Part 4 out of 7
Then, as specimens of other kinds, some ovoides, resembling an egg of a
dark brown colour, marked with white bands, and without tails; diodons,
real sea-porcupines, furnished with spikes, and capable of swelling in
such a way as to look like cushions bristling with darts; hippocampi,
common to every ocean; some pegasi with lengthened snouts, which their
pectoral fins, being much elongated and formed in the shape of wings,
allow, if not to fly, at least to shoot into the air; pigeon spatulae,
with tails covered with many rings of shell; macrognathi with long
jaws, an excellent fish, nine inches long, and bright with most
agreeable colours; pale-coloured calliomores, with rugged heads; and
plenty of chaetpdons, with long and tubular muzzles, which kill insects
by shooting them, as from an air-gun, with a single drop of water. These
we may call the flycatchers of the seas.
"In the eighty-ninth genus of fishes, classed by Lacepede, belonging to
the second lower class of bony, characterised by opercules and
bronchial membranes, I remarked the scorpaena, the head of which is
furnished with spikes, and which has but one dorsal fin; these creatures
are covered, or not, with little shells, according to the sub-class to
which they belong. The second sub-class gives us specimens of
didactyles fourteen or fifteen inches in length, with yellow rays, and
heads of a most fantastic appearance. As to the first sub-class, it
gives several specimens of that singular looking fish appropriately
called a 'seafrog,' with large head, sometimes pierced with holes,
sometimes swollen with protuberances, bristling with spikes, and covered
with tubercles; it has irregular and hideous horns; its body and tail
are covered with callosities; its sting makes a dangerous wound; it is
both repugnant and horrible to look at."
From the 21st to the 23rd of January the Nautilus went at
the rate of two hundred and fifty leagues in twenty-four hours,
being five hundred and forty miles, or twenty-two miles an hour.
If we recognised so many different varieties of fish, it was because,
attracted by the electric light, they tried to follow us;
the greater part, however, were soon distanced by our speed,
though some kept their place in the waters of the Nautilus for a time.
The morning of the 24th, in 12@ 5' S. lat., and 94@ 33'
long., we observed Keeling Island, a coral formation,
planted with magnificent cocos, and which had been visited by
Mr. Darwin and Captain Fitzroy. The Nautilus skirted the shores
of this desert island for a little distance. Its nets brought
up numerous specimens of polypi and curious shells of mollusca.
Some precious productions of the species of delphinulae enriched the
treasures of Captain Nemo, to which I added an astraea punctifera, a
kind of parasite polypus often found fixed to a shell. Soon Keeling
Island disappeared from the horizon, and our course was directed to the
north-west in the direction of the Indian Peninsula.
Soon Keeling Island disappeared from the horizon, and our course was directed
to the north-west in the direction of the Indian Peninsula.
From Keeling Island our course was slower and more variable,
often taking us into great depths. Several times they made use
of the inclined planes, which certain internal levers placed
obliquely to the waterline. In that way we went about two miles,
but without ever obtaining the greatest depths of the Indian Sea,
which soundings of seven thousand fathoms have never reached.
As to the temperature of the lower strata, the thermometer invariably
indicated 4@ above zero. I only observed that in the upper regions
the water was always colder in the high levels than at the surface
of the sea.
On the 25th of January the ocean was entirely deserted; the Nautilus
passed the day on the surface, beating the waves with its powerful
screw and making them rebound to a great height. Who under such
circumstances would not have taken it for a gigantic cetacean?
Three parts of this day I spent on the platform. I watched the sea.
Nothing on the horizon, till about four o'clock a steamer running
west on our counter. Her masts were visible for an instant,
but she could not see the Nautilus, being too low in the water.
I fancied this steamboat belonged to the P.O. Company, which runs
from Ceylon to Sydney, touching at King George's Point and Melbourne.
At five o'clock in the evening, before that fleeting twilight
which binds night to day in tropical zones, Conseil and I
were astonished by a curious spectacle.
It was a shoal of argonauts travelling along on the surface of the ocean.
We could count several hundreds. They belonged to the tubercle kind
which are peculiar to the Indian seas.
These graceful molluscs moved backwards by means of their
locomotive tube, through which they propelled the water already
drawn in. Of their eight tentacles, six were elongated,
and stretched out floating on the water, whilst the other two,
rolled up flat, were spread to the wing like a light sail.
I saw their spiral-shaped and fluted shells, which Cuvier
justly compares to an elegant skiff. A boat indeed!
It bears the creature which secretes it without its adhering to it.
For nearly an hour the Nautilus floated in the midst of this shoal
of molluscs. Then I know not what sudden fright they took.
But as if at a signal every sail was furled, the arms folded,
the body drawn in, the shells turned over, changing their centre
of gravity, and the whole fleet disappeared under the waves.
Never did the ships of a squadron manoeuvre with more unity.
At that moment night fell suddenly, and the reeds, scarcely raised
by the breeze, lay peaceably under the sides of the Nautilus.
The next day, 26th of January, we cut the equator at the
eighty-second meridian and entered the northern hemisphere.
During the day a formidable troop of sharks accompanied us,
terrible creatures, which multiply in these seas and make them
very dangerous. They were "cestracio philippi" sharks, with brown
backs and whitish bellies, armed with eleven rows of teeth--
eyed sharks--their throat being marked with a large black
spot surrounded with white like an eye. There were also some
Isabella sharks, with rounded snouts marked with dark spots.
These powerful creatures often hurled themselves at the windows
of the saloon with such violence as to make us feel very insecure.
At such times Ned Land was no longer master of himself.
He wanted to go to the surface and harpoon the monsters,
particularly certain smooth-hound sharks, whose mouth is studded with
teeth like a mosaic; and large tiger-sharks nearly six yards long,
the last named of which seemed to excite him more particularly.
But the Nautilus, accelerating her speed, easily left the most rapid
of them behind.
The 27th of January, at the entrance of the vast Bay of Bengal,
we met repeatedly a forbidding spectacle, dead bodies floating on
the surface of the water. They were the dead of the Indian villages,
carried by the Ganges to the level of the sea, and which the vultures,
the only undertakers of the country, had not been able to devour.
But the sharks did not fail to help them at their funeral work.
About seven o'clock in the evening, the Nautilus, half-immersed, was
sailing in a sea of milk. At first sight the ocean seemed lactified.
Was it the effect of the lunar rays? No; for the moon, scarcely two
days old, was still lying hidden under the horizon in the rays of the sun.
The whole sky, though lit by the sidereal rays, seemed black by contrast
with the whiteness of the waters.
Conseil could not believe his eyes, and questioned me as to the cause
of this strange phenomenon. Happily I was able to answer him.
"It is called a milk sea," I explained. "A large extent
of white wavelets often to be seen on the coasts of Amboyna,
and in these parts of the sea."
"But, sir," said Conseil, "can you tell me what causes such an effect?
for I suppose the water is not really turned into milk."
"No, my boy; and the whiteness which surprises you is caused only by
the presence of myriads of infusoria, a sort of luminous little worm,
gelatinous and without colour, of the thickness of a hair,
and whose length is not more than seven-thousandths of an inch.
These insects adhere to one another sometimes for several leagues."
"Several leagues!" exclaimed Conseil.
"Yes, my boy; and you need not try to compute the number of these infusoria.
You will not be able, for, if I am not mistaken, ships have floated on these
milk seas for more than forty miles."
Towards midnight the sea suddenly resumed its usual colour;
but behind us, even to the limits of the horizon, the sky
reflected the whitened waves, and for a long time seemed
impregnated with the vague glimmerings of an aurora borealis.
A NOVEL PROPOSAL OF CAPTAIN NEMO'S
On the 28th of February, when at noon the Nautilus came to the surface
of the sea, in 9@ 4' N. lat., there was land in sight about eight
miles to westward. The first thing I noticed was a range of mountains
about two thousand feet high, the shapes of which were most capricious.
On taking the bearings, I knew that we were nearing the island of Ceylon,
the pearl which hangs from the lobe of the Indian Peninsula.
Captain Nemo and his second appeared at this moment.
The Captain glanced at the map. Then turning to me, said:
"The Island of Ceylon, noted for its pearl-fisheries. Would you
like to visit one of them, M. Aronnax?"
"Well, the thing is easy. Though, if we see the fisheries, we shall
not see the fishermen. The annual exportation has not yet begun.
Never mind, I will give orders to make for the Gulf of Manaar,
where we shall arrive in the night."
The Captain said something to his second, who immediately went out.
Soon the Nautilus returned to her native element, and the manometer
showed that she was about thirty feet deep.
"Well, sir," said Captain Nemo, "you and your companions shall visit
the Bank of Manaar, and if by chance some fisherman should be there,
we shall see him at work."
"By the bye, M. Aronnax you are not afraid of sharks?"
"Sharks!" exclaimed I.
This question seemed a very hard one.
"Well?" continued Captain Nemo.
"I admit, Captain, that I am not yet very familiar with that kind of fish."
"We are accustomed to them," replied Captain Nemo,
"and in time you will be too. However, we shall be armed,
and on the road we may be able to hunt some of the tribe.
It is interesting. So, till to-morrow, sir, and early."
This said in a careless tone, Captain Nemo left the saloon.
Now, if you were invited to hunt the bear in the mountains
of Switzerland, what would you say?
"Very well! to-morrow we will go and hunt the bear."
If you were asked to hunt the lion in the plains of Atlas,
or the tiger in the Indian jungles, what would you say?
"Ha! ha! it seems we are going to hunt the tiger or the lion!"
But when you are invited to hunt the shark in its natural element,
you would perhaps reflect before accepting the invitation.
As for myself, I passed my hand over my forehead, on which stood large
drops of cold perspiration. "Let us reflect," said I, "and take our time.
Hunting otters in submarine forests, as we did in the Island of Crespo,
will pass; but going up and down at the bottom of the sea,
where one is almost certain to meet sharks, is quite another thing!
