Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

20000 Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne

Part 8 out of 10

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.1 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

and the great current's waters take at least three years to circle it.

Properly speaking, the Sargasso Sea covers every submerged part
of Atlantis. Certain authors have even held that the many weeds
strewn over this sea were torn loose from the prairies of that
ancient continent. But it's more likely that these grasses, algae,
and fucus plants were carried off from the beaches of Europe and America,
then taken as far as this zone by the Gulf Stream. This is one
of the reasons why Christopher Columbus assumed the existence
of a New World. When the ships of that bold investigator arrived
in the Sargasso Sea, they had great difficulty navigating in the midst
of these weeds, which, much to their crews' dismay, slowed them down
to a halt; and they wasted three long weeks crossing this sector.

Such was the region our Nautilus was visiting just then:
a genuine prairie, a tightly woven carpet of algae, gulfweed,
and bladder wrack so dense and compact a craft's stempost couldn't
tear through it without difficulty. Accordingly, not wanting
to entangle his propeller in this weed-choked mass, Captain Nemo
stayed at a depth some meters below the surface of the waves.

The name Sargasso comes from the Spanish word "sargazo,"
meaning gulfweed. This gulfweed, the swimming gulfweed or
berry carrier, is the chief substance making up this immense shoal.
And here's why these water plants collect in this placid Atlantic basin,
according to the expert on the subject, Commander Maury, author of
The Physical Geography of the Sea.

The explanation he gives seems to entail a set of conditions that
everybody knows: "Now," Maury says, "if bits of cork or chaff,
or any floating substance, be put into a basin, and a circular motion
be given to the water, all the light substances will be found crowding
together near the center of the pool, where there is the least motion.
Just such a basin is the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf Stream,
and the Sargasso Sea is the center of the whirl."

I share Maury's view, and I was able to study the phenomenon in this
exclusive setting where ships rarely go. Above us, huddled among
the brown weeds, there floated objects originating from all over:
tree trunks ripped from the Rocky Mountains or the Andes and sent
floating down the Amazon or the Mississippi, numerous pieces
of wreckage, remnants of keels or undersides, bulwarks staved
in and so weighed down with seashells and barnacles, they couldn't
rise to the surface of the ocean. And the passing years will someday
bear out Maury's other view that by collecting in this way over
the centuries, these substances will be turned to stone by the action
of the waters and will then form inexhaustible coalfields.
Valuable reserves prepared by farseeing nature for that time when man
will have exhausted his mines on the continents.

In the midst of this hopelessly tangled fabric of weeds and fucus plants,
I noted some delightful pink-colored, star-shaped alcyon coral,
sea anemone trailing the long tresses of their tentacles,
some green, red, and blue jellyfish, and especially those big
rhizostome jellyfish that Cuvier described, whose bluish parasols
are trimmed with violet festoons.

We spent the whole day of February 22 in the Sargasso Sea, where fish
that dote on marine plants and crustaceans find plenty to eat.
The next day the ocean resumed its usual appearance.

From this moment on, for nineteen days from February 23 to March 12,
the Nautilus stayed in the middle of the Atlantic, hustling us
along at a constant speed of 100 leagues every twenty-four hours.
It was obvious that Captain Nemo wanted to carry out his underwater
program, and I had no doubt that he intended, after doubling Cape Horn,
to return to the Pacific South Seas.

So Ned Land had good reason to worry. In these wide seas empty
of islands, it was no longer feasible to jump ship. Nor did we
have any way to counter Captain Nemo's whims. We had no choice
but to acquiesce; but if we couldn't attain our end through force
or cunning, I liked to think we might achieve it through persuasion.
Once this voyage was over, might not Captain Nemo consent to set
us free in return for our promise never to reveal his existence?
Our word of honor, which we sincerely would have kept.
However, this delicate question would have to be negotiated with
the captain. But how would he receive our demands for freedom?
At the very outset and in no uncertain terms, hadn't he declared
that the secret of his life required that we be permanently imprisoned
on board the Nautilus? Wouldn't he see my four-month silence
as a tacit acceptance of this situation? Would my returning to this
subject arouse suspicions that could jeopardize our escape plans,
if we had promising circumstances for trying again later on?
I weighed all these considerations, turned them over in my mind,
submitted them to Conseil, but he was as baffled as I was.
In short, although I'm not easily discouraged, I realized that my
chances of ever seeing my fellow men again were shrinking by the day,
especially at a time when Captain Nemo was recklessly racing toward
the south Atlantic!

During those nineteen days just mentioned, no unique incidents
distinguished our voyage. I saw little of the captain.
He was at work. In the library I often found books he had left open,
especially books on natural history. He had thumbed through my work
on the great ocean depths, and the margins were covered with his notes,
which sometimes contradicted my theories and formulations.
But the captain remained content with this method of refining my work,
and he rarely discussed it with me. Sometimes I heard melancholy
sounds reverberating from the organ, which he played very expressively,
but only at night in the midst of the most secretive darkness,
while the Nautilus slumbered in the wilderness of the ocean.

During this part of our voyage, we navigated on the surface of the waves
for entire days. The sea was nearly deserted. A few sailing ships,
laden for the East Indies, were heading toward the Cape of
Good Hope. One day we were chased by the longboats of a whaling vessel,
which undoubtedly viewed us as some enormous baleen whale of great value.
But Captain Nemo didn't want these gallant gentlemen wasting their
time and energy, so he ended the hunt by diving beneath the waters.
This incident seemed to fascinate Ned Land intensely.
I'm sure the Canadian was sorry that these fishermen couldn't
harpoon our sheet-iron cetacean and mortally wound it.

During this period the fish Conseil and I observed differed little
from those we had already studied in other latitudes. Chief among
them were specimens of that dreadful cartilaginous genus that's
divided into three subgenera numbering at least thirty-two species:
striped sharks five meters long, the head squat and wider than
the body, the caudal fin curved, the back with seven big, black,
parallel lines running lengthwise; then perlon sharks, ash gray,
pierced with seven gill openings, furnished with a single dorsal
fin placed almost exactly in the middle of the body.

Some big dogfish also passed by, a voracious species of shark if there
ever was one. With some justice, fishermen's yarns aren't to be trusted,
but here's what a few of them relate. Inside the corpse of one
of these animals there were found a buffalo head and a whole calf;
in another, two tuna and a sailor in uniform; in yet another,
a soldier with his saber; in another, finally, a horse with its rider.
In candor, none of these sounds like divinely inspired truth.
But the fact remains that not a single dogfish let itself get caught
in the Nautilus's nets, so I can't vouch for their voracity.

Schools of elegant, playful dolphin swam alongside for entire days.
They went in groups of five or six, hunting in packs like wolves
over the countryside; moreover, they're just as voracious as dogfish,
if I can believe a certain Copenhagen professor who says that from one
dolphin's stomach, he removed thirteen porpoises and fifteen seals.
True, it was a killer whale, belonging to the biggest known species,
whose length sometimes exceeds twenty-four feet. The family
Delphinia numbers ten genera, and the dolphins I saw were akin
to the genus Delphinorhynchus, remarkable for an extremely narrow
muzzle four times as long as the cranium. Measuring three meters,
their bodies were black on top, underneath a pinkish white strewn
with small, very scattered spots.

From these seas I'll also mention some unusual specimens of croakers,
fish from the order Acanthopterygia, family Scienidea. Some authors--
more artistic than scientific--claim that these fish are
melodious singers, that their voices in unison put on concerts
unmatched by human choristers. I don't say nay, but to my regret
these croakers didn't serenade us as we passed.

Finally, to conclude, Conseil classified a large number
of flying fish. Nothing could have made a more unusual sight
than the marvelous timing with which dolphins hunt these fish.
Whatever the range of its flight, however evasive its trajectory
(even up and over the Nautilus), the hapless flying fish always found
a dolphin to welcome it with open mouth. These were either flying
gurnards or kitelike sea robins, whose lips glowed in the dark,
at night scrawling fiery streaks in the air before plunging into
the murky waters like so many shooting stars.

Our navigating continued under these conditions until March 13.
That day the Nautilus was put to work in some depth-sounding
experiments that fascinated me deeply.

By then we had fared nearly 13,000 leagues from our starting point
in the Pacific high seas. Our position fix placed us in latitude
45 degrees 37' south and longitude 37 degrees 53' west. These were
the same waterways where Captain Denham, aboard the Herald,
payed out 14,000 meters of sounding line without finding bottom.
It was here too that Lieutenant Parker, aboard the American
frigate Congress, was unable to reach the underwater soil
at 15,149 meters.

Captain Nemo decided to take his Nautilus down to the lowest
depths in order to double-check these different soundings.
I got ready to record the results of this experiment.
The panels in the lounge opened, and maneuvers began for reaching
those strata so prodigiously far removed.

It was apparently considered out of the question to dive by filling
the ballast tanks. Perhaps they wouldn't sufficiently increase
the Nautilus's specific gravity. Moreover, in order to come back up,
it would be necessary to expel the excess water, and our pumps
might not have been strong enough to overcome the outside pressure.

Captain Nemo decided to make for the ocean floor by submerging on
an appropriately gradual diagonal with the help of his side fins,
which were set at a 45 degrees angle to the Nautilus's waterline.
Then the propeller was brought to its maximum speed, and its four
blades churned the waves with indescribable violence.

Under this powerful thrust the Nautilus's hull quivered like a
resonating chord, and the ship sank steadily under the waters.
Stationed in the lounge, the captain and I watched the needle
swerving swiftly over the pressure gauge. Soon we had gone below
the livable zone where most fish reside. Some of these animals
can thrive only at the surface of seas or rivers, but a minority
can dwell at fairly great depths. Among the latter I observed
a species of dogfish called the cow shark that's equipped with six
respiratory slits, the telescope fish with its enormous eyes,
the armored gurnard with gray thoracic fins plus black pectoral
fins and a breastplate protected by pale red slabs of bone,
then finally the grenadier, living at a depth of 1,200 meters,
by that point tolerating a pressure of 120 atmospheres.

I asked Captain Nemo if he had observed any fish at
more considerable depths.

"Fish? Rarely!" he answered me. "But given the current state
of marine science, who are we to presume, what do we really know
of these depths?"

