried to
pierce the cloudy horizon. He still hoped that behind all that fog stretched the land he
so longed for.
At noon the sun showed itself for an instant. The second
profited by this brightness to take its height. Then the sea becoming more billowy, we
descended, and the panel closed.
An hour after, upon consulting the chart I saw the
position of the Nautilus was marked 16° 17' longitude, and 33° 22' latitude, at
150 leagues from the nearest coast. There was no means of flight, and I leave you to
imagine the rage of the Canadian, when I informed him of our situation.
For myself, I was not particularly sorry. I felt lightened
of the load which had oppressed me, and was able to return with some degree of calmness to
my accustomed work.
That night, about eleven o'clock, I received a most
unexpected visit from Captain Nemo. He asked me very graciously if I felt fatigued from my
watch of the preceding night. I answered in the negative.
"Then, M. Aronnax, I propose a curious
"You have hitherto only visited the submarine depths
by daylight, under the brightness of the sun. Would it suit you to see them in the
darkness of the night?"
"I warn you, the way will be tiring. We shall have
far to walk, and must climb a mountain. The roads are not well kept."
"What you say, Captain, only heightens my curiosity;
I am ready to follow you."
"Come then, Sir, we will put on our diving
Arrived at the robing room, I saw that neither of my
companions nor any of the ship's crew were to follow us on this excursion. Captain Nemo
had not even proposed my taking with me either Ned or Conseil. In a few moments we had put
on our diving suits; they placed on our backs the reservoirs, abundantly filled with air,
but no electric lamps were prepared. I called the captain's attention to the fact.
"They will be useless," he replied.
I thought I had not heard aright, but I could not repeat
my observation, for the captain's head had already disappeared in its metal case. I
finished harnessing myself, I felt them put an iron-pointed stick into my hand, and some
minutes later, after going through the usual form, we set foot on the bottom of the
Atlantic, at a depth of 150 fathoms. Midnight was near. The waters were profoundly dark,
but Captain Nemo pointed out in the distance a reddish spot, a sort of large light shining
brilliantly about two miles from the Nautilus. What this fire might be, what could
feed it, why and how it lit up the liquid mass, I could not say. In any case, it did light
our way, vaguely, it is true, but I soon accustomed myself to the peculiar darkness, and I
understood, under such circumstances, the uselessness of the Ruhmkorff apparatus.
As we advanced, I heard a kind of pattering above my head.
The noise redoubling, sometimes producing a continual shower, I soon understood the cause.
It was rain falling violently, and crisping the surface of the waves. Instinctively the
thought flashed across my mind that I should be wet through! By the water! in the midst of
the water! I could not help laughing at the odd idea. But indeed, in the thick diving
suit, the liquid element is no longer felt, and one only seems to be in an atmosphere
somewhat denser than the terrestrial atmosphere. Nothing more.
After half an hour's walk the soil became stony. Medusae,
microscopic crustacea, and pennatules lit it slightly with their phosphorescent gleam. I
caught a glimpse of pieces of stone covered with millions of zoophytes, and masses of
seaweed. My feet often slipped upon this viscous carpet of seaweed, and without my
iron-tipped stick I should have fallen more than once. In turning round, I could still see
the whitish lantern of the Nautilus beginning to pale in the distance.
But the rosy light which guided us increased and lit up
the horizon. The presence of this fire under water puzzled me in the highest degree. Was
it some electric effulgence? Was I going toward a natural phenomenon as yet unknown to the
savants of the earth? Or even (for this thought crossed my brain) had the hand of man
aught to do with this conflagration? Had he fanned this flame? Was I to meet in these
depths companions and friends of Captain Nemo whom he was going to visit, and who, like
him, led this strange existence? Should I find down there a whole colony of exiles, who,
weary of the miseries of this earth, had sought and found independence in the deep ocean?
All these foolish and unreasonable ideas pursued me. And in this condition of mind,
overexcited by the succession of wonders continually passing before my eyes, I should not
have been surprised to meet at the bottom of the sea one of those submarine towns of which
Captain Nemo dreamed.
Our road grew lighter and lighter. The white glimmer came
in rays from the summit of a mountain about eight hundred feet high. But what I saw was
simply a reflection, developed by the clearness of the waters. The source of this
inexplicable light was a fire on the opposite side of the mountain.
In the midst of this stony maze, furrowing the bottom of
the Atlantic, Captain Nemo advanced without hesitation. He knew this dreary road.
Doubtless he had often traveled over it, and could not lose himself. I followed him with
unshaken confidence. He seemed to me like a genie of the sea; and, as he walked before me,
I could not help admiring his stature, which was outlined in black on the luminous
It was one in the morning when we arrived at the first
slopes of the mountain; but to gain access to them we must venture through the difficult
paths of a vast copse.
Yes; a copse of dead trees, without leaves, without sap,
trees petrified by the action of the water, and here and there overtopped by gigantic
pines. It was like a coal pit, still standing, holding by the roots to the broken soil,
and whose branches, like fine black paper cuttings, showed distinctly on the watery
ceiling. Picture, to yourself a forest in the Hartz, hanging on to the sides of the
mountain, but a forest swallowed up. The paths were encumbered with seaweed and fucus,
between which groveled a whole world of crustacea. I went along, climbing the rocks,
striding over extended trunks, breaking the sea bindweed, which hung from one tree to the
other; and frightening the fishes, which flew from branch to branch. Pressing onward, I
felt no fatigue. I followed my guide, who was never tired. What a spectacle! how can I
express it? how paint the aspect of those woods and rocks in this medium- their under
parts dark and wild, the upper colored with red tints, by that light which the reflecting
powers of the waters doubled? We climbed rocks, which fell directly after with gigantic
bounds, and the low growling of an avalanche. To right and left ran long, dark galleries,
where sight was lost. Here opened vast glades which the hand of man seemed to have worked;
and I sometimes asked myself if some inhabitant of these submarine regions would not
suddenly appear to me.
