A Journey to the Center of the Earth – Day 76 of 94

Such high spirits as these were rather too strong.

“But where is the compass? I asked.

“Here it is, upon this rock, in perfect condition, as well as the thermometers and the chronometer. The hunter is a splendid fellow.”

There was no denying it. We had all our instruments. As for tools and appliances, there they all lay on the ground — ladders, ropes, picks, spades, etc.

Still there was the question of provisions to be settled, and I asked – “How are we off for provisions?”

The boxes containing these were in a line upon the shore, in a perfect state of preservation; for the most part the sea had spared them, and what with biscuits, salt meat, spirits, and salt fish, we might reckon on four months’ supply.

“Four months!” cried the Professor. “We have time to go and to return; and with what is left I will give a grand dinner to my friends at the Johannæum.”

I ought by this time to have been quite accustomed to my uncle’s ways; yet there was always something fresh about him to astonish me.

“Now,” said he, “we will replenish our supply of water with the rain which the storm has left in all these granite basins; therefore we shall have no reason to fear anything from thirst. As for the raft, I will recommend Hans to do his best to repair it, although I don’t expect it will be of any further use to us.”

“How so?” I cried.

“An idea of my own, my lad. I don’t think we shall come out by the way that we went in.”

I stared at the Professor with a good deal of mistrust. I asked, was he not touched in the brain? And yet there was method in his madness.

“And now let us go to breakfast,” said he.

I followed him to a headland, after he had given his instructions to the hunter. There preserved meat, biscuit, and tea made us an excellent meal, one of the best I ever remember. Hunger, the fresh air, the calm quiet weather, after the commotions we had gone through, all contributed to give me a good appetite.

Whilst breakfasting I took the opportunity to put to my uncle the question where we were now.

“That seems to me,” I said, “rather difficult to make out.”

“Yes, it is difficult,” he said, “to calculate exactly; perhaps even impossible, since during these three stormy days I have been unable to keep any account of the rate or direction of the raft; but still we may get an approximation.”

“The last observation,” I remarked, “was made on the island, when the geyser was –“

“You mean Axel Island. Don’t decline the honour of having given your name to the first island ever discovered in the central parts of the globe.”

“Well,” said I, “let it be Axel Island. Then we had cleared two hundred and seventy leagues of sea, and we were six hundred leagues from Iceland.”

“Very well,” answered my uncle; “let us start from that point and count four days’ storm, during which our rate cannot have been less than eighty leagues in the twenty-four hours.”

“That is right; and this would make three hundred leagues more.”

“Yes, and the Liedenbrock sea would be six hundred leagues from shore to shore. Surely, Axel, it may vie in size with the Mediterranean itself.”

“Especially,” I replied, “if it happens that we have only crossed it in its narrowest part. And it is a curious circumstance,” I added, “that if my computations are right, and we are nine hundred leagues from Rejkiavik, we have now the Mediterranean above our head.”

“That is a good long way, my friend. But whether we are under Turkey or the Atlantic depends very much upon the question in what direction we have been moving. Perhaps we have deviated.”

“No, I think not. Our course has been the same all along, and I believe this shore is south-east of Port Grauben.”

“Well,” replied my uncle, “we may easily ascertain this by consulting the compass. Let us go and see what it says.”

The Professor moved towards the rock upon which Hans had laid down the instruments. He was gay and full of spirits; he rubbed his hands, he studied his attitudes. I followed him, curious to know if I was right in my estimate. As soon as we had arrived at the rock my uncle took the compass, laid it horizontally, and questioned the needle, which, after a few oscillations, presently assumed a fixed position. My uncle looked, and looked, and looked again. He rubbed his eyes, and then turned to me thunderstruck with some unexpected discovery.

“What is the matter?” I asked.

He motioned to me to look. An exclamation of astonishment burst from me. The north pole of the needle was turned to what we supposed to be the south. It pointed to the shore instead of to the open sea! I shook the box, examined it again, it was in perfect condition. In whatever position I placed the box the needle pertinaciously returned to this unexpected quarter. Therefore there seemed no reason to doubt that during the storm there had been a sudden change of wind unperceived by us, which had brought our raft back to the shore which we thought we had left so long a distance behind us.

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