"Just this, captain. In going toward the ocean's lower strata,
we know that vegetable life disappears more quickly than animal life.
We know that moving creatures can still be encountered where water
plants no longer grow. We know that oysters and pilgrim scallops live
in 2,000 meters of water, and that Admiral McClintock, England's hero of
the polar seas, pulled in a live sea star from a depth of 2,500 meters.
We know that the crew of the Royal Navy's Bulldog fished up a starfish
from 2,620 fathoms, hence from a depth of more than one vertical league.
Would you still say, Captain Nemo, that we really know nothing?"

"No, professor," the captain replied, "I wouldn't be so discourteous.
Yet I'll ask you to explain how these creatures can live at such depths?"

"I explain it on two grounds," I replied. "In the first place,
because vertical currents, which are caused by differences in the
water's salinity and density, can produce enough motion to sustain
the rudimentary lifestyles of sea lilies and starfish."

"True," the captain put in.

"In the second place, because oxygen is the basis of life, and we
know that the amount of oxygen dissolved in salt water increases
rather than decreases with depth, that the pressure in these lower
strata helps to concentrate their oxygen content."

"Oho! We know that, do we?" Captain Nemo replied in a tone
of mild surprise. "Well, professor, we have good reason to know
it because it's the truth. I might add, in fact, that the air
bladders of fish contain more nitrogen than oxygen when these animals
are caught at the surface of the water, and conversely, more oxygen
than nitrogen when they're pulled up from the lower depths.
Which bears out your formulation. But let's continue our observations."

My eyes flew back to the pressure gauge. The instrument indicated
a depth of 6,000 meters. Our submergence had been going on for an hour.
The Nautilus slid downward on its slanting fins, still sinking.
These deserted waters were wonderfully clear, with a transparency
impossible to convey. An hour later we were at 13,000 meters--
about three and a quarter vertical leagues--and the ocean floor
was nowhere in sight.

However, at 14,000 meters I saw blackish peaks rising in the midst
of the waters. But these summits could have belonged to mountains
as high or even higher than the Himalayas or Mt. Blanc, and the extent
of these depths remained incalculable.

Despite the powerful pressures it was undergoing, the Nautilus sank
still deeper. I could feel its sheet-iron plates trembling down to
their riveted joins; metal bars arched; bulkheads groaned; the lounge
windows seemed to be warping inward under the water's pressure.
And this whole sturdy mechanism would surely have given way, if, as its
captain had said, it weren't capable of resisting like a solid block.

While grazing these rocky slopes lost under the waters, I still
spotted some seashells, tube worms, lively annelid worms from
the genus Spirorbis, and certain starfish specimens.

But soon these last representatives of animal life vanished,
and three vertical leagues down, the Nautilus passed below the limits
of underwater existence just as an air balloon rises above the
breathable zones in the sky. We reached a depth of 16,000 meters--
four vertical leagues--and by then the Nautilus's plating was
tolerating a pressure of 1,600 atmospheres, in other words,
1,600 kilograms per each square centimeter on its surface!

"What an experience!" I exclaimed. "Traveling these deep
regions where no man has ever ventured before! Look, captain!
Look at these magnificent rocks, these uninhabited caves,
these last global haunts where life is no longer possible!
What unheard-of scenery, and why are we reduced to preserving it
only as a memory?"

"Would you like," Captain Nemo asked me, "to bring back more than
just a memory?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that nothing could be easier than taking a photograph
of this underwater region!"

Before I had time to express the surprise this new proposition caused me,
a camera was carried into the lounge at Captain Nemo's request.
The liquid setting, electrically lit, unfolded with perfect
clarity through the wide-open panels. No shadows, no blurs,
thanks to our artificial light. Not even sunshine could have
been better for our purposes. With the thrust of its propeller
curbed by the slant of its fins, the Nautilus stood still.
The camera was aimed at the scenery on the ocean floor, and in a few
seconds we had a perfect negative.

I attach a print of the positive. In it you can view these primordial
rocks that have never seen the light of day, this nether granite
that forms the powerful foundation of our globe, the deep caves
cut into the stony mass, the outlines of incomparable distinctness
whose far edges stand out in black as if from the brush of certain
Flemish painters. In the distance is a mountainous horizon, a wondrously
undulating line that makes up the background of this landscape.
The general effect of these smooth rocks is indescribable:
black, polished, without moss or other blemish, carved into
strange shapes, sitting firmly on a carpet of sand that sparkled
beneath our streams of electric light.

Meanwhile, his photographic operations over, Captain Nemo told me:

"Let's go back up, professor. We mustn't push our luck and expose
the Nautilus too long to these pressures."

"Let's go back up!" I replied.

"Hold on tight."

Before I had time to realize why the captain made this recommendation,
I was hurled to the carpet.

Its fins set vertically, its propeller thrown in gear at
the captain's signal, the Nautilus rose with lightning speed,
shooting upward like an air balloon into the sky. Vibrating resonantly,
it knifed through the watery mass. Not a single detail was visible.
In four minutes it had cleared the four vertical leagues separating it
from the surface of the ocean, and after emerging like a flying fish,
it fell back into the sea, making the waves leap to prodigious heights.

CHAPTER 12

Sperm Whales and Baleen Whales

DURING THE NIGHT of March 13-14, the Nautilus resumed its
southward heading. Once it was abreast of Cape Horn, I thought it
would strike west of the cape, make for Pacific seas, and complete
its tour of the world. It did nothing of the sort and kept moving
toward the southernmost regions. So where was it bound? The pole?
That was insanity. I was beginning to think that the captain's
recklessness more than justified Ned Land's worst fears.

For a good while the Canadian had said nothing more to me about
his escape plans. He had become less sociable, almost sullen.
I could see how heavily this protracted imprisonment was weighing on him.
I could feel the anger building in him. Whenever he encountered
the captain, his eyes would flicker with dark fire, and I was
in constant dread that his natural vehemence would cause him
to do something rash.

That day, March 14, he and Conseil managed to find me in my stateroom.
I asked them the purpose of their visit.

"To put a simple question to you, sir," the Canadian answered me.

"Go on, Ned."

"How many men do you think are on board the Nautilus?"

"I'm unable to say, my friend."

"It seems to me," Ned Land went on, "that it wouldn't take much
of a crew to run a ship like this one."

"Correct," I replied. "Under existing conditions some ten men
at the most should be enough to operate it."

"All right," the Canadian said, "then why should there be any
more than that?"

"Why?" I answered.

I stared at Ned Land, whose motives were easy to guess.

"Because," I said, "if I can trust my hunches, if I truly understand
the captain's way of life, his Nautilus isn't simply a ship.
It's meant to be a refuge for people like its commander, people who
have severed all ties with the shore."

"Perhaps," Conseil said, "but in a nutshell, the Nautilus can hold only
a certain number of men, so couldn't master estimate their maximum?"

"How, Conseil?"

"By calculating it. Master is familiar with the ship's capacity,
hence the amount of air it contains; on the other hand,
master knows how much air each man consumes in the act of breathing,
and he can compare this data with the fact that the Nautilus must
rise to the surface every twenty-four hours . . ."

Conseil didn't finish his sentence, but I could easily see what
he was driving at.

"I follow you," I said. "But while they're simple to do,
such calculations can give only a very uncertain figure."

"No problem," the Canadian went on insistently.

"Then here's how to calculate it," I replied. "In one hour
each man consumes the oxygen contained in 100 liters of air,
hence during twenty-four hours the oxygen contained in 2,400 liters.
Therefore, we must look for the multiple of 2,400 liters of air
that gives us the amount found in the Nautilus."

"Precisely," Conseil said.

"Now then," I went on, "the Nautilus's capacity is 1,500 metric tons,
and that of a ton is 1,000 liters, so the Nautilus holds 1,500,000
liters of air, which, divided by 2,400 . . ."

I did a quick pencil calculation.

". . . gives us the quotient of 625. Which is tantamount to saying
that the air contained in the Nautilus would be exactly enough
for 625 men over twenty-four hours."

"625!" Ned repeated.

"But rest assured," I added, "that between passengers, seamen,
or officers, we don't total one-tenth of that figure."

"Which is still too many for three men!" Conseil muttered.

"So, my poor Ned, I can only counsel patience."

"And," Conseil replied, "even more than patience, resignation."

Conseil had said the true word.

"Even so," he went on, "Captain Nemo can't go south forever!
He'll surely have to stop, if only at the Ice Bank, and he'll
return to the seas of civilization! Then it will be time to resume
Ned Land's plans."

The Canadian shook his head, passed his hand over his brow,
made no reply, and left us.

"With master's permission, I'll make an observation to him,"
Conseil then told me. "Our poor Ned broods about all
the things he can't have. He's haunted by his former life.
He seems to miss everything that's denied us. He's obsessed by his
old memories and it's breaking his heart. We must understand him.
What does he have to occupy him here? Nothing. He isn't a scientist
like master, and he doesn't share our enthusiasm for the sea's wonders.
He would risk anything just to enter a tavern in his own country!"

To be sure, the monotony of life on board must have seemed unbearable
to the Canadian, who was accustomed to freedom and activity.
It was a rare event that could excite him. That day, however,
a development occurred that reminded him of his happy years
as a harpooner.

Near eleven o'clock in the morning, while on the surface of
the ocean, the Nautilus fell in with a herd of baleen whales.
This encounter didn't surprise me, because I knew these animals
were being hunted so relentlessly that they took refuge in the ocean
basins of the high latitudes.

In the maritime world and in the realm of geographic exploration,
whales have played a major role. This is the animal that first
dragged the Basques in its wake, then Asturian Spaniards, Englishmen,
and Dutchmen, emboldening them against the ocean's perils,
and leading them to the ends of the earth. Baleen whales like
to frequent the southernmost and northernmost seas. Old legends
even claim that these cetaceans led fishermen to within a mere
seven leagues of the North Pole. Although this feat is fictitious,
it will someday come true, because it's likely that by hunting
whales in the Arctic or Antarctic regions, man will finally reach
this unknown spot on the globe.

We were seated on the platform next to a tranquil sea. The month
of March, since it's the equivalent of October in these latitudes,
was giving us some fine autumn days. It was the Canadian--
on this topic he was never mistaken--who sighted a baleen whale
on the eastern horizon. If you looked carefully, you could see
its blackish back alternately rise and fall above the waves,
five miles from the Nautilus.

