CHAPTER 2: THE JOURNEY BEGINS
Captain Nemo left, but I followed him. The double door opened, and I entered a room.
As we entered, my eyes were transfixed(1) in amazement. Tall, black–rosewood bookcases inlaid with copper work held an infinite number of uniformly bound books on the wide shelves. I stared in genuine wonderment at this room so ingeniously(2) laid out, and I gazed open mouthed, hypnotized by the wonder of what I had discovered.
“Captain Nemo, this is a library that would do credit to more than
one continental palace!”
“Where could one find greater silence or solitude, professor? There are more than 14,000 volumes in this room, and they are my only ties to the dry land. Masterpieces by the greats of ancient and modern times, in other words, all of humanity’s finest achievements in history, poetry, fiction, and science, from
Homer to Victor Hugo, from Rabelais to Madame George Sand, to books on mechanics, ballistics(3), hydrography(4), meteorology(5), geography, geology, … can all be found here professor”
There were more than thirty portraits of the masters, uniformly framed and separated by gleaming arms. There I saw canvases of the highest value. The various schools of the old masters were represented. After the works of art, natural rarities predominated, consisting chiefly of plants, shells, and other exhibits from the ocean that must have been Captain Nemo’s own personal finds.
“Sir, without prying into who you are, might I venture to identify you as an artist?”
“A collector, sir, nothing more. Formerly, I loved acquiring these beautiful works created by the hands of men. I sought them greedily, ferreted them out tirelessly, and I’ve been able to gather some objects of great value. But for now, come inspect the cabin set aside for you. You need to learn how you’ll be lodged(6) aboard the Nautilus.”
I followed Captain Nemo as he entered the captain’s stateroom(7).
Captain Nemo said. “So kindly hear me out.”
“There’s a powerful, obedient, swift, and effortless force that can be bent to any use and which reigns supreme aboard my vessel. This force is electricity. My electricity isn’t the run–of–the–mill variety. You see professor, in 1,000
grams, one finds 96.5% water and about 2.66% sodium chloride;
then small quantities of magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium bromide, sulfate of magnesia, calcium sulfate, and calcium carbonate. Hence you observe that sodium chloride is encountered there in significant proportions. Now then, it’s this sodium that I extract from salt water and with which I compose my electric cells. I owe everything to the ocean; it generates electricity, and electricity gives the Nautilus heat, light, motion, and in a word, life itself.”
Ensuing that, captain Nemo insisted on visiting the Nautilus’ stern(8). I followed Captain Nemo down gangways located for easy transit, and I arrived amidships(9). And there, clamped to the wall, was an iron ladder leading to the shaft’s upper end.
This ladder leads to a manhole cut into the Nautilus’ hull and corresponding to a comparable hole cut into the side of the skiff(10). I insert myself through this double opening into the longboat. After passing the well of the companion way that led to the platform, I saw a cabin 2 meters long in which Conseil and Ned Land, enraptured with their meal, were busy devouring it to the last crumb.
Coming into the engine room, I detected a queer odor(11). Captain Nemo noticed the negative impression it made on me.
“That,” he told me, “is a gaseous(12) discharge caused by our use of sodium, but it’s only a mild inconvenience. In any event, every morning we sanitize the ship by ventilating it in the open air.”
As I examined the Nautilus’ engine with a fascination easy to imagine, captain Nemo exclaimed:
“Come into the lounge. It’s actually our work room, and there, you’ll learn the full story about the Nautilus!”
A moment later, we were seated on a couch in the lounge, cigars between our lips. Then he began his description as follows:
“Here, Professor Aronnax, are the different dimensions of this boat now transporting you. The length of the Nautilus from end to end is exactly seventy meters, and its maximum breadth of beam is eight meters. These two dimensions allow you to obtain a tantamount(13) value of the Nautilus’ volume and surface area.”
“Yes, indeed! But how were you able to build this wonderful Nautilus in
“Each part of it, Professor Aronnax, came from a different spot on the globe and reached me at a cover address. Its keel(14) was forged by Creusot in France, its propeller shaft by Pen & Co. in London, the sheet–iron plates for its hull by Laird’s in Liverpool, its propeller by Scott’s in Glasgow. Its tanks were manufactured by Cail & Co. in Paris, its engine by Krupp in Prussia, its precision instruments by Hart Bros. in New York, etc.; and each of these suppliers received my specifications under a different name. I set-up my workshops on a deserted islet in midocean. There, our Nautilus was completed by me and my workmen. Back in the day, I was engineer. I studied in London, Paris, and New York when I was a resident of the Earth’s continents.”
