Part 4 out of 5
But there was no time to lose. If my companions moved but a few steps
away, the acoustic phenomenon would cease. I therefore approached the
wall, and pronounced these words as clearly as possible:
I waited with the deepest anxiety. Sound does not travel with great
velocity. Even increased density air has no effect upon its rate of
travelling; it merely augments its intensity. Seconds, which seemed
ages, passed away, and at last these words reached me:
"Axel! Axel! is it you?"
. . . .
"Yes, yes," I replied.
. . . .
"My boy, where are you?"
. . . .
"Lost, in the deepest darkness."
. . . .
"Where is your lamp?"
. . . .
"It is out."
. . . .
"And the stream?"
. . . .
. . . .
"Axel, Axel, take courage!"
. . . .
"Wait! I am exhausted! I can't answer. Speak to me!"
. . . .
"Courage," resumed my uncle. "Don't speak. Listen to me. We have
looked for you up the gallery and down the gallery. Could not find
you. I wept for you, my poor boy. At last, supposing you were still
on the Hansbach, we fired our guns. Our voices are audible to each
other, but our hands cannot touch. But don't despair, Axel! It is a
great thing that we can hear each other."
. . . .
During this time I had been reflecting. A vague hope was returning to
my heart. There was one thing I must know to begin with. I placed my
lips close to the wall, saying:
. . . .
"My boy!" came to me after a few seconds.
. . . .
"We must know how far we are apart."
. . . .
"That is easy."
. . . .
"You have your chronometer?"
. . .
. . . .
"Well, take it. Pronounce my name, noting exactly the second when you
speak. I will repeat it as soon as it shall come to me, and you will
observe the exact moment when you get my answer."
"Yes; and half the time between my call and your answer will exactly
indicate that which my voice will take in coming to you."
. . . .
"Just so, my uncle."
. . . .
"Are you ready?"
. . . .
. . . . . .
"Now, attention. I am going to call your name."
. . . .
I put my ear to the wall, and as soon as the name 'Axel' came I
immediately replied "Axel," then waited.
. . . .
"Forty seconds," said my uncle. "Forty seconds between the two words;
so the sound takes twenty seconds in coming. Now, at the rate of
1,120 feet in a second, this is 22,400 feet, or four miles and a
. . . .
"Four miles and a quarter!" I murmured.
. . . .
"It will soon be over, Axel."
. . . .
"Must I go up or down?"
. . . .
"Down - for this reason: We are in a vast chamber, with endless
galleries. Yours must lead into it, for it seems as if all the clefts
and fractures of the globe radiated round this vast cavern. So get
up, and begin walking. Walk on, drag yourself along, if necessary
slide down the steep places, and at the end you will find us ready to
receive you. Now begin moving."
. . . .
These words cheered me up.
"Good bye, uncle." I cried. "I am going. There will be no more voices
heard when once I have started. So good bye!"
. . . .
"Good bye, Axel, _au revoir!_"
. . . .
These were the last words I heard.
This wonderful underground conversation, carried on with a distance
of four miles and a quarter between us, concluded with these words of
hope. I thanked God from my heart, for it was He who had conducted me
through those vast solitudes to the point where, alone of all others
perhaps, the voices of my companions could have reached me.
This acoustic effect is easily explained on scientific grounds. It
arose from the concave form of the gallery and the conducting power
of the rock. There are many examples of this propagation of sounds
which remain unheard in the intermediate space. I remember that a
similar phenomenon has been observed in many places; amongst others
on the internal surface of the gallery of the dome of St. Paul's in
London, and especially in the midst of the curious caverns among the
quarries near Syracuse, the most wonderful of which is called
These remembrances came into my mind, and I clearly saw that since my
uncle's voice really reached me, there could be no obstacle between
us. Following the direction by which the sound came, of course I
should arrive in his presence, if my strength did not fail me.
I therefore rose; I rather dragged myself than walked. The slope was
rapid, and I slid down.
Soon the swiftness of the descent increased horribly, and threatened
to become a fall. I no longer had the strength to stop myself.
Suddenly there was no ground under me. I felt myself revolving in
air, striking and rebounding against the craggy projections of a
vertical gallery, quite a well; my head struck against a sharp corner
of the rock, and I became unconscious.
When I came to myself, I was stretched in half darkness, covered with
thick coats and blankets. My uncle was watching over me, to discover
the least sign of life. At my first sigh he took my hand; when I
opened my eyes he uttered a cry of joy.
"He lives! he lives!" he cried.
"Yes, I am still alive," I answered feebly.
"My dear nephew," said my uncle, pressing me to his breast, "you are
I was deeply touched with the tenderness of his manner as he uttered
these words, and still more with the care with which he watched over
me. But such trials were wanted to bring out the Professor's tenderer
At this moment Hans came, he saw my hand in my uncle's, and I may
safely say that there was joy in his countenance.
"_God dag,_" said he.
"How do you do, Hans? How are you? And now, uncle, tell me where we
are at the present moment?"
"To-morrow, Axel, to-morrow. Now you are too faint and weak. I have
bandaged your head with compresses which must not be disturbed. Sleep
now, and to-morrow I will tell you all."
"But do tell me what time it is, and what day."
"It is Sunday, the 8th of August, and it is ten at night. You must
ask me no more questions until the 10th."
In truth I was very weak, and my eyes involuntarily closed. I wanted
a good night's rest; and I therefore went off to sleep, with the
knowledge that I had been four long days alone in the heart of the
Next morning, on awakening, I looked round me. My couch, made up of
all our travelling gear, was in a charming grotto, adorned with
splendid stalactites, and the soil of which was a fine sand. It was
half light. There was no torch, no lamp, yet certain mysterious
glimpses of light came from without through a narrow opening in the
grotto. I heard too a vague and indistinct noise, something like the
murmuring of waves breaking upon a shingly shore, and at times I
seemed to hear the whistling of wind.
I wondered whether I was awake, whether I dreaming, whether my brain,
crazed by my fall, was not affected by imaginary noises. Yet neither
eyes, nor ears could be so utterly deceived.
It is a ray of daylight, I thought, sliding in through this cleft in
the rock! That is indeed the murmuring of waves! That is the rustling
noise of wind. Am I quite mistaken, or have we returned to the
surface of the earth? Has my uncle given up the expedition, or is it
I was asking myself these unanswerable questions when the Professor
"Good morning, Axel," he cried cheerily. "I feel sure you are better."
"Yes, I am indeed," said I, sitting up on my couch.
"You can hardly fail to be better, for you have slept quietly. Hans
and I watched you by turns, and we have noticed you were evidently
"Indeed, I do feel a great deal better, and I will give you a proof
of that presently if you will let me have my breakfast."
"You shall eat, lad. The fever has left you. Hans rubbed your wounds
with some ointment or other of which the Icelanders keep the secret,
and they have healed marvellously. Our hunter is a splendid fellow!"
Whilst he went on talking, my uncle prepared a few provisions, which
I devoured eagerly, notwithstanding his advice to the contrary. All
the while I was overwhelming him with questions which he answered
I then learnt that my providential fall had brought me exactly to the
extremity of an almost perpendicular shaft; and as I had landed in
the midst of an accompanying torrent of stones, the least of which
would have been enough to crush me, the conclusion was that a loose
portion of the rock had come down with me. This frightful conveyance
had thus carried me into the arms of my uncle, where I fell bruised,
bleeding, and insensible.
"Truly it is wonderful that you have not been killed a hundred times
over. But, for the love of God, don't let us ever separate again, or
we many never see each other more."
"Not separate! Is the journey not over, then?" I opened a pair of
astonished eyes, which immediately called for the question:
"What is the matter, Axel?"
"I have a question to ask you. You say that I am safe and sound?"
"No doubt you are."
"And all my limbs unbroken?"
"And my head?"
"Your head, except for a few bruises, is all right; and it is on your
shoulders, where it ought to be."
"Well, I am afraid my brain is affected."
"Your mind affected!"
"Yes, I fear so. Are we again on the surface of the globe?"
"No, certainly not."
"Then I must be mad; for don't I see the light of day, and don't I
hear the wind blowing, and the sea breaking on the shore?"
"Ah! is that all?"
"Do tell me all about it."
"I can't explain the inexplicable, but you will soon see and
understand that geology has not yet learnt all it has to learn."
"Then let us go," I answered quickly.
"No, Axel; the open air might be bad for you."
"Yes; the wind is rather strong. You must not expose yourself."
"But I assure you I am perfectly well."