But Captain Nemo was still mounting. I could not stay
behind. I followed boldly. My stick gave me good help. A false step would have been
dangerous on the narrow passes sloping down to the sides of the gulfs; but I walked with
firm step, without feeling any giddiness. Now I jumped a crevice the depth of which would
have made me hesitate had it been among the glaciers on the land; now I ventured on the
unsteady trunk of a tree, thrown across from one abyss to the other, without looking under
my feet, having only eyes to admire the wild sights of this region.
There, monumental rocks, leaning on their regularly cut
bases, seemed to defy all laws of equilibrium. From between their stony knees, trees
sprang, like a jet under heavy pressure, and upheld others which upheld them. Natural
towers, large scarps, cut perpendicularly, like a "curtain," inclined at an
angle which the laws of gravitation could never have tolerated in terrestrial regions.
Two hours after quitting the Nautilus, we had
crossed the line of trees, and a hundred feet above our heads rose the top of the
mountain, which cast a shadow on the brilliant irradiation of the opposite slope. Some
petrified shrubs ran fantastically here and there. Fishes got up under our feet like birds
in the long grass. The massive rocks were rent with impenetrable fractures, deep grottos,
and unfathomable holes, at the bottom of which formidable creatures might be heard moving.
My blood curdled when I saw enormous antennae blocking my road, or some frightful claw
closing with a noise in the shadow of some cavity. Millions of luminous spots shone
brightly in the midst of the darkness. They were the eyes of giant crustacea crouched in
their holes; giant lobsters setting themselves up like halberdiers, and moving their claws
with the clicking sound of pincers; titanic crabs, pointed like a gun on its carriage; and
frightful-looking poulps, interweaving their tentacles like a living nest of serpents.
We had now arrived on the first platform, where other
surprises awaited me. Before us lay some picturesque ruins, which betrayed the hand of
man, and not that of the Creator. There were vast heaps of stone, among which might be
traced the vague and shadowy forms of castles and temples, clothed with a world of
blossoming zoophytes, and over which, instead of ivy, seaweed and fucus threw a thick
vegetable mantle. But what was this portion of the globe which had been swallowed by
cataclysms? Who had placed those rocks and stones like cromlechs of prehistoric times?
Where was I? Whither had Captain Nemo's fancy hurried me?
I would fain have asked him; not being able to, I stopped
him- I seized his arm. But, shaking his head and pointing to the highest point of the
mountain, he seemed to say:
"Come, come along; come higher!"
I followed, and in a few minutes I had climbed to the top,
which for a circle of ten yards commanded the whole mass of rock.
I looked down the side we had just climbed. The mountain
did not rise more than seven or eight hundred feet above the level of the plain; but on
the opposite side it commanded from twice that height the depths of this part of the
Atlantic. My eyes ranged far over a large space lit by a violent fulguration. In fact, the
mountain was a volcano.
At fifty feet above the peak, in the midst of a rain of
stones and scoriae, a large crater was vomiting forth torrents of lava which fell in a
cascade of fire into the bosom of the liquid mass. Thus situated, this volcano lit the
lower plain like an immense torch, even to the extreme limits of the horizon. I said that
the submarine crater threw up lava, but no flames. Flames require the oxygen of the air to
feed upon, and cannot be developed under water; but streams of lava, having in themselves
the principles of their incandescence, can attain a white heat, fight vigorously against
the liquid element, and turn it to vapor by contact.
Rapid currents bearing all these gases in diffusion, and
torrents of lava, slid to the bottom of the mountain like an eruption of Vesuvius on Terra
There, indeed, under my eyes, ruined, destroyed, lay a
town- its roofs open to the sky, its temples fallen, its arches dislocated, its columns
lying on the ground, from which one could still recognize the massive character of Tuscan
architecture. Farther on, some remains of a gigantic aqueduct; here the high base of an
Acropolis, with the floating outline of a Parthenon; there traces of a quay, as if an
ancient port had formerly abutted on the borders of the ocean, and disappeared with its
merchant vessels and its war galleys. Farther on again, long lines of sunken walls and
broad deserted streets- a perfect Pompeii escaped beneath the waters. Such was the sight
that Captain Nemo brought before my eyes!
Where was I? Where was I? I must know, at
any cost. I tried to speak, but Captain Nemo stopped me by a gesture, and picking up a
piece of chalk stone, advanced to a rock of black basalt, and traced the one word
A T L A N T I S
What a light shot through my mind! Atlantis, the ancient
Meropis of Theopompus, the Atlantis of Plato, that continent denied by Origen, Jamblichus,
D'Anville, Malte-Brun, and Humboldt, who placed its disappearance among the legendary
tales admitted by Posidonius, Pliny, Ammianus Marcellinus, Tertullian, Engel, Buffon, and
D'Avezac. I had it there now before my eyes, bearing upon it the unexceptionable testimony
of its catastrophe. The region thus engulfed was beyond Europe, Asia, and Lybia, beyond
the columns of Hercules, where those powerful people, the Atlantides, lived, against whom
the first wars of ancient Greece were waged.
Thus, led by the strangest destiny, I was treading
underfoot the mountains of this continent, touching with my hand those ruins a thousand
generations old, and contemporary with the geological epochs. I was walking on the very
spot where the contemporaries of the first man had walked.
While I was trying to fix in my mind every detail of this
grand landscape, Captain Nemo remained motionless, as if petrified in mute ecstasy,
leaning on a mossy stone. Was he dreaming of those generations long since disappeared? Was
he asking them the secret of human destiny? Was it here this strange man came to steep
himself in historical recollections, and live again this ancient life- he who wanted no
modern one? What would I not have given to know his thoughts, to share them, to understand
them! We remained for an hour at this place, contemplating the vast plain under the
brightness of the lava which was sometimes wonderfully intense. Rapid tremblings ran along
the mountain caused by internal bubblings, deep noises distinctly transmitted through the
liquid medium were echoed with majestic grandeur. At this moment the moon appeared through
the mass of waters, and threw her pale rays on the buried continent. It was but a gleam,
but what an indescribable effect! The captain rose, cast one last look on the immense
plain, and then bade me follow him.