"Wow!" Ned Land exclaimed. "If I were on board a whaler,
there's an encounter that would be great fun! That's one big animal!
Look how high its blowholes are spouting all that air and steam!
Damnation! Why am I chained to this hunk of sheet iron!"

"Why, Ned!" I replied. "You still aren't over your old fishing urges?"

"How could a whale fisherman forget his old trade, sir? Who could
ever get tired of such exciting hunting?"

"You've never fished these seas, Ned?"

"Never, sir. Just the northernmost seas, equally in the Bering Strait
and the Davis Strait."

"So the southern right whale is still unknown to you.
Until now it's the bowhead whale you've hunted, and it won't risk
going past the warm waters of the equator."

"Oh, professor, what are you feeding me?" the Canadian answered
in a tolerably skeptical tone.

"I'm feeding you the facts."

"By thunder! In '65, just two and a half years ago, I to whom you speak,
I myself stepped onto the carcass of a whale near Greenland,
and its flank still carried the marked harpoon of a whaling ship
from the Bering Sea. Now I ask you, after it had been wounded
west of America, how could this animal be killed in the east,
unless it had cleared the equator and doubled Cape Horn or the Cape
of Good Hope?"

"I agree with our friend Ned," Conseil said, "and I'm waiting
to hear how master will reply to him."

"Master will reply, my friends, that baleen whales are localized,
according to species, within certain seas that they never leave.
And if one of these animals went from the Bering Strait
to the Davis Strait, it's quite simply because there's some
passageway from the one sea to the other, either along the coasts
of Canada or Siberia."

"You expect us to fall for that?" the Canadian asked, tipping me a wink.

"If master says so," Conseil replied.

"Which means," the Canadian went on, "since I've never fished
these waterways, I don't know the whales that frequent them?"

"That's what I've been telling you, Ned."

"All the more reason to get to know them," Conseil answered.

"Look! Look!" the Canadian exclaimed, his voice full of excitement.
"It's approaching! It's coming toward us! It's thumbing its nose at me!
It knows I can't do a blessed thing to it!"

Ned stamped his foot. Brandishing an imaginary harpoon,
his hands positively trembled.

"These cetaceans," he asked, "are they as big as the ones in
the northernmost seas?"

"Pretty nearly, Ned."

"Because I've seen big baleen whales, sir, whales measuring up
to 100 feet long! I've even heard that those rorqual whales off
the Aleutian Islands sometimes get over 150 feet."

"That strikes me as exaggerated," I replied. "Those animals are
only members of the genus Balaenoptera furnished with dorsal fins,
and like sperm whales, they're generally smaller than the bowhead whale."

"Oh!" exclaimed the Canadian, whose eyes hadn't left the ocean.
"It's getting closer, it's coming into the Nautilus's waters!"

Then, going on with his conversation:

"You talk about sperm whales," he said, "as if they were
little beasts! But there are stories of gigantic sperm whales.
They're shrewd cetaceans. I hear that some will cover themselves
with algae and fucus plants. People mistake them for islets.
They pitch camp on top, make themselves at home, light a fire--"

"Build houses," Conseil said.

"Yes, funny man," Ned Land replied. "Then one fine day the animal
dives and drags all its occupants down into the depths."

"Like in the voyages of Sinbad the Sailor," I answered, laughing.
"Oh, Mr. Land, you're addicted to tall tales! What sperm whales
you're handing us! I hope you don't really believe in them!"

"Mr. Naturalist," the Canadian replied in all seriousness, "when it
comes to whales, you can believe anything! (Look at that one move!
Look at it stealing away!) People claim these animals can circle
around the world in just fifteen days."

"I don't say nay."

"But what you undoubtedly don't know, Professor Aronnax, is that at
the beginning of the world, whales traveled even quicker."

"Oh really, Ned! And why so?"

"Because in those days their tails moved side to side,
like those on fish, in other words, their tails were straight up,
thrashing the water from left to right, right to left.
But spotting that they swam too fast, our Creator twisted their tails,
and ever since they've been thrashing the waves up and down,
at the expense of their speed."

"Fine, Ned," I said, then resurrected one of the Canadian's expressions.
"You expect us to fall for that?"

"Not too terribly," Ned Land replied, "and no more than if I told you
there are whales that are 300 feet long and weigh 1,000,000 pounds."

"That's indeed considerable," I said. "But you must admit that
certain cetaceans do grow to significant size, since they're said
to supply as much as 120 metric tons of oil."

"That I've seen," the Canadian said.

"I can easily believe it, Ned, just as I can believe that certain
baleen whales equal 100 elephants in bulk. Imagine the impact
of such a mass if it were launched at full speed!"

"Is it true," Conseil asked, "that they can sink ships?"

"Ships? I doubt it," I replied. "However, they say that in 1820,
right in these southern seas, a baleen whale rushed at the Essex
and pushed it backward at a speed of four meters per second.
Its stern was flooded, and the Essex went down fast."

Ned looked at me with a bantering expression.

"Speaking for myself," he said, "I once got walloped by a whale's tail--
in my longboat, needless to say. My companions and I were launched
to an altitude of six meters. But next to the professor's whale,
mine was just a baby."

"Do these animals live a long time?" Conseil asked.

"A thousand years," the Canadian replied without hesitation.

"And how, Ned," I asked, "do you know that's so?"

"Because people say so."

"And why do people say so?"

"Because people know so."

"No, Ned! People don't know so, they suppose so, and here's the logic
with which they back up their beliefs. When fishermen first hunted whales
400 years ago, these animals grew to bigger sizes than they do today.
Reasonably enough, it's assumed that today's whales are smaller
because they haven't had time to reach their full growth.
That's why the Count de Buffon's encyclopedia says that cetaceans
can live, and even must live, for a thousand years. You understand?"

Ned Land didn't understand. He no longer even heard me.
That baleen whale kept coming closer. His eyes devoured it.

"Oh!" he exclaimed. "It's not just one whale, it's ten, twenty,
a whole gam! And I can't do a thing! I'm tied hand and foot!"

"But Ned my friend," Conseil said, "why not ask Captain Nemo
for permission to hunt--"

Before Conseil could finish his sentence, Ned Land scooted down
the hatch and ran to look for the captain. A few moments later,
the two of them reappeared on the platform.

Captain Nemo observed the herd of cetaceans cavorting on the waters
a mile from the Nautilus.

"They're southern right whales," he said. "There goes the fortune
of a whole whaling fleet."

"Well, sir," the Canadian asked, "couldn't I hunt them, just so I
don't forget my old harpooning trade?"

"Hunt them? What for?" Captain Nemo replied. "Simply to destroy them?
We have no use for whale oil on this ship."

"But, sir," the Canadian went on, "in the Red Sea you authorized
us to chase a dugong!"

"There it was an issue of obtaining fresh meat for my crew.
Here it would be killing for the sake of killing. I'm well aware
that's a privilege reserved for mankind, but I don't allow such
murderous pastimes. When your peers, Mr. Land, destroy decent,
harmless creatures like the southern right whale or the bowhead whale,
they commit a reprehensible offense. Thus they've already depopulated
all of Baffin Bay, and they'll wipe out a whole class of useful animals.
So leave these poor cetaceans alone. They have quite enough
natural enemies, such as sperm whales, swordfish, and sawfish,
without you meddling with them."

I'll let the reader decide what faces the Canadian made during this
lecture on hunting ethics. Furnishing such arguments to a professional
harpooner was a waste of words. Ned Land stared at Captain Nemo
and obviously missed his meaning. But the captain was right.
Thanks to the mindless, barbaric bloodthirstiness of fishermen,
the last baleen whale will someday disappear from the ocean.

Ned Land whistled "Yankee Doodle" between his teeth, stuffed his
hands in his pockets, and turned his back on us.

Meanwhile Captain Nemo studied the herd of cetaceans, then addressed me:

"I was right to claim that baleen whales have enough natural enemies
without counting man. These specimens will soon have to deal
with mighty opponents. Eight miles to leeward, Professor Aronnax,
can you see those blackish specks moving about?"

"Yes, captain," I replied.

"Those are sperm whales, dreadful animals that I've sometimes
encountered in herds of 200 or 300! As for them, they're cruel,
destructive beasts, and they deserve to be exterminated."

The Canadian turned swiftly at these last words.

"Well, captain," I said, "on behalf of the baleen whales,
there's still time--"

"It's pointless to run any risks, professor. The Nautilus will
suffice to disperse these sperm whales. It's armed with a steel
spur quite equal to Mr. Land's harpoon, I imagine."

The Canadian didn't even bother shrugging his shoulders.
Attacking cetaceans with thrusts from a spur! Who ever heard
of such malarkey!

"Wait and see, Professor Aronnax," Captain Nemo said.
"We'll show you a style of hunting with which you aren't yet familiar.
We'll take no pity on these ferocious cetaceans. They're merely
mouth and teeth!"

Mouth and teeth! There's no better way to describe the long-skulled
sperm whale, whose length sometimes exceeds twenty-five meters.
The enormous head of this cetacean occupies about a third of its body.
Better armed than a baleen whale, whose upper jaw is adorned solely
with whalebone, the sperm whale is equipped with twenty-five
huge teeth that are twenty centimeters high, have cylindrical,
conical summits, and weigh two pounds each. In the top part of this
enormous head, inside big cavities separated by cartilage, you'll find
300 to 400 kilograms of that valuable oil called "spermaceti."
The sperm whale is an awkward animal, more tadpole than fish,
as Professor Frdol has noted. It's poorly constructed,
being "defective," so to speak, over the whole left side of its frame,
with good eyesight only in its right eye.

Meanwhile that monstrous herd kept coming closer.
It had seen the baleen whales and was preparing to attack.
You could tell in advance that the sperm whales would be victorious,
not only because they were better built for fighting than their
harmless adversaries, but also because they could stay longer
underwater before returning to breathe at the surface.

There was just time to run to the rescue of the baleen whales.
The Nautilus proceeded to midwater. Conseil, Ned, and I sat in front
of the lounge windows. Captain Nemo made his way to the helmsman's
side to operate his submersible as an engine of destruction.
Soon I felt the beats of our propeller getting faster, and we
picked up speed.