"A little patience, my nephew. A relapse might get us into trouble,
and we have no time to lose, for the voyage may be a long one."
"Yes, rest to-day, and to-morrow we will set sail."
"Set sail!" - and I almost leaped up.
What did it all mean? Had we a river, a lake, a sea to depend upon?
Was there a ship at our disposal in some underground harbour?
My curiosity was highly excited, my uncle vainly tried to restrain
me. When he saw that my impatience was doing me harm, he yielded.
I dressed in haste. For greater safety I wrapped myself in a blanket,
and came out of the grotto.
A NEW MARE INTERNUM
At first I could hardly see anything. My eyes, unaccustomed to the
light, quickly closed. When I was able to reopen them, I stood more
stupefied even than surprised.
"The sea!" I cried.
"Yes," my uncle replied, "the Liedenbrock Sea; and I don't suppose
any other discoverer will ever dispute my claim to name it after
myself as its first discoverer."
A vast sheet of water, the commencement of a lake or an ocean, spread
far away beyond the range of the eye, reminding me forcibly of that
open sea which drew from Xenophon's ten thousand Greeks, after their
long retreat, the simultaneous cry, "Thalatta! thalatta!" the sea!
the sea! The deeply indented shore was lined with a breadth of fine
shining sand, softly lapped by the waves, and strewn with the small
shells which had been inhabited by the first of created beings. The
waves broke on this shore with the hollow echoing murmur peculiar to
vast inclosed spaces. A light foam flew over the waves before the
breath of a moderate breeze, and some of the spray fell upon my face.
On this slightly inclining shore, about a hundred fathoms from the
limit of the waves, came down the foot of a huge wall of vast cliffs,
which rose majestically to an enormous height. Some of these,
dividing the beach with their sharp spurs, formed capes and
promontories, worn away by the ceaseless action of the surf. Farther
on the eye discerned their massive outline sharply defined against
the hazy distant horizon.
It was quite an ocean, with the irregular shores of earth, but desert
and frightfully wild in appearance.
If my eyes were able to range afar over this great sea, it was
because a peculiar light brought to view every detail of it. It was
not the light of the sun, with his dazzling shafts of brightness and
the splendour of his rays; nor was it the pale and uncertain shimmer
of the moonbeams, the dim reflection of a nobler body of light. No;
the illuminating power of this light, its trembling diffusiveness,
its bright, clear whiteness, and its low temperature, showed that it
must be of electric origin. It was like an aurora borealis, a
continuous cosmical phenomenon, filling a cavern of sufficient extent
to contain an ocean.
The vault that spanned the space above, the sky, if it could be
called so, seemed composed of vast plains of cloud, shifting and
variable vapours, which by their condensation must at certain times
fall in torrents of rain. I should have thought that under so
powerful a pressure of the atmosphere there could be no evaporation;
and yet, under a law unknown to me, there were broad tracts of vapour
suspended in the air. But then 'the weather was fine.' The play of
the electric light produced singular effects upon the upper strata of
cloud. Deep shadows reposed upon their lower wreaths; and often,
between two separated fields of cloud, there glided down a ray of
unspeakable lustre. But it was not solar light, and there was no
heat. The general effect was sad, supremely melancholy. Instead of
the shining firmament, spangled with its innumerable stars, shining
singly or in clusters, I felt that all these subdued and shaded
fights were ribbed in by vast walls of granite, which seemed to
overpower me with their weight, and that all this space, great as it
was, would not be enough for the march of the humblest of satellites.
Then I remembered the theory of an English captain, who likened the
earth to a vast hollow sphere, in the interior of which the air
became luminous because of the vast pressure that weighed upon it;
while two stars, Pluto and Proserpine, rolled within upon the circuit
of their mysterious orbits.
We were in reality shut up inside an immeasurable excavation. Its
width could not be estimated, since the shore ran widening as far as
eye could reach, nor could its length, for the dim horizon bounded
the new. As for its height, it must have been several leagues. Where
this vault rested upon its granite base no eye could tell; but there
was a cloud hanging far above, the height of which we estimated at
12,000 feet, a greater height than that of any terrestrial vapour,
and no doubt due to the great density of the air.
The word cavern does not convey any idea of this immense space; words
of human tongue are inadequate to describe the discoveries of him who
ventures into the deep abysses of earth.
Besides I could not tell upon what geological theory to account for
the existence of such an excavation. Had the cooling of the globe
produced it? I knew of celebrated caverns from the descriptions of
travellers, but had never heard of any of such dimensions as this.
If the grotto of Guachara, in Colombia, visited by Humboldt, had not
given up the whole of the secret of its depth to the philosopher, who
investigated it to the depth of 2,500 feet, it probably did not
extend much farther. The immense mammoth cave in Kentucky is of
gigantic proportions, since its vaulted roof rises five hundred feet
 above the level of an unfathomable lake and travellers have
explored its ramifications to the extent of forty miles. But what
were these cavities compared to that in which I stood with wonder and
admiration, with its sky of luminous vapours, its bursts of electric
light, and a vast sea filling its bed? My imagination fell powerless
before such immensity.
I gazed upon these wonders in silence. Words failed me to express my
feelings. I felt as if I was in some distant planet Uranus or Neptune
- and in the presence of phenomena of which my terrestrial experience
gave me no cognisance. For such novel sensations, new words were
wanted; and my imagination failed to supply them. I gazed, I thought,
I admired, with a stupefaction mingled with a certain amount of fear.
The unforeseen nature of this spectacle brought back the colour to my
cheeks. I was under a new course of treatment with the aid of
astonishment, and my convalescence was promoted by this novel system
of therapeutics; besides, the dense and breezy air invigorated me,
supplying more oxygen to my lungs.
It will be easily conceived that after an imprisonment of forty seven
days in a narrow gallery it was the height of physical enjoyment to
breathe a moist air impregnated with saline particles.
 One hundred and twenty. (Trans.)
I was delighted to leave my dark grotto. My uncle, already familiar
with these wonders, had ceased to feel surprise.
"You feel strong enough to walk a little way now?" he asked.
"Yes, certainly; and nothing could be more delightful."
"Well, take my arm, Axel, and let us follow the windings of the
I eagerly accepted, and we began to coast along this new sea. On the
left huge pyramids of rock, piled one upon another, produced a
prodigious titanic effect. Down their sides flowed numberless
waterfalls, which went on their way in brawling but pellucid streams.
A few light vapours, leaping from rock to rock, denoted the place of
hot springs; and streams flowed softly down to the common basin,
gliding down the gentle slopes with a softer murmur.
Amongst these streams I recognised our faithful travelling companion,
the Hansbach, coming to lose its little volume quietly in the mighty
sea, just as if it had done nothing else since the beginning of the
"We shall see it no more," I said, with a sigh.
"What matters," replied the philosopher, "whether this or another
serves to guide us?"
I thought him rather ungrateful.
But at that moment my attention was drawn to an unexpected sight. At
a distance of five hundred paces, at the turn of a high promontory,
appeared a high, tufted, dense forest. It was composed of trees of
moderate height, formed like umbrellas, with exact geometrical
outlines. The currents of wind seemed to have had no effect upon
their shape, and in the midst of the windy blasts they stood unmoved
and firm, just like a clump of petrified cedars.
I hastened forward. I could not give any name to these singular
creations. Were they some of the two hundred thousand species of
vegetables known hitherto, and did they claim a place of their own in
the lacustrine flora? No; when we arrived under their shade my
surprise turned into admiration. There stood before me productions of
earth, but of gigantic stature, which my uncle immediately named.
"It is only a forest of mushrooms," said he.
And he was right. Imagine the large development attained by these
plants, which prefer a warm, moist climate. I knew that the
_Lycopodon giganteum_ attains, according to Bulliard, a circumference
of eight or nine feet; but here were pale mushrooms, thirty to forty
feet high, and crowned with a cap of equal diameter. There they stood
in thousands. No light could penetrate between their huge cones, and
complete darkness reigned beneath those giants; they formed
settlements of domes placed in close array like the round, thatched
roofs of a central African city.
Yet I wanted to penetrate farther underneath, though a chill fell
upon me as soon as I came under those cellular vaults. For half an
hour we wandered from side to side in the damp shades, and it was a
comfortable and pleasant change to arrive once more upon the sea
But the subterranean vegetation was not confined to these fungi.
Farther on rose groups of tall trees of colourless foliage and easy
to recognise. They were lowly shrubs of earth, here attaining
gigantic size; lycopodiums, a hundred feet high; the huge sigillaria,
found in our coal mines; tree ferns, as tall as our fir-trees in
northern latitudes; lepidodendra, with cylindrical forked stems,
terminated by long leaves, and bristling with rough hairs like those
of the cactus.