I know well that in certain countries, particularly in the Andaman Islands,
the negroes never hesitate to attack them with a dagger in one hand
and a running noose in the other; but I also know that few who affront
those creatures ever return alive. However, I am not a negro,
and if I were I think a little hesitation in this case would
not be ill-timed."
At this moment Conseil and the Canadian entered, quite composed,
and even joyous. They knew not what awaited them.
"Faith, sir," said Ned Land, "your Captain Nemo--the devil take him!--
has just made us a very pleasant offer."
"Ah!" said I, "you know?"
"If agreeable to you, sir," interrupted Conseil, "the commander
of the Nautilus has invited us to visit the magnificent Ceylon
fisheries to-morrow, in your company; he did it kindly,
and behaved like a real gentleman."
"He said nothing more?"
"Nothing more, sir, except that he had already spoken to you
of this little walk."
"Sir," said Conseil, "would you give us some details of the pearl fishery?"
"As to the fishing itself," I asked, "or the incidents, which?"
"On the fishing," replied the Canadian; "before entering upon the ground,
it is as well to know something about it."
"Very well; sit down, my friends, and I will teach you."
Ned and Conseil seated themselves on an ottoman, and the first thing
the Canadian asked was:
"Sir, what is a pearl?"
"My worthy Ned," I answered, "to the poet, a pearl is a tear of the sea;
to the Orientals, it is a drop of dew solidified; to the ladies, it is
a jewel of an oblong shape, of a brilliancy of mother-of-pearl substance,
which they wear on their fingers, their necks, or their ears; for the chemist
it is a mixture of phosphate and carbonate of lime, with a little gelatine;
and lastly, for naturalists, it is simply a morbid secretion of the organ
that produces the mother-of-pearl amongst certain bivalves."
"Branch of molluscs," said Conseil.
"Precisely so, my learned Conseil; and, amongst these testacea
the earshell, the tridacnae, the turbots, in a word, all those
which secrete mother-of-pearl, that is, the blue, bluish, violet,
or white substance which lines the interior of their shells,
are capable of producing pearls."
"Mussels too?" asked the Canadian.
"Yes, mussels of certain waters in Scotland, Wales, Ireland,
Saxony, Bohemia, and France."
"Good! For the future I shall pay attention," replied the Canadian.
"But," I continued, "the particular mollusc which secretes the pearl
is the pearl-oyster, the meleagrina margaritiferct, that precious
pintadine. The pearl is nothing but a nacreous formation, deposited
in a globular form, either adhering to the oyster shell, or buried
in the folds of the creature. On the shell it is fast; in the flesh
it is loose; but always has for a kernel a small hard substance, may
be a barren egg, may be a grain of sand, around which the pearly
matter deposits itself year after year successively, and by thin
"Are many pearls found in the same oyster?" asked Conseil.
"Yes, my boy. Some are a perfect casket. One oyster has been mentioned,
though I allow myself to doubt it, as having contained no less than a hundred
and fifty sharks."
"A hundred and fifty sharks!" exclaimed Ned Land.
"Did I say sharks?" said I hurriedly. "I meant to say a hundred
and fifty pearls. Sharks would not be sense."
"Certainly not," said Conseil; "but will you tell us now by what means
they extract these pearls?"
"They proceed in various ways. When they adhere to the shell,
the fishermen often pull them off with pincers; but the most common
way is to lay the oysters on mats of the seaweed which covers
the banks. Thus they die in the open air; and at the end
of ten days they are in a forward state of decomposition.
They are then plunged into large reservoirs of sea-water;
then they are opened and washed."
"The price of these pearls varies according to their size?" asked Conseil.
"Not only according to their size," I answered, "but also according
to their shape, their water (that is, their colour), and their lustre:
that is, that bright and diapered sparkle which makes them so charming
to the eye. The most beautiful are called virgin pearls, or paragons.
They are formed alone in the tissue of the mollusc, are white,
often opaque, and sometimes have the transparency of an opal;
they are generally round or oval. The round are made into bracelets,
the oval into pendants, and, being more precious, are sold singly.
Those adhering to the shell of the oyster are more irregular in shape,
and are sold by weight. Lastly, in a lower order are classed those small
pearls known under the name of seed-pearls; they are sold by measure,
and are especially used in embroidery for church ornaments."
"But," said Conseil, "is this pearl-fishery dangerous?"
"No," I answered, quickly; "particularly if certain precautions are taken."
"What does one risk in such a calling?" said Ned Land,
"the swallowing of some mouthfuls of sea-water?"
"As you say, Ned. By the bye," said I, trying to take Captain
Nemo's careless tone, "are you afraid of sharks, brave Ned?"
"I!" replied the Canadian; "a harpooner by profession?
It is my trade to make light of them."
"But," said I, "it is not a question of fishing for them
with an iron-swivel, hoisting them into the vessel, cutting off
their tails with a blow of a chopper, ripping them up,
and throwing their heart into the sea!"
"Then, it is a question of----"
"In the water?"
"In the water."
"Faith, with a good harpoon! You know, sir, these sharks are
ill-fashioned beasts. They turn on their bellies to seize you,
and in that time----"
Ned Land had a way of saying "seize" which made my blood run cold.
"Well, and you, Conseil, what do you think of sharks?"
"Me!" said Conseil. "I will be frank, sir."
"So much the better," thought I.
"If you, sir, mean to face the sharks, I do not see why your faithful
servant should not face them with you."
A PEARL OF TEN MILLIONS
The next morning at four o'clock I was awakened by
the steward whom Captain Nemo had placed at my service.
I rose hurriedly, dressed, and went into the saloon.
Captain Nemo was awaiting me.
"M. Aronnax," said he, "are you ready to start?"
"I am ready."
"Then please to follow me."
"And my companions, Captain?"
"They have been told and are waiting."
"Are we not to put on our diver's dresses?" asked I.
"Not yet. I have not allowed the Nautilus to come too near this coast,
and we are some distance from the Manaar Bank; but the boat is ready, and will
take us to the exact point of disembarking, which will save us a long way.
It carries our diving apparatus, which we will put on when we begin
our submarine journey."
Captain Nemo conducted me to the central staircase,
which led on the platform. Ned and Conseil were already there,
delighted at the idea of the "pleasure party" which was preparing.
Five sailors from the Nautilus, with their oars, waited in the boat,
which had been made fast against the side.
The night was still dark. Layers of clouds covered the sky,
allowing but few stars to be seen. I looked on the side
where the land lay, and saw nothing but a dark line enclosing
three parts of the horizon, from south-west to north west.
The Nautilus, having returned during the night up the western
coast of Ceylon, was now west of the bay, or rather gulf,
formed by the mainland and the Island of Manaar.
There, under the dark waters, stretched the pintadine bank,
an inexhaustible field of pearls, the length of which is more
than twenty miles.
Captain Nemo, Ned Land, Conseil, and I took our places
in the stern of the boat. The master went to the tiller;
his four companions leaned on their oars, the painter was cast off,
and we sheered off.
The boat went towards the south; the oarsmen did not hurry. I noticed
that their strokes, strong in the water, only followed each other every
ten seconds, according to the method generally adopted in the navy.
Whilst the craft was running by its own velocity, the liquid drops
struck the dark depths of the waves crisply like spats of melted lead.
A little billow, spreading wide, gave a slight roll to the boat, and some
samphire reeds flapped before it.
We were silent. What was Captain Nemo thinking of? Perhaps of
the land he was approaching, and which he found too near to him,
contrary to the Canadian's opinion, who thought it too far off.
As to Conseil, he was merely there from curiosity.
About half-past five the first tints on the horizon showed
the upper line of coast more distinctly. Flat enough in the east,
it rose a little to the south. Five miles still lay between us,
and it was indistinct owing to the mist on the water.
At six o'clock it became suddenly daylight, with that rapidity
peculiar to tropical regions, which know neither dawn nor twilight.
The solar rays pierced the curtain of clouds, piled up
on the eastern horizon, and the radiant orb rose rapidly.
I saw land distinctly, with a few trees scattered here and there.
The boat neared Manaar Island, which was rounded to the south.
Captain Nemo rose from his seat and watched the sea.
At a sign from him the anchor was dropped, but the chain scarcely ran,
for it was little more than a yard deep, and this spot was one of the highest
points of the bank of pintadines.
"Here we are, M. Aronnax," said Captain Nemo.
"You see that enclosed bay? Here, in a month will be
assembled the numerous fishing boats of the exporters,
and these are the waters their divers will ransack so boldly.
Happily, this bay is well situated for that kind of fishing.
It is sheltered from the strongest winds; the sea is never very
rough here, which makes it favourable for the diver's work.
We will now put on our dresses, and begin our walk."
I did not answer, and, while watching the suspected waves,
began with the help of the sailors to put on my heavy
sea-dress. Captain Nemo and my companions were also dressing.
None of the Nautilus men were to accompany us on this new excursion.
Soon we were enveloped to the throat in india-rubber clothing;
the air apparatus fixed to our backs by braces.
As to the Ruhmkorff apparatus, there was no necessity for it.
Before putting my head into the copper cap, I had asked the question
of the Captain.
"They would be useless," he replied. "We are going to no great depth,
and the solar rays will be enough to light our walk. Besides, it would
not be prudent to carry the electric light in these waters;
its brilliancy might attract some of the dangerous inhabitants
of the coast most inopportunely."
As Captain Nemo pronounced these words, I turned to Conseil and Ned Land.
But my two friends had already encased their heads in the metal cap,
and they could neither hear nor answer.
One last question remained to ask of Captain Nemo.
"And our arms?" asked I; "our guns?"
"Guns! What for? Do not mountaineers attack the bear with
a dagger in their hand, and is not steel surer than lead?
Here is a strong blade; put it in your belt, and we start."