The battle between sperm whales and baleen whales had already begun
when the Nautilus arrived. It maneuvered to cut into the herd
of long-skulled predators. At first the latter showed little
concern at the sight of this new monster meddling in the battle.
But they soon had to sidestep its thrusts.

What a struggle! Ned Land quickly grew enthusiastic and even ended
up applauding. Brandished in its captain's hands, the Nautilus was
simply a fearsome harpoon. He hurled it at those fleshy masses and ran
them clean through, leaving behind two squirming animal halves.
As for those daunting strokes of the tail hitting our sides,
the ship never felt them. No more than the collisions it caused.
One sperm whale exterminated, it ran at another, tacked on the spot
so as not to miss its prey, went ahead or astern, obeyed its rudder,
dived when the cetacean sank to deeper strata, rose with it
when it returned to the surface, struck it head-on or slantwise,
hacked at it or tore it, and from every direction and at any speed,
skewered it with its dreadful spur.

What bloodshed! What a hubbub on the surface of the waves!
What sharp hisses and snorts unique to these frightened animals!
Their tails churned the normally peaceful strata into actual billows.

This Homeric slaughter dragged on for an hour, and the long-skulled
predators couldn't get away. Several times ten or twelve of them
teamed up, trying to crush the Nautilus with their sheer mass.
Through the windows you could see their enormous mouths paved
with teeth, their fearsome eyes. Losing all self-control, Ned Land
hurled threats and insults at them. You could feel them clinging
to the submersible like hounds atop a wild boar in the underbrush.
But by forcing the pace of its propeller, the Nautilus carried them off,
dragged them under, or brought them back to the upper level of the waters,
untroubled by their enormous weight or their powerful grip.

Finally this mass of sperm whales thinned out. The waves grew
tranquil again. I felt us rising to the surface of the ocean.
The hatch opened and we rushed onto the platform.

The sea was covered with mutilated corpses. A fearsome explosion
couldn't have slashed, torn, or shredded these fleshy masses with
greater violence. We were floating in the midst of gigantic bodies,
bluish on the back, whitish on the belly, and all deformed
by enormous protuberances. A few frightened sperm whales were
fleeing toward the horizon. The waves were dyed red over an area
of several miles, and the Nautilus was floating in the middle
of a sea of blood.

Captain Nemo rejoined us.

"Well, Mr. Land?" he said.

"Well, sir," replied the Canadian, whose enthusiasm had subsided,
"it's a dreadful sight for sure. But I'm a hunter not a butcher,
and this is plain butchery."

"It was a slaughter of destructive animals," the captain replied,
"and the Nautilus is no butcher knife."

"I prefer my harpoon," the Canadian answered.

"To each his own," the captain replied, staring intently at Ned Land.

I was in dread the latter would give way to some violent outburst
that might have had deplorable consequences. But his anger was
diverted by the sight of a baleen whale that the Nautilus had pulled
alongside of just then.

This animal had been unable to escape the teeth of those sperm whales.
I recognized the southern right whale, its head squat, its body dark
all over. Anatomically, it's distinguished from the white whale and
the black right whale by the fusion of its seven cervical vertebrae,
and it numbers two more ribs than its relatives. Floating on its side,
its belly riddled with bites, the poor cetacean was dead.
Still hanging from the tip of its mutilated fin was a little baby
whale that it had been unable to rescue from the slaughter.
Its open mouth let water flow through its whalebone like a murmuring surf.

Captain Nemo guided the Nautilus next to the animal's corpse.
Two of his men climbed onto the whale's flank, and to my astonishment,
I saw them draw from its udders all the milk they held, in other words,
enough to fill two or three casks.

The captain offered me a cup of this still-warm milk.
I couldn't help showing my distaste for such a beverage.
He assured me that this milk was excellent, no different from cow's milk.

I sampled it and agreed. So this milk was a worthwhile reserve
ration for us, because in the form of salt butter or cheese,
it would provide a pleasant change of pace from our standard fare.

From that day on, I noted with some uneasiness that Ned Land's
attitudes toward Captain Nemo grew worse and worse, and I decided
to keep a close watch on the Canadian's movements and activities.

CHAPTER 13

The Ice Bank

THE NAUTILUS resumed its unruffled southbound heading.
It went along the 50th meridian with considerable speed.
Would it go to the pole? I didn't think so, because every previous
attempt to reach this spot on the globe had failed. Besides, the season
was already quite advanced, since March 13 on Antarctic shores
corresponds with September 13 in the northernmost regions,
which marks the beginning of the equinoctial period.

On March 14 at latitude 55 degrees, I spotted floating ice,
plain pale bits of rubble twenty to twenty-five feet long,
which formed reefs over which the sea burst into foam. The Nautilus
stayed on the surface of the ocean. Having fished in the Arctic seas,
Ned Land was already familiar with the sight of icebergs.
Conseil and I were marveling at them for the first time.

In the sky toward the southern horizon, there stretched a dazzling
white band. English whalers have given this the name "ice blink."
No matter how heavy the clouds may be, they can't obscure
this phenomenon. It announces the presence of a pack, or shoal, of ice.

Indeed, larger blocks of ice soon appeared, their brilliance varying
at the whim of the mists. Some of these masses displayed green veins,
as if scrawled with undulating lines of copper sulfate. Others looked
like enormous amethysts, letting the light penetrate their insides.
The latter reflected the sun's rays from the thousand facets of
their crystals. The former, tinted with a bright limestone sheen,
would have supplied enough building material to make a whole marble town.

The farther down south we went, the more these floating islands grew
in numbers and prominence. Polar birds nested on them by the thousands.
These were petrels, cape pigeons, or puffins, and their calls
were deafening. Mistaking the Nautilus for the corpse of a whale,
some of them alighted on it and prodded its resonant sheet iron
with pecks of their beaks.

During this navigating in the midst of the ice, Captain Nemo
often stayed on the platform. He observed these deserted
waterways carefully. I saw his calm eyes sometimes perk up.
In these polar seas forbidden to man, did he feel right at home,
the lord of these unreachable regions? Perhaps. But he didn't say.
He stood still, reviving only when his pilot's instincts took over.
Then, steering his Nautilus with consummate dexterity, he skillfully
dodged the masses of ice, some of which measured several miles
in length, their heights varying from seventy to eighty meters.
Often the horizon seemed completely closed off. Abreast of latitude
60 degrees, every passageway had disappeared. Searching with care,
Captain Nemo soon found a narrow opening into which he brazenly slipped,
well aware, however, that it would close behind him.

Guided by his skillful hands, the Nautilus passed by all these different
masses of ice, which are classified by size and shape with a precision
that enraptured Conseil: "icebergs," or mountains; "ice fields,"
or smooth, limitless tracts; "drift ice," or floating floes;
"packs," or broken tracts, called "patches" when they're circular
and "streams" when they form long strips.

The temperature was fairly low. Exposed to the outside air,
the thermometer marked -2 degrees to

-3 degrees centigrade. But we were warmly dressed in furs,
for which seals and aquatic bears had paid the price. Evenly heated
by all its electric equipment, the Nautilus's interior defied
the most intense cold. Moreover, to find a bearable temperature,
the ship had only to sink just a few meters beneath the waves.

Two months earlier we would have enjoyed perpetual daylight in
this latitude; but night already fell for three or four hours, and later
it would cast six months of shadow over these circumpolar regions.

On March 15 we passed beyond the latitude of the South Shetland and
South Orkney Islands. The captain told me that many tribes of seals
used to inhabit these shores; but English and American whalers,
in a frenzy of destruction, slaughtered all the adults,
including pregnant females, and where life and activity once existed,
those fishermen left behind only silence and death.

Going along the 55th meridian, the Nautilus cut the Antarctic Circle
on March 16 near eight o'clock in the morning. Ice completely
surrounded us and closed off the horizon. Nevertheless, Captain Nemo
went from passageway to passageway, always proceeding south.

"But where's he going?" I asked.

"Straight ahead," Conseil replied. "Ultimately, when he can't go
any farther, he'll stop."

"I wouldn't bet on it!" I replied.

And in all honesty, I confess that this venturesome excursion
was far from displeasing to me. I can't express the intensity
of my amazement at the beauties of these new regions.
The ice struck superb poses. Here, its general effect suggested
an oriental town with countless minarets and mosques. There, a city
in ruins, flung to the ground by convulsions in the earth.
These views were varied continuously by the sun's oblique rays,
or were completely swallowed up by gray mists in the middle of blizzards.
Then explosions, cave-ins, and great iceberg somersaults would occur
all around us, altering the scenery like the changing landscape
in a diorama.

If the Nautilus was submerged during these losses of balance, we heard
the resulting noises spread under the waters with frightful intensity,
and the collapse of these masses created daunting eddies down
to the ocean's lower strata. The Nautilus then rolled and pitched
like a ship left to the fury of the elements.

Often, no longer seeing any way out, I thought we were imprisoned
for good, but Captain Nemo, guided by his instincts, discovered new
passageways from the tiniest indications. He was never wrong
when he observed slender threads of bluish water streaking through
these ice fields. Accordingly, I was sure that he had already
risked his Nautilus in the midst of the Antarctic seas.

However, during the day of March 16, these tracts of ice completely
barred our path. It wasn't the Ice Bank as yet, just huge ice
fields cemented together by the cold. This obstacle couldn't stop
Captain Nemo, and he launched his ship against the ice fields
with hideous violence. The Nautilus went into these brittle
masses like a wedge, splitting them with dreadful cracklings.
It was an old-fashioned battering ram propelled with infinite power.
Hurled aloft, ice rubble fell back around us like hail.
Through brute force alone, the submersible carved out a channel
for itself. Carried away by its momentum, the ship sometimes mounted
on top of these tracts of ice and crushed them with its weight,
or at other times, when cooped up beneath the ice fields, it split
them with simple pitching movements, creating wide punctures.

Violent squalls assaulted us during the daytime. Thanks to certain
heavy mists, we couldn't see from one end of the platform to the other.
The wind shifted abruptly to every point on the compass.
The snow was piling up in such packed layers, it had to be chipped
loose with blows from picks. Even in a temperature of merely -5
degrees centigrade, every outside part of the Nautilus was covered
with ice. A ship's rigging would have been unusable, because all
its tackle would have jammed in the grooves of the pulleys.
Only a craft without sails, driven by an electric motor that needed
no coal, could face such high latitudes.