"Wonderful, magnificent, splendid!" cried my uncle. "Here is the
entire flora of the second period of the world - the transition
period. These, humble garden plants with us, were tall trees in the
early ages. Look, Axel, and admire it all. Never had botanist such a
feast as this!"
"You are right, my uncle. Providence seems to have preserved in this
immense conservatory the antediluvian plants which the wisdom of
philosophers has so sagaciously put together again."
"It is a conservatory, Axel; but is it not also a menagerie?"
"Surely not a menagerie!"
"Yes; no doubt of it. Look at that dust under your feet; see the
bones scattered on the ground."
"So there are!" I cried; "bones of extinct animals."
I had rushed upon these remains, formed of indestructible phosphates
of lime, and without hesitation I named these monstrous bones, which
lay scattered about like decayed trunks of trees.
"Here is the lower jaw of a mastodon,"  I said. "These are the
molar teeth of the deinotherium; this femur must have belonged to the
greatest of those beasts, the megatherium. It certainly is a
menagerie, for these remains were not brought here by a deluge. The
animals to which they belonged roamed on the shores of this
subterranean sea, under the shade of those arborescent trees. Here
are entire skeletons. And yet I cannot understand the appearance of
these quadrupeds in a granite cavern."
 These animals belonged to a late geological period, the Pliocene,
just before the glacial epoch, and therefore could have no connection
with the carboniferous vegetation. (Trans.)
"Because animal life existed upon the earth only in the secondary
period, when a sediment of soil had been deposited by the rivers, and
taken the place of the incandescent rocks of the primitive period."
"Well, Axel, there is a very simple answer to your objection that
this soil is alluvial."
"What! at such a depth below the surface of the earth?"
"No doubt; and there is a geological explanation of the fact. At a
certain period the earth consisted only of an elastic crust or bark,
alternately acted on by forces from above or below, according to the
laws of attraction and gravitation. Probably there were subsidences
of the outer crust, when a portion of the sedimentary deposits was
carried down sudden openings."
"That may be," I replied; "but if there have been creatures now
extinct in these underground regions, why may not some of those
monsters be now roaming through these gloomy forests, or hidden
behind the steep crags?"
And as this unpleasant notion got hold of me, I surveyed with anxious
scrutiny the open spaces before me; but no living creature appeared
upon the barren strand.
I felt rather tired, and went to sit down at the end of a promontory,
at the foot of which the waves came and beat themselves into spray.
Thence my eye could sweep every part of the bay; within its extremity
a little harbour was formed between the pyramidal cliffs, where the
still waters slept untouched by the boisterous winds. A brig and two
or three schooners might have moored within it in safety. I almost
fancied I should presently see some ship issue from it, full sail,
and take to the open sea under the southern breeze.
But this illusion lasted a very short time. We were the only living
creatures in this subterranean world. When the wind lulled, a deeper
silence than that of the deserts fell upon the arid, naked rocks, and
weighed upon the surface of the ocean. I then desired to pierce the
distant haze, and to rend asunder the mysterious curtain that hung
across the horizon. Anxious queries arose to my lips. Where did that
sea terminate? Where did it lead to? Should we ever know anything
about its opposite shores?
My uncle made no doubt about it at all; I both desired and feared.
After spending an hour in the contemplation of this marvellous
spectacle, we returned to the shore to regain the grotto, and I fell
asleep in the midst of the strangest thoughts.
PREPARATIONS FOR A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY
The next morning I awoke feeling perfectly well. I thought a bathe
would do me good, and I went to plunge for a few minutes into the
waters of this mediterranean sea, for assuredly it better deserved
this name than any other sea.
I came back to breakfast with a good appetite. Hans was a good
caterer for our little household; he had water and fire at his
disposal, so that he was able to vary our bill of fare now and then.
For dessert he gave us a few cups of coffee, and never was coffee so
"Now," said my uncle, "now is the time for high tide, and we must not
lose the opportunity to study this phenomenon."
"What! the tide!" I cried. "Can the influence of the sun and moon be
felt down here?"
"Why not? Are not all bodies subject throughout their mass to the
power of universal attraction? This mass of water cannot escape the
general law. And in spite of the heavy atmospheric pressure on the
surface, you will see it rise like the Atlantic itself."
At the same moment we reached the sand on the shore, and the waves
were by slow degrees encroaching on the shore.
"Here is the tide rising," I cried.
"Yes, Axel; and judging by these ridges of foam, you may observe that
the sea will rise about twelve feet."
"This is wonderful," I said.
"No; it is quite natural."
"You may say so, uncle; but to me it is most extraordinary, and I can
hardly believe my eyes. Who would ever have imagined, under this
terrestrial crust, an ocean with ebbing and flowing tides, with winds
"Well," replied my uncle, "is there any scientific reason against it?"
"No; I see none, as soon as the theory of central heat is given up."
"So then, thus far," he answered, "the theory of Sir Humphry Davy is
"Evidently it is; and now there is no reason why there should not be
seas and continents in the interior of the earth."
"No doubt," said my uncle; "and inhabited too."
"To be sure," said I; "and why should not these waters yield to us
fishes of unknown species?"
"At any rate," he replied, "we have not seen any yet."
"Well, let us make some lines, and see if the bait will draw here as
it does in sublunary regions."
"We will try, Axel, for we must penetrate all secrets of these newly
"But where are we, uncle? for I have not yet asked you that question,
and your instruments must be able to furnish the answer."
"Horizontally, three hundred and fifty leagues from Iceland."
"So much as that?"
"I am sure of not being a mile out of my reckoning."
"And does the compass still show south-east?"
"Yes; with a westerly deviation of nineteen degrees forty-five
minutes, just as above ground. As for its dip, a curious fact is
coming to light, which I have observed carefully: that the needle,
instead of dipping towards the pole as in the northern hemisphere, on
the contrary, rises from it."
"Would you then conclude," I said, "that the magnetic pole is
somewhere between the surface of the globe and the point where we
"Exactly so; and it is likely enough that if we were to reach the
spot beneath the polar regions, about that seventy-first degree where
Sir James Ross has discovered the magnetic pole to be situated, we
should see the needle point straight up. Therefore that mysterious
centre of attraction is at no great depth."
I remarked: " It is so; and here is a fact which science has scarcely
"Science, my lad, has been built upon many errors; but they are
errors which it was good to fall into, for they led to the truth."
"What depth have we now reached?"
"We are thirty-five leagues below the surface."
"So," I said, examining the map, "the Highlands of Scotland are over
our heads, and the Grampians are raising their rugged summits above
"Yes," answered the Professor laughing. "It is rather a heavy weight
to bear, but a solid arch spans over our heads. The great Architect
has built it of the best materials; and never could man have given it
so wide a stretch. What are the finest arches of bridges and the
arcades of cathedrals, compared with this far reaching vault, with a
radius of three leagues, beneath which a wide and tempest-tossed
ocean may flow at its ease?"
"Oh, I am not afraid that it will fall down upon my head. But now
what are your plans? Are you not thinking of returning to the surface
"Return! no, indeed! We will continue our journey, everything having
gone on well so far."
"But how are we to get down below this liquid surface?"
"Oh, I am not going to dive head foremost. But if all oceans are
properly speaking but lakes, since they are encompassed by land, of
course this internal sea will be surrounded by a coast of granite,
and on the opposite shores we shall find fresh passages opening."
"How long do you suppose this sea to be?"
"Thirty or forty leagues; so that we have no time to lose, and we
shall set sail to-morrow."
I looked about for a ship.
"Set sail, shall we? But I should like to see my boat first."
"It will not be a boat at all, but a good, well-made raft."
"Why," I said, "a raft would be just as hard to make as a boat, and I
don't see -"
"I know you don't see; but you might hear if you would listen. Don't
you hear the hammer at work? Hans is already busy at it."
"What, has he already felled the trees?"
"Oh, the trees were already down. Come, and you will see for
After half an hour's walking, on the other side of the promontory
which formed the little natural harbour, I perceived Hans at work. In
a few more steps I was at his side. To my great surprise a
half-finished raft was already lying on the sand, made of a peculiar
kind of wood, and a great number of planks, straight and bent, and of
frames, were covering the ground, enough almost for a little fleet.
"Uncle, what wood is this?" I cried.
"It is fir, pine, or birch, and other northern coniferae, mineralised
by the action of the sea. It is called surturbrand, a variety of
brown coal or lignite, found chiefly in Iceland."