I looked at my companions; they were armed like us, and, more than that,
Ned Land was brandishing an enormous harpoon, which he had placed in the boat
before leaving the Nautilus.
Then, following the Captain's example, I allowed myself to be
dressed in the heavy copper helmet, and our reservoirs of air
were at once in activity. An instant after we were landed,
one after the other, in about two yards of water upon an even sand.
Captain Nemo made a sign with his hand, and we followed him
by a gentle declivity till we disappeared under the waves.
Over our feet, like coveys of snipe in a bog, rose shoals of fish, of
the genus monoptera, which have no other fins but their tail. I
recognized the Javanese, a real serpent two and a half feet long, of a
livid colour underneath, and which might easily be mistaken for a conger
eel if it were not for the golden stripes on its side. In the genus
stromateus, whose bodies are very flat and oval, I saw some of the most
brilliant colours, carrying their dorsal fin like a scythe; an excellent
eating fish, which, dried and pickled, is known by the name of
Karawade; then some tranquebars, belonging to the genus apsiphoroides,
whose body is covered with a shell cuirass of eight longitudinal plates.
The heightening sun lit the mass of waters more and more. The soil
changed by degrees. To the fine sand succeeded a perfect causeway of
boulders, covered with a carpet of molluscs and zoophytes. Amongst the
specimens of these branches I noticed some placenae, with thin unequal
shells, a kind of ostracion peculiar to the Red Sea and the Indian
Ocean; some orange lucinae with rounded shells; rockfish three feet and
a half long, which raised themselves under the waves like hands ready
to seize one. There were also some panopyres, slightly luminous; and
lastly, some oculines, like magnificent fans, forming one of the richest
vegetations of these seas.
In the midst of these living plants, and under the arbours of the
hydrophytes, were layers of clumsy articulates, particularly some
raninae, whose carapace formed a slightly rounded triangle; and some
horrible looking parthenopes.
At about seven o'clock we found ourselves at last surveying the oyster-banks
on which the pearl-oysters are reproduced by millions.
Captain Nemo pointed with his hand to the enormous heap of oysters;
and I could well understand that this mine was inexhaustible, for
Nature's creative power is far beyond man's instinct of destruction.
Ned Land, faithful to his instinct, hastened to fill a net
which he carried by his side with some of the finest specimens.
But we could not stop. We must follow the Captain,
who seemed to guide him self by paths known only to himself.
The ground was sensibly rising, and sometimes,
on holding up my arm, it was above the surface of the sea.
Then the level of the bank would sink capriciously.
Often we rounded high rocks scarped into pyramids.
In their dark fractures huge crustacea, perched upon their
high claws like some war-machine, watched us with fixed eyes,
and under our feet crawled various kinds of annelides.
At this moment there opened before us a large grotto dug in a picturesque
heap of rocks and carpeted with all the thick warp of the submarine flora.
At first it seemed very dark to me. The solar rays seemed to be
extinguished by successive gradations, until its vague transparency became
nothing more than drowned light. Captain Nemo entered; we followed.
My eyes soon accustomed themselves to this relative state of darkness.
I could distinguish the arches springing capriciously from natural pillars,
standing broad upon their granite base, like the heavy columns of
Tuscan architecture. Why had our incomprehensible guide led us to the bottom
of this submarine crypt? I was soon to know. After descending a rather
sharp declivity, our feet trod the bottom of a kind of circular pit.
There Captain Nemo stopped, and with his hand indicated an object I
had not yet perceived. It was an oyster of extraordinary dimensions,
a gigantic tridacne, a goblet which could have contained a whole lake of
holy-water, a basin the breadth of which was more than two yards and a half,
and consequently larger than that ornamenting the saloon of the Nautilus.
I approached this extraordinary mollusc. It adhered by its filaments
to a table of granite, and there, isolated, it developed itself in the calm
waters of the grotto. I estimated the weight of this tridacne at 600 lb.
Such an oyster would contain 30 lb. of meat; and one must have the stomach of
a Gargantua to demolish some dozens of them.
Captain Nemo was evidently acquainted with the existence of this bivalve,
and seemed to have a particular motive in verifying the actual state
of this tridacne. The shells were a little open; the Captain came near
and put his dagger between to prevent them from closing; then with his
hand he raised the membrane with its fringed edges, which formed a cloak
for the creature. There, between the folded plaits, I saw a loose pearl,
whose size equalled that of a coco-nut. Its globular shape, perfect clearness,
and admirable lustre made it altogether a jewel of inestimable value.
Carried away by my curiosity, I stretched out my hand to seize it,
weigh it, and touch it; but the Captain stopped me, made a sign of refusal,
and quickly withdrew his dagger, and the two shells closed suddenly.
I then understood Captain Nemo's intention. In leaving this pearl
hidden in the mantle of the tridacne he was allowing it to grow slowly.
Each year the secretions of the mollusc would add new concentric circles.
I estimated its value at L500,000 at least.
After ten minutes Captain Nemo stopped suddenly.
I thought he had halted previously to returning. No; by a
gesture he bade us crouch beside him in a deep fracture
of the rock, his hand pointed to one part of the liquid mass,
which I watched attentively.
About five yards from me a shadow appeared, and sank to the ground.
The disquieting idea of sharks shot through my mind, but I was mistaken;
and once again it was not a monster of the ocean that we had anything
to do with.
It was a man, a living man, an Indian, a fisherman, a poor
devil who, I suppose, had come to glean before the harvest.
I could see the bottom of his canoe anchored some feet above his head.
He dived and went up successively. A stone held between his feet,
cut in the shape of a sugar loaf, whilst a rope fastened him to his boat,
helped him to descend more rapidly. This was all his apparatus.
Reaching the bottom, about five yards deep, he went on his knees
and filled his bag with oysters picked up at random. Then he went up,
emptied it, pulled up his stone, and began the operation once more,
which lasted thirty seconds.
The diver did not see us. The shadow of the rock hid us from sight.
And how should this poor Indian ever dream that men, beings like himself,
should be there under the water watching his movements and losing no detail
of the fishing? Several times he went up in this way, and dived again.
He did not carry away more than ten at each plunge, for he was obliged to pull
them from the bank to which they adhered by means of their strong byssus.
And how many of those oysters for which he risked his life had no pearl
in them! I watched him closely; his manoeuvres were regular; and for the
space of half an hour no danger appeared to threaten him.
I was beginning to accustom myself to the sight of this interesting fishing,
when suddenly, as the Indian was on the ground, I saw him make a gesture
of terror, rise, and make a spring to return to the surface of the sea.
I understood his dread. A gigantic shadow appeared just above
the unfortunate diver. It was a shark of enormous size
advancing diagonally, his eyes on fire, and his jaws open.
I was mute with horror and unable to move.
The voracious creature shot towards the Indian, who threw
himself on one side to avoid the shark's fins; but not its tail,
for it struck his chest and stretched him on the ground.
This scene lasted but a few seconds: the shark returned, and,
turning on his back, prepared himself for cutting the Indian in two,
when I saw Captain Nemo rise suddenly, and then, dagger in hand,
walk straight to the monster, ready to fight face to face with him.
The very moment the shark was going to snap the unhappy fisherman
in two, he perceived his new adversary, and, turning over,
made straight towards him.
I can still see Captain Nemo's position. Holding himself well together,
he waited for the shark with admirable coolness; and, when it rushed at him,
threw himself on one side with wonderful quickness, avoiding the shock,
and burying his dagger deep into its side. But it was not all over.
A terrible combat ensued.
The shark had seemed to roar, if I might say so. The blood
rushed in torrents from its wound. The sea was dyed red,
and through the opaque liquid I could distinguish nothing more.
Nothing more until the moment when, like lightning, I saw
the undaunted Captain hanging on to one of the creature's fins,
struggling, as it were, hand to hand with the monster,
and dealing successive blows at his enemy, yet still unable to give
a decisive one.
The shark's struggles agitated the water with such fury that the rocking
threatened to upset me.
I wanted to go to the Captain's assistance, but, nailed to the spot
with horror, I could not stir.
I saw the haggard eye; I saw the different phases of the fight.
The Captain fell to the earth, upset by the enormous mass which leant
upon him. The shark's jaws opened wide, like a pair of factory shears,
and it would have been all over with the Captain; but, quick as thought,
harpoon in hand, Ned Land rushed towards the shark and struck it with
its sharp point.
The waves were impregnated with a mass of blood. They rocked under
the shark's movements, which beat them with indescribable fury.
Ned Land had not missed his aim. It was the monster's death-rattle.
Struck to the heart, it struggled in dreadful convulsions, the shock
of which overthrew Conseil.
But Ned Land had disentangled the Captain, who, getting up without any wound,
went straight to the Indian, quickly cut the cord which held him
to his stone, took him in his arms, and, with a sharp blow of his heel,
mounted to the surface.
We all three followed in a few seconds, saved by a miracle,
and reached the fisherman's boat.
Captain Nemo's first care was to recall the unfortunate
man to life again. I did not think he could succeed.
I hoped so, for the poor creature's immersion was not long;
but the blow from the shark's tail might have been his death-blow.
Happily, with the Captain's and Conseil's sharp friction,
I saw consciousness return by degrees. He opened his eyes.
What was his surprise, his terror even, at seeing four great
copper heads leaning over him! And, above all, what must
he have thought when Captain Nemo, drawing from the pocket
of his dress a bag of pearls, placed it in his hand!
This munificent charity from the man of the waters to the poor
Cingalese was accepted with a trembling hand. His wondering eyes
showed that he knew not to what super-human beings he owed both
fortune and life.
At a sign from the Captain we regained the bank, and, following the road
already traversed, came in about half an hour to the anchor which held
the canoe of the Nautilus to the earth.
Once on board, we each, with the help of the sailors, got rid
of the heavy copper helmet.
Captain Nemo's first word was to the Canadian.
"Thank you, Master Land," said he.
