Vingt mille lieues sous.., p.11

Vingt mille lieues sous les mers. English, page 11

 

Vingt mille lieues sous les mers. English
 



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  CHAPTER 13

  Some Figures

  A MOMENT LATER we were seated on a couch in the lounge, cigars betweenour lips. The

  captain placed before my eyes a working drawing that gave the ground plan,cross section, and side view of the Nautilus. Then he began hisdescription as follows:

  "Here, Professor Aronnax, are the different dimensions of this boatnow transporting you. It's a very long cylinder with conical ends.It noticeably takes the shape of a cigar, a shape alreadyadopted in London for several projects of the same kind.The length of this cylinder from end to end is exactly seventy meters,and its maximum breadth of beam is eight meters. So it isn'tquite built on the ten-to-one ratio of your high-speed steamers;but its lines are sufficiently long, and their tapering gradual enough,so that the displaced water easily slips past and poses no obstacleto the ship's movements.

  "These two dimensions allow you to obtain, via a simple calculation,the surface area and volume of the Nautilus. Its surface areatotals 1,011.45 square meters, its volume 1,507.2 cubic meters--which is tantamount to saying that when it's completely submerged,it displaces 1,500 cubic meters of water, or weighs 1,500 metric tons.

  "In drawing up plans for a ship meant to navigate underwater,I wanted it, when floating on the waves, to lie nine-tenths belowthe surface and to emerge only one-tenth. Consequently, under theseconditions it needed to displace only nine-tenths of its volume,hence 1,356.48 cubic meters; in other words, it was to weigh onlythat same number of metric tons. So I was obliged not to exceedthis weight while building it to the aforesaid dimensions.

  "The Nautilus is made up of two hulls, one inside the other;between them, joining them together, are iron T-bars that give this shipthe utmost rigidity. In fact, thanks to this cellular arrangement,it has the resistance of a stone block, as if it were completely solid.Its plating can't give way; it's self-adhering and not dependenton the tightness of its rivets; and due to the perfect unionof its materials, the solidarity of its construction allows itto defy the most violent seas.

  "The two hulls are manufactured from boilerplate steel, whose relativedensity is 7.8 times that of water. The first hull has a thicknessof no less than five centimeters and weighs 394.96 metric tons.My second hull, the outer cover, includes a keel fifty centimeters highby twenty-five wide, which by itself weighs 62 metric tons; this hull,the engine, the ballast, the various accessories and accommodations,plus the bulkheads and interior braces, have a combined weightof 961.52 metric tons, which when added to 394.96 metric tons,gives us the desired total of 1,356.48 metric tons. Clear?"

  "Clear," I replied.

  "So," the captain went on, "when the Nautilus lies on the wavesunder these conditions, one-tenth of it does emerge above water.Now then, if I provide some ballast tanks equal in capacityto that one-tenth, hence able to hold 150.72 metric tons, and if Ifill them with water, the boat then displaces 1,507.2 metric tons--or it weighs that much--and it would be completely submerged.That's what comes about, professor. These ballast tanks existwithin easy access in the lower reaches of the Nautilus. I opensome stopcocks, the tanks fill, the boat sinks, and it's exactlyflush with the surface of the water."

  "Fine, captain, but now we come to a genuine difficulty. You're ableto lie flush with the surface of the ocean, that I understand.But lower down, while diving beneath that surface, isn't yoursubmersible going to encounter a pressure, and consequentlyundergo an upward thrust, that must be assessed at one atmosphereper every thirty feet of water, hence at about one kilogram pereach square centimeter?"

  "Precisely, sir."

  "Then unless you fill up the whole Nautilus, I don't see how youcan force it down into the heart of these liquid masses."

  "Professor," Captain Nemo replied, "static objects mustn't beconfused with dynamic ones, or we'll be open to serious error.Comparatively little effort is spent in reaching the ocean'slower regions, because all objects have a tendency to become 'sinkers.'Follow my logic here."

  "I'm all ears, captain."

  "When I wanted to determine what increase in weight the Nautilusneeded to be given in order to submerge, I had only to take noteof the proportionate reduction in volume that salt water experiencesin deeper and deeper strata."

  "That's obvious," I replied.

  "Now then, if water isn't absolutely incompressible, at leastit compresses very little. In fact, according to the mostrecent calculations, this reduction is only .0000436 per atmosphere,or per every thirty feet of depth. For instance, to go 1,000meters down, I must take into account the reduction in volumethat occurs under a pressure equivalent to that from a 1,000-metercolumn of water, in other words, under a pressure of 100 atmospheres.In this instance the reduction would be .00436. Consequently, I'd haveto increase my weight from 1,507.2 metric tons to 1,513.77. Sothe added weight would only be 6.57 metric tons."