"But surely, then, like other fossil wood, it must be as hard as
stone, and cannot float?"
"Sometimes that may happen; some of these woods become true
anthracites; but others, such as this, have only gone through the
first stage of fossil transformation. Just look," added my uncle,
throwing into the sea one of those precious waifs.
The bit of wood, after disappearing, returned to the surface and
oscillated to and fro with the waves.
"Are you convinced?" said my uncle.
"I am quite convinced, although it is incredible!"
By next evening, thanks to the industry and skill of our guide, the
raft was made. It was ten feet by five; the planks of surturbrand,
braced strongly together with cords, presented an even surface, and
when launched this improvised vessel floated easily upon the waves of
the Liedenbrock Sea.
WONDERS OF THE DEEP
On the 13th of August we awoke early. We were now to begin to adopt a
mode of travelling both more expeditious and less fatiguing than
A mast was made of two poles spliced together, a yard was made of a
third, a blanket borrowed from our coverings made a tolerable sail.
There was no want of cordage for the rigging, and everything was well
and firmly made.
The provisions, the baggage, the instruments, the guns, and a good
quantity of fresh water from the rocks around, all found their proper
places on board; and at six the Professor gave the signal to embark.
Hans had fitted up a rudder to steer his vessel. He took the tiller,
and unmoored; the sail was set, and we were soon afloat. At the
moment of leaving the harbour, my uncle, who was tenaciously fond of
naming his new discoveries, wanted to give it a name, and proposed
mine amongst others.
"But I have a better to propose," I said: "Grauben. Let it be called
Port Gr�uben; it will look very well upon the map."
"Port Gr�uben let it be then."
And so the cherished remembrance of my Virlandaise became associated
with our adventurous expedition.
The wind was from the north-west. We went with it at a high rate of
speed. The dense atmosphere acted with great force and impelled us
In an hour my uncle had been able to estimate our progress. At this
rate, he said, we shall make thirty leagues in twenty-four hours, and
we shall soon come in sight of the opposite shore.
I made no answer, but went and sat forward. The northern shore was
already beginning to dip under the horizon. The eastern and western
strands spread wide as if to bid us farewell. Before our eyes lay far
and wide a vast sea; shadows of great clouds swept heavily over its
silver-grey surface; the glistening bluish rays of electric light,
here and there reflected by the dancing drops of spray, shot out
little sheaves of light from the track we left in our rear. Soon we
entirely lost sight of land; no object was left for the eye to judge
by, and but for the frothy track of the raft, I might have thought we
were standing still.
About twelve, immense shoals of seaweeds came in sight. I was aware
of the great powers of vegetation that characterise these plants,
which grow at a depth of twelve thousand feet, reproduce themselves
under a pressure of four hundred atmospheres, and sometimes form
barriers strong enough to impede the course of a ship. But never, I
think, were such seaweeds as those which we saw floating in immense
waving lines upon the sea of Liedenbrock.
Our raft skirted the whole length of the fuci, three or four thousand
feet long, undulating like vast serpents beyond the reach of sight; I
found some amusement in tracing these endless waves, always thinking
I should come to the end of them, and for hours my patience was vying
with my surprise.
What natural force could have produced such plants, and what must
have been the appearance of the earth in the first ages of its
formation, when, under the action of heat and moisture, the vegetable
kingdom alone was developing on its surface?
Evening came, and, as on the previous day, I perceived no change in
the luminous condition of the air. It was a constant condition, the
permanency of which might be relied upon.
After supper I laid myself down at the foot of the mast, and fell
asleep in the midst of fantastic reveries.
Hans, keeping fast by the helm, let the raft run on, which, after
all, needed no steering, the wind blowing directly aft.
Since our departure from Port Gr�uben, Professor Liedenbrock had
entrusted the log to my care; I was to register every observation,
make entries of interesting phenomena, the direction of the wind, the
rate of sailing, the way we made - in a word, every particular of our
I shall therefore reproduce here these daily notes, written, so to
speak, as the course of events directed, in order to furnish an exact
narrative of our passage.
_Friday, August 14_. - Wind steady, N.W. The raft makes rapid way in
a direct line. Coast thirty leagues to leeward. Nothing in sight
before us. Intensity of light the same. Weather fine; that is to say,
that the clouds are flying high, are light, and bathed in a white
atmosphere resembling silver in a state of fusion. Therm. 89� Fahr.
At noon Hans prepared a hook at the end of a line. He baited it with
a small piece of meat and flung it into the sea. For two hours
nothing was caught. Are these waters, then, bare of inhabitants? No,
there's a pull at the line. Hans draws it in and brings out a
"A sturgeon," I cried; "a small sturgeon."
The Professor eyes the creature attentively, and his opinion differs
The head of this fish was flat, but rounded in front, and the
anterior part of its body was plated with bony, angular scales; it
had no teeth, its pectoral fins were large, and of tail there was
none. The animal belonged to the same order as the sturgeon, but
differed from that fish in many essential particulars. After a short
examination my uncle pronounced his opinion.
"This fish belongs to an extinct family, of which only fossil traces
are found in the devonian formations."
"What!" I cried. "Have we taken alive an inhabitant of the seas of
"Yes; and you will observe that these fossil fishes have no identity
with any living species. To have in one's possession a living
specimen is a happy event for a naturalist."
"But to what family does it belong?"
"It is of the order of ganoids, of the family of the cephalaspidae;
and a species of pterichthys. But this one displays a peculiarity
confined to all fishes that inhabit subterranean waters. It is blind,
and not only blind, but actually has no eyes at all."
I looked: nothing could be more certain. But supposing it might be a
solitary case, we baited afresh, and threw out our line. Surely this
ocean is well peopled with fish, for in another couple of hours we
took a large quantity of pterichthydes, as well as of others
belonging to the extinct family of the dipterides, but of which my
uncle could not tell the species; none had organs of sight. This
unhoped-for catch recruited our stock of provisions.
Thus it is evident that this sea contains none but species known to
us in their fossil state, in which fishes as well as reptiles are the
less perfectly and completely organised the farther back their date
Perhaps we may yet meet with some of those saurians which science has
reconstructed out of a bit of bone or cartilage. I took up the
telescope and scanned the whole horizon, and found it everywhere a
desert sea. We are far away removed from the shores.
I gaze upward in the air. Why should not some of the strange birds
restored by the immortal Cuvier again flap their 'sail-broad vans' in
this dense and heavy atmosphere? There are sufficient fish for their
support. I survey the whole space that stretches overhead; it is as
desert as the shore was.
Still my imagination carried me away amongst the wonderful
speculations of palaeontology. Though awake I fell into a dream. I
thought I could see floating on the surface of the waters enormous
chelonia, preadamite tortoises, resembling floating islands. Over the
dimly lighted strand there trod the huge mammals of the first ages of
the world, the leptotherium (slender beast), found in the caverns of
Brazil; the merycotherium (ruminating beast), found in the 'drift' of
iceclad Siberia. Farther on, the pachydermatous lophiodon (crested
toothed), a gigantic tapir, hides behind the rocks to dispute its
prey with the anoplotherium (unarmed beast), a strange creature,
which seemed a compound of horse, rhinoceros, camel, and
hippopotamus. The colossal mastodon (nipple-toothed) twists and
untwists his trunk, and brays and pounds with his huge tusks the
fragments of rock that cover the shore; whilst the megatherium (huge
beast), buttressed upon his enormous hinder paws, grubs in the soil,
awaking the sonorous echoes of the granite rocks with his tremendous
roarings. Higher up, the protopitheca - the first monkey that
appeared on the globe - is climbing up the steep ascents. Higher yet,
the pterodactyle (wing-fingered) darts in irregular zigzags to and
fro in the heavy air. In the uppermost regions of the air immense
birds, more powerful than the cassowary, and larger than the ostrich,
spread their vast breadth of wings and strike with their heads the
granite vault that bounds the sky.
All this fossil world rises to life again in my vivid imagination. I
return to the scriptural periods or ages of the world, conventionally
called 'days,' long before the appearance of man, when the unfinished
world was as yet unfitted for his support. Then mydream backed even
farther still into the ages before the creation of living beings. The
mammals disappear, then the birds vanish, then the reptiles of the
secondary period, and finally the fish, the crustaceans, molluscs,
and articulated beings. Then the zoophytes of the transition period
also return to nothing. I am the only living thing in the world: all
life is concentrated in my beating heart alone. There are no more
seasons; climates are no more; the heat of the globe continually
increases and neutralises that of the sun. Vegetation becomes
accelerated. I glide like a shade amongst arborescent ferns, treading
with unsteady feet the coloured marls and the particoloured clays; I
lean for support against the trunks of immense conifers; I lie in the
shade of sphenophylla (wedge-leaved), asterophylla (star-leaved), and
lycopods, a hundred feet high.