“From all this, I assume that such a boat costs a fortune. You’re rich, then?”
“Infinitely rich, sir, and without any trouble, I could pay off the ten–billion–franc French national debt!”
I was stunned at the bizarre individual who had just spoken these words. Was he playing with me? Time would tell.
It was noon on November 8th when captain Nemo calls for the Nautilus to surface. I made my way to the central companionway, which led to the platform. I climbed its metal steps, passed through the open hatches, and arrived topside on the Nautilus. There, captain Nemo and I locate the Nautilus’s exact location. We were 300 miles off the coast of Japan.
“At noon on this day of November 8, we hereby begin our voyage of exploration under the waters.”
“May God be with us!” I replied.
“And now, professor,” the captain added, “I’ll leave you to your intellectual pursuits. I’ve set our course east–northeast at a depth of fifty meters. Here are some large–scale charts on which you’ll be able to follow that course. The lounge is at your disposal, and with your permission, I’ll take my leave.”
And I was left to myself, troubled by my own thoughts. Would I ever learn the nationality of this eccentric man who had boasted of having none? His hatred for humanity, a hatred that perhaps was bent on some dreadful revenge—what had provoked it? Was he one of those unappreciated scholars, one of those geniuses “embittered(15) by the world,” as Conseil expressed it, a latter–day Galileo, or maybe one of those men of science, like America’s Commander Maury, whose careers were ruined by political revolutions? I couldn’t say yet.
Ned Land and Conseil appeared in the lounge doorway, and they stood petrified at the sight of wonders on display.
“Where are we?” the Canadian exclaimed. “In the Quebec Museum?”
“Begging master’s pardon—“
Conseil was just pronouncing these last words when we were suddenly plunged into darkness, utter darkness. The ceiling lights went out so quickly, my eyes literally ached, just as if we had experienced the opposite sensation of going from the deepest gloom to the brightest sunlight.
Suddenly, through two oval openings, daylight appeared on both sides of the lounge. The liquid masses came into view brightly lit by the ship’s electric outpourings. We were separated from the sea by two panes of glass. Looking out the panes of glass, Ned wondered where all the fish are, which led to a furious debate between Conseil and him about fish. Our wonderment stayed at an all–time feverish pitch. Our exclamations were endless. Ned identified the fish, Conseil classified them, and as for me, I was in ecstasy as to see the wonders of the deep sea.
After a while, Ned and Conseil went back to the cabin. As for me, I found dinner ready for me. I spent the evening reading, writing, and thinking. Drowsiness soon overtook me, and I stretched out on my mattress falling into a deep sleep while the Nautilus glided through the swiftly flowing Black Current.
It was November 16th, days after the last time I caught a sight of captain Nemo, when we received the invitations to go hunting in Nemo’s “Forest of Crespo Island” the next morning. The next day, November 17, I sensed that the Nautilus was completely motionless. I dressed hurriedly and entered the main lounge. Captain Nemo was there waiting for me.
“Captain, how is it that you’ve severed all ties with the shore, yet you own forests
on Crespo Island?”
“Professor, my forests are underwater forests. You will be hunting with rifles in your hand without getting your body wet.”
“Assuredly,” I said to myself, “he’s contracted some mental illness.”
After breakfast, Captain Nemo led us to the Nautilus’ stern, where we arrived at a cell located within easy access of the engine room. In this cell, we got dressed for our stroll in the underwater forests.
- transfixed (adj): unable to move, usually because of great fear
- ingeniously (adv): smartly
- ballistics (n): the study of objects that are shot or thrown through the air, such as a bullet from a gun
- hydrography (n): the study of the movement of water
- meteorology (n): the study of weather
- lodged (adj): placed
- stateroom (n): a large room, for example in a castle or palace, used for formal or important occasions
- stern (adj): strict, grim, serious
- amidships (adj): in the middle part of a ship
- skiff (n): a small, light boat for rowing or sailing, usually used by only one person
- odor (n): smell
- gaseous (adj): consisting of gas or gases, or like gas
- keel (n): the long piece of wood or metal along the bottom of a boat that forms part of itsstructure and helps to keep the boat balanced in the water
- tantamount (adj): being almost the same or having the same effect as something, usually something bad