CHAPTER 1: THE MONSTER
Author: Jules Verne
Retold by Kania Sugiarto
In the year 1866, numerous accounts of similar, strange, and inexplicable(1) events were made, and it had all but sent the world into a frenzy. Ships voyaging through the high seas had been reporting accidents along with encounters concerning “an enormous thing”: an occasional, phosphores cent(2), spindleshaped object that was agile beyond belief and exceedingly larger than anything science had ever documented. One of the first reports on the “enormous thing” was made by a steamer known as Governor H igginson. On that particular incident, the unkn own thing was presumably an aquatic mammal as it spouted columns of water, air, and vapour through its blowholes. The preposterous(3) report done by Governor H igginson’s crew was only the first of many to come, and soon enough, the question of what this mys terious thing was became a widely discussed controversy. After so many months of turmoil, the first few months of 1867 were tranquil until more facts were brought to the surface. Along with these new facts, mass panic came with it, considering that it was no longer a scientific inquiry(4) but rather an increasingly real and genuine danger. From then on, the thing was no longer thought to be a creature, but a small island, rock, or perhaps a shifting reef. On the 13t h of April, 1867, the Scotia was struck by the seemingly incom prehensible thing. When the captain had considered it safe to stop, he sent sailors down to assess the magnitude of the damage, and found that there was a hole spanning two metres in diameter. When the public had heard of the shocking incident and deemed travelling between continents much too dangerous, they demanded the death of the thing that they had once again judged to be a creature. At the time of the Scotia incid ent, I was residing(5) in New York and was scheduled to return to France at the beginning of May. As someone who had read all the American and European newspapers , the topic of this thing had intrigued me, and although it was impossible to come to a definitive opinion, I had two of my own solutions. It was either a monster of colossal(6) strength or a submarine vessel of enormous power; the latter was less likely as keeping its construction a secret was a difficult feat. When I had arrived in New York, several people had asked my opinion on the perplexing incidents, considering I had written The Mysteries of the Great Ocean Depths. Doing so had made me an expert in this obscure branch of natural history. Eventually, I failed to hold my tongue and discussed t he issue in New York Herald’s 30t h of April issue. In that particular issue, I had proclaimed that it would be more than possible that we had not found all of nature’s secrets as the depths of the sea were still inaccessible(7).
However, if we did know all the living species, then I was inclined to declare the existence of a giant narwhal. If the common narwhal was multiplied proportionally, then it should ha ve the power necessary to pierce Scotia’s side. The article and my statements were hotly debated by the public, which had in turn created a sensation and gained a number of supporters. Not long after that, the public voiced their concerns and opinions, and the United States of America responded by promptly preparing for an expedition on the Abraham Lincoln. Three hours before the ship was set to depart from Brooklyn pier, a letter addressed to me, Monsieur Aronnax, served as an invitation aboard the ship.
After I had read the letter, I could not help but feel as if this was my life’s only aim: to pursue this irksome(8) monster and rid the world of it. Despite the fact that I had just come back from an exhausting journey and wanted to return to my home country, I accepted the American Government’s invitation without a second thought. After all, one way or another I would end up back in Europe. Counseil, a Flemish man in his 30s, had been my companion for ten years, yet he was undoubtedly formal and only referred to me in the third person. When I had suddenly asked him to pack our bags, Counseil replied with a quiet, “Just as Monsieur wishes.” A little later in the conversation, I had finally informed him about the expedition aboard the Abraham Lincoln. Counseil was loyal to the fault as he had instantaneously replied that he would go wherever I went. Upon urging him to mull(9) it over, his reply remained the same. A quarter of an hour later, our bags were packed, and we hailed a cab to get to the East River wharf where the Abraham Lincoln was situated. When we had arrived, our bags were immediately carried on board the ship, and a goodlooking man, who I assumed to be Commander Farragut, held out his hand to me. At 3 o’clock, after I had situated myself in my assigned cabin, the pilot returned to his schooner and the expedition had finally begun
Commander Farragut was a fine sailor committed to the objective of the expedition. He had proclaimed that he would either put an end to the narwhal, or he would die trying; his crew was just as committed as he was. Everybody on board the Abraham Lincoln spent every moment they could spare on the lookout, especially since Commander Farragut had announced that a sum of two thousand dollars would be bestowed upon whoever spotted the monster. One thing that bothered me however, was Counseil’s indifference(10). Despite the fact that the Abraham Lincoln had been carefully equipped with every known apparatus, device, and destructive weapon, it had something better still, Ned Land. Ned Land was dubbed(11) the prince of harpooners due to his swiftness of hand, skill, calmness, and cunning persona(12). He was a Canadian man of 40 years from the hardy fishing town of Quebec that still belonged to France, and thus I treated him like a Frenchman. As we chatted, I found a certain fascination in his recounting of his fishing expedition and fights. It was on the 30t h of July that the topic of the mysterious creature finally came up, so to speak, he didn’t think much of my giant narwhal. Despite the statistics, science, and reasoning behind my theory, he remained obstinate(13) that any animal could have pierced through the side of a metal ship.The expedition had been going on for a while, and there had been no incidents or sightings thus far. Nonetheless, the crew and I continued to keep watch over the sea, but all that was seen were false alarms one after another. Ned Land, however, remained dubious(14) and refused to watch the sea when it wasn’t his shift. He preferred to read; a shame considering that his wonderful eyesight would be of much use. As the Abraham Lincoln reached the site of the monster’s last reported whereabouts, tensions run high as everybody was on the lookout for the monster. Yet, more false alarms were raised, and the crew becomes more and more skeptical(15) as their spirits run low. Commander Farragut upon hearing his crew’s opinions and thoughts asked for three more days, and if nothing happened, they would change the course and return. The first two days had passed, and there were no sightings. As night falls on the 4 th of November, the grace period was about to end the following day at noon. On the midday of the 5t h of November, Commander Farragut would set course for the southeast, and abandon the pointless chasing of the monster. It was then as I was leaning over the starboard rail, and conversing to Counseil how foolish we were to chase a monster that seemingly didn’t exist that Ned Land’s voice rang out. He had spotted the monster.
1. inexplicable (adj): unexplainable 2. phosphorescent (adj): luminous, bright 3. preposterous (adj): ridiculous 4. inquiry (n): investigation 5. residing (v): occupy, inhibit 6. colossal (adj): huge, enormous 7. inaccessible (adj): unreachable 8. irksome (adj): irritating 9. mull (v): ponder 10.indifference (n): lack of concern, disinterest 11.dubbed (v): nicknamed 12.persona (n): character, personality 13.obstinate (adj): stubborn 14.dubious (adj): unreliable, hesitant 15.skeptical (adj): doubtful