We descended the mountain rapidly, and the mineral forest
once passed, I saw the lantern of the Nautilus shining like a star. The captain
walked straight to it, and we got on board as the first rays of light whitened the surface
of the ocean.
Part 2 - Chapter 10
The Submarine Coal Mines
The next day, February 20, I awoke very late; the fatigues
of the previous night had prolonged my sleep until eleven o'clock. I dressed quickly, and
hastened to find the course the Nautilus was taking. The instruments showed it to
be still toward the south, with a speed of twenty miles an hour, and a depth of fifty
The species of fishes here did not differ much from those
already noticed. There were rays of giant size, five yards long, and endowed with great
muscular strength, which enabled them to shoot above the waves; sharks of many kinds,
among others a glaucus of fifteen feet long, with triangular sharp teeth, and whose
transparency rendered it almost invisible in the water; humantins, prism-shaped, and clad
with a tuberculous hide; sturgeons, resembling their congeners of the Mediterranean;
trumpet syngnathes, a foot and a half long, furnished with grayish bladders, without teeth
or tongue, and as supple as snakes.
Among bony fish, Conseil noticed some blackish makairas,
about three yards long, armed at the upper jaw with a piercing sword; other bright-colored
creatures, known in the time of Aristotle by the name of the sea dragon, which are
dangerous to capture on account of the spikes on their back; also some coryphaenes, with
brown backs marked with little blue stripes, and surrounded with a gold border; some
beautiful dorades; and swordfish four-and-twenty feet long, swimming in troops, fierce
animals, but rather herbivorous than carnivorous.
About four o'clock, the soil, generally composed of a
thick mud mixed with petrified wood, changed by degrees, and it became more stony, and
seemed strewn with conglomerate and pieces of basalt, with a sprinkling of lava and
sulphurous obsidian. I thought that a mountainous region was succeeding the long plains;
and accordingly, after a few evolutions of the Nautilus, I saw the southerly
horizon blocked by a high wall which seemed to close all exit. Its summit evidently passed
the level of the ocean. It must be a continent, or at least an island- one of the
Canaries, or of the Cape Verde Islands. The bearings not being yet taken, perhaps
designedly, I was ignorant of our exact position. In any case, such a wall seemed to me to
mark the limits of that Atlantis, of which we had in reality passed over only the smallest
Much longer should I have remained at the window, admiring
the beauties of sea and sky, but the panels closed. At this moment the Nautilus
arrived at the side of this high perpendicular wall. What it would do, I could not guess.
I returned to my room; it no longer moved. I laid myself down with the full intention of
waking after a few hours' sleep; but it was eight o'clock the next day when I entered the
saloon. I looked at the manometer. It told me that the Nautilus was floating on the
surface of the ocean. Besides, I heard steps on the platform. I went to the panel. It was
open; but, instead of broad daylight, as I expected, I was surrounded by profound
darkness. Where were we? Was I mistaken? Was it still night? No; not a star was shining,
and night has not that utter darkness.
I knew not what to think, when a voice near me said:
"Is that you, Professor?"
"Ah, Captain," I answered, "where are
"Underground!" I exclaimed. "And the Nautilus
"It always floats."
"But I do not understand."
"Wait a few minutes, our lantern will be lit, and if
you like light places, you will be satisfied."
I stood on the platform and waited. The darkness was so
complete that I could not even see Captain Nemo; but looking to the zenith, exactly above
my head, I seemed to catch an undecided gleam, a kind of twilight filling a circular hole.
At this instant the lantern was lit, and its vividness dispelled the faint light. I closed
my dazzled eyes for an instant, and then looked again. The Nautilus was stationary,
floating near a mountain which formed a sort of quay. The lake then supporting it was a
lake imprisoned by a circle of walls, measuring two miles in diameter, and six in
circumference. Its level (the manometer showed) could only be the same as the outside
level, for there must necessarily be a communication between the lake and the sea. The
high partitions, leaning forward on their base, grew into a vaulted roof bearing the shape
of an immense funnel turned upside down, the height being about five or six hundred yards.
At the summit was a circular orifice, by which I had caught the slight gleam of light,
"Where are we?" I asked.
"In the very heart of an extinct volcano, the
interior of which has been invaded by the sea, after some great convulsion of the earth.
While you were sleeping, Professor, the Nautilus penetrated to this lagoon by a
natural canal, which opens about ten yards beneath the surface of the ocean. This is its
harbor of refuge, a sure, commodious, and mysterious one, sheltered from all gales. Show
me, if you can, on the coasts of any of your continents or islands, a road which can give
such perfect refuge from all storms."
"Certainly," I replied, "you are in safety
here, Captain Nemo. Who could reach you in the heart of a volcano? But did I not see an
opening at its summit?"
"Yes; its crater, formerly filled with lava, vapor,
and flames, and which now gives entrance to the life-giving air we breathe."
"But what is this volcanic mountain?"
"It belongs to one of the numerous islands with which
the sea is strewn- to vessels a simple sand bank- to us an immense cavern. Chance led me
to discover it, and chance served me well."
"But of what use is this refuge, Captain? The Nautilus
wants no port."
"No, Sir; but it wants electricity to make it move,
and the wherewithal to make the electricity- sodium to feed the elements, coal from which
to get the sodium, and a coal mine to supply the coal. And exactly on this spot the sea
covers entire forests embedded during the geological periods, now mineralized, and
transformed into coal; for me they are an inexhaustible mine."
"Your men follow the trade of miners here, then,
"Exactly so. These mines extend under the waves like
the mines of Newcastle. Here, in their diving suits, pickax and shovel in hand, my men
extract the coal, which I do not even ask from the mines of the earth. When I burn this
combustible for the manufacture of sodium, the smoke, escaping from the crater of the
mountain, gives it the appearance of a still active volcano."
"And we shall see your companions at work?"