"It was in revenge, Captain," replied Ned Land.
"I owed you that."
A ghastly smile passed across the Captain's lips, and that was all.
"To the Nautilus," said he.
The boat flew over the waves. Some minutes after we met the shark's
dead body floating. By the black marking of the extremity of its fins,
I recognised the terrible melanopteron of the Indian Seas, of the species
of shark so properly called. It was more than twenty-five feet long;
its enormous mouth occupied one-third of its body. It was an adult,
as was known by its six rows of teeth placed in an isosceles triangle in
the upper jaw.
Whilst I was contemplating this inert mass, a dozen of these voracious
beasts appeared round the boat; and, without noticing us, threw themselves
upon the dead body and fought with one another for the pieces.
At half-past eight we were again on board the Nautilus.
There I reflected on the incidents which had taken place in our
excursion to the Manaar Bank.
Two conclusions I must inevitably draw from it--one bearing
upon the unparalleled courage of Captain Nemo, the other upon
his devotion to a human being, a representative of that race
from which he fled beneath the sea. Whatever he might say,
this strange man had not yet succeeded in entirely crushing his heart.
When I made this observation to him, he answered in a slightly moved tone:
"That Indian, sir, is an inhabitant of an oppressed country;
and I am still, and shall be, to my last breath, one of them!"
THE RED SEA
In the course of the day of the 29th of January, the island
of Ceylon disappeared under the horizon, and the Nautilus,
at a speed of twenty miles an hour, slid into the labyrinth
of canals which separate the Maldives from the Laccadives.
It coasted even the Island of Kiltan, a land originally coraline,
discovered by Vasco da Gama in 1499, and one of the nineteen
principal islands of the Laccadive Archipelago, situated between
10@ and 14@ 30' N. lat., and 69@ 50' 72" E. long.
We had made 16,220 miles, or 7,500 (French) leagues from our starting-point
in the Japanese Seas.
The next day (30th January), when the Nautilus went
to the surface of the ocean there was no land in sight.
Its course was N.N.E., in the direction of the Sea of Oman,
between Arabia and the Indian Peninsula, which serves as an
outlet to the Persian Gulf. It was evidently a block without
any possible egress. Where was Captain Nemo taking us to?
I could not say. This, however, did not satisfy the Canadian,
who that day came to me asking where we were going.
"We are going where our Captain's fancy takes us, Master Ned."
"His fancy cannot take us far, then," said the Canadian.
"The Persian Gulf has no outlet: and, if we do go in, it will
not be long before we are out again."
"Very well, then, we will come out again, Master Land; and if,
after the Persian Gulf, the Nautilus would like to visit the Red Sea,
the Straits of Bab-el-mandeb are there to give us entrance."
"I need not tell you, sir," said Ned Land, "that the Red Sea is as much closed
as the Gulf, as the Isthmus of Suez is not yet cut; and, if it was, a boat
as mysterious as ours would not risk itself in a canal cut with sluices.
And again, the Red Sea is not the road to take us back to Europe."
"But I never said we were going back to Europe."
"What do you suppose, then?"
"I suppose that, after visiting the curious coasts of Arabia
and Egypt, the Nautilus will go down the Indian Ocean again,
perhaps cross the Channel of Mozambique, perhaps off the Mascarenhas,
so as to gain the Cape of Good Hope."
"And once at the Cape of Good Hope?" asked the Canadian,
with peculiar emphasis.
"Well, we shall penetrate into that Atlantic which we do not yet know.
Ah! friend Ned, you are getting tired of this journey under the sea; you are
surfeited with the incessantly varying spectacle of submarine wonders.
For my part, I shall be sorry to see the end of a voyage which it is given to
so few men to make."
For four days, till the 3rd of February, the Nautilus scoured
the Sea of Oman, at various speeds and at various depths.
It seemed to go at random, as if hesitating as to which road it
should follow, but we never passed the Tropic of Cancer.
In quitting this sea we sighted Muscat for an instant,
one of the most important towns of the country of Oman.
I admired its strange aspect, surrounded by black rocks
upon which its white houses and forts stood in relief.
I saw the rounded domes of its mosques, the elegant points
of its minarets, its fresh and verdant terraces. But it was only
a vision! The Nautilus soon sank under the waves of that part
of the sea.
We passed along the Arabian coast of Mahrah and Hadramaut,
for a distance of six miles, its undulating line of mountains
being occasionally relieved by some ancient ruin.
The 5th of February we at last entered the Gulf of Aden,
a perfect funnel introduced into the neck of Bab-el-mandeb,
through which the Indian waters entered the Red Sea.
The 6th of February, the Nautilus floated in sight of Aden,
perched upon a promontory which a narrow isthmus joins to the mainland,
a kind of inaccessible Gibraltar, the fortifications of which
were rebuilt by the English after taking possession in 1839.
I caught a glimpse of the octagon minarets of this town, which was at
one time the richest commercial magazine on the coast.
I certainly thought that Captain Nemo, arrived at this point,
would back out again; but I was mistaken, for he did no such thing,
much to my surprise.
The next day, the 7th of February, we entered the Straits
of Bab-el-mandeb, the name of which, in the Arab tongue,
means The Gate of Tears.
To twenty miles in breadth, it is only thirty-two in length.
And for the Nautilus, starting at full speed, the crossing was scarcely
the work of an hour. But I saw nothing, not even the Island of Perim,
with which the British Government has fortified the position of Aden.
There were too many English or French steamers of the line of Suez
to Bombay, Calcutta to Melbourne, and from Bourbon to the Mauritius,
furrowing this narrow passage, for the Nautilus to venture to show itself.
So it remained prudently below. At last about noon, we were in the waters of
the Red Sea.
I would not even seek to understand the caprice which had decided Captain Nemo
upon entering the gulf. But I quite approved of the Nautilus entering it.
Its speed was lessened: sometimes it kept on the surface, sometimes it dived
to avoid a vessel, and thus I was able to observe the upper and lower parts
of this curious sea.
The 8th of February, from the first dawn of day, Mocha came
in sight, now a ruined town, whose walls would fall at a gunshot,
yet which shelters here and there some verdant date-trees;
once an important city, containing six public markets,
and twenty-six mosques, and whose walls, defended by fourteen forts,
formed a girdle of two miles in circumference.
The Nautilus then approached the African shore, where the depth of the sea
was greater. There, between two waters clear as crystal, through the open
panels we were allowed to contemplate the beautiful bushes of brilliant
coral and large blocks of rock clothed with a splendid fur of green
variety of sites and landscapes along these sandbanks and algae and fuci.
What an indescribable spectacle, and what variety of sites and landscapes
along these sandbanks and volcanic islands which bound the Libyan coast!
But where these shrubs appeared in all their beauty was on the eastern coast,
which the Nautilus soon gained. It was on the coast of Tehama, for there
not only did this display of zoophytes flourish beneath the level of the sea,
but they also formed picturesque interlacings which unfolded themselves about
sixty feet above the surface, more capricious but less highly coloured than
those whose freshness was kept up by the vital power of the waters.
What charming hours I passed thus at the window of the saloon!
What new specimens of submarine flora and fauna did I admire under
the brightness of our electric lantern!
The 9th of February the Nautilus floated in the broadest part of the Red Sea,
which is comprised between Souakin, on the west coast, and Komfidah,
on the east coast, with a diameter of ninety miles.
That day at noon, after the bearings were taken, Captain Nemo mounted
the platform, where I happened to be, and I was determined not to let him go
down again without at least pressing him regarding his ulterior projects.
As soon as he saw me he approached and graciously offered me a cigar.
"Well, sir, does this Red Sea please you? Have you sufficiently
observed the wonders it covers, its fishes, its zoophytes,
its parterres of sponges, and its forests of coral?
Did you catch a glimpse of the towns on its borders?"
"Yes, Captain Nemo," I replied; "and the Nautilus is wonderfully
fitted for such a study. Ah! it is an intelligent boat!"
"Yes, sir, intelligent and invulnerable. It fears neither
the terrible tempests of the Red Sea, nor its currents,
nor its sandbanks."
"Certainly," said I, "this sea is quoted as one of the worst,
and in the time of the ancients, if I am not mistaken,
its reputation was detestable."
"Detestable, M. Aronnax. The Greek and Latin historians
do not speak favourably of it, and Strabo says it is very
dangerous during the Etesian winds and in the rainy season.
The Arabian Edrisi portrays it under the name of the Gulf of Colzoum,
and relates that vessels perished there in great numbers on
the sandbanks and that no one would risk sailing in the night.
It is, he pretends, a sea subject to fearful hurricanes,
strewn with inhospitable islands, and `which offers nothing good
either on its surface or in its depths.'"
"One may see," I replied, "that these historians never sailed
on board the Nautilus."
"Just so," replied the Captain, smiling; "and in that respect
moderns are not more advanced than the ancients. It required
many ages to find out the mechanical power of steam. Who knows if,
in another hundred years, we may not see a second Nautilus?
Progress is slow, M. Aronnax."
"It is true," I answered; "your boat is at least a century before its time,
perhaps an era. What a misfortune that the secret of such an invention
should die with its inventor!"
Captain Nemo did not reply. After some minutes' silence he continued:
"You were speaking of the opinions of ancient historians upon
the dangerous navigation of the Red Sea."
"It is true," said I; "but were not their fears exaggerated?"
"Yes and no, M. Aronnax," replied Captain Nemo, who seemed to know the Red
Sea by heart. "That which is no longer dangerous for a modern vessel,
well rigged, strongly built, and master of its own course, thanks to
obedient steam, offered all sorts of perils to the ships of the ancients.
Picture to yourself those first navigators venturing in ships made
of planks sewn with the cords of the palmtree, saturated with
the grease of the seadog, and covered with powdered resin!
They had not even instruments wherewith to take their bearings, and they
went by guess amongst currents of which they scarcely knew anything.
