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The year 1866 was signalised by a remarkable incident, a mysterious and puzzling phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten. Not to mention rumours which agitated the maritime population and excited the public mind, even in the interior of continents, seafaring men were particularly excited.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea PDF Book by Jules Verne
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Merchants, common sailors, captains of vessels, skippers, both of Europe and America, naval officers of all countries, and the Governments of several states on the two continents, were deeply interested in the matter. For some time past, vessels had been met by “an enormous thing.”
A long object, spindle-shaped, occasionally phosphorescent, and infinitely larger and more rapid in its movements than a whale. The facts relating to this apparition (entered in various logbooks) agreed in most respects as to the shape of the object or creature in question, the untiring rapidity of its movements.
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Its surprising power of locomotion, and the peculiar life with which it seemed endowed. If it was a cetacean, it surpassed in size all those hitherto classified in science. Taking into consideration the mean of observations made at divers times, —rejecting the timid estimate of those who assigned to this object a length of two hundred feet.
Equally with the exaggerated opinions which set it down as a mile in width and three in length,—we might fairly conclude that this mysterious being surpassed greatly all dimensions admitted by the ichthyologists of the day, if it existed at all. And that it did exist was an undeniable fact.
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And, with that tendency which disposes the human mind in favour of the marvellous, we can understand the excitement produced in the entire world by this supernatural apparition. As to classing it in the list of fables, the idea was out of the question.
On the 20th of July, 1866, the steamer Governor Higginson, of the Calcutta and Burnach Steam Navigation Company, had met this moving mass five miles off the east coast of Australia. Captain Baker thought at first that he was in the presence of an unknown sandbank.
He even prepared to determine its exact position, when two columns of water, projected by the inexplicable object, shot with a hissing noise a hundred and fifty feet up into the air. Now, unless the sandbank had been submitted to the intermittent eruption of a geyser. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea PDF Book
The Governor Higginson had to do neither more nor less than with an aquatic mammal, unknown till then, which threw up from its blow-holes columns of water mixed with air and vapour. Similar facts were observed on the 23rd of July in the same year, in the Pacific Ocean, by the Columbus, of the West India and Pacific Steam Navigation Company.
But this extraordinary cetaceous creature could transport itself from one place to another with surprising velocity; as, in an interval of three days, the Governor Higginson and the Columbus had observed it at two different points of the chart, separated by a distance of more than seven hundred nautical leagues.
Now, what was Ned Land’s opinion upon the question of the marine monster? I must admit that he did not believe in the unicorn, and was the only one on board who did not share that universal conviction. He even avoided the subject, which I one day thought it my duty to press upon him. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea PDF Book
One magnificent evening, the 30th of July—that is to say, three weeks after our departure—the frigate was abreast of Cape Blanc, thirty miles to leeward of the coast of Patagonia. We had crossed the tropic of Capricorn, and the Straits of Magellan opened less than seven hundred miles to the south.
Before eight days were over the Abraham Lincoln would be ploughing the waters of the Pacific. Seated on the poop, Ned Land and I were chatting of one thing and another as we looked at this mysterious sea, whose great depths had up to this time been inaccessible to the eye of man.
I naturally led up the conversation to the giant unicorn, and examined the various chances of success or failure of the expedition. But, seeing that Ned Land let me speak without saying too much himself, I pressed him more closely. “Well, Ned,” said I, “is it possible that you are not convinced of the existence of this cetacean that we are following? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea PDF Book
Have you any particular reason for being so incredulous?” The harpooner looked at me fixedly for some moments before answering, struck his broad forehead with his hand (a habit of his), as if to collect himself, and said at last, “Perhaps I have, Mr. Aronnax.”
“But, Ned, you, a whaler by profession, familiarised with all the great marine mammalia—you, whose imagination might easily accept the hypothesis of enormous cetaceans, you ought to be the last to doubt under such circumstances!” “That is just what deceives you, Professor,” replied Ned.
“That the vulgar should believe in extraordinary comets traversing space, and in the existence of antediluvian monsters in the heart of the globe, may well be; but neither astronomer nor geologist believes in such chimeras. As a whaler I have followed many a cetacean, harpooned a great number, and killed several. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea PDF Book
But, however strong or well-armed they may have been, neither their tails nor their weapons would have been able even to scratch the iron plates of a steamer.” The engineer obeyed. The manometer showed ten degrees. But the cetacean grew warm itself, no doubt; for without straining itself, it made 19-3/10 miles.
What a pursuit! No, I cannot describe the emotion that vibrated through me. Ned Land kept his post, harpoon in hand. Several times the animal let us gain upon it.—“We shall catch it! we shall catch it!” cried the Canadian. But just as he was going to strike, the cetacean stole away with a rapidity that could not be estimated at less than thirty miles an hour.
And even during our maximum of speed, it bullied the frigate, going round and round it. A cry of fury broke from everyone! At noon we were no further advanced than at eight o’clock in the morning. The captain then decided to take more direct means. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea PDF Book Download
“Ah!” said he, “that animal goes quicker than the Abraham Lincoln. Very well! we will see whether it will escape these conical bullets. Send your men to the forecastle, sir.” The forecastle gun was immediately loaded and slewed round. But the shot passed some feet above the cetacean, which was half a mile off.