Under these conditions the barometer generally stayed quite low.
It fell as far as 73.5 centimeters. Our compass indications
no longer offered any guarantees. The deranged needles would
mark contradictory directions as we approached the southern
magnetic pole, which doesn't coincide with the South Pole proper.
In fact, according to the astronomer Hansteen, this magnetic pole is
located fairly close to latitude 70 degrees and longitude 130 degrees,
or abiding by the observations of Louis-Isidore Duperrey, in longitude
135 degrees and latitude 70 degrees 30'. Hence we had to transport
compasses to different parts of the ship, take many readings,
and strike an average. Often we could chart our course only by guesswork,
a less than satisfactory method in the midst of these winding
passageways whose landmarks change continuously.

At last on March 18, after twenty futile assaults, the Nautilus
was decisively held in check. No longer was it an ice stream,
patch, or field--it was an endless, immovable barrier formed by ice
mountains fused to each other.

"The Ice Bank!" the Canadian told me.

For Ned Land, as well as for every navigator before us, I knew
that this was the great insurmountable obstacle. When the sun
appeared for an instant near noon, Captain Nemo took a reasonably
accurate sight that gave our position as longitude 51 degrees 30'
and latitude 67 degrees 39' south. This was a position already
well along in these Antarctic regions.

As for the liquid surface of the sea, there was no longer
any semblance of it before our eyes. Before the Nautilus's
spur there lay vast broken plains, a tangle of confused chunks
with all the helter-skelter unpredictability typical of a river's
surface a short while before its ice breakup; but in this case
the proportions were gigantic. Here and there stood sharp peaks,
lean spires that rose as high as 200 feet; farther off, a succession
of steeply cut cliffs sporting a grayish tint, huge mirrors
that reflected the sparse rays of a sun half drowned in mist.
Beyond, a stark silence reigned in this desolate natural setting,
a silence barely broken by the flapping wings of petrels or puffins.
By this point everything was frozen, even sound.

So the Nautilus had to halt in its venturesome course among these
tracts of ice.

"Sir," Ned Land told me that day, "if your captain goes any farther . . ."

"Yes?"

"He'll be a superman."

"How so, Ned?"

"Because nobody can clear the Ice Bank. Your captain's a
powerful man, but damnation, he isn't more powerful than nature.
If she draws a boundary line, there you stop, like it or not!"

"Correct, Ned Land, but I still want to know what's behind this
Ice Bank! Behold my greatest source of irritation--a wall!"

"Master is right," Conseil said. "Walls were invented simply
to frustrate scientists. All walls should be banned."

"Fine!" the Canadian put in. "But we already know what's behind
this Ice Bank."

"What?" I asked.

"Ice, ice, and more ice."

"You may be sure of that, Ned," I answered, "but I'm not.
That's why I want to see for myself."

"Well, professor," the Canadian replied, "you can just drop that idea!
You've made it to the Ice Bank, which is already far enough,
but you won't get any farther, neither your Captain Nemo or
his Nautilus. And whether he wants to or not, we'll head north again,
in other words, to the land of sensible people."

I had to agree that Ned Land was right, and until ships are built
to navigate over tracts of ice, they'll have to stop at the Ice Bank.

Indeed, despite its efforts, despite the powerful methods it
used to split this ice, the Nautilus was reduced to immobility.
Ordinarily, when someone can't go any farther, he still has
the option of returning in his tracks. But here it was just
as impossible to turn back as to go forward, because every
passageway had closed behind us, and if our submersible remained
even slightly stationary, it would be frozen in without delay.
Which is exactly what happened near two o'clock in the afternoon,
and fresh ice kept forming over the ship's sides with astonishing speed.
I had to admit that Captain Nemo's leadership had been most injudicious.

Just then I was on the platform. Observing the situation for some while,
the captain said to me:

"Well, professor! What think you?"

"I think we're trapped, captain."

"Trapped! What do you mean?"

"I mean we can't go forward, backward, or sideways.
I think that's the standard definition of 'trapped,' at least
in the civilized world."

"So, Professor Aronnax, you think the Nautilus won't be able
to float clear?"

"Only with the greatest difficulty, captain, since the season
is already too advanced for you to depend on an ice breakup."

"Oh, professor," Captain Nemo replied in an ironic tone,
"you never change! You see only impediments and obstacles!
I promise you, not only will the Nautilus float clear, it will
go farther still!"

"Farther south?" I asked, gaping at the captain.

"Yes, sir, it will go to the pole."

"To the pole!" I exclaimed, unable to keep back a movement of disbelief.

"Yes," the captain replied coolly, "the Antarctic pole,
that unknown spot crossed by every meridian on the globe.
As you know, I do whatever I like with my Nautilus."

Yes, I did know that! I knew this man was daring to the point
of being foolhardy. But to overcome all the obstacles around
the South Pole--even more unattainable than the North Pole,
which still hadn't been reached by the boldest navigators--
wasn't this an absolutely insane undertaking, one that could occur
only in the brain of a madman?

It then dawned on me to ask Captain Nemo if he had already discovered
this pole, which no human being had ever trod underfoot.

"No, sir," he answered me, "but we'll discover it together.
Where others have failed, I'll succeed. Never before has my
Nautilus cruised so far into these southernmost seas, but I repeat:
it will go farther still."

"I'd like to believe you, captain," I went on in a tone of some sarcasm.
"Oh I do believe you! Let's forge ahead! There are no obstacles for us!
Let's shatter this Ice Bank! Let's blow it up, and if it still resists,
let's put wings on the Nautilus and fly over it!"

"Over it, professor?" Captain Nemo replied serenely.
"No, not over it, but under it."

"Under it!" I exclaimed.

A sudden insight into Captain Nemo's plans had just flashed through
my mind. I understood. The marvelous talents of his Nautilus
would be put to work once again in this superhuman undertaking!

"I can see we're starting to understand each other, professor,"
Captain Nemo told me with a half smile. "You already glimpse
the potential--myself, I'd say the success--of this attempt.
Maneuvers that aren't feasible for an ordinary ship are easy for
the Nautilus. If a continent emerges at the pole, we'll stop at
that continent. But on the other hand, if open sea washes the pole,
we'll go to that very place!"

"Right," I said, carried away by the captain's logic.
"Even though the surface of the sea has solidified into ice,
its lower strata are still open, thanks to that divine justice that puts
the maximum density of salt water one degree above its freezing point.
And if I'm not mistaken, the submerged part of this Ice Bank is
in a four-to-one ratio to its emerging part."

"Very nearly, professor. For each foot of iceberg above the sea,
there are three more below. Now then, since these ice mountains don't
exceed a height of 100 meters, they sink only to a depth of 300 meters.
And what are 300 meters to the Nautilus?"

"A mere nothing, sir."

"We could even go to greater depths and find that temperature layer
common to all ocean water, and there we'd brave with impunity
the -30 degrees or -40 degrees cold on the surface."

"True, sir, very true," I replied with growing excitement.

"Our sole difficulty," Captain Nemo went on, "lies in our staying
submerged for several days without renewing our air supply."

"That's all?" I answered. "The Nautilus has huge air tanks;
we'll fill them up and they'll supply all the oxygen we need."

"Good thinking, Professor Aronnax," the captain replied with a smile.
"But since I don't want to be accused of foolhardiness, I'm giving
you all my objections in advance."

"You have more?"

"Just one. If a sea exists at the South Pole, it's possible
this sea may be completely frozen over, so we couldn't come up
to the surface!"

"My dear sir, have you forgotten that the Nautilus is armed
with a fearsome spur? Couldn't it be launched diagonally against
those tracts of ice, which would break open from the impact?"

"Ah, professor, you're full of ideas today!"

"Besides, captain," I added with still greater enthusiasm,
"why wouldn't we find open sea at the South Pole just as at
the North Pole? The cold-temperature poles and the geographical
poles don't coincide in either the northern or southern hemispheres,
and until proof to the contrary, we can assume these two spots
on the earth feature either a continent or an ice-free ocean."

"I think as you do, Professor Aronnax," Captain Nemo replied.
"I'll only point out that after raising so many objections against
my plan, you're now crushing me under arguments in its favor."

Captain Nemo was right. I was outdoing him in daring!
It was I who was sweeping him to the pole. I was leading
the way, I was out in front . . . but no, you silly fool!
Captain Nemo already knew the pros and cons of this question,
and it amused him to see you flying off into impossible fantasies!

Nevertheless, he didn't waste an instant. At his signal,
the chief officer appeared. The two men held a quick exchange
in their incomprehensible language, and either the chief officer
had been alerted previously or he found the plan feasible,
because he showed no surprise.

But as unemotional as he was, he couldn't have been more impeccably
emotionless than Conseil when I told the fine lad our intention
of pushing on to the South Pole. He greeted my announcement with
the usual "As master wishes," and I had to be content with that.
As for Ned Land, no human shoulders ever executed a higher shrug
than the pair belonging to our Canadian.

"Honestly, sir," he told me. "You and your Captain Nemo, I
pity you both!"

"But we will go to the pole, Mr. Land."

"Maybe, but you won't come back!"

And Ned Land reentered his cabin, "to keep from doing
something desperate," he said as he left me.

Meanwhile preparations for this daring attempt were getting under way.
The Nautilus's powerful pumps forced air down into the tanks
and stored it under high pressure. Near four o'clock Captain Nemo
informed me that the platform hatches were about to be closed.
I took a last look at the dense Ice Bank we were going to conquer.
The weather was fair, the skies reasonably clear, the cold quite brisk,
namely -12 degrees centigrade; but after the wind had lulled,
this temperature didn't seem too unbearable.

Equipped with picks, some ten men climbed onto the Nautilus's
sides and cracked loose the ice around the ship's lower plating,
which was soon set free. This operation was swiftly executed
because the fresh ice was still thin. We all reentered the interior.
The main ballast tanks were filled with the water that hadn't yet
congealed at our line of flotation. The Nautilus submerged without delay.

I took a seat in the lounge with Conseil. Through the open
window we stared at the lower strata of this southernmost ocean.
The thermometer rose again. The needle on the pressure gauge
swerved over its dial.