Under such conditions shipwrecks were, and must have been, numerous.
But in our time, steamers running between Suez and the South Seas have
nothing more to fear from the fury of this gulf, in spite of contrary
trade-winds. The captain and passengers do not prepare for their
departure by offering propitiatory sacrifices; and, on their return,
they no longer go ornamented with wreaths and gilt fillets to thank
the gods in the neighbouring temple."
"I agree with you," said I; "and steam seems to have killed all gratitude
in the hearts of sailors. But, Captain, since you seem to have especially
studied this sea, can you tell me the origin of its name?"
"There exist several explanations on the subject, M. Aronnax.
Would you like to know the opinion of a chronicler of
the fourteenth century?"
"This fanciful writer pretends that its name was given to it
after the passage of the Israelites, when Pharaoh perished
in the waves which closed at the voice of Moses."
"A poet's explanation, Captain Nemo," I replied; "but I cannot content
myself with that. I ask you for your personal opinion."
"Here it is, M. Aronnax. According to my idea, we must see
in this appellation of the Red Sea a translation of the Hebrew
word `Edom'; and if the ancients gave it that name, it was
on account of the particular colour of its waters."
"But up to this time I have seen nothing but transparent waves
and without any particular colour."
"Very likely; but as we advance to the bottom of the gulf, you will see
this singular appearance. I remember seeing the Bay of Tor entirely red,
like a sea of blood."
"And you attribute this colour to the presence of a microscopic seaweed?"
"So, Captain Nemo, it is not the first time you have overrun
the Red Sea on board the Nautilus?"
"As you spoke a while ago of the passage of the Israelites and of
the catastrophe to the Egyptians, I will ask whether you have met
with the traces under the water of this great historical fact?"
"No, sir; and for a good reason."
"What is it?"
"It is that the spot where Moses and his people passed is now so blocked
up with sand that the camels can barely bathe their legs there.
You can well understand that there would not be water enough
for my Nautilus."
"And the spot?" I asked.
"The spot is situated a little above the Isthmus of Suez, in the arm
which formerly made a deep estuary, when the Red Sea extended to
the Salt Lakes. Now, whether this passage were miraculous or not,
the Israelites, nevertheless, crossed there to reach the Promised Land,
and Pharaoh's army perished precisely on that spot; and I think
that excavations made in the middle of the sand would bring to light
a large number of arms and instruments of Egyptian origin."
"That is evident," I replied; "and for the sake of archaeologists let us
hope that these excavations will be made sooner or later, when new towns
are established on the isthmus, after the construction of the Suez Canal;
a canal, however, very useless to a vessel like the Nautilus."
"Very likely; but useful to the whole world," said Captain Nemo.
"The ancients well understood the utility of a communication between
the Red Sea and the Mediterranean for their commercial affairs:
but they did not think of digging a canal direct, and took the Nile
as an intermediate. Very probably the canal which united the Nile
to the Red Sea was begun by Sesostris, if we may believe tradition.
One thing is certain, that in the year 615 before Jesus Christ,
Necos undertook the works of an alimentary canal to the waters
of the Nile across the plain of Egypt, looking towards Arabia.
It took four days to go up this canal, and it was so wide that
two triremes could go abreast. It was carried on by Darius,
the son of Hystaspes, and probably finished by Ptolemy II.
Strabo saw it navigated: but its decline from the point
of departure, near Bubastes, to the Red Sea was so slight
that it was only navigable for a few months in the year.
This canal answered all commercial purposes to the age
of Antonius, when it was abandoned and blocked up with sand.
Restored by order of the Caliph Omar, it was definitely destroyed
in 761 or 762 by Caliph Al-Mansor, who wished to prevent the arrival
of provisions to Mohammed-ben-Abdallah, who had revolted against him.
During the expedition into Egypt, your General Bonaparte discovered
traces of the works in the Desert of Suez; and, surprised by
the tide, he nearly perished before regaining Hadjaroth,
at the very place where Moses had encamped three thousand
years before him."
"Well, Captain, what the ancients dared not undertake, this junction
between the two seas, which will shorten the road from Cadiz to India,
M. Lesseps has succeeded in doing; and before long he will have changed
Africa into an immense island."
"Yes, M. Aronnax; you have the right to be proud of your countryman.
Such a man brings more honour to a nation than great captains.
He began, like so many others, with disgust and rebuffs;
but he has triumphed, for he has the genius of will.
And it is sad to think that a work like that, which ought to have
been an international work and which would have sufficed to make
a reign illustrious, should have succeeded by the energy of one man.
All honour to M. Lesseps!"
"Yes! honour to the great citizen," I replied, surprised by the manner
in which Captain Nemo had just spoken.
"Unfortunately," he continued, "I cannot take you through the Suez Canal;
but you will be able to see the long jetty of Port Said after to-morrow,
when we shall be in the Mediterranean."
"The Mediterranean!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, sir; does that astonish you?"
"What astonishes me is to think that we shall be there
the day after to-morrow."
"Yes, Captain, although by this time I ought to have accustomed myself
to be surprised at nothing since I have been on board your boat."
"But the cause of this surprise?"
"Well! it is the fearful speed you will have to put on the Nautilus,
if the day after to-morrow she is to be in the Mediterranean,
having made the round of Africa, and doubled the Cape of Good Hope!"
"Who told you that she would make the round of Africa and double
the Cape of Good Hope, sir?"
"Well, unless the Nautilus sails on dry land, and passes above the isthmus----"
"Or beneath it, M. Aronnax."
"Certainly," replied Captain Nemo quietly. "A long time ago Nature made
under this tongue of land what man has this day made on its surface."
"What! such a passage exists?"
"Yes; a subterranean passage, which I have named the Arabian Tunnel.
It takes us beneath Suez and opens into the Gulf of Pelusium."
"But this isthmus is composed of nothing but quick sands?"
"To a certain depth. But at fifty-five yards only there is a solid
layer of rock."
"Did you discover this passage by chance?" I asked more and more surprised.
"Chance and reasoning, sir; and by reasoning even more than by chance.
Not only does this passage exist, but I have profited by it several times.
Without that I should not have ventured this day into the impassable Red Sea.
I noticed that in the Red Sea and in the Mediterranean there existed a certain
number of fishes of a kind perfectly identical. Certain of the fact, I asked
myself was it possible that there was no communication between the two seas?
If there was, the subterranean current must necessarily run from the Red
Sea to the Mediterranean, from the sole cause of difference of level.
I caught a large number of fishes in the neighbourhood of Suez.
I passed a copper ring through their tails, and threw them back into the sea.
Some months later, on the coast of Syria, I caught some of my fish ornamented
with the ring. Thus the communication between the two was proved.
I then sought for it with my Nautilus; I discovered it, ventured into it,
and before long, sir, you too will have passed through my Arabian tunnel!"
THE ARABIAN TUNNEL
That same evening, in 21@ 30' N. lat., the Nautilus floated
on the surface of the sea, approaching the Arabian coast.
I saw Djeddah, the most important counting-house of Egypt,
Syria, Turkey, and India. I distinguished clearly enough
its buildings, the vessels anchored at the quays, and those whose
draught of water obliged them to anchor in the roads. The sun,
rather low on the horizon, struck full on the houses of the town,
bringing out their whiteness. Outside, some wooden cabins,
and some made of reeds, showed the quarter inhabited by the Bedouins.
Soon Djeddah was shut out from view by the shadows of night,
and the Nautilus found herself under water slightly phosphorescent.
The next day, the 10th of February, we sighted several ships running
to windward. The Nautilus returned to its submarine navigation;
but at noon, when her bearings were taken, the sea being deserted,
she rose again to her waterline.
Accompanied by Ned and Conseil, I seated myself on the platform.
The coast on the eastern side looked like a mass faintly printed upon
a damp fog.
We were leaning on the sides of the pinnace, talking of one thing and another,
when Ned Land, stretching out his hand towards a spot on the sea, said:
"Do you see anything there, sir?"
"No, Ned," I replied; "but I have not your eyes, you know."
"Look well," said Ned, "there, on the starboard beam, about the height
of the lantern! Do you not see a mass which seems to move?"
"Certainly," said I, after close attention; "I see something
like a long black body on the top of the water."
And certainly before long the black object was not more than a mile
from us. It looked like a great sandbank deposited in the open sea.
It was a gigantic dugong!
Ned Land looked eagerly. His eyes shone with covetousness at
the sight of the animal. His hand seemed ready to harpoon it.
One would have thought he was awaiting the moment to throw himself
into the sea and attack it in its element.
At this instant Captain Nemo appeared on the platform.
He saw the dugong, understood the Canadian's attitude, and,
addressing him, said:
"If you held a harpoon just now, Master Land, would it not burn your hand?"
"Just so, sir."
"And you would not be sorry to go back, for one day, to your trade
of a fisherman and to add this cetacean to the list of those you
have already killed?"
"I should not, sir."
"Well, you can try."
"Thank you, sir," said Ned Land, his eyes flaming.
"Only," continued the Captain, "I advise you for your own sake
not to miss the creature."
"Is the dugong dangerous to attack?" I asked, in spite of the Canadian's
shrug of the shoulders.
"Yes," replied the Captain; "sometimes the animal
turns upon its assailants and overturns their boat.
But for Master Land this danger is not to be feared.
His eye is prompt, his arm sure."
At this moment seven men of the crew, mute and immovable as ever,
mounted the platform. One carried a harpoon and a line similar
to those employed in catching whales. The pinnace was lifted from
the bridge, pulled from its socket, and let down into the sea.
Six oarsmen took their seats, and the coxswain went to the tiller.
Ned, Conseil, and I went to the back of the boat.
"You are not coming, Captain?" I asked.
"No, sir; but I wish you good sport."
The boat put off, and, lifted by the six rowers, drew rapidly towards
the dugong, which floated about two miles from the Nautilus.