Ages seem no more than days! I am passed, against my will, in
retrograde order, through the long series of terrestrial changes.
Plants disappear; granite rocks soften; intense heat converts solid
bodies into thick fluids; the waters again cover the face of the
earth; they boil, they rise in whirling eddies of steam; white and
ghastly mists wrap round the shifting forms of the earth, which by
imperceptible degrees dissolves into a gaseous mass, glowing fiery
red and white, as large and as shining as the sun.
And I myself am floating with wild caprice in the midst of this
nebulous mass of fourteen hundred thousand times the volume of the
earth into which it will one day be condensed, and carried forward
amongst the planetary bodies. My body is no longer firm and
terrestrial; it is resolved into its constituent atoms, subtilised,
volatilised. Sublimed into imponderable vapour, I mingle and am lost
in the endless foods of those vast globular volumes of vaporous
mists, which roll upon their flaming orbits through infinite space.
But is it not a dream? Whither is it carrying me? My feverish hand
has vainly attempted to describe upon paper its strange and wonderful
details. I have forgotten everything that surrounds me. The
Professor, the guide, the raft - are all gone out of my ken. An
illusion has laid hold upon me.
"What is the matter?" my uncle breaks in.
My staring eyes are fixed vacantly upon him.
"Take care, Axel, or you will fall overboard."
At that moment I felt the sinewy hand of Hans seizing me vigorously.
But for him, carried away by my dream, I should have thrown myself
into the sea.
"Is he mad?" cried the Professor.
"What is it all about?" at last I cried, returning to myself.
"Do you feel ill?" my uncle asked.
"No; but I have had a strange hallucination; it is over now. Is all
going on right?"
"Yes, it is a fair wind and a fine sea; we are sailing rapidly along,
and if I am not out in my reckoning, we shall soon land."
At these words I rose and gazed round upon the horizon, still
everywhere bounded by clouds alone.
A BATTLE OF MONSTERS
_Saturday, August 15_. - The sea unbroken all round. No land in
sight. The horizon seems extremely distant.
My head is still stupefied with the vivid reality of my dream.
My uncle has had no dreams, but he is out of temper. He examines the
horizon all round with his glass, and folds his arms with the air of
an injured man.
I remark that Professor Liedenbrock has a tendency to relapse into an
impatient mood, and I make a note of it in my log. All my danger and
sufferings were needed to strike a spark of human. feeling out of
him; but now that I am well his nature has resumed its sway. And yet,
what cause was there for anger? Is not the voyage prospering as
favourably as possible under the circumstances? Is not the raft
spinning along with marvellous speed?
"-You seem anxious, my uncle," I said, seeing him continually with
his glass to his eye.
"Anxious! No, not at all."
"One might be, with less reason than now."
"Yet we are going very fast."
"What does that signify? I am not complaining that the rate is slow,
but that the sea is so wide."
I then remembered that the Professor, before starting, had estimated
the length of this underground sea at thirty leagues. Now we had made
three times the distance, yet still the southern coast was not in
"We are not descending as we ought to be," the Professor declares.
"We are losing time, and the fact is, I have not come all this way to
take a little sail upon a pond on a raft."
He called this sea a pond, and our long voyage, taking a little sail!
"But," I remarked, "since we have followed the road that Saknussemm
has shown us -"
"That is just the question. Have we followed that road? Did
Saknussemm meet this sheet of water? Did he cross it? Has not the
stream that we followed led us altogether astray?"
"At any rate we cannot feel sorry to have come so far. This prospect
is magnificent, and -"
"But I don't care for prospects. I came with an object, and I mean to
attain it. Therefore don't talk to me about views and prospects."
I take this as my answer, and I leave the Professor to bite his lips
with impatience. At six in the evening Hans asks for his wages, and
his three rix dollars are counted out to him.
_Sunday, August 16. _- Nothing new. Weather unchanged. The wind
freshens. On awaking, my first thought was to observe the intensity
of the light. I was possessed with an apprehension lest the electric
light should grow dim, or fail altogether. But there seemed no reason
to fear. The shadow of the raft was clearly outlined upon the surface
of the waves.
Truly this sea is of infinite width. It must be as wide as the
Mediterranean or the Atlantic - and why not?
My uncle took soundings several times. He tied the heaviest of our
pickaxes to a long rope which he let down two hundred fathoms. No
bottom yet; and we had some difficulty in hauling up our plummet.
But when the pick was shipped again, Hans pointed out on its surface
deep prints as if it had been violently compressed between two hard
I looked at the hunter.
"_T�nder,_" said he.
I could not understand him, and turned to my uncle who was entirely
absorbed in his calculations. I had rather not disturb him while he
is quiet. I return to the Icelander. He by a snapping motion of his
jaws conveys his ideas to me.
"Teeth!" I cried, considering the iron bar with more attention.
Yes, indeed, those are the marks of teeth imprinted upon the metal!
The jaws which they arm must be possessed of amazing strength. Is
there some monster beneath us belonging to the extinct races, more
voracious than the shark, more fearful in vastness than the whale? I
could not take my eyes off this indented iron bar. Surely will my
last night's dream be realised?
These thoughts agitated me all day, and my imagination scarcely
calmed down after several hours' sleep.
_Monday, August 17. -_ I am trying to recall the peculiar instincts
of the monsters of the preadamite world, who, coming next in
succession after the molluscs, the crustaceans and le fishes,
preceded the animals of mammalian race upon the earth. The world then
belonged to reptiles. Those monsters held the mastery in the seas of
the secondary period. They possessed a perfect organisation, gigantic
proportions, prodigious strength. The saurians of our day, the
alligators and the crocodiles, are but feeble reproductions of their
forefathers of primitive ages.
I shudder as I recall these monsters to my remembrance. No human eye
has ever beheld them living. They burdened this earth a thousand ages
before man appeared, but their fossil remains, found in the
argillaceous limestone called by the English the lias, have enabled
their colossal structure to be perfectly built up again and
I saw at the Hamburg museum the skeleton of one of these creatures
thirty feet in length. Am I then fated - I, a denizen of earth - to
be placed face to face with these representatives of long extinct
families? No; surely it cannot be! Yet the deep marks of conical
teeth upon the iron pick are certainly those of the crocodile.
My eyes are fearfully bent upon the sea. I dread to see one of these
monsters darting forth from its submarine caverns. I suppose
Professor Liedenbrock was of my opinion too, and even shared my
fears, for after having examined the pick, his eyes traversed the
ocean from side to side. What a very bad notion that was of his, I
thought to myself, to take soundings just here! He has disturbed some
monstrous beast in its remote den, and if we are not attacked on our
I look at our guns and see that they are all right. My uncle notices
it, and looks on approvingly.
Already widely disturbed regions on the surface of the water indicate
some commotion below. The danger is approaching. We must be on the
_Tuesday, August 18. _- Evening came, or rather the time came when
sleep weighs down the weary eyelids, for there is no night here, and
the ceaseless light wearies the eyes with its persistency just as if
we were sailing under an arctic sun. Hans was at the helm. During his
watch I slept.
Two hours afterwards a terrible shock awoke me. The raft was heaved
up on a watery mountain and pitched down again, at a distance of
"What is the matter?" shouted my uncle. "Have we struck land?"
Hans pointed with his finger at a dark mass six hundred yards away,
rising and falling alternately with heavy plunges. I looked and cried:
"It is an enormous porpoise."
"Yes," replied my uncle, "and there is a sea lizard of vast size."
"And farther on a monstrous crocodile. Look at its vast jaws and its
rows of teeth! It is diving down!"
"There's a whale, a whale!" cried the Professor. "I can see its great
fins. See how he is throwing out air and water through his blowers."
And in fact two liquid columns were rising to a considerable height
above the sea. We stood amazed, thunderstruck, at the presence of
such a herd of marine monsters. They were of supernatural dimensions;
the smallest of them would have crunched our raft, crew and all, at
one snap of its huge jaws.
Hans wants to tack to get away from this dangerous neighbourhood; but
he sees on the other hand enemies not less terrible; a tortoise forty
feet long, and a serpent of thirty, lifting its fearful head and
gleaming eyes above the flood.