About 300 meters down, just as Captain Nemo had predicted,
we cruised beneath the undulating surface of the Ice Bank. But the
Nautilus sank deeper still. It reached a depth of 800 meters.
At the surface this water gave a temperature of -12 degrees centigrade,
but now it gave no more than -10 degrees. Two degrees had already
been gained. Thanks to its heating equipment, the Nautilus's
temperature, needless to say, stayed at a much higher degree.
Every maneuver was accomplished with extraordinary precision.

"With all due respect to master," Conseil told me, "we'll pass it by."

"I fully expect to!" I replied in a tone of deep conviction.

Now in open water, the Nautilus took a direct course to the pole
without veering from the 52nd meridian. From 67 degrees 30'
to 90 degrees, twenty-two and a half degrees of latitude were
left to cross, in other words, slightly more than 500 leagues.
The Nautilus adopted an average speed of twenty-six miles per hour,
the speed of an express train. If it kept up this pace, forty hours
would do it for reaching the pole.

For part of the night, the novelty of our circumstances kept Conseil
and me at the lounge window. The sea was lit by our beacon's
electric rays. But the depths were deserted. Fish didn't linger
in these imprisoned waters. Here they found merely a passageway
for going from the Antarctic Ocean to open sea at the pole.
Our progress was swift. You could feel it in the vibrations
of the long steel hull.

Near two o'clock in the morning, I went to snatch a few hours of sleep.
Conseil did likewise. I didn't encounter Captain Nemo while going
down the gangways. I assumed that he was keeping to the pilothouse.

The next day, March 19, at five o'clock in the morning, I was back
at my post in the lounge. The electric log indicated that the
Nautilus had reduced speed. By then it was rising to the surface,
but cautiously, while slowly emptying its ballast tanks.

My heart was pounding. Would we emerge into the open and find
the polar air again?

No. A jolt told me that the Nautilus had bumped the underbelly
of the Ice Bank, still quite thick to judge from the hollowness
of the accompanying noise. Indeed, we had "struck bottom,"
to use nautical terminology, but in the opposite direction
and at a depth of 3,000 feet. That gave us 4,000 feet
of ice overhead, of which 1,000 feet emerged above water.
So the Ice Bank was higher here than we had found it on the outskirts.
A circumstance less than encouraging.

Several times that day, the Nautilus repeated the same experiment and
always it bumped against this surface that formed a ceiling above it.
At certain moments the ship encountered ice at a depth of 900 meters,
denoting a thickness of 1,200 meters, of which 300 meters rose above
the level of the ocean. This height had tripled since the moment
the Nautilus had dived beneath the waves.

I meticulously noted these different depths, obtaining the underwater
profile of this upside-down mountain chain that stretched
beneath the sea.

By evening there was still no improvement in our situation.
The ice stayed between 400 and 500 meters deep. It was obviously
shrinking, but what a barrier still lay between us and the surface
of the ocean!

By then it was eight o'clock. The air inside the Nautilus should have
been renewed four hours earlier, following daily practice on board.
But I didn't suffer very much, although Captain Nemo hadn't yet
made demands on the supplementary oxygen in his air tanks.

That night my sleep was fitful. Hope and fear besieged me by turns.
I got up several times. The Nautilus continued groping.
Near three o'clock in the morning, I observed that we encountered
the Ice Bank's underbelly at a depth of only fifty meters.
So only 150 feet separated us from the surface of the water.
Little by little the Ice Bank was turning into an ice field again.
The mountains were changing back into plains.

My eyes didn't leave the pressure gauge. We kept rising on a diagonal,
going along this shiny surface that sparkled beneath our electric rays.
Above and below, the Ice Bank was subsiding in long gradients.
Mile after mile it was growing thinner.

Finally, at six o'clock in the morning on that memorable day of March 19,
the lounge door opened. Captain Nemo appeared.

"Open sea!" he told me.

CHAPTER 14

The South Pole

I RUSHED UP onto the platform. Yes, open sea! Barely a few
sparse floes, some moving

icebergs; a sea stretching into the distance; hosts of birds
in the air and myriads of fish under the waters, which varied
from intense blue to olive green depending on the depth.
The thermometer marked 3 degrees centigrade. It was as if a
comparative springtime had been locked up behind that Ice Bank,
whose distant masses were outlined on the northern horizon.

"Are we at the pole?" I asked the captain, my heart pounding.

"I've no idea," he answered me. "At noon we'll fix our position."

"But will the sun show through this mist?" I said, staring at
the grayish sky.

"No matter how faintly it shines, it will be enough for me,"
the captain replied.

To the south, ten miles from the Nautilus, a solitary islet rose
to a height of 200 meters. We proceeded toward it, but cautiously,
because this sea could have been strewn with reefs.

In an hour we had reached the islet. Two hours later we had completed a
full circle around it. It measured four to five miles in circumference.
A narrow channel separated it from a considerable shore,
perhaps a continent whose limits we couldn't see. The existence
of this shore seemed to bear out Commander Maury's hypotheses.
In essence, this ingenious American has noted that between
the South Pole and the 60th parallel, the sea is covered
with floating ice of dimensions much greater than any found
in the north Atlantic. From this fact he drew the conclusion
that the Antarctic Circle must contain considerable shores,
since icebergs can't form on the high seas but only along coastlines.
According to his calculations, this frozen mass enclosing the southernmost
pole forms a vast ice cap whose width must reach 4,000 kilometers.

Meanwhile, to avoid running aground, the Nautilus halted three
cable lengths from a strand crowned by superb piles of rocks.
The skiff was launched to sea. Two crewmen carrying instruments,
the captain, Conseil, and I were on board. It was ten o'clock
in the morning. I hadn't seen Ned Land. No doubt, in the presence
of the South Pole, the Canadian hated having to eat his words.

A few strokes of the oar brought the skiff to the sand,
where it ran aground. Just as Conseil was about to jump ashore,
I held him back.

"Sir," I told Captain Nemo, "to you belongs the honor of first
setting foot on this shore."

"Yes, sir," the captain replied, "and if I have no hesitation
in treading this polar soil, it's because no human being until
now has left a footprint here."

So saying, he leaped lightly onto the sand. His heart must
have been throbbing with intense excitement. He scaled an
overhanging rock that ended in a small promontory and there,
mute and motionless, with crossed arms and blazing eyes,
he seemed to be laying claim to these southernmost regions.
After spending five minutes in this trance, he turned to us.

"Whenever you're ready, sir," he called to me.

I got out, Conseil at my heels, leaving the two men in the skiff.

Over an extensive area, the soil consisted of that igneous gravel
called "tuff," reddish in color as if made from crushed bricks.
The ground was covered with slag, lava flows, and pumice stones.
Its volcanic origin was unmistakable. In certain localities thin smoke
holes gave off a sulfurous odor, showing that the inner fires still kept
their wide-ranging power. Nevertheless, when I scaled a high escarpment,
I could see no volcanoes within a radius of several miles.
In these Antarctic districts, as is well known, Sir James Clark Ross
had found the craters of Mt. Erebus and Mt. Terror in fully active
condition on the 167th meridian at latitude 77 degrees 32'.

The vegetation on this desolate continent struck me as quite limited.
A few lichens of the species Usnea melanoxanthra sprawled over
the black rocks. The whole meager flora of this region consisted
of certain microscopic buds, rudimentary diatoms made up of a type
of cell positioned between two quartz-rich shells, plus long purple
and crimson fucus plants, buoyed by small air bladders and washed
up on the coast by the surf.

The beach was strewn with mollusks: small mussels, limpets, smooth
heart-shaped cockles, and especially some sea butterflies with oblong,
membrane-filled bodies whose heads are formed from two rounded lobes.
I also saw myriads of those northernmost sea butterflies three
centimeters long, which a baleen whale can swallow by the thousands
in one gulp. The open waters at the shoreline were alive with
these delightful pteropods, true butterflies of the sea.

Among other zoophytes present in these shallows, there were
a few coral tree forms that, according to Sir James Clark Ross,
live in these Antarctic seas at depths as great as 1,000 meters;
then small alcyon coral belonging to the species Procellaria pelagica,
also a large number of starfish unique to these climes, plus some
feather stars spangling the sand.

But it was in the air that life was superabundant.
There various species of birds flew and fluttered by the thousands,
deafening us with their calls. Crowding the rocks, other fowl watched
without fear as we passed and pressed familiarly against our feet.
These were auks, as agile and supple in water, where they are sometimes
mistaken for fast bonito, as they are clumsy and heavy on land.
They uttered outlandish calls and participated in numerous public
assemblies that featured much noise but little action.

Among other fowl I noted some sheathbills from the wading-bird family,
the size of pigeons, white in color, the beak short and conical, the eyes
framed by red circles. Conseil laid in a supply of them, because when
they're properly cooked, these winged creatures make a pleasant dish.
In the air there passed sooty albatross with four-meter wingspans,
birds aptly dubbed "vultures of the ocean," also gigantic petrels
including several with arching wings, enthusiastic eaters of seal
that are known as quebrantahuesos,* and cape pigeons, a sort
of small duck, the tops of their bodies black and white--in short,
a whole series of petrels, some whitish with wings trimmed in brown,
others blue and exclusive to these Antarctic seas, the former "so oily,"
I told Conseil, "that inhabitants of the Faroe Islands simply fit
the bird with a wick, then light it up."

*Spanish: "ospreys." Ed.

"With that minor addition," Conseil replied, "these fowl would make
perfect lamps! After this, we should insist that nature equip them
with wicks in advance!"

Half a mile farther on, the ground was completely riddled with
penguin nests, egg-laying burrows from which numerous birds emerged.
Later Captain Nemo had hundreds of them hunted because their
black flesh is highly edible. They brayed like donkeys.
The size of a goose with slate-colored bodies, white undersides,
and lemon-colored neck bands, these animals let themselves be stoned
to death without making any effort to get away.

Meanwhile the mists didn't clear, and by eleven o'clock the sun
still hadn't made an appearance. Its absence disturbed me.
Without it, no sights were possible. Then how could we tell whether
we had reached the pole?

When I rejoined Captain Nemo, I found him leaning silently against
a piece of rock and staring at the sky. He seemed impatient, baffled.
But what could we do? This daring and powerful man couldn't control
the sun as he did the sea.