Arrived some cables-length from the cetacean, the speed slackened,
and the oars dipped noiselessly into the quiet waters.
Ned Land, harpoon in hand, stood in the fore part of the boat.
The harpoon used for striking the whale is generally attached to a
very long cord which runs out rapidly as the wounded creature draws
it after him. But here the cord was not more than ten fathoms long,
and the extremity was attached to a small barrel which, by floating,
was to show the course the dugong took under the water.
I stood and carefully watched the Canadian's adversary.
This dugong, which also bears the name of the halicore,
closely resembles the manatee; its oblong body terminated
in a lengthened tail, and its lateral fins in perfect fingers.
Its difference from the manatee consisted in its upper jaw,
which was armed with two long and pointed teeth which formed on each
side diverging tusks.
This dugong which Ned Land was preparing to attack was
of colossal dimensions; it was more than seven yards long.
It did not move, and seemed to be sleeping on the waves,
which circumstance made it easier to capture.
The boat approached within six yards of the animal.
The oars rested on the rowlocks. I half rose. Ned Land,
his body thrown a little back, brandished the harpoon in
his experienced hand.
Suddenly a hissing noise was heard, and the dugong disappeared.
The harpoon, although thrown with great force; had apparently only
struck the water.
"Curse it!" exclaimed the Canadian furiously; "I have missed it!"
"No," said I; "the creature is wounded--look at the blood;
but your weapon has not stuck in his body."
"My harpoon! my harpoon!" cried Ned Land.
The sailors rowed on, and the coxswain made for the floating barrel.
The harpoon regained, we followed in pursuit of the animal.
The latter came now and then to the surface to breathe.
Its wound had not weakened it, for it shot onwards with great rapidity.
The boat, rowed by strong arms, flew on its track. Several times it
approached within some few yards, and the Canadian was ready to strike,
but the dugong made off with a sudden plunge, and it was impossible
to reach it.
Imagine the passion which excited impatient Ned Land! He hurled at the
unfortunate creature the most energetic expletives in the English tongue.
For my part, I was only vexed to see the dugong escape all our attacks.
We pursued it without relaxation for an hour, and I began to think
it would prove difficult to capture, when the animal, possessed with
the perverse idea of vengeance of which he had cause to repent,
turned upon the pinnace and assailed us in its turn.
This manoeuvre did not escape the Canadian.
"Look out!" he cried.
The coxswain said some words in his outlandish tongue,
doubtless warning the men to keep on their guard.
The dugong came within twenty feet of the boat, stopped, sniffed the air
briskly with its large nostrils (not pierced at the extremity,
but in the upper part of its muzzle). Then, taking a spring,
he threw himself upon us.
The pinnace could not avoid the shock, and half upset, shipped at least
two tons of water, which had to be emptied; but, thanks to the coxswain,
we caught it sideways, not full front, so we were not quite overturned.
While Ned Land, clinging to the bows, belaboured the gigantic animal with
blows from his harpoon, the creature's teeth were buried in the gunwale,
and it lifted the whole thing out of the water, as a lion does a roebuck.
We were upset over one another, and I know not how the adventure would
have ended, if the Canadian, still enraged with the beast, had not struck it
to the heart.
I heard its teeth grind on the iron plate, and the dugong disappeared,
carrying the harpoon with him. But the barrel soon returned to the surface,
and shortly after the body of the animal, turned on its back.
The boat came up with it, took it in tow, and made straight for the Nautilus.
It required tackle of enormous strength to hoist the dugong
on to the platform. It weighed 10,000 lb.
The next day, 11th February, the larder of the Nautilus was enriched by some
more delicate game. A flight of sea-swallows rested on the Nautilus.
It was a species of the Sterna nilotica, peculiar to Egypt; its beak is black,
head grey and pointed, the eye surrounded by white spots, the back, wings,
and tail of a greyish colour, the belly and throat white, and claws red.
They also took some dozen of Nile ducks, a wild bird of high flavour,
its throat and upper part of the head white with black spots.
About five o'clock in the evening we sighted to the north the Cape
of Ras-Mohammed. This cape forms the extremity of Arabia Petraea,
comprised between the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Acabah.
The Nautilus penetrated into the Straits of Jubal, which leads
to the Gulf of Suez. I distinctly saw a high mountain,
towering between the two gulfs of Ras-Mohammed. It was Mount Horeb,
that Sinai at the top of which Moses saw God face to face.
At six o'clock the Nautilus, sometimes floating, sometimes immersed,
passed some distance from Tor, situated at the end of the bay, the waters
of which seemed tinted with red, an observation already made by Captain Nemo.
Then night fell in the midst of a heavy silence, sometimes broken by the cries
of the pelican and other night-birds, and the noise of the waves breaking upon
the shore, chafing against the rocks, or the panting of some far-off steamer
beating the waters of the Gulf with its noisy paddles.
From eight to nine o'clock the Nautilus remained some fathoms
under the water. According to my calculation we must have
been very near Suez. Through the panel of the saloon I saw
the bottom of the rocks brilliantly lit up by our electric lamp.
We seemed to be leaving the Straits behind us more and more.
At a quarter-past nine, the vessel having returned to the surface,
I mounted the platform. Most impatient to pass through Captain
Nemo's tunnel, I could not stay in one place, so came to breathe
the fresh night air.
Soon in the shadow I saw a pale light, half discoloured by the fog,
shining about a mile from us.
"A floating lighthouse!" said someone near me.
I turned, and saw the Captain.
"It is the floating light of Suez," he continued.
"It will not be long before we gain the entrance of the tunnel."
"The entrance cannot be easy?"
"No, sir; for that reason I am accustomed to go into the steersman's cage
and myself direct our course. And now, if you will go down, M. Aronnax,
the Nautilus is going under the waves, and will not return to the surface
until we have passed through the Arabian Tunnel."
Captain Nemo led me towards the central staircase; half way down he opened
a door, traversed the upper deck, and landed in the pilot's cage,
which it may be remembered rose at the extremity of the platform.
It was a cabin measuring six feet square, very much like that occupied
by the pilot on the steamboats of the Mississippi or Hudson.
In the midst worked a wheel, placed vertically, and caught
to the tiller-rope, which ran to the back of the Nautilus.
Four light-ports with lenticular glasses, let in a groove in
the partition of the cabin, allowed the man at the wheel to see
in all directions.
This cabin was dark; but soon my eyes accustomed themselves to the obscurity,
and I perceived the pilot, a strong man, with his hands resting on the spokes
of the wheel. Outside, the sea appeared vividly lit up by the lantern,
which shed its rays from the back of the cabin to the other extremity
of the platform.
"Now," said Captain Nemo, "let us try to make our passage."
Electric wires connected the pilot's cage with the machinery room,
and from there the Captain could communicate simultaneously to his
Nautilus the direction and the speed. He pressed a metal knob,
and at once the speed of the screw diminished.
I looked in silence at the high straight wall we were running
by at this moment, the immovable base of a massive sandy coast.
We followed it thus for an hour only some few yards off.
Captain Nemo did not take his eye from the knob, suspended by
its two concentric circles in the cabin. At a simple gesture,
the pilot modified the course of the Nautilus every instant.
I had placed myself at the port-scuttle, and saw some magnificent
substructures of coral, zoophytes, seaweed, and fucus, agitating their
enormous claws, which stretched out from the fissures of the rock.
At a quarter-past ten, the Captain himself took the helm.
A large gallery, black and deep, opened before us. The Nautilus
went boldly into it. A strange roaring was heard round its sides.
It was the waters of the Red Sea, which the incline of
the tunnel precipitated violently towards the Mediterranean.
The Nautilus went with the torrent, rapid as an arrow, in spite
of the efforts of the machinery, which, in order to offer more
effective resistance, beat the waves with reversed screw.
On the walls of the narrow passage I could see nothing
but brilliant rays, straight lines, furrows of fire,
traced by the great speed, under the brilliant electric light.
My heart beat fast.
At thirty-five minutes past ten, Captain Nemo quitted the helm,
and, turning to me, said:
In less than twenty minutes, the Nautilus, carried along by the torrent,
had passed through the Isthmus of Suez.
THE GRECIAN ARCHIPELAGO
The next day, the 12th of February, at the dawn of day,
the Nautilus rose to the surface. I hastened on to the platform.
Three miles to the south the dim outline of Pelusium was to be seen.
A torrent had carried us from one sea to another.
About seven o'clock Ned and Conseil joined me.
"Well, Sir Naturalist," said the Canadian, in a slightly jovial tone,
"and the Mediterranean?"
"We are floating on its surface, friend Ned."
"What!" said Conseil, "this very night."
"Yes, this very night; in a few minutes we have passed
this impassable isthmus."
"I do not believe it," replied the Canadian.
"Then you are wrong, Master Land," I continued; "this low
coast which rounds off to the south is the Egyptian coast.
And you who have such good eyes, Ned, you can see the jetty of Port
Said stretching into the sea."
The Canadian looked attentively.
"Certainly you are right, sir, and your Captain is a first-rate man.
We are in the Mediterranean. Good! Now, if you please, let us talk
of our own little affair, but so that no one hears us."
I saw what the Canadian wanted, and, in any case, I thought it better to let
him talk, as he wished it; so we all three went and sat down near the lantern,
where we were less exposed to the spray of the blades.
"Now, Ned, we listen; what have you to tell us?"
"What I have to tell you is very simple. We are in Europe; and before
Captain Nemo's caprices drag us once more to the bottom of the Polar Seas,
or lead us into Oceania, I ask to leave the Nautilus."
I wished in no way to shackle the liberty of my companions,
but I certainly felt no desire to leave Captain Nemo.
Thanks to him, and thanks to his apparatus, I was each day
nearer the completion of my submarine studies; and I was
rewriting my book of submarine depths in its very element.