"No; not this time at least; for I am in a hurry to
continue our submarine tour of the earth. So I shall content myself with drawing from the
reserve of sodium I already possess. The time for loading is one day only, and we continue
our voyage. So if you wish to go over the cavern, and make the round of the lagoon, you
must take advantage of today, M. Aronnax."
I thanked the captain, and went to look for my companions,
who had not yet left their cabin. I invited them to follow me without saying where we
were. They mounted the platform. Conseil, who was astonished at nothing, seemed to look
upon it as quite natural that he should wake under a mountain, after having fallen asleep
under the waves. But Ned Land thought of nothing but finding whether the cavern had any
exit. After breakfast, about ten o'clock, we went down on to the mountain.
"Here we are, once more on land," said Conseil.
"I do not call this land," said the Canadian.
"And besides, we are not on it, but beneath it."
Between the walls of the mountain and the waters of the
lake, lay a sandy shore, which, at its greatest breadth, measured five hundred feet. On
this soil one might easily make the tour of the lake. But the base of the high partitions
was stony ground, with volcanic blocks and enormous pumice stones lying in picturesque
heaps. All these detached masses, covered with enamel, polished by the action of the
subterraneous fires, shone resplendent by the light of our electric lantern. The mica dust
from the shore, rising under our feet, flew like a cloud of sparks. The bottom now rose
sensibly, and we soon arrived at long circuitous slopes, or inclined planes, which took us
higher by degrees; but we were obliged to walk carefully among these conglomerates, bound
by no cement, the feet slipping on the glassy trachyte, composed of crystal, feldspar, and
The volcanic nature of this enormous excavation was
confirmed on all sides, and I pointed it out to my companions.
"Picture to yourselves," said I, "what this
crater must have been when filled with boiling lava, and when the level of the
incandescent liquid rose to the orifice of the mountain, as though melted on the top of a
"I can picture it perfectly," said Conseil.
"But, Sir, will you tell me why the Great Architect has suspended operations, and how
it is that the furnace is replaced by the quiet waters of the lake?"
"Most probably, Conseil, because some convulsion
beneath the ocean produced that very opening which has served as a passage for the Nautilus.
Then the waters of the Atlantic rushed into the interior of the mountain. There must have
been a terrible struggle between the two elements, a struggle which ended in the victory
of Neptune. But many ages have run out since then and the submerged volcano is now a
"Very well," replied Ned Land, "I accept
the explanation, Sir; but, in our own interests, I regret that the opening of which you
speak was not made above the level of the sea."
"But, friend Ned" said Conseil, "if the
passage had not been under the sea, the Nautilus could not have gone through
We continued ascending. The steps became more and more
perpendicular and narrow. Deep excavations, which we were obliged to cross, cut them here
and there; sloping masses had to be turned. We slid upon our knees and crawled along. But
Conseil's dexterity and the Canadian's strength surmounted all obstacles. At a height of
about thirty-one feet, the nature of the ground changed without becoming more practicable.
To the conglomerate and trachyte succeeded black basalt, the first expanded in layers full
of bubbles, the latter forming regular prisms, placed like a colonnade supporting the
spring of the immense vault, an admirable specimen of natural architecture. Between the
blocks of basalt wound long streams of lava, long since grown cold, incrusted with
bituminous rays; and in some places there were spread large carpets of sulphur. A more
powerful light shone through the upper crater, shedding a vague glimmer over these
volcanic depressions forever buried in the bosom of this extinguished mountain.
But our upward march was soon stopped at a height of about
two hundred fifty feet by impassable obstacles. There was a complete vaulted arch
overhanging us, and our ascent was changed to a circular walk. At the last change
vegetable life began to struggle with the mineral. Some shrubs, and even some trees, grew
from the fractures of the walls. I recognized some euphorbias, with the caustic sugar
coming from them; heliotropes, quite incapable of justifying their name, sadly drooped
their clusters of flowers, both their color and perfume half gone. Here and there some
chrysanthemums grew timidly at the foot of an aloe with long, sick-looking leaves. But,
between the streams of lava, I saw some little violets still slightly perfumed, and I
admit that I smelt them with delight. Perfume is the soul of the flower, and sea flowers,
those splendid hydrophytes, have no soul.
We had arrived at the foot of some sturdy dragon trees,
which had pushed aside the rocks with their strong roots, when Ned Land exclaimed:
"Ah! Sir, a hive! a hive!"
"A hive!" I replied, with a gesture of
"Yes, a hive," repeated the Canadian, "and
bees humming round it."
I approached, and was bound to believe my own eyes. There,
at a hole bored in one of the dragon trees, were some thousands of these ingenious
insects, so common in all the Canaries, and whose produce is so much esteemed. Naturally
enough, the Canadian wished to gather the honey, and I could not well oppose his wish. A
quantity of dry leaves, mixed with sulphur, he lit with a spark from his flint, and he
began to smoke out the bees. The humming ceased by degrees, and the hive eventually
yielded several pounds of the sweetest honey, with which Ned Land filled his haversack.
"When I have mixed this honey with the paste of the
artocarpus," said he, "I shall be able to offer you a succulent cake."
"Upon my word," said Conseil, "it will be
"Never mind the gingerbread," said I, "let
us continue our interesting walk."
At every turn of the path we were following, the lake
appeared in all its length and breadth. The lantern lit up the whole of its peaceable
surface which knew neither ripple nor wave. The Nautilus remained perfectly
immovable. On the platform, and on the mountain, the ship's crew were working like black
shadows clearly carved against the luminous atmosphere. We were now going round the
highest crest of the first layers of rock which upheld the roof. I then saw that bees were
not the only representatives of the animal kingdom in the interior of this volcano. Birds
of prey hovered here and there in the shadows, or fled from their nests on the top of the
rocks. There were sparrowhawks with white breasts, and kestrels, and down the slopes
scampered, with their long legs, several fine fat bustards.
