Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas – Day 34 of 165

In essence, I was already familiar with the whole forward part of this underwater boat, and here are its exact subdivisions going from amidships to its spur: the dining room, 5 meters long and separated from the library by a watertight bulkhead, in other words, it couldn’t be penetrated by the sea; the library, 5 meters long; the main lounge, 10 meters long, separated from the captain’s stateroom by a second watertight bulkhead; the aforesaid stateroom, 5 meters long; mine, 2.5 meters long; and finally, air tanks 7.5 meters long and extending to the stempost. Total: a length of 35 meters. Doors were cut into the watertight bulkheads and were shut hermetically by means of india–rubber seals, which insured complete safety aboard the Nautilus in the event of a leak in any one section.

I followed Captain Nemo down gangways located for easy transit, and I arrived amidships. There I found a sort of shaft heading upward between two watertight bulkheads. An iron ladder, clamped to the wall, led to the shaft’s upper end. I asked the Captain what this ladder was for.

“It goes to the skiff,” he replied.

“What! You have a skiff?” I replied in some astonishment.

“Surely. An excellent longboat, light and unsinkable, which is used for excursions and fishing trips.”

“But when you want to set out, don’t you have to return to the surface of the sea?”

“By no means. The skiff is attached to the topside of the Nautilus’s hull and is set in a cavity expressly designed to receive it. It’s completely decked over, absolutely watertight, and held solidly in place by bolts. This ladder leads to a manhole cut into the Nautilus’s hull and corresponding to a comparable hole cut into the side of the skiff. I insert myself through this double opening into the longboat. My crew close up the hole belonging to the Nautilus; I close up the one belonging to the skiff, simply by screwing it into place. I undo the bolts holding the skiff to the submersible, and the longboat rises with prodigious speed to the surface of the sea. I then open the deck paneling, carefully closed until that point; I up mast and hoist sail—or I take out my oars—and I go for a spin.”

“But how do you return to the ship?”

“I don’t, Professor Aronnax; the Nautilus returns to me.”

“At your command?”

“At my command. An electric wire connects me to the ship. I fire off a telegram, and that’s that.”

“Right,” I said, tipsy from all these wonders, “nothing to it!”

After passing the well of the companionway 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. Then a door opened into the galley, 3 meters long and located between the vessel’s huge storage lockers.

There, even more powerful and obedient than gas, electricity did most of the cooking. Arriving under the stoves, wires transmitted to platinum griddles a heat that was distributed and sustained with perfect consistency. It also heated a distilling mechanism that, via evaporation, supplied excellent drinking water. Next to this galley was a bathroom, conveniently laid out, with faucets supplying hot or cold water at will.

After the galley came the crew’s quarters, 5 meters long. But the door was closed and I couldn’t see its accommodations, which might have told me the number of men it took to operate the Nautilus.

At the far end stood a fourth watertight bulkhead, separating the crew’s quarters from the engine room. A door opened, and I stood in the compartment where Captain Nemo, indisputably a world–class engineer, had set up his locomotive equipment.

Brightly lit, the engine room measured at least 20 meters in length. It was divided, by function, into two parts: the first contained the cells for generating electricity, the second that mechanism transmitting movement to the propeller.

Right off, I detected an odor permeating the compartment that was sui generis. Captain Nemo noticed the negative impression it made on me.

“That,” he told me, “is a gaseous 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.”

Meanwhile I examined the Nautilus’s engine with a fascination easy to imagine.

“You observe,” Captain Nemo told me, “that I use Bunsen cells, not Ruhmkorff cells. The latter would be ineffectual. One uses fewer Bunsen cells, but they’re big and strong, and experience has proven their superiority. The electricity generated here makes its way to the stern, where electromagnets of huge size activate a special system of levers and gears that transmit movement to the propeller’s shaft. The latter has a diameter of 6 meters, a pitch of 7.5 meters, and can do up to 120 revolutions per minute.”

“And that gives you?”

“A speed of fifty miles per hour.”

There lay a mystery, but I didn’t insist on exploring it. How could electricity work with such power? Where did this nearly unlimited energy originate? Was it in the extraordinary voltage obtained from some new kind of induction coil? Could its transmission have been immeasurably increased by some unknown system of levers? This was the point I couldn’t grasp.

“Captain Nemo,” I said, “I’ll vouch for the results and not try to explain them. I’ve seen the Nautilus at work out in front of the Abraham Lincoln, and I know where I stand on its speed. But it isn’t enough just to move, we have to see where we’re going! We must be able to steer right or left, up or down! How do you reach the lower depths, where you meet an increasing resistance that’s assessed in hundreds of atmospheres? How do you rise back to the surface of the ocean? Finally, how do you keep your ship at whatever level suits you? Am I indiscreet in asking you all these things?”

“Not at all, professor,” the Captain answered me after a slight hesitation, “since you’ll never leave this underwater boat. Come into the lounge. It’s actually our work room, and there you’ll learn the full story about the Nautilus!”


  1. TurtleReader Identiconcomment_author_IP, $comment->comment_author); }else{echo $gravatar_link;}}*/ ?>

    TurtleReader wrote:

    sui generis
    Being the only example of its kind; unique

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