Should I ever again have such an opportunity of observing
the wonders of the ocean? No, certainly not! And I could
not bring myself to the idea of abandoning the Nautilus before
the cycle of investigation was accomplished.
"Friend Ned, answer me frankly, are you tired of being on board?
Are you sorry that destiny has thrown us into Captain Nemo's hands?"
The Canadian remained some moments without answering.
Then, crossing his arms, he said:
"Frankly, I do not regret this journey under the seas. I shall be glad
to have made it; but, now that it is made, let us have done with it.
That is my idea."
"It will come to an end, Ned."
"Where and when?"
"Where I do not know--when I cannot say; or, rather, I suppose
it will end when these seas have nothing more to teach us."
"Then what do you hope for?" demanded the Canadian.
"That circumstances may occur as well six months hence as now by which we
may and ought to profit."
"Oh!" said Ned Land, "and where shall we be in six months,
if you please, Sir Naturalist?"
"Perhaps in China; you know the Nautilus is a rapid traveller.
It goes through water as swallows through the air, or as an express
on the land. It does not fear frequented seas; who can say
that it may not beat the coasts of France, England, or America,
on which flight may be attempted as advantageously as here."
"M. Aronnax," replied the Canadian, "your arguments are rotten
at the foundation. You speak in the future, `We shall be there!
we shall be here!' I speak in the present, `We are here,
and we must profit by it.'"
Ned Land's logic pressed me hard, and I felt myself beaten on that ground.
I knew not what argument would now tell in my favour.
"Sir," continued Ned, "let us suppose an impossibility:
if Captain Nemo should this day offer you your liberty;
would you accept it?"
"I do not know," I answered.
"And if," he added, "the offer made you this day was never to be renewed,
would you accept it?"
"Friend Ned, this is my answer. Your reasoning is against me.
We must not rely on Captain Nemo's good-will. Common prudence
forbids him to set us at liberty. On the other side, prudence bids
us profit by the first opportunity to leave the Nautilus."
"Well, M. Aronnax, that is wisely said."
"Only one observation--just one. The occasion must be serious,
and our first attempt must succeed; if it fails, we shall never
find another, and Captain Nemo will never forgive us."
"All that is true," replied the Canadian. "But your observation
applies equally to all attempts at flight, whether in two years'
time, or in two days'. But the question is still this:
If a favourable opportunity presents itself, it must be seized."
"Agreed! And now, Ned, will you tell me what you mean
by a favourable opportunity?"
"It will be that which, on a dark night, will bring the Nautilus
a short distance from some European coast."
"And you will try and save yourself by swimming?"
"Yes, if we were near enough to the bank, and if the vessel
was floating at the time. Not if the bank was far away,
and the boat was under the water."
"And in that case?"
"In that case, I should seek to make myself master of the pinnace.
I know how it is worked. We must get inside, and the bolts once drawn,
we shall come to the surface of the water, without even the pilot,
who is in the bows, perceiving our flight."
"Well, Ned, watch for the opportunity; but do not forget that a hitch
will ruin us."
"I will not forget, sir."
"And now, Ned, would you like to know what I think of your project?"
"Certainly, M. Aronnax."
"Well, I think--I do not say I hope--I think that this favourable
opportunity will never present itself."
"Because Captain Nemo cannot hide from himself that we have not given up
all hope of regaining our liberty, and he will be on his guard, above all,
in the seas and in the sight of European coasts."
"We shall see," replied Ned Land, shaking his head determinedly.
"And now, Ned Land," I added, "let us stop here.
Not another word on the subject. The day that you
are ready, come and let us know, and we will follow you.
I rely entirely upon you."
Thus ended a conversation which, at no very distant time,
led to such grave results. I must say here that facts seemed
to confirm my foresight, to the Canadian's great despair.
Did Captain Nemo distrust us in these frequented seas? or did
he only wish to hide himself from the numerous vessels,
of all nations, which ploughed the Mediterranean?
I could not tell; but we were oftener between waters
and far from the coast. Or, if the Nautilus did emerge,
nothing was to be seen but the pilot's cage; and sometimes it
went to great depths, for, between the Grecian Archipelago
and Asia Minor we could not touch the bottom by more than
a thousand fathoms.
Thus I only knew we were near the Island of Carpathos, one of the Sporades,
by Captain Nemo reciting these lines from Virgil:
"Est Carpathio Neptuni gurgite vates,
as he pointed to a spot on the planisphere.
It was indeed the ancient abode of Proteus, the old shepherd of Neptune's
flocks, now the Island of Scarpanto, situated between Rhodes and Crete.
I saw nothing but the granite base through the glass panels of the saloon.
The next day, the 14th of February, I resolved to employ some hours in
studying the fishes of the Archipelago; but for some reason or other the
panels remained hermetically sealed. Upon taking the course of the Nautilus,
I found that we were going towards Candia, the ancient Isle of Crete.
At the time I embarked on the Abraham Lincoln, the whole of this
island had risen in insurrection against the despotism of the Turks.
But how the insurgents had fared since that time I was absolutely ignorant,
and it was not Captain Nemo, deprived of all land communications,
who could tell me.
I made no allusion to this event when that night I found myself alone
with him in the saloon. Besides, he seemed to be taciturn and preoccupied.
Then, contrary to his custom, he ordered both panels to be opened, and,
going from one to the other, observed the mass of waters attentively.
To what end I could not guess; so, on my side, I employed my time in studying
the fish passing before my eyes.
In the midst of the waters a man appeared, a diver, carrying at his
belt a leathern purse. It was not a body abandoned to the waves;
it was a living man, swimming with a strong hand, disappearing occasionally
to take breath at the surface.
I turned towards Captain Nemo, and in an agitated voice exclaimed:
"A man shipwrecked! He must be saved at any price!"
The Captain did not answer me, but came and leaned against the panel.
The man had approached, and, with his face flattened against the glass,
was looking at us.
To my great amazement, Captain Nemo signed to him.
The diver answered with his hand, mounted immediately to
the surface of the water, and did not appear again.
"Do not be uncomfortable," said Captain Nemo. "It is Nicholas of
Cape Matapan, surnamed Pesca. He is well known in all the Cyclades.
A bold diver! water is his element, and he lives more in it than on land,
going continually from one island to another, even as far as Crete."
"You know him, Captain?"
"Why not, M. Aronnax?"
Saying which, Captain Nemo went towards a piece of furniture standing
near the left panel of the saloon. Near this piece of furniture,
I saw a chest bound with iron, on the cover of which was a copper plate,
bearing the cypher of the Nautilus with its device.
At that moment, the Captain, without noticing my presence,
opened the piece of furniture, a sort of strong box, which held
a great many ingots.
They were ingots of gold. From whence came this precious metal,
which represented an enormous sum? Where did the Captain gather
this gold from? and what was he going to do with it?
I did not say one word. I looked. Captain Nemo took the ingots one by one,
and arranged them methodically in the chest, which he filled entirely.
I estimated the contents at more than 4,000 lb. weight of gold, that is
to say, nearly L200,000.
The chest was securely fastened, and the Captain wrote an address on the lid,
in characters which must have belonged to Modern Greece.
This done, Captain Nemo pressed a knob, the wire of which communicated with
the quarters of the crew. Four men appeared, and, not without some trouble,
pushed the chest out of the saloon. Then I heard them hoisting it up the iron
staircase by means of pulleys.
At that moment, Captain Nemo turned to me.
"And you were saying, sir?" said he.
"I was saying nothing, Captain."
"Then, sir, if you will allow me, I will wish you good night."
Whereupon he turned and left the saloon.
I returned to my room much troubled, as one may believe.
I vainly tried to sleep--I sought the connecting link between
the apparition of the diver and the chest filled with gold.
Soon, I felt by certain movements of pitching and tossing
that the Nautilus was leaving the depths and returning
to the surface.
Then I heard steps upon the platform; and I knew they were
unfastening the pinnace and launching it upon the waves.
For one instant it struck the side of the Nautilus,
then all noise ceased.
Two hours after, the same noise, the same going and coming was renewed;
the boat was hoisted on board, replaced in its socket, and the Nautilus
again plunged under the waves.
So these millions had been transported to their address.
To what point of the continent? Who was Captain Nemo's correspondent?
The next day I related to Conseil and the Canadian the events
of the night, which had excited my curiosity to the highest degree.
My companions were not less surprised than myself.
"But where does he take his millions to?" asked Ned Land.
To that there was no possible answer. I returned to the saloon
after having breakfast and set to work. Till five o'clock
in the evening I employed myself in arranging my notes.
At that moment--(ought I to attribute it to some peculiar idiosyncrasy)--
I felt so great a heat that I was obliged to take off my coat.
It was strange, for we were under low latitudes; and even then the Nautilus,
submerged as it was, ought to experience no change of temperature.
I looked at the manometer; it showed a depth of sixty feet, to which
atmospheric heat could never attain.
I continued my work, but the temperature rose to such a pitch
as to be intolerable.
"Could there be fire on board?" I asked myself.
I was leaving the saloon, when Captain Nemo entered; he approached
the thermometer, consulted it, and, turning to me, said:
"I have noticed it, Captain," I replied; "and if it gets much
hotter we cannot bear it."
"Oh, sir, it will not get better if we do not wish it."
"You can reduce it as you please, then?"
"No; but I can go farther from the stove which produces it."
"It is outward, then!"
"Certainly; we are floating in a current of boiling water."
"Is it possible!" I exclaimed.
The panels opened, and I saw the sea entirely white all round.
A sulphurous smoke was curling amid the waves, which boiled like
water in a copper. I placed my hand on one of the panes of glass,
but the heat was so great that I quickly took it off again.
"Where are we?" I asked.
"Near the Island of Santorin, sir," replied the Captain.
"I wished to give you a sight of the curious spectacle of
a submarine eruption."
"I thought," said I, "that the formation of these new islands was ended."