I leave anyone to imagine the covetousness of the Canadian
at the sight of this savory game, and whether he did not regret having no gun. But he did
his best to replace the lead by stones, and after several fruitless attempts, he succeeded
in wounding a magnificent bird. To say that he risked his life twenty times before
reaching it, is but the truth; but he managed so well, that the creature joined the honey
cakes in his bag. We were now obliged to descend toward the shore, the crest becoming
impracticable. Above us the crater seemed to gape like the mouth of a well. From this
place the sky could be clearly seen, and clouds, dissipated by the west wind, leaving
behind them, even on the summit of the mountain, their misty remnants- certain proof that
they were only moderately high, for the volcano did not rise more than eight hundred feet
above the level of the ocean.
Half an hour after the Canadian's last exploit, we had
regained the inner shore. Here the flora was represented by large carpets of marine
crystal, a little umbelliferous plant very good to pickle, which also bears the name of
pierce stone, and sea fennel. Conseil gathered some bundles of it. As to the fauna, it
might be counted by thousands of crustacea of all sorts, lobsters, crabs, palaemons,
spider crabs, chameleon shrimps, and a large number of shells, rockfish, and limpets.
Three quarters of an hour later, we had finished our circuitous walk and were on board.
The crew had just finished loading the sodium, and the Nautilus could have left
that instant. But Captain Nemo gave no order. Did he wish to wait until night, and leave
the submarine passage secretly? Perhaps so. Whatever it might be, the next day, the Nautilus,
having left its port, steered clear of an land at a few yards beneath the waves of the
Part 2 - Chapter 11
The Sargasso Sea
That day the Nautilus crossed a singular part of
the Atlantic Ocean. No one can be ignorant of the existence of a current of warm water,
known by the name of the Gulf Stream. After leaving the Gulf of Florida, it went in the
direction of Spitzbergen. But before entering the Gulf of Mexico, about the forty-fifth
degree of north latitude, this current divides into two arms, the principal one going
toward the coast of Ireland and Norway, while the second bends to the south about the
height of the Azores; then, touching the African shore, and describing a lengthened oval,
returns to the Antilles. This second arm- it is rather a collar than an arm- surrounds
with its circles of warm water that portion of the cold, quiet, immovable ocean called the
Sargasso Sea, a perfect lake in the open Atlantic: it takes no less than three years for
the great current to pass round it. Such was the region the Nautilus was now
visiting, a perfect meadow, a close carpet of seaweed, fucus, and tropical berries, so
thick and so compact that the stern of a vessel could hardly tear its way through it.
And Captain Nemo, not wishing to entangle his screw in
this herbaceous mass, kept some yards beneath the surface of the waves. The name Sargasso
comes from the Spanish word "sargazzo," which signifies kelp. This kelp, or
varech, or berry plant, is the principal formation of this immense bank. And this is the
reason, according to the learned Maury, the author of The Physical Geography of the Globe,
why these hydrophytes unite in the peaceful basin of the Atlantic. The only explanation
which can be given, he says, seems to me to result from the experience known to all the
world. Place in a vase some fragments of cork or other floating body, and give to the
water in the vase a circular movement, the scattered fragments will unite in a group in
the center of the liquid surface. that is to say, in the part least agitated. In the
phenomenon we are considering, the Atlantic is the vase, the Gulf Stream the circular
current, and the Sargasso Sea the central point at which the floating bodies unite.
I share Maury's opinion, and I was able to study the
phenomenon in the very midst, where vessels rarely penetrate. Above us floated products of
all kinds, heaped up among these brownish plants; trunks of trees torn from the Andes or
the Rocky Mountains, and floated by the Amazon or the Mississippi; numerous wrecks,
remains of keels or ships' bottoms, side planks stove in, and so weighted with shells and
barnacles, that they could not again rise to the surface. And time will one day justify
Maury's other opinion, that these substances thus accumulated for ages, will become
petrified by the action of the water, and will then form inexhaustible coal mines- a
precious reserve prepared by farseeing Nature for the moment when men shall have exhausted
the mines of continents.
In the midst of this inextricable mass of plants and
seaweed, I noticed some charming pink halcyons and actiniae, with their long tentacles
trailing after them; medusae, green, red, and blue, and the great rhyostoms of Cuvier, the
large umbrella of which was bordered and festooned with violet.
All the day of February 22 we passed in the Sargasso Sea,
where such fish as are partial to marine plants and fuci find abundant nourishment. The
next, the ocean had returned to its accustomed aspect. From this time for nineteen days,
from February 23 to March 12, the Nautilus kept in the middle of the Atlantic,
carrying us at a constant speed of a hundred leagues in twenty-four hours. Captain Nemo
evidently intended accomplishing his submarine program, and I imagined that he intended,
after doubling Cape Horn, to return to the Australian seas of the Pacific. Ned Land had
cause for fear. In these large seas, void of islands, we could not attempt to leave the
boat. Nor had we any means of opposing Captain Nemo's will.
Our only course was to submit; but what we could neither
gain by force nor cunning, I liked to think might be obtained by persuasion. This voyage
ended, would he not consent to restore our liberty, under an oath never to reveal his
existence? an oath of honor which we should have religiously kept. But we must consider
that delicate question with the captain. But was I free to claim this liberty? Had he not
himself said from the beginning, in the firmest manner, that the secret of his life
exacted from him our lasting imprisonment on board the Nautilus? And would not my
four months' silence appear to him a tacit acceptance of our situation? And would not a
return to the subject result in raising suspicions which might be hurtful to our projects,
if at some future time a favorable opportunity offered to return to them?
During the nineteen days mentioned above, no incident of
any note happened to signalize our voyage. I saw little of the captain; he was at work. In
the library I often found his books left open, especially those on natural history. My
work on submarine depths, conned over by him, was covered with marginal notes, often
contradicting my theories and systems; but the captain contented himself with thus purging
my work; it was very rare for him to discuss it with me. Sometimes I heard the melancholy
tones of his organ; but only at night, in the midst of the deepest obscurity, when the Nautilus
slept upon the deserted ocean. During this part of our voyage we sailed whole days on the
surface of the waves. The sea seemed abandoned. A few sailing vessels, on the road to
India, were making for the Cape of Good Hope. One day we were followed by the boats of a
whaler, who, no doubt, took us for some enormous whale of great price; but Captain Nemo
did not wish the worthy fellows to lose their time and trouble, so ended the chase by
plunging under the water.