Noon arrived without the orb of day appearing for a single instant.
You couldn't even find its hiding place behind the curtain of mist.
And soon this mist began to condense into snow.

"Until tomorrow," the captain said simply; and we went back
to the Nautilus, amid flurries in the air.

During our absence the nets had been spread, and I observed with
fascination the fish just hauled on board. The Antarctic seas
serve as a refuge for an extremely large number of migratory fish
that flee from storms in the subpolar zones, in truth only to slide
down the gullets of porpoises and seals. I noted some one-decimeter
southern bullhead, a species of whitish cartilaginous fish overrun
with bluish gray stripes and armed with stings, then some Antarctic
rabbitfish three feet long, the body very slender, the skin a smooth
silver white, the head rounded, the topside furnished with three fins,
the snout ending in a trunk that curved back toward the mouth.
I sampled its flesh but found it tasteless, despite Conseil's views,
which were largely approving.

The blizzard lasted until the next day. It was impossible to stay
on the platform. From the lounge, where I was writing up the incidents
of this excursion to the polar continent, I could hear the calls
of petrel and albatross cavorting in the midst of the turmoil.
The Nautilus didn't stay idle, and cruising along the coast,
it advanced some ten miles farther south amid the half light left
by the sun as it skimmed the edge of the horizon.

The next day, March 20, it stopped snowing. The cold was a little
more brisk. The thermometer marked -2 degrees centigrade.
The mist had cleared, and on that day I hoped our noon sights
could be accomplished.

Since Captain Nemo hadn't yet appeared, only Conseil and I
were taken ashore by the skiff. The soil's nature was still
the same: volcanic. Traces of lava, slag, and basaltic rock
were everywhere, but I couldn't find the crater that had vomited
them up. There as yonder, myriads of birds enlivened this part
of the polar continent. But they had to share their dominion with
huge herds of marine mammals that looked at us with gentle eyes.
These were seals of various species, some stretched out on the ground,
others lying on drifting ice floes, several leaving or reentering
the sea. Having never dealt with man, they didn't run off at
our approach, and I counted enough of them thereabouts to provision
a couple hundred ships.

"Ye gods," Conseil said, "it's fortunate that Ned Land didn't
come with us!"

"Why so, Conseil?"

"Because that madcap hunter would kill every animal here."

"Every animal may be overstating it, but in truth I doubt we could keep
our Canadian friend from harpooning some of these magnificent cetaceans.
Which would be an affront to Captain Nemo, since he hates to slay
harmless beasts needlessly."

"He's right."

"Certainly, Conseil. But tell me, haven't you finished classifying
these superb specimens of marine fauna?"

"Master is well aware," Conseil replied, "that I'm not seasoned in
practical application. When master has told me these animals' names . . ."

"They're seals and walruses."

"Two genera," our scholarly Conseil hastened to say, "that belong
to the family Pinnipedia, order Carnivora, group Unguiculata,
subclass Monodelphia, class Mammalia, branch Vertebrata."

"Very nice, Conseil," I replied, "but these two genera of seals
and walruses are each divided into species, and if I'm not mistaken,
we now have a chance to actually look at them. Let's."

It was eight o'clock in the morning. We had four hours
to ourselves before the sun could be productively observed.
I guided our steps toward a huge bay that made a crescent-shaped
incision in the granite cliffs along the beach.

There, all about us, I swear that the shores and ice floes
were crowded with marine mammals as far as the eye could see,
and I involuntarily looked around for old Proteus, that mythological
shepherd who guarded King Neptune's immense flocks. To be specific,
these were seals. They formed distinct male-and-female groups,
the father watching over his family, the mother suckling her
little ones, the stronger youngsters emancipated a few paces away.
When these mammals wanted to relocate, they moved in little jumps made
by contracting their bodies, clumsily helped by their imperfectly
developed flippers, which, as with their manatee relatives,
form actual forearms. In the water, their ideal element, I must say
these animals swim wonderfully thanks to their flexible backbones,
narrow pelvises, close-cropped hair, and webbed feet.
Resting on shore, they assumed extremely graceful positions.
Consequently, their gentle features, their sensitive expressions
equal to those of the loveliest women, their soft, limpid eyes,
their charming poses, led the ancients to glorify them by metamorphosing
the males into sea gods and the females into mermaids.

I drew Conseil's attention to the considerable growth
of the cerebral lobes found in these intelligent cetaceans.
No mammal except man has more abundant cerebral matter.
Accordingly, seals are quite capable of being educated;
they make good pets, and together with certain other naturalists,
I think these animals can be properly trained to perform yeoman
service as hunting dogs for fishermen.

Most of these seals were sleeping on the rocks or the sand.
Among those properly termed seals--which have no external ears,
unlike sea lions whose ears protrude--I observed several varieties
of the species stenorhynchus, three meters long, with white hair,
bulldog heads, and armed with ten teeth in each jaw: four incisors
in both the upper and lower, plus two big canines shaped like the
fleur-de-lis. Among them slithered some sea elephants, a type of seal
with a short, flexible trunk; these are the giants of the species,
with a circumference of twenty feet and a length of ten meters.
They didn't move as we approached.

"Are these animals dangerous?" Conseil asked me.

"Only if they're attacked," I replied. "But when these giant seals
defend their little ones, their fury is dreadful, and it isn't rare
for them to smash a fisherman's longboat to bits."

"They're within their rights," Conseil answered.

"I don't say nay."

Two miles farther on, we were stopped by a promontory that screened
the bay from southerly winds. It dropped straight down to the sea,
and surf foamed against it. From beyond this ridge there came
fearsome bellows, such as a herd of cattle might produce.

"Gracious," Conseil put in, "a choir of bulls?"

"No," I said, "a choir of walruses."

"Are they fighting with each other?"

"Either fighting or playing."

"With all due respect to master, this we must see."

"Then see it we must, Conseil."

And there we were, climbing these blackish rocks amid sudden landslides
and over stones slippery with ice. More than once I took a tumble
at the expense of my backside. Conseil, more cautious or more stable,
barely faltered and would help me up, saying:

"If master's legs would kindly adopt a wider stance, master will
keep his balance."

Arriving at the topmost ridge of this promontory, I could see vast
white plains covered with walruses. These animals were playing
among themselves. They were howling not in anger but in glee.

Walruses resemble seals in the shape of their bodies and the arrangement
of their limbs. But their lower jaws lack canines and incisors, and as
for their upper canines, they consist of two tusks eighty centimeters
long with a circumference of thirty-three centimeters at the socket.
Made of solid ivory, without striations, harder than elephant tusks,
and less prone to yellowing, these teeth are in great demand.
Accordingly, walruses are the victims of a mindless hunting that
soon will destroy them all, since their hunters indiscriminately
slaughter pregnant females and youngsters, and over 4,000 individuals
are destroyed annually.

Passing near these unusual animals, I could examine them at my
leisure since they didn't stir. Their hides were rough and heavy,
a tan color leaning toward a reddish brown; their coats were
short and less than abundant. Some were four meters long.
More tranquil and less fearful than their northern relatives,
they posted no sentinels on guard duty at the approaches
to their campsite.

After examining this community of walruses, I decided to return in
my tracks. It was eleven o'clock, and if Captain Nemo found conditions
favorable for taking his sights, I wanted to be present at the operation.
But I held no hopes that the sun would make an appearance that day.
It was hidden from our eyes by clouds squeezed together on the horizon.
Apparently the jealous orb didn't want to reveal this inaccessible
spot on the globe to any human being.

Yet I decided to return to the Nautilus. We went along a steep,
narrow path that ran over the cliff's summit. By 11:30 we had arrived
at our landing place. The beached skiff had brought the captain ashore.
I spotted him standing on a chunk of basalt. His instruments
were beside him. His eyes were focused on the northern horizon,
along which the sun was sweeping in its extended arc.

I found a place near him and waited without speaking. Noon arrived,
and just as on the day before, the sun didn't put in an appearance.

It was sheer bad luck. Our noon sights were still lacking.
If we couldn't obtain them tomorrow, we would finally have to give
up any hope of fixing our position.

In essence, it was precisely March 20. Tomorrow, the 21st,
was the day of the equinox; the sun would disappear below the horizon
for six months not counting refraction, and after its disappearance
the long polar night would begin. Following the September equinox,
the sun had emerged above the northerly horizon, rising in long
spirals until December 21. At that time, the summer solstice
of these southernmost districts, the sun had started back down,
and tomorrow it would cast its last rays.

I shared my thoughts and fears with Captain Nemo.

"You're right, Professor Aronnax," he told me. "If I can't take the sun's
altitude tomorrow, I won't be able to try again for another six months.
But precisely because sailors' luck has led me into these seas
on March 21, it will be easy to get our bearings if the noonday
sun does appear before our eyes."

"Why easy, captain?"

"Because when the orb of day sweeps in such long spirals,
it's difficult to measure its exact altitude above the horizon,
and our instruments are open to committing serious errors."

"Then what can you do?"

"I use only my chronometer," Captain Nemo answered me.
"At noon tomorrow, March 21, if, after accounting for refraction,
the sun's disk is cut exactly in half by the northern horizon,
that will mean I'm at the South Pole."

"Right," I said. "Nevertheless, it isn't mathematically exact proof,
because the equinox needn't fall precisely at noon."

"No doubt, sir, but the error will be under 100 meters, and that's
close enough for us. Until tomorrow then."

Captain Nemo went back on board. Conseil and I stayed behind
until five o'clock, surveying the beach, observing and studying.
The only unusual object I picked up was an auk's egg of remarkable size,
for which a collector would have paid more than 1,000 francs.
Its cream-colored tint, plus the streaks and markings that
decorated it like so many hieroglyphics, made it a rare trinket.
I placed it in Conseil's hands, and holding it like precious
porcelain from China, that cautious, sure-footed lad got it back
to the Nautilus in one piece.

There I put this rare egg inside one of the glass cases in the museum.
I ate supper, feasting with appetite on an excellent piece of seal
liver whose flavor reminded me of pork. Then I went to bed;
but not without praying, like a good Hindu, for the favors of
the radiant orb.

The next day, March 21, bright and early at five o'clock in the morning,
I climbed onto the platform. I found Captain Nemo there.