  "That's all?"

  "That's all, Professor Aronnax, and the calculation is easy to check.Now then, I have supplementary ballast tanks capable of shipping 100metric tons of water. So I can descend to considerable depths.When I want to rise again and lie flush with the surface, all Ihave to do is expel that water; and if I desire that the Nautilusemerge above the waves to one-tenth of its total capacity, I emptyall the ballast tanks completely."

  This logic, backed up by figures, left me without a single objection.

  "I accept your calculations, captain," I replied, "and I'd be ill-manneredto dispute them, since your daily experience bears them out.But at this juncture, I have a hunch that we're still left withone real difficulty."

  "What's that, sir?"

  "When you're at a depth of 1,000 meters, the Nautilus's platingbears a pressure of 100 atmospheres. If at this point you wantto empty the supplementary ballast tanks in order to lighten yourboat and rise to the surface, your pumps must overcome that pressureof 100 atmospheres, which is 100 kilograms per each square centimeter.This demands a strength--"

  "That electricity alone can give me," Captain Nemo said swiftly."Sir, I repeat: the dynamic power of my engines is nearly infinite.The Nautilus's pumps have prodigious strength, as you musthave noticed when their waterspouts swept like a torrent overthe Abraham Lincoln. Besides, I use my supplementary ballasttanks only to reach an average depth of 1,500 to 2,000 meters,and that with a view to conserving my machinery. Accordingly, when Ihave a mind to visit the ocean depths two or three vertical leaguesbeneath the surface, I use maneuvers that are more time-consumingbut no less infallible."

  "What are they, captain?" I asked.

  "Here I'm naturally led into telling you how the Nautilus is maneuvered."

  "I can't wait to find out."

  "In order to steer this boat to port or starboard, in short, to maketurns on a horizontal plane, I use an ordinary, wide-bladed rudderthat's fastened to the rear of the sternpost and worked by a wheeland tackle. But I can also move the Nautilus upward and downwardon a vertical plane by the simple method of slanting its two fins,which are attached to its sides at its center of flotation;these fins are flexible, able to assume any position, and can beoperated from inside by means of powerful levers. If these finsstay parallel with the boat, the latter moves horizontally.If they slant, the Nautilus follows the angle of that slant and,under its propeller's thrust, either sinks on a diagonal as steepas it suits me, or rises on that diagonal. And similarly, if I wantto return more swiftly to the surface, I throw the propeller in gear,and the water's pressure makes the Nautilus rise vertically, as an airballoon inflated with hydrogen lifts swiftly into the skies."

  "Bravo, captain!" I exclaimed. "But in the midst of the waters,how can your helmsman follow the course you've given him?"

  "My helmsman is stationed behind the windows of a pilothouse,which protrudes from the topside of the Nautilus's hull and is fittedwith biconvex glass."

  "Is glass capable of resisting such pressures?"

  "Perfectly capable. Though fragile on impact, crystal can stilloffer considerable resistance. In 1864, during experime
nts onfishing by electric light in the middle of the North Sea, glass panesless than seven millimeters thick were seen to resist a pressureof sixteen atmospheres, all the while letting through strong,heat-generating rays whose warmth was unevenly distributed.Now then, I use glass windows measuring no less than twenty-onecentimeters at their centers; in other words, they've thirtytimes the thickness."

  "Fair enough, captain, but if we're going to see, we need lightto drive away the dark, and in the midst of the murky waters,I wonder how your helmsman can--"

  "Set astern of the pilothouse is a powerful electric reflectorwhose rays light up the sea for a distance of half a mile."

  "Oh, bravo! Bravo three times over, captain! That explainsthe phosphorescent glow from this so-called narwhale that so puzzledus scientists! Pertinent to this, I'll ask you if the Nautilus'srunning afoul of the Scotia, which caused such a great uproar,was the result of an accidental encounter?"

  "Entirely accidental, sir. I was navigating two meters beneaththe surface of the water when the collision occurred. However, I couldsee that it had no dire consequences."

  "None, sir. But as for your encounter with the Abraham Lincoln . . . ?"

  "Professor, that troubled me, because it's one of the best ships in thegallant American navy, but they attacked me and I had to defend myself!All the same, I was content simply to put the frigate in a conditionwhere it could do me no harm; it won't have any difficulty gettingrepairs at the nearest port."

  "Ah, commander," I exclaimed with conviction, "your Nautilus is trulya marvelous boat!"