Our navigation continued until March 13; that day the Nautilus
was employed in taking soundings, which greatly interested me. We had then made about
13,000 leagues since our departure from the high seas of the Pacific. The bearings gave us
45° 37' south latitude, and 37° 53' west longitude. It was the same water in which
Captain Denham of the Herald sounded 7,000 fathoms without finding the bottom. There, too,
Lieutenant Parker, of the American frigate Congress, could not touch the bottom with
15,140 fathoms. Captain Nemo intended seeking the bottom of the ocean by a diagonal
sufficiently lengthened by means of lateral planes placed at an angle of forty-five
degrees with the water line of the Nautilus. Then the screw set to work at its
maximum speed, its four blades beating the waves with indescribable force. Under this
powerful pressure, the hull of the Nautilus quivered like a sonorous chord, and
sank regularly under the water.
At 7,000 fathoms I saw some blackish tops rising from the
midst of the waters; but these summits might belong to high mountains like the Himalayas
or Mont Blanc, even higher; and the depth of the abyss remained incalculable. The Nautilus
descended still lower, in spite of the great pressure. I felt the steel plates tremble at
the fastenings of the bolts; its bars bent, its partitions groaned; the windows of the
saloon seemed to curve under the pressure of the waters. And this firm structure would
doubtless have yielded, if, as its captain said, it had not been capable of resistance
like a solid block. In skirting the declivity of these rocks, lost under the water, I
still saw some shells, some serpulae and spinorbes, still living, and some specimens of
asteriads. But soon this last representative of animal life disappeared; and at the depth
of more than three leagues, the Nautilus had passed the limits of submarine
existence even as a balloon does when it rises above the respirable atmosphere. We had
attained a depth of 16,000 yards (four leagues), and the sides of the Nautilus then
bore a pressure of 1,600 atmospheres, that is to say, 3,200 pounds to each square two
fifths of an inch of its surface.
"What a situation to be in!" I exclaimed.
"To overrun these deep regions where man has never trod! Look, Captain, look at these
magnificent rocks, these uninhabited grottoes, these lowest receptacles of the globe,
where life is no longer possible! What unknown sights are here! Why should we be unable to
preserve a remembrance of them?"
"Would you like to carry away more than the
remembrance?" said Captain Nemo.
"What do you mean by those words?"
"I mean to say that nothing is easier than to take a
photographic view of this submarine region."
I had not time to express my surprise at this new
proposition, when, at Captain Nemo's call, an objective was brought into the saloon.
Through the widely opened panel, the liquid mass was bright with electricity, which was
distributed with such uniformity, that not a shadow, not a gradation, was to be seen in
our manufactured light. The Nautilus remained motionless, the force of its screw
subdued by the inclination of its planes; the instrument was propped on the bottom of the
oceanic site, and in a few seconds we had obtained a perfect negative. I here give the
positive, from which may be seen those primitive rocks, which have never looked upon the
light of heaven; that lowest granite which forms the foundation of the globe; those deep
grottoes, woven in the stony mass whose outlines were of such sharpness, and the border
line of which is marked in black, as if done by the brush of some Flemish artist. Beyond
that again, a horizon of mountains, an admirable undulating line, forming the prospective
of the landscape. I cannot describe the effect of these smooth, black, polished rocks,
without moss, without a spot, and of strange forms, standing solidly on the sandy carpet
which sparkled under the jets of our electric light.
But the operation being over, Captain Nemo said, "Let
us go up; we must not abuse our position nor expose the Nautilus too long to such
"Go up again!" I exclaimed.
"Hold well on."
I had not time to understand why the captain cautioned me
thus, when I was thrown forward on to the carpet. At a signal from the captain, its screw
was shipped, and its blades raised vertically; the Nautilus shot into the air like
a balloon, rising with stunning rapidity, and cutting the mass of waters with a sonorous
agitation. Nothing was visible; and in four minutes it had shot through the four leagues
which separated it from the ocean, and, after emerging like a flying fish, fell, making
the waves rebound to an enormous height.
Part 2 - Chapter 12
Cachalots and Whales
During the nights of March 13 and 14, the Nautilus
returned to its southerly course. I fancied that, when on a level with Cape Horn, he would
turn the helm westward, in order to beat the Pacific seas, and so complete the tour of the
world. He did nothing of the kind, but continued on his way to the southern regions. Where
was he going to? to the pole? It was madness! I began to think that the captain's temerity
justified Ned Land's fears. For some time past the Canadian had not spoken to me of his
projects of flight; he was less communicative, almost silent. I could see that this
lengthened imprisonment was weighing upon him, and I felt that rage was within him. When
he met the captain, his eyes lit up with suppressed anger; and I feared that his natural
violence would lead him into some extreme. That day, March 14, Conseil and he came to me
in my room. I inquired the cause of their visit.
"A simple question to ask you, Sir," replied the
"How many men are there on board the Nautilus,
do you think?"
"I cannot tell, my friend."
"I should say that its working does not require a
"Certainly, under existing conditions, ten men, at
the most, ought to be enough."
"Well, why should there be any more?"
"Why?" I replied, looking fixedly at Ned Land,
whose meaning was easy to guess. "Because," I added, "if my surmises are
correct, and if I have well understood the captain's existence, the Nautilus is not
only a vessel; it is also a place of refuge for those who, like its commander, have broken
every tie upon earth."
"Perhaps so," said Conseil; "but, in any
case, the Nautilus can only contain a certain number of men. Could not you, sir,
estimate their maximum?"
"By calculation; given the size of the vessel, which
you know, sir, and consequently, the quantity of air it contains, knowing also how much
each man expends at a breath, and comparing these results with the fact that the Nautilus
is obliged to go to the surface every twenty-four hours."