Flight was out of the question now. The reptiles rose; they wheeled
around our little raft with a rapidity greater than that of express
trains. They described around us gradually narrowing circles. I took
up my rifle. But what could a ball do against the scaly armour with
which these enormous beasts were clad?
We stood dumb with fear. They approach us close: on one side the
crocodile, on the other the serpent. The remainder of the sea
monsters have disappeared. I prepare to fire. Hans stops me by a
gesture. The two monsters pass within a hundred and fifty yards of
the raft, and hurl themselves the one upon the other, with a fury
which prevents them from seeing us.
At three hundred yards from us the battle was fought. We could
distinctly observe the two monsters engaged in deadly conflict. But
it now seems to me as if the other animals were taking part in the
fray - the porpoise, the whale, the lizard, the tortoise. Every
moment I seem to see one or other of them. I point them to the
Icelander. He shakes his head negatively.
"_Tva,_" says he.
"What two? Does he mean that there are only two animals?"
"He is right," said my uncle, whose glass has never left his eye.
"Surely you must be mistaken," I cried.
"No: the first of those monsters has a porpoise's snout, a lizard's
head, a crocodile's teeth; and hence our mistake. It is the
ichthyosaurus (the fish lizard), the most terrible of the ancient
monsters of the deep."
"And the other?"
"The other is a plesiosaurus (almost lizard), a serpent, armoured
with the carapace and the paddles of a turtle; he is the dreadful
enemy of the other."
Hans had spoken truly. Two monsters only were creating all this
commotion; and before my eyes are two reptiles of the primitive
world. I can distinguish the eye of the ichthyosaurus glowing like a
red-hot coal, and as large as a man's head. Nature has endowed it
with an optical apparatus of extreme power, and capable of resisting
the pressure of the great volume of water in the depths it inhabits.
It has been appropriately called the saurian whale, for it has both
the swiftness and the rapid movements of this monster of our own day.
This one is not less than a hundred feet long, and I can judge of its
size when it sweeps over the waters the vertical coils of its tail.
Its jaw is enormous, and according to naturalists it is armed with no
less than one hundred and eighty-two teeth.
The plesiosaurus, a serpent with a cylindrical body and a short tail,
has four flappers or paddles to act like oars. Its body is entirely
covered with a thick armour of scales, and its neck, as flexible as a
swan's, rises thirty feet above the waves.
Those huge creatures attacked each other with the greatest animosity.
They heaved around them liquid mountains, which rolled even to our
raft and rocked it perilously. Twenty times we were near capsizing.
Hissings of prodigious force are heard. The two beasts are fast
locked together; I cannot distinguish the one from the other. The
probable rage of the conqueror inspires us with intense fear.
One hour, two hours, pass away. The struggle continues with unabated
ferocity. The combatants alternately approach and recede from our
raft. We remain motionless, ready to fire. Suddenly the ichthyosaurus
and the plesiosaurus disappear below, leaving a whirlpool eddying in
the water. Several minutes pass by while the fight goes on under
All at once an enormous head is darted up, the head of the
plesiosaurus. The monster is wounded to death. I no longer see his
scaly armour. Only his long neck shoots up, drops again, coils and
uncoils, droops, lashes the waters like a gigantic whip, and writhes
like a worm that you tread on. The water is splashed for a long way
around. The spray almost blinds us. But soon the reptile's agony
draws to an end; its movements become fainter, its contortions cease
to be so violent, and the long serpentine form lies a lifeless log on
the labouring deep.
As for the ichthyosaurus - has he returned to his submarine cavern?
or will he reappear on the surface of the sea?
THE GREAT GEYSER
_Wednesday, August 19_. - Fortunately the wind blows violently, and
has enabled us to flee from the scene of the late terrible struggle.
Hans keeps at his post at the helm. My uncle, whom the absorbing
incidents of the combat had drawn away from his contemplations, began
again to look impatiently around him.
The voyage resumes its uniform tenor, which I don't care to break
with a repetition of such events as yesterday's.
Thursday, Aug. 20. - Wind N.N.E., unsteady and fitful. Temperature
high. Rate three and a half leagues an hour.
About noon a distant noise is heard. I note the fact without being
able to explain it. It is a continuous roar.
"In the distance," says the Professor, "there is a rock or islet,
against which the sea is breaking."
Hans climbs up the mast, but sees no breakers. The ocean' is smooth
and unbroken to its farthest limit.
Three hours pass away. The roarings seem to proceed from a very
I remark upon this to my uncle, who replies doubtfully: "Yes, I am
convinced that I am right." Are we, then, speeding forward to some
cataract which will cast us down an abyss? This method of getting on
may please the Professor, because it is vertical; but for my part I
prefer the more ordinary modes of horizontal progression.
At any rate, some leagues to the windward there must be some noisy
phenomenon, for now the roarings are heard with increasing loudness.
Do they proceed from the sky or the ocean?
I look up to the atmospheric vapours, and try to fathom their depths.
The sky is calm and motionless. The clouds have reached the utmost
limit of the lofty vault, and there lie still bathed in the bright
glare of the electric light. It is not there that we must seek for
the cause of this phenomenon. Then I examine the horizon, which is
unbroken and clear of all mist. There is no change in its aspect. But
if this noise arises from a fall, a cataract, if all this ocean flows
away headlong into a lower basin yet, if that deafening roar is
produced by a mass of falling water, the current must needs
accelerate, and its increasing speed will give me the measure of the
peril that threatens us. I consult the current: there is none. I
throw an empty bottle into the sea: it lies still.
About four Hans rises, lays hold of the mast, climbs to its top.
Thence his eye sweeps a large area of sea, and it is fixed upon a
point. His countenance exhibits no surprise, but his eye is immovably
"He sees something," says my uncle.
"I believe he does."
Hans comes down, then stretches his arm to the south, saying:
"Down there?" repeated my uncle.
Then, seizing his glass, he gazes attentively for a minute, which
seems to me an age.
"Yes, yes!" he cried. "I see a vast inverted cone rising from the
"Is it another sea beast?"
"Perhaps it is."
"Then let us steer farther westward, for we know something of the
danger of coming across monsters of that sort."
"Let us go straight on," replied my uncle.
I appealed to Hans. He maintained his course inflexibly.
Yet, if at our present distance from the animal, a distance of twelve
leagues at the least, the column of water driven through its blowers
may be distinctly seen, it must needs be of vast size. The commonest
prudence would counsel immediate flight; but we did not come so far
to be prudent.
Imprudently, therefore, we pursue our way. The nearer we approach,
the higher mounts the jet of water. What monster can possibly fill
itself with such a quantity of water, and spurt it up so continuously?
At eight in the evening we are not two leagues distant from it. Its
body -dusky, enormous, hillocky - lies spread upon the sea like an
islet. Is it illusion or fear? Its length seems to me a couple of
thousand yards. What can be this cetacean, which neither Cuvier nor
Blumenbach knew anything about? It lies motionless, as if asleep; the
sea seems unable to move it in the least; it is the waves that
undulate upon its sides. The column of water thrown up to a height of
five hundred feet falls in rain with a deafening uproar. And here are
we scudding like lunatics before the wind, to get near to a monster
that a hundred whales a day would not satisfy!
Terror seizes upon me. I refuse to go further. I will cut the
halliards if necessary! I am in open mutiny against the Professor,
who vouchsafes no answer.
Suddenly Hans rises, and pointing with his finger at the menacing
object, he says:
"An island!" cries my uncle.
"That's not an island!" I cried sceptically.
"It's nothing else," shouted the Professor, with a loud laugh.
"But that column of water?"
"_Geyser,_" said Hans.
"No doubt it is a geyser, like those in Iceland."
At first I protest against being so widely mistaken as to have taken
an island for a marine monster. But the evidence is against me, and I
have to confess my error. It is nothing worse than a natural
As we approach nearer the dimensions of the liquid column become
magnificent. The islet resembles, with a most deceiving likeness, an
enormous cetacean, whose head dominates the waves at a height of
twenty yards. The geyser, a word meaning 'fury,' rises majestically
from its extremity. Deep and heavy explosions are heard from time to
time, when the enormous jet, possessed with more furious violence,
shakes its plumy crest, and springs with a bound till it reaches the
lowest stratum of the clouds. It stands alone. No steam vents, no hot
springs surround it, and all the volcanic power of the region is
concentrated here. Sparks of electric fire mingle with the dazzling
sheaf of lighted fluid, every drop of which refracts the prismatic
"Let us land," said the Professor.
"But we must carefully avoid this waterspout, which would sink our
raft in a moment."