  "Yes, professor," Captain Nemo replied with genuine excitement,"and I love it as if it were my own flesh and blood! Aboard aconventional ship, facing the ocean's perils, danger lurks everywhere;on the surface of the sea, your chief sensation is the constant feelingof an underlying chasm, as the Dutchman Jansen so aptly put it;but below the waves aboard the Nautilus, your heart never fails you!There are no structural deformities to worry about,because the double hull of this boat has the rigidity of iron;no rigging to be worn out by rolling and pitching on the waves;no sails for the wind to carry off; no boilers for steam to burst open;no fires to fear, because this submersible is made of sheet iron not wood;no coal to run out of, since electricity is its mechanical force;no collisions to fear, because it navigates the watery deep all by itself;no storms to brave, because just a few meters beneath the waves,it finds absolute tranquility! There, sir. There's the ideal ship!And if it's true that the engineer has more confidence in a craftthan the builder, and the builder more than the captain himself,you can understand the utter abandon with which I place my trustin this Nautilus, since I'm its captain, builder, and engineerall in one!"

  Captain Nemo spoke with winning eloquence. The fire in his eyesand the passion in his gestures transfigured him. Yes, he lovedhis ship the same way a father loves his child!

  But one question, perhaps indiscreet, naturally popped up, and Icouldn't resist asking it.

  "You're an engineer, then, Captain Nemo?"

  "Yes, professor," he answered me. "I studied in London, Paris,and New York back in the days when I was a resident ofthe earth's continents."

  "But how were you able to build this wonderful Nautilus in secret?"

  "Each part of it, Professor Aronnax, came from a different spoton the globe and reached me at a cover address. Its keel was forgedby Creusot in France, its propeller shaft by Pen & Co. in London,the sheet-iron plates for its hull by Laird's in Liverpool, its propellerby Scott's in Glasgow. Its tanks were manufactured by Cail & Co.in Paris, its engine by Krupp in Prussia, its spur by the Motalaworkshops in Sweden, its precision instruments by Hart Bros.in New York, etc.; and each of these suppliers received myspecifications under a different name."

  "But," I went on, "once these parts were manufactured, didn't theyhave to be mounted and adjusted?"

  "Professor, I set up my workshops on a deserted islet in midocean.There our Nautilus was completed by me and my workmen, in other words,by my gallant companions whom I've molded and educated.Then, when the operation was over, we burned every trace of our stayon that islet, which if I could have, I'd have blown up."

  "From all this, may I assume that such a boat costs a fortune?"

  "An iron ship, Professor Aronnax, runs 1,125 francs per metric ton.Now then, the Nautilus has a burden of 1,500 metric tons.Consequently, it cost 1,687,000 francs, hence 2,000,000 francsincluding its accommodations, and 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 with allthe collections and works of art it contains."

  "One last question, Captain Nemo."

  "Ask, professor."

  "You're rich, then?"

  "Infinitely rich, sir, and without any trouble, I could pay offthe ten-billion-franc French national debt!"

  I gaped at the bizarre individual who had just spoken these words.Was he playing on my credulity? Time would tell.

  CHAPTER 14

  The Black Current

  THE PART OF THE planet earth that the seas occupy has been assessed at3,832,558 square myriameters, hence more than 38,000,000,000 hectares.This liquid mass totals 2,250,000,000 cubic miles and could forma sphere with a diameter of sixty leagues, whose weight wouldbe three quintillion metric tons. To appreciate such a number,we should remember that a quintillion is to a billion what a billionis to one, in other words, there are as many billions in a quintillionas ones in a billion! Now then, this liquid mass nearly equalsthe total amount of water that has poured through all the earth'srivers for the past 40,000 years!

  During prehistoric times, an era of fire was followed by an era of water.At first there was ocean everywhere. Then, during the Silurian period,the tops of mountains gradually appeared above the waves,islands emerged, disappeared beneath temporary floods, rose again,were fused to form continents, and finally the earth's geographysettled into what we have today. Solid matter had wrested from liquidmatter some 37,657,000 square miles, hence 12,916,000,000 hectares.

  The outlines of the continents allow the seas to be dividedinto five major parts: the frozen Arctic and Antarctic oceans,the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean.

  The Pacific Ocean extends north to south between the two polar circlesand east to west between America and Asia over an expanse of 145degrees of longitude. It's the most tranquil of the seas; its currentsare wide and slow-moving, its tides moderate, its rainfall abundant.And this was the ocean that I was first destined to cross underthese strangest of auspices.

  "If you don't mind, professor," Captain Nemo told me, "we'