Conseil had not finished the sentence before I saw what he
was driving at.
"I understand," said I; "but that
calculation, though simple enough, can give but a very uncertain result."
"Never mind," said Ned Land, urgently.
"Here it is, then," said I. "In one hour
each man consumes the oxygen contained in twenty gallons of air; and in twenty-four, that
contained in 480 gallons. We must, therefore, find how many times 480 gallons of air the Nautilus
"Just so," said Conseil.
"Or," I continued, "the size of the Nautilus
being 1,500 tons; and one ton holding 200 gallons, it contains 300,000 gallons of air,
which, divided by 480, gives a quotient of 625. Which means to say, strictly speaking,
that the air contained in the Nautilus would suffice for 625 men for twenty-four
"Six hundred twenty-five!" repeated Ned.
"But remember, that all of us, passengers, sailors,
and officers included, would not form a tenth part of that number."
"Still too many for three men," murmured
The Canadian shook his head, passed his hand across his
forehead, and left the room without answering.
"Will you allow me to make one observation,
Sir?" said Conseil. "Poor Ned is longing for everything that he cannot have. His
past life is always present to him; everything that we are forbidden he regrets. His head
is full of old recollections. And we must understand him. What had he to do here? Nothing;
he is not learned like you, Sir; and has not the same taste for the beauties of the sea
that we have. He would risk everything to be able to go once more into a tavern in his own
Certainly the monotony on board must seem intolerable to
the Canadian, accustomed as he was to a life of liberty and activity. Events were rare
which could rouse him to any show of spirit; but that day an event did happen which
recalled the bright days of the harpooner. About eleven in the morning, being on the
surface of the ocean, the Nautilus fell in with a troop of whales- an encounter
which did not astonish me, knowing that these creatures hunted to the death, had taken
refuge in high latitudes.
We were seated on the platform, with a quiet sea. The
month of October in those latitudes gave us some lovely autumnal days. It was the
Canadian- he could not be mistaken- who signaled a whale on the eastern horizon. Looking
attentively one might see its black back rise and fall with the waves five miles from the Nautilus.
"Ah!" exclaimed Ned Land, "if I was on
board a whaler now, such a meeting would give me pleasure. It is one of large size. See
with what strength its blowholes throw up columns of air and steam! Confound it, why am I
bound to these steel plates?"
"What, Ned," said I, "you have not
forgotten your old ideas of fishing?"
"Can a whaler ever forget his old trade, Sir? Can he
ever tire of the emotions caused by such a chase?"
"You have never fished in these seas, Ned?"
"Never, Sir; in the northern only, and as much in
Bering as in Davis Straits."
"Then the southern whale is still unknown to you. It
is the Greenland whale you have hunted up to this time, and that would not risk passing
through the warm waters of the equator. Whales are. localized, according to their kinds,
in certain seas which they never leave. And if one of these creatures went from Bering to
Davis Straits, it must be simply because there is a passage from one sea to the other,
either on the American or the Asiatic side."
"In that case, as I have never fished in these seas,
I do not know the kind of whale frequenting them."
"I have told you, Ned."
"A greater reason for making their
acquaintance," said Conseil.
"Look! look!" exclaimed the Canadian, "they
approach; they aggravate me; they know that I cannot get at them!"
Ned stamped his feet. His hand trembled, as he grasped an
"Are these cetacea as large as those of the northern
seas?" asked he.
"Very nearly, Ned."
"Because I have seen large whales, Sir, whales
measuring a hundred feet. I have even been told that those of Hullamoch and Umgallick, of
the Aleutian Islands, are sometimes a hundred fifty feet long."
"That seems to me exaggeration. These creatures are
only balaenopterons, provided with dorsal fins; and, like the cachalots, are generally
much smaller than the Greenland whale."
"Ah!" exclaimed the Canadian, whose eyes had
never left the ocean, "they are coming nearer; they are in the same water as the Nautilus!"
Then, returning to the conversation, he said:
"You spoke of the cachalot as a small creature. I
have heard of gigantic ones. They are intelligent cetacea. It is said of some that they
cover themselves with seaweed and fucus, and then are taken for islands. People encamp
upon them, and settle there; light a fire"-
"And build houses," said Conseil.
"Yes, joker," said Ned Land. "And one fine
day the creature plunges, carrying with it all the inhabitants to the bottom of the
"Something like the travels of Sinbad the
Sailor," I replied, laughing.
"Ah!" suddenly exclaimed Ned Land, "it is
not one whale; there are ten- there are twenty- it is a whole troop! And I not able to do
anything! hands and feet tied!"
"But, friend Ned," said Conseil, "why do
you not ask Captain Nemo's permission to chase them?"
Conseil had not finished his sentence when Ned Land
lowered himself through the panel to seek the captain. A few minutes afterward the two
appeared together on the platform.
Captain Nemo watched the troop of cetacea playing on the
waters about a mile from the Nautilus.
"They are southern whales," said he; "there
goes the fortune of a whole fleet of whalers."
"Well, sir," asked the Canadian, "can I not
chase them, if only to remind me of my old trade of harpooner?"
"And to what purpose?" replied Captain Nemo;
"only to destroy! We have nothing to do with whale oil on board."
"But, Sir," continued the Canadian, "in the
Red Sea you allowed us to follow the dugong."
"Then it was to procure fresh meat for my crew. Here
it would be killing for killing's sake. I know that is a privilege reserved for men, but I
do not approve of such murderous pastime. In destroying the southern whale (like the
Greenland whale, an inoffensive creature), your traders do a culpable action, Master Land.
They have already depopulated the whole of Baffin's Bay, and are annihilating a class of
useful animals. Leave the unfortunate cetacea alone. They have plenty of natural enemies,
cachalots, swordfish, and sawfish, without your troubling them."