“Another, more to the right,” cried the commander, “and five dollars to whoever will hit that infernal beast.” An old gunner with a grey beard—that I can see now—with steady eye and grave face, went up to the gun and took a long aim. A loud report was heard, with which were mingled the cheers of the crew.
The Canadian’s last words produced a sudden revolution in my brain. I wriggled myself quickly to the top of the being, or object, half out of the water, which served us for a refuge. I kicked it. It was evidently a hard impenetrable body, and not the soft substance that forms the bodies of the great marine mammalia. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea PDF Book Download
But this hard body might be a bony carapace, like that of the antediluvian animals; and I should be free to class this monster among amphibious reptiles, such as tortoises or alligators. Well, no! the blackish back that supported me was smooth, polished, without scales.
The blow produced a metallic sound; and incredible though it may be, it seemed, I might say, as if it was made of riveted plates. There was no doubt about it! This monster, this natural phenomenon that had puzzled the learned world, and overthrown and misled the imagination of seamen of both hemispheres.
It must be owned, a still more astonishing phenomenon, inasmuch as it was a simply human construction. We had no time to lose, however. We were lying upon the back of a sort of submarine boat, which appeared (as far as I could judge) like a huge fish of steel. Ned Land’s mind was made up on this point. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea PDF Book Download
Conseil and I could only agree with him. Just then a bubbling began at the back of this strange thing (which was evidently propelled by a screw), and it began to move. We had only just time to seize hold of the upper part, which rose about seven feet out of the water, and happily its speed was not great.
“As long as it sails horizontally,” muttered Ned Land, “I do not mind; but if it takes a fancy to dive, I would not give two straws for my life.” The Canadian might have said still less. It became really necessary to communicate with the beings, whatever they were, shut up inside the machine.
I searched all over the outside for an aperture, a panel, or a man-hole, to use a technical expression; but the lines of the iron rivets, solidly driven into the joints of the iron plates, were clear and uniform. Besides, the moon disappeared then, and left us in total darkness. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea PDF Book Download
At last this long night passed. My indistinct remembrance prevents my describing all the impressions it made. I can only recall one circumstance. During some lulls of the wind and sea, I fancied I heard several times vague sounds, a sort of fugitive harmony produced by words of command.
What was then the mystery of this submarine craft, of which the whole world vainly sought an explanation? What kind of beings existed in this strange boat? What mechanical agent caused its prodigious speed? Daybreak appeared. The morning mists surrounded us, but they soon cleared off.
I was about to examine the hull, which formed on deck a kind of horizontal platform, when I felt it gradually sinking. “Oh! confound it!” cried Ned Land, kicking the resounding plate. “Open, you inhospitable rascals!” Happily the sinking movement ceased. Suddenly a noise, like iron works violently pushed aside, came from the interior of the boat. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea PDF Book Download
One iron plate was moved, a man appeared, uttered an odd cry, and disappeared immediately. Some moments after, eight strong men, with masked faces, appeared noiselessly, and drew us down into their formidable machine. The letter N was no doubt the initial of the name of the enigmatical person, who commanded at the bottom of the sea.
Ned and Conseil did not reflect much. They devoured the food, and I did likewise. I was, besides, reassured as to our fate; and it seemed evident that our hosts would not let us die of want. However, everything has an end, everything passes away, even the hunger of people who have not eaten for fifteen hours.
Our appetites satisfied, we felt overcome with sleep. “Faith! I shall sleep well,” said Conseil. “So shall I,” replied Ned Land. My two companions stretched themselves on the cabin carpet, and were soon sound asleep. For my own part, too many thoughts crowded my brain. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea PDF Book Free
Too many insoluble questions pressed upon me, too many fancies kept my eyes half open. Where were we? What strange power carried us on? I felt—or rather fancied I felt—the machine sinking down to the lowest beds of the sea. Dreadful nightmares beset me.
I saw in these mysterious asylums a world of unknown animals, amongst which this submarine boat seemed to be of the same kind, living, moving, and formidable as they. Then my brain grew calmer, my imagination wandered into vague unconsciousness, and I soon fell into a deep sleep.
At these words, Ned Land rose suddenly. The steward, nearly strangled, tottered out on a sign from his master; but such was the power of the commander on board, that not a gesture betrayed the resentment which this man must have felt towards the Canadian. Conseil, interested in spite of himself, I stupefied, awaited in silence the result of this scene. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea PDF Book Free
The commander, leaning against the corner of a table with his arms folded, scanned us with profound attention. Did he hesitate to speak? Did he regret the words which he had just spoken in French? One might almost think so. After some moments of silence, which not one of us dreamed of breaking, “Gentlemen,” said he, in a calm and penetrating voice.
“I speak French, English, German, and Latin equally well. I could, therefore, have answered you at our first interview, but I wished to know you first, then to reflect. The story told by each one, entirely agreeing in the main points, convinced me of your identity.
I know now that chance has brought before me M. Pierre Aronnax, Professor of Natural History at the Museum of Paris, entrusted with a scientific mission abroad, Conseil, his servant, and Ned Land, of Canadian origin, harpooner on board the frigate Abraham Lincoln of the navy of the United States of America.” Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea PDF Book Free
I bowed assent. It was not a question that the commander put to me. Therefore there was no answer to be made. This man expressed himself with perfect ease, without any accent. His sentences were well turned, his words clear, and his fluency of speech remarkable. Yet, I did not recognise in him a fellow-countryman.