Hans, steering with his usual skill, brought us to the other
extremity of the islet.
I leaped up on the rock; my uncle lightly followed, while our hunter
remained at his post, like a man too wise ever to be astonished.
We walked upon granite mingled with siliceous tufa. The soil shivers
and shakes under our feet, like the sides of an overheated boiler
filled with steam struggling to get loose. We come in sight of a
small central basin, out of which the geyser springs. I plunge a
register thermometer into the boiling water. It marks an intense heat
of 325�, which is far above the boiling point; therefore this water
issues from an ardent furnace, which is not at all in harmony with
Professor Liedenbrock's theories. I cannot help making the remark.
"Well," he replied, "how does that make against my doctrine?"
"Oh, nothing at all," I said, seeing that I was going in opposition
to immovable obstinacy.
Still I am constrained to confess that hitherto we have been
wonderfully favoured, and that for some reason unknown to myself we
have accomplished our journey under singularly favourable conditions
of temperature. But it seems manifest to me that some day we shall
reach a region where the central heat attains its highest limits, and
goes beyond a point that can be registered by our thermometers.
"That is what we shall see." So says the Professor, who, having named
this volcanic islet after his nephew, gives the signal to embark
For some minutes I am still contemplating the geyser. I notice that
it throws up its column of water with variable force: sometimes
sending it to a great height, then again to a lower, which I
attribute to the variable pressure of the steam accumulated in its
At last we leave the island, rounding away past the low rocks on its
southern shore. Hans has taken advantage of the halt to refit his
But before going any farther I make a few observations, to calculate
the distance we have gone over, and note them in my journal. We have
crossed two hundred and seventy leagues of sea since leaving Port
Gr�uben; and we are six hundred and twenty leagues from Iceland,
under England. 
 This distance carries the travellers as far as under the Pyrenees
if the league measures three miles. (Trans.)
AN ELECTRIC STORM
_Friday, August 21_. - On the morrow the magnificent geyser has
disappeared. The wind has risen, and has rapidly carried us away from
Axel Island. The roarings become lost in the distance.
The weather - if we may use that term - will change before long. The
atmosphere is charged with vapours, pervaded with the electricity
generated by the evaporation of saline waters. The clouds are sinking
lower, and assume an olive hue. The electric light can scarcely
penetrate through the dense curtain which has dropped over the
theatre on which the battle of the elements is about to be waged.
I feel peculiar sensations, like many creatures on earth at the
approach of violent atmospheric changes. The heavily voluted cumulus
clouds lower gloomily and threateningly; they wear that implacable
look which I have sometimes noticed at the outbreak of a great storm.
The air is heavy; the sea is calm.
In the distance the clouds resemble great bales of cotton, piled up
in picturesque disorder. By degrees they dilate, and gain in huge
size what they lose in number. Such is their ponderous weight that
they cannot rise from the horizon; but, obeying an impulse from
higher currents, their dense consistency slowly yields. The gloom
upon them deepens; and they soon present to our view a ponderous mass
of almost level surface. From time to time a fleecy tuft of mist,
with yet some gleaming light left upon it, drops down upon the dense
floor of grey, and loses itself in the opaque and impenetrable mass.
The atmosphere is evidently charged and surcharged with electricity.
My whole body is saturated; my hair bristles just as when you stand
upon an insulated stool under the action of an electrical machine. It
seems to me as if my companions, the moment they touched me, would
receive a severe shock like that from an electric eel.
At ten in the morning the symptoms of storm become aggravated. The
wind never lulls but to acquire increased strength; the vast bank of
heavy clouds is a huge reservoir of fearful windy gusts and rushing
I am loth to believe these atmospheric menaces, and yet I cannot help
"Here's some very bad weather coming on."
The Professor made no answer. His temper is awful, to judge from the
working of his features, as he sees this vast length of ocean
unrolling before him to an indefinite extent. He can only spare time
to shrug his shoulders viciously.
"There's a heavy storm coming on," I cried, pointing towards the
horizon. "Those clouds seem as if they were going to crush the sea."
A deep silence falls on all around. The lately roaring winds are
hushed into a dead calm; nature seems to breathe no more, and to be
sinking into the stillness of death. On the mast already I see the
light play of a lambent St. Elmo's fire; the outstretched sail
catches not a breath of wind, and hangs like a sheet of lead. The
rudder stands motionless in a sluggish, waveless sea. But if we have
now ceased to advance why do we yet leave that sail loose, which at
the first shock of the tempest may capsize us in a moment?
"Let us reef the sail and cut the mast down!" I cried. "That will be
"No, no! Never!" shouted my impetuous uncle. "Never! Let the wind
catch us if it will! What I want is to get the least glimpse of rock
or shore, even if our raft should be smashed into shivers!"
The words were hardly out of his mouth when a sudden change took
place in the southern sky. The piled-up vapours condense into water;
and the air, put into violent action to supply the vacuum left by the
condensation of the mists, rouses itself into a whirlwind. It rushes
on from the farthest recesses of the vast cavern. The darkness
deepens; scarcely can I jot down a few hurried notes. The helm makes
a bound. My uncle falls full length; I creep close to him. He has
laid a firm hold upon a rope, and appears to watch with grim
satisfaction this awful display of elemental strife.
Hans stirs not. His long hair blown by the pelting storm, and laid
flat across his immovable countenance, makes him a strange figure;
for the end of each lock of loose flowing hair is tipped with little
luminous radiations. This frightful mask of electric sparks suggests
to me, even in this dizzy excitement, a comparison with preadamite
man, the contemporary of the ichthyosaurus and the megatherium. 
 Rather of the mammoth and the mastodon. (Trans.)
The mast yet holds firm. The sail stretches tight like a bubble ready
to burst. The raft flies at a rate that I cannot reckon, but not so
fast as the foaming clouds of spray which it dashes from side to side
in its headlong speed.
"The sail! the sail!" I cry, motioning to lower it.
"No!" replies my uncle.
"_Nej!_" repeats Hans, leisurely shaking his head.
But now the rain forms a rushing cataract in front of that horizon
toward which we are running with such maddening speed. But before it
has reached us the rain cloud parts asunder, the sea boils, and the
electric fires are brought into violent action by a mighty chemical
power that descends from the higher regions. The most vivid flashes
of lightning are mingled with the violent crash of continuous
thunder. Ceaseless fiery arrows dart in and out amongst the flying
thunder-clouds; the vaporous mass soon glows with incandescent heat;
hailstones rattle fiercely down, and as they dash upon our iron tools
they too emit gleams and flashes of lurid light. The heaving waves
resemble fiery volcanic hills, each belching forth its own interior
flames, and every crest is plumed with dancing fire. My eyes fail
under the dazzling light, my ears are stunned with the incessant
crash of thunder. I must be bound to the mast, which bows like a reed
before the mighty strength of the storm.
(Here my notes become vague and indistinct. I have only been able to
find a few which I seem to have jotted down almost unconsciously. But
their very brevity and their obscurity reveal the intensity of the
excitement which dominated me, and describe the actual position even
better than my memory could do.)
Sunday, 23. - Where are we? Driven forward with a swiftness that
cannot be measured.
The night was fearful; no abatement of the storm. The din and uproar
are incessant; our ears are bleeding; to exchange a word is
The lightning flashes with intense brilliancy, and never seems to
cease for a moment. Zigzag streams of bluish white fire dash down
upon the sea and rebound, and then take an upward flight till they
strike the granite vault that overarches our heads. Suppose that
solid roof should crumble down upon our heads! Other flashes with
incessant play cross their vivid fires, while others again roll
themselves into balls of living fire which explode like bombshells,
but the music of which scarcely-adds to the din of the battle strife
that almost deprives us of our senses of hearing and sight; the limit
of intense loudness has been passed within which the human ear can
distinguish one sound from another. If all the powder magazines in
the world were to explode at once, we should hear no more than we do
From the under surface of the clouds there are continual emissions of
lurid light; electric matter is in continual evolution from their
component molecules; the gaseous elements of the air need to be
slaked with moisture; for innumerable columns of water rush upwards
into the air and fall back again in white foam.
Whither are we flying? My uncle lies full length across the raft.
The heat increases. I refer to the thermometer; it indicates . . .
(the figure is obliterated).
_Monday, August 24._ - Will there be an end to it? Is the atmospheric
condition, having once reached this density, to become final?
We are prostrated and worn out with fatigue. But Hans is as usual.
The raft bears on still to the south-east. We have made two hundred
leagues since we left Axel Island.