The captain was right. The barbarous and inconsiderate
greed of these fishermen will one day cause the disappearance of the last whale in the
ocean. Ned Land whistled "Yankee-Doodle" between his teeth, thrust his hands
into his pockets, and turned his back upon us. But Captain Nemo watched the troop of
cetacea, and, addressing me, said:
"I was right in saying that whales had natural
enemies enough, without counting man. These will have plenty to do before long. Do you
see, M. Aronnax, about eight miles to leeward, those blackish moving points?"
"Yes, Captain," I replied.
"Those are cachalots- terrible animals, which I have
sometimes met in troops of two or three hundred. As to those, they are cruel mischievous
creatures; they would be right in exterminating them."
The Canadian turned quickly at the last words.
"Well, Captain," said he, "it is still
time, in the interest of the whales."
"It is useless to expose oneself, Professor. The Nautilus
will disperse them. It is armed with a steel spur as good as Master Land's harpoon, I
The Canadian did not put himself out enough to shrug his
shoulders. Attack cetacea with blows of a spur! Who had ever heard of such a thing?
"Wait, M. Aronnax," said Captain Nemo. "We
will show you something you have never yet seen. We have no pity for these ferocious
creatures. They are nothing but mouth and teeth."
Mouth and teeth! No one could better describe the
macrocephalous cachalot, which is sometimes more than seventy-five feet long. Its enormous
head occupies one-third of its entire body. Better armed than the whale, whose upper jaw
is furnished only with whalebone, it is supplied with twenty-five large tusks, about eight
inches long, cylindrical and conical at the top, each weighing two pounds. It is in the
upper part of this enormous head, in great cavities divided by cartilages, that is to be
found from six to eight hundred pounds of that precious oil called spermaceti. The
cachalot is a disagreeable creature, more tadpole than fish, according to Fredol's
description. It is badly formed, the whole of its left side being (if we may say it) a
"failure," and being only able to see with its right eye.
But the formidable troop was nearing us. They had seen the
whales and were preparing to attack them. One could judge beforehand that the cachalots
would be victorious, not only because they were better built for attack than their
inoffensive adversaries, but also because they could remain longer under water without
coming to the surface. There was only just time to go to the help of the whales. The Nautilus
went under water. Conseil, Ned Land, and I took our places before the window in the
saloon, and Captain Nemo joined the pilot in his cage to work his apparatus as an engine
of destruction. Soon I felt the beatings of the screw quicken, and our speed increased.
The battle between the cachalots and the whales had
already begun when the Nautilus arrived. They, did not at first show any fear at
the sight of this new monster joining in the conflict. But they soon had to guard against
its blows. What a battle! The Nautilus was nothing but a formidable harpoon,
brandished by the hand of its captain. It hurled itself against the fleshy mass, passing
through from one part to the other, leaving behind it two quivering halves of the animal.
It could not feel the formidable blows from their tails upon its sides, nor the shock
which it produced itself, much more. One cachalot killed, it ran at the next, tacked on
the spot that it might not miss its prey, going forward and backward, answering to its
helm, plunging when the cetacean dived into the deep waters, coming up with it when it
returned to the surface, striking it front or sideways, cutting or tearing in all
directions, and at any pace, piercing it with its terrible spur. What carnage! What a
noise on the surface of the waves! What sharp hissing, and what snorting peculiar to these
enraged animals! In the midst of these waters, generally so peaceful, their tails made
For one hour this wholesale massacre continued, from which
the cachalots could not escape. Several times ten or twelve united tried to crush the Nautilus
by their weight. From the window we could see their enormous mouths, studded with tusks,
and their formidable eyes. Ned Land could not contain himself, he threatened and swore at
them. We could feel them clinging to our vessel like dogs worrying a wild boar in a copse.
But the Nautilus, working its screw, carried them here and there, or to the upper
levels of the ocean, without caring for their enormous weight, nor the powerful strain on
the vessel. At length, the mass of cachalots broke up, the waves became quiet, and I felt
that we were rising to the surface. The panel opened, and we hurried on to the platform.
The sea was covered with mutilated bodies. A formidable explosion could not have divided
and torn this fleshy mass with more violence. We were floating amid gigantic bodies,
bluish on the back and white underneath, covered with enormous protuberances. Some
terrified cachalots were flying toward the horizon. The waves were dyed red for several
miles, and the Nautilus floated in a sea of blood. Captain Nemo joined us.
"Well, Master Land?" said he.
"Well, Sir," replied the Canadian, whose
enthusiasm had somewhat calmed; "it is a terrible spectacle, certainly. But I am not
a butcher. I am a hunter, and I call this a butchery."
"It is a massacre of mischievous creatures,"
replied the captain; "and the Nautilus is not a butcher's knife."
"I like my harpoon better," said the Canadian.
"Everyone to his own," answered the captain,
looking fixedly at Ned Land.
I feared he would commit some act of violence, which would
end in sad consequences. But his anger was turned by the sight of a whale which the Nautilus
had just come up with. The creature had not quite escaped from the cachalot's teeth. I
recognized the southern whale by its flat head, which is entirely black. Anatomically, it
is distinguished from the white whale and the North Cape whale by the seven cervical
vertebrae, and it has two more ribs than its congeners. The unfortunate cetacean was lying
on its side, riddled with holes from the bites, and quite dead. From its mutilated fin
still hung a young whale, which it could not save from the massacre. Its open mouth let
the water flow in and out, murmuring like the waves breaking on the shore.
Captain Nemo steered close to the corpse of the creature.
Two of his men mounted its side, and I saw, not without surprise, that they were drawing
from its breasts all the milk which they contained, that is to say, about two or three
tons. The captain offered me a cup of the milk, which was still warm. I could not help
showing my repugnance, to the drink; but he assured me that it was excellent, and not to
be distinguished from cow's milk. I tasted it, and was of his opinion. It was a useful
reserve to us, for in the shape of salt butter or cheese it would form an agreeable
variety from our ordinary food. From that day I noticed with uneasiness that Ned Land's
ill will toward Captain Nemo increased, and I resolved to watch the Canadian's gestures