"Nothing is ever ended in the volcanic parts of the sea,"
replied Captain Nemo; "and the globe is always being worked by
subterranean fires. Already, in the nineteenth year of our era,
according to Cassiodorus and Pliny, a new island, Theia
(the divine), appeared in the very place where these islets
have recently been formed. Then they sank under the waves,
to rise again in the year 69, when they again subsided.
Since that time to our days the Plutonian work has been suspended.
But on the 3rd of February, 1866, a new island, which they named
George Island, emerged from the midst of the sulphurous vapour
near Nea Kamenni, and settled again the 6th of the same month.
Seven days after, the 13th of February, the Island of Aphroessa
appeared, leaving between Nea Kamenni and itself a canal ten
yards broad. I was in these seas when the phenomenon occurred,
and I was able therefore to observe all the different phases.
The Island of Aphroessa, of round form, measured 300 feet
in diameter, and 30 feet in height. It was composed of
black and vitreous lava, mixed with fragments of felspar.
And lastly, on the 10th of March, a smaller island, called Reka,
showed itself near Nea Kamenni, and since then these three have
joined together, forming but one and the same island."
"And the canal in which we are at this moment?" I asked.
"Here it is," replied Captain Nemo, showing me a map of the Archipelago.
"You see, I have marked the new islands."
I returned to the glass. The Nautilus was no longer moving,
the heat was becoming unbearable. The sea, which till now had
been white, was red, owing to the presence of salts of iron.
In spite of the ship's being hermetically sealed, an insupportable
smell of sulphur filled the saloon, and the brilliancy of the
electricity was entirely extinguished by bright scarlet flames.
I was in a bath, I was choking, I was broiled.
"We can remain no longer in this boiling water," said I to the Captain.
"It would not be prudent," replied the impassive Captain Nemo.
An order was given; the Nautilus tacked about and left
the furnace it could not brave with impunity. A quarter
of an hour after we were breathing fresh air on the surface.
The thought then struck me that, if Ned Land had chosen this part
of the sea for our flight, we should never have come alive out
of this sea of fire.
The next day, the 16th of February, we left the basin which,
between Rhodes and Alexandria, is reckoned about 1,500 fathoms
in depth, and the Nautilus, passing some distance from Cerigo,
quitted the Grecian Archipelago after having doubled Cape Matapan.
THE MEDITERRANEAN IN FORTY-EIGHT HOURS
The Mediterranean, the blue sea par excellence, "the great sea"
of the Hebrews, "the sea" of the Greeks, the "mare nostrum"
of the Romans, bordered by orange-trees, aloes, cacti, and sea-pines;
embalmed with the perfume of the myrtle, surrounded by rude mountains,
saturated with pure and transparent air, but incessantly worked
by underground fires; a perfect battlefield in which Neptune and Pluto
still dispute the empire of the world!
It is upon these banks, and on these waters, says Michelet, that man
is renewed in one of the most powerful climates of the globe.
But, beautiful as it was, I could only take a rapid glance at
the basin whose superficial area is two million of square yards.
Even Captain Nemo's knowledge was lost to me, for this puzzling
person did not appear once during our passage at full speed.
I estimated the course which the Nautilus took under the waves
of the sea at about six hundred leagues, and it was accomplished
in forty-eight hours. Starting on the morning of the 16th
of February from the shores of Greece, we had crossed the Straits
of Gibraltar by sunrise on the 18th.
It was plain to me that this Mediterranean, enclosed in the midst of those
countries which he wished to avoid, was distasteful to Captain Nemo.
Those waves and those breezes brought back too many remembrances, if not
too many regrets. Here he had no longer that independence and that liberty
of gait which he had when in the open seas, and his Nautilus felt itself
cramped between the close shores of Africa and Europe.
Our speed was now twenty-five miles an hour. It may be well
understood that Ned Land, to his great disgust, was obliged
to renounce his intended flight. He could not launch the pinnace,
going at the rate of twelve or thirteen yards every second.
To quit the Nautilus under such conditions would be as bad
as jumping from a train going at full speed--an imprudent thing,
to say the least of it. Besides, our vessel only mounted
to the surface of the waves at night to renew its stock of air;
it was steered entirely by the compass and the log.
I saw no more of the interior of this Mediterranean than a traveller
by express train perceives of the landscape which flies before his eyes;
that is to say, the distant horizon, and not the nearer objects which pass
like a flash of lightning.
We were then passing between Sicily and the coast of Tunis.
In the narrow space between Cape Bon and the Straits
of Messina the bottom of the sea rose almost suddenly.
There was a perfect bank, on which there was not more than
nine fathoms of water, whilst on either side the depth
was ninety fathoms.
The Nautilus had to manoeuvre very carefully so as not to strike
against this submarine barrier.
I showed Conseil, on the map of the Mediterranean, the spot occupied
by this reef.
"But if you please, sir," observed Conseil, "it is like a real
isthmus joining Europe to Africa."
"Yes, my boy, it forms a perfect bar to the Straits of Lybia,
and the soundings of Smith have proved that in former times
the continents between Cape Boco and Cape Furina were joined."
"I can well believe it," said Conseil.
"I will add," I continued, "that a similar barrier exists between Gibraltar
and Ceuta, which in geological times formed the entire Mediterranean."
"What if some volcanic burst should one day raise these two barriers
above the waves?"
"It is not probable, Conseil."
"Well, but allow me to finish, please, sir; if this phenomenon
should take place, it will be troublesome for M. Lesseps,
who has taken so much pains to pierce the isthmus."
"I agree with you; but I repeat, Conseil, this phenomenon will
never happen. The violence of subterranean force is ever diminishing.
Volcanoes, so plentiful in the first days of the world,
are being extinguished by degrees; the internal heat is weakened,
the temperature of the lower strata of the globe is lowered by a
perceptible quantity every century to the detriment of our globe,
for its heat is its life."
"But the sun?"
"The sun is not sufficient, Conseil. Can it give heat to a dead body?"
"Not that I know of."
"Well, my friend, this earth will one day be that cold corpse;
it will become uninhabitable and uninhabited like the moon,
which has long since lost all its vital heat."
"In how many centuries?"
"In some hundreds of thousands of years, my boy."
"Then," said Conseil, "we shall have time to finish our journey--
that is, if Ned Land does not interfere with it."
And Conseil, reassured, returned to the study of the bank,
which the Nautilus was skirting at a moderate speed.
During the night of the 16th and 17th February we had entered the second
Mediterranean basin, the greatest depth of which was 1,450 fathoms.
The Nautilus, by the action of its crew, slid down the inclined planes
and buried itself in the lowest depths of the sea.
On the 18th of February, about three o'clock in the morning, we were at
the entrance of the Straits of Gibraltar. There once existed two currents:
an upper one, long since recognised, which conveys the waters of the ocean
into the basin of the Mediterranean; and a lower counter-current,
which reasoning has now shown to exist. Indeed, the volume of water
in the Mediterranean, incessantly added to by the waves of the Atlantic
and by rivers falling into it, would each year raise the level of this sea,
for its evaporation is not sufficient to restore the equilibrium.
As it is not so, we must necessarily admit the existence of an under-current,
which empties into the basin of the Atlantic through the Straits
of Gibraltar the surplus waters of the Mediterranean. A fact indeed;
and it was this counter-current by which the Nautilus profited.
It advanced rapidly by the narrow pass. For one instant I caught a glimpse
of the beautiful ruins of the temple of Hercules, buried in the ground,
according to Pliny, and with the low island which supports it; and a few
minutes later we were floating on the Atlantic.
The Atlantic! a vast sheet of water whose superficial area covers
twenty-five millions of square miles, the length of which is nine
thousand miles, with a mean breadth of two thousand seven hundred--
an ocean whose parallel winding shores embrace an immense circumference,
watered by the largest rivers of the world, the St. Lawrence,
the Mississippi, the Amazon, the Plata, the Orinoco, the Niger,
the Senegal, the Elbe, the Loire, and the Rhine, which carry water
from the most civilised, as well as from the most savage, countries!
Magnificent field of water, incessantly ploughed by vessels
of every nation, sheltered by the flags of every nation, and which
terminates in those two terrible points so dreaded by mariners,
Cape Horn and the Cape of Tempests.
The Nautilus was piercing the water with its sharp spur,
after having accomplished nearly ten thousand leagues in three months
and a half, a distance greater than the great circle of the earth.
Where were we going now, and what was reserved for the future?
The Nautilus, leaving the Straits of Gibraltar, had gone far out.
It returned to the surface of the waves, and our daily walks on the
platform were restored to us.
I mounted at once, accompanied by Ned Land and Conseil.
At a distance of about twelve miles, Cape St. Vincent
was dimly to be seen, forming the south-western point of
the Spanish peninsula. A strong southerly gale was blowing.
The sea was swollen and billowy; it made the Nautilus rock violently.
It was almost impossible to keep one's foot on the platform,
which the heavy rolls of the sea beat over every instant.
So we descended after inhaling some mouthfuls of fresh air.
I returned to my room, Conseil to his cabin; but the Canadian,
with a preoccupied air, followed me. Our rapid passage across
the Mediterranean had not allowed him to put his project
into execution, and he could not help showing his disappointment.
When the door of my room was shut, he sat down and looked
at me silently.
"Friend Ned," said I, "I understand you; but you cannot reproach yourself.
To have attempted to leave the Nautilus under the circumstances would
have been folly."
Ned Land did not answer; his compressed lips and frowning brow showed
with him the violent possession this fixed idea had taken of his mind.
"Let us see," I continued; "we need not despair yet.
We are going up the coast of Portugal again; France and
England are not far off, where we can easily find refuge.
Now if the Nautilus, on leaving the Straits of Gibraltar,
had gone to the south, if it had carried us towards regions
where there were no continents, I should share your uneasiness.
But we know now that Captain Nemo does not fly from civilised seas,