At noon the violence of the storm redoubles. We are obliged to secure
as fast as possible every article that belongs to our cargo. Each of
us is lashed to some part of the raft. The waves rise above our heads.
For three days we have never been able to make each other hear a
word. Our mouths open, our lips move, but not a word can be heard. We
cannot even make ourselves heard by approaching our mouth close to
My uncle has drawn nearer to me. He has uttered a few words. They
seem to be 'We are lost'; but I am not sure.
At last I write down the words: "Let us lower the sail."
He nods his consent.
Scarcely has he lifted his head again before a ball of fire has
bounded over the waves and lighted on board our raft. Mast and sail
flew up in an instant together, and I saw them carried up to
prodigious height, resembling in appearance a pterodactyle, one of
those strong birds of the infant world.
We lay there, our blood running cold with unspeakable terror. The
fireball, half of it white, half azure blue, and the size of a
ten-inch shell, moved slowly about the raft, but revolving on its own
axis with astonishing velocity, as if whipped round by the force of
the whirlwind. Here it comes, there it glides, now it is up the
ragged stump of the mast, thence it lightly leaps on the provision
bag, descends with a light bound, and just skims the powder magazine.
Horrible! we shall be blown up; but no, the dazzling disk of
mysterious light nimbly leaps aside; it approaches Hans, who fixes
his blue eye upon it steadily; it threatens the head of my uncle, who
falls upon his knees with his head down to avoid it. And now my turn
comes; pale and trembling under the blinding splendour and the
melting heat, it drops at my feet, spinning silently round upon the
deck; I try to move my foot away, but cannot.
A suffocating smell of nitrogen fills the air, it enters the throat,
it fills the lungs. We suffer stifling pains.
Why am I unable to move my foot? Is it riveted to the planks? Alas!
the fall upon our fated raft of this electric globe has magnetised
every iron article on board. The instruments, the tools, our guns,
are clashing and clanking violently in their collisions with each
other; the nails of my boots cling tenaciously to a plate of iron let
into the timbers, and I cannot draw my foot away from the spot. At
last by a violent effort I release myself at the instant when the
ball in its gyrations was about to seize upon it, and carry me off my
Ah! what a flood of intense and dazzling light! the globe has burst,
and we are deluged with tongues of fire!
Then all the light disappears. I could just see my uncle at full
length on the raft, and Hans still at his helm and spitting fire
under the action of the electricity which has saturated him.
But where are we going to? Where?
* * * *
_Tuesday, August 25._ - I recover from a long swoon. The storm
continues to roar and rage; the lightnings dash hither and thither,
like broods of fiery serpents filling all the air. Are we still under
the sea? Yes, we are borne at incalculable speed. We have been
carried under England, under the channel, under France, perhaps under
the whole of Europe.
* * * *
A fresh noise is heard! Surely it is the sea breaking upon the rocks!
But then . . . .
CALM PHILOSOPHIC DISCUSSIONS
Here I end what I may call my log, happily saved from the wreck, and
I resume my narrative as before.
What happened when the raft was dashed upon the rocks is more than I
can tell. I felt myself hurled into the waves; and if I escaped from
death, and if my body was not torn over the sharp edges of the rocks,
it was because the powerful arm of Hans came to my rescue.
The brave Icelander carried me out of the reach of the waves, over a
burning sand where I found myself by the side of my uncle.
Then he returned to the rocks, against which the furious waves were
beating, to save what he could. I was unable to speak. I was
shattered with fatigue and excitement; I wanted a whole hour to
recover even a little.
But a deluge of rain was still falling, though with that violence
which generally denotes the near cessation of a storm. A few
overhanging rocks afforded us some shelter from the storm. Hans
prepared some food, which I could not touch; and each of us,
exhausted with three sleepless nights, fell into a broken and painful
The next day the weather was splendid. The sky and the sea had sunk
into sudden repose. Every trace of the awful storm had disappeared.
The exhilarating voice of the Professor fell upon my ears as I awoke;
he was ominously cheerful.
"Well, my boy," he cried, "have you slept well?"
Would not any one have thought that we were still in our cheerful
little house on the K�nigstrasse and that I was only just coming down
to breakfast, and that I was to be married to Gr�uben that day?
Alas! if the tempest had but sent the raft a little more east, we
should have passed under Germany, under my beloved town of Hamburg,
under the very street where dwelt all that I loved most in the world.
Then only forty leagues would have separated us! But they were forty
leagues perpendicular of solid granite wall, and in reality we were a
thousand leagues asunder!
All these painful reflections rapidly crossed my mind before I could
answer my uncle's question.
"Well, now," he repeated, "won't you tell me how you have slept?"
"Oh, very well," I said. "I am only a little knocked up, but I shall
soon be better."
"Oh," says my uncle, "that's nothing to signify. You are only a
little bit tired."
"But you, uncle, you seem in very good spirits this morning."
"Delighted, my boy, delighted. We have got there."
"To our journey's end?"
"No; but we have got to the end of that endless sea. Now we shall go
by land, and really begin to go down! down! down!"
"But, my dear uncle, do let me ask you one question."
"Of course, Axel."
"How about returning?"
"Returning? Why, you are talking about the return before the arrival."
"No, I only want to know how that is to be managed."
"In the simplest way possible. When we have reached the centre of the
globe, either we shall find some new way to get back, or we shall
come back like decent folks the way we came. I feel pleased at the
thought that it is sure not to be shut against us."
"But then we shall have to refit the raft."
"Then, as to provisions, have we enough to last?"
"Yes; to be sure we have. Hans is a clever fellow, and I am sure he
must have saved a large part of our cargo. But still let us go and
We left this grotto which lay open to every wind. At the same time I
cherished a trembling hope which was a fear as well. It seemed to me
impossible that the terrible wreck of the raft should not have
destroyed everything on board. On my arrival on the shore I found
Hans surrounded by an assemblage of articles all arranged in good
order. My uncle shook hands with him with a lively gratitude. This
man, with almost superhuman devotion, had been at work all the while
that we were asleep, and had saved the most precious of the articles
at the risk of his life.
Not that we had suffered no losses. For instance, our firearms; but
we might do without them. Our stock of powder had remained uninjured
after having risked blowing up during the storm.
"Well," cried the Professor, "as we have no guns we cannot hunt,
"Yes, but how about the instruments?"
"Here is the aneroid, the most useful of all, and for which I would
have given all the others. By means of it I can calculate the depth
and know when we have reached the centre; without it we might very
likely go beyond, and come out at the antipodes!"
Such high spirits as these were rather too strong.
"But where is the compass? I asked.
"Here it is, upon this rock, in perfect condition, as well as the
thermometers and the chronometer. The hunter is a splendid fellow."
There was no denying it. We had all our instruments. As for tools and
appliances, there they all lay on the ground - ladders, ropes, picks,
Still there was the question of provisions to be settled, and I asked
- "How are we off for provisions?"
The boxes containing these were in a line upon the shore, in a
perfect state of preservation; for the most part the sea had spared
them, and what with biscuits, salt meat, spirits, and salt fish, we
might reckon on four months' supply.
"Four months!" cried the Professor. "We have time to go and to
return; and with what is left I will give a grand dinner to my
friends at the Johann�um."
I ought by this time to have been quite accustomed to my uncle's
ways; yet there was always something fresh about him to astonish me.
"Now," said he, "we will replenish our supply of water with the rain
which the storm has left in all these granite basins; therefore we
shall have no reason to fear anything from thirst. As for the raft, I
will recommend Hans to do his best to repair it, although I don't
expect it will be of any further use to us."
"How so?" I cried.
"An idea of my own, my lad. I don't think we shall come out by the
way that we went in."
I stared at the Professor with a good deal of mistrust. I asked, was
he not touched in the brain? And yet there was method in his madness.
"And now let us go to breakfast," said he.
I followed him to a headland, after he had given his instructions to
the hunter. There preserved meat, biscuit, and tea made us an
excellent meal, one of the best I ever remember. Hunger, the fresh
air, the calm quiet weather, after the commotions we had gone
through, all contributed to give me a good appetite.
Whilst breakfasting I took the opportunity to put to my uncle the
question where we were now.
"That seems to me," I said, "rather difficult to make out."
"Yes, it is difficult," he said, "to calculate exactly; perhaps even
impossible, since during these three stormy days I have been unable
to keep any account of the rate or direction of the raft; but still
we may get an approximation."
"The last observation," I remarked, "was made on the island, when the
geyser was -"
"You mean Axel Island. Don't decline the honour of having given your