"The weather is clearing a bit," he told me. "I have high hopes.
After breakfast we'll make our way ashore and choose an observation post."

This issue settled, I went to find Ned Land. I wanted to take him
with me. The obstinate Canadian refused, and I could clearly see
that his tight-lipped mood and his bad temper were growing by the day.
Under the circumstances I ultimately wasn't sorry that he refused.
In truth, there were too many seals ashore, and it would never do
to expose this impulsive fisherman to such temptations.

Breakfast over, I made my way ashore. The Nautilus had gone a few
more miles during the night. It lay well out, a good league from
the coast, which was crowned by a sharp peak 400 to 500 meters high.
In addition to me, the skiff carried Captain Nemo, two crewmen,
and the instruments--in other words, a chronometer, a spyglass,
and a barometer.

During our crossing I saw numerous baleen whales belonging to the
three species unique to these southernmost seas: the bowhead whale
(or "right whale," according to the English), which has no dorsal fin;
the humpback whale from the genus Balaenoptera (in other words,
"winged whales"), beasts with wrinkled bellies and huge whitish
fins that, genus name regardless, do not yet form wings;
and the finback whale, yellowish brown, the swiftest of all cetaceans.
This powerful animal is audible from far away when it sends up
towering spouts of air and steam that resemble swirls of smoke.
Herds of these different mammals were playing about in the
tranquil waters, and I could easily see that this Antarctic polar
basin now served as a refuge for those cetaceans too relentlessly
pursued by hunters.

I also noted long, whitish strings of salps, a type of mollusk
found in clusters, and some jellyfish of large size that swayed
in the eddies of the billows.

By nine o'clock we had pulled up to shore. The sky was growing brighter.
Clouds were fleeing to the south. Mists were rising from
the cold surface of the water. Captain Nemo headed toward
the peak, which he no doubt planned to make his observatory.
It was an arduous climb over sharp lava and pumice stones in the midst
of air often reeking with sulfurous fumes from the smoke holes.
For a man out of practice at treading land, the captain scaled
the steepest slopes with a supple agility I couldn't equal,
and which would have been envied by hunters of Pyrenees mountain goats.

It took us two hours to reach the summit of this half-crystal,
half-basalt peak. From there our eyes scanned a vast sea, which scrawled
its boundary line firmly against the background of the northern sky.
At our feet: dazzling tracts of white. Over our heads:
a pale azure, clear of mists. North of us: the sun's disk,
like a ball of fire already cut into by the edge of the horizon.
From the heart of the waters: jets of liquid rising like hundreds
of magnificent bouquets. Far off, like a sleeping cetacean:
the Nautilus. Behind us to the south and east: an immense shore,
a chaotic heap of rocks and ice whose limits we couldn't see.

Arriving at the summit of this peak, Captain Nemo carefully determined
its elevation by means of his barometer, since he had to take this
factor into account in his noon sights.

At 11:45 the sun, by then seen only by refraction, looked like a
golden disk, dispersing its last rays over this deserted continent
and down to these seas not yet plowed by the ships of man.

Captain Nemo had brought a spyglass with a reticular eyepiece,
which corrected the sun's refraction by means of a mirror,
and he used it to observe the orb sinking little by little
along a very extended diagonal that reached below the horizon.
I held the chronometer. My heart was pounding mightily.
If the lower half of the sun's disk disappeared just as the chronometer
said noon, we were right at the pole.

"Noon!" I called.

"The South Pole!" Captain Nemo replied in a solemn voice,
handing me the spyglass, which showed the orb of day cut into two
exactly equal parts by the horizon.

I stared at the last rays wreathing this peak, while shadows were
gradually climbing its gradients.

Just then, resting his hand on my shoulder, Captain Nemo said to me:

"In 1600, sir, the Dutchman Gheritk was swept by storms
and currents, reaching latitude 64 degrees south and discovering
the South Shetland Islands. On January 17, 1773, the famous Captain Cook
went along the 38th meridian, arriving at latitude 67 degrees 30';
and on January 30, 1774, along the 109th meridian, he reached
latitude 71 degrees 15'. In 1819 the Russian Bellinghausen lay on
the 69th parallel, and in 1821 on the 66th at longitude 111 degrees west.
In 1820 the Englishman Bransfield stopped at 65 degrees.
That same year the American Morrel, whose reports are dubious,
went along the 42nd meridian, finding open sea at latitude 70 degrees
14'. In 1825 the Englishman Powell was unable to get beyond 62 degrees.
That same year a humble seal fisherman, the Englishman Weddell,
went as far as latitude 72 degrees 14' on the 35th meridian, and as
far as 74 degrees 15' on the 36th. In 1829 the Englishman Forster,
commander of the Chanticleer, laid claim to the Antarctic continent
in latitude 63 degrees 26' and longitude 66 degrees 26'. On February 1,
1831, the Englishman Biscoe discovered Enderby Land at latitude 68
degrees 50', Adelaide Land at latitude 67 degrees on February 5,
1832, and Graham Land at latitude 64 degrees 45' on February 21.
In 1838 the Frenchman Dumont d'Urville stopped at the Ice Bank
in latitude 62 degrees 57', sighting the Louis-Philippe Peninsula;
on January 21 two years later, at a new southerly position of 66
degrees 30', he named the Adlie Coast and eight days later,
the Clarie Coast at 64 degrees 40'. In 1838 the American Wilkes
advanced as far as the 69th parallel on the 100th meridian.
In 1839 the Englishman Balleny discovered the Sabrina Coast at the edge
of the polar circle. Lastly, on January 12, 1842, with his ships,
the Erebus and the Terror, the Englishman Sir James Clark Ross found
Victoria Land in latitude 70 degrees 56' and longitude 171 degrees 7'
east; on the 23rd of that same month, he reached the 74th parallel,
a position denoting the Farthest South attained until then;
on the 27th he lay at 76 degrees 8'; on the 28th at 77 degrees 32';
on February 2 at 78 degrees 4'; and late in 1842 he returned to 71
degrees but couldn't get beyond it. Well now! In 1868, on this 21st
day of March, I myself, Captain Nemo, have reached the South Pole
at 90 degrees, and I hereby claim this entire part of the globe,
equal to one-sixth of the known continents."

"In the name of which sovereign, captain?"

"In my own name, sir!"

So saying, Captain Nemo unfurled a black flag bearing a gold "N"
on its quartered bunting. Then, turning toward the orb of day,
whose last rays were licking at the sea's horizon:

"Farewell, O sun!" he called. "Disappear, O radiant orb!
Retire beneath this open sea, and let six months of night spread
their shadows over my new domains!"

CHAPTER 15

Accident or Incident?

THE NEXT DAY, March 22, at six o'clock in the morning, preparations for
departure began. The last gleams of twilight were melting into night.
The cold was brisk. The constellations were glittering with
startling intensity. The wonderful Southern Cross, polar star
of the Antarctic regions, twinkled at its zenith.

The thermometer marked -12 degrees centigrade, and a fresh breeze
left a sharp nip in the air. Ice floes were increasing over
the open water. The sea was starting to congeal everywhere.
Numerous blackish patches were spreading over its surface,
announcing the imminent formation of fresh ice. Obviously this
southernmost basin froze over during its six-month winter and became
utterly inaccessible. What happened to the whales during this period?
No doubt they went beneath the Ice Bank to find more feasible seas.
As for seals and walruses, they were accustomed to living
in the harshest climates and stayed on in these icy waterways.
These animals know by instinct how to gouge holes in the ice fields
and keep them continually open; they go to these holes to breathe.
Once the birds have migrated northward to escape the cold,
these marine mammals remain as sole lords of the polar continent.

Meanwhile the ballast tanks filled with water and the Nautilus
sank slowly. At a depth of 1,000 feet, it stopped. Its propeller churned
the waves and it headed due north at a speed of fifteen miles per hour.
Near the afternoon it was already cruising under the immense frozen
carapace of the Ice Bank.

As a precaution, the panels in the lounge stayed closed,
because the Nautilus's hull could run afoul of some submerged block
of ice. So I spent the day putting my notes into final form.
My mind was completely wrapped up in my memories of the pole.
We had reached that inaccessible spot without facing exhaustion
or danger, as if our seagoing passenger carriage had glided there on
railroad tracks. And now we had actually started our return journey.
Did it still have comparable surprises in store for me? I felt sure
it did, so inexhaustible is this series of underwater wonders!
As it was, in the five and a half months since fate had brought us
on board, we had cleared 14,000 leagues, and over this track longer
than the earth's equator, so many fascinating or frightening incidents
had beguiled our voyage: that hunting trip in the Crespo forests,
our running aground in the Torres Strait, the coral cemetery,
the pearl fisheries of Ceylon, the Arabic tunnel, the fires of Santorini,
those millions in the Bay of Vigo, Atlantis, the South Pole! During the
night all these memories crossed over from one dream to the next,
not giving my brain a moment's rest.

At three o'clock in the morning, I was awakened by a violent collision.
I sat up in bed, listening in the darkness, and then was suddenly
hurled into the middle of my stateroom. Apparently the Nautilus
had gone aground, then heeled over sharply.

Leaning against the walls, I dragged myself down the gangways
to the lounge, whose ceiling lights were on. The furniture had been
knocked over. Fortunately the glass cases were solidly secured
at the base and had stood fast. Since we were no longer vertical,
the starboard pictures were glued to the tapestries, while those
to port had their lower edges hanging a foot away from the wall.
So the Nautilus was lying on its starboard side, completely
stationary to boot.

In its interior I heard the sound of footsteps and muffled voices.
But Captain Nemo didn't appear. Just as I was about to leave
the lounge, Ned Land and Conseil entered.

"What happened?" I instantly said to them.

"I came to ask master that," Conseil replied.

"Damnation!" the Canadian exclaimed. "I know full well what happened!
The Nautilus has gone aground, and judging from the way it's listing,
I don't think it'll pull through like that first time in
the Torres Strait."

"But," I asked, "are we at least back on the surface of the sea?"

"We have no idea," Conseil replied.

"It's easy to find out," I answered.

I consulted the pressure gauge. Much to my surprise, it indicated
a depth of 360 meters.

"What's the meaning of this?" I exclaimed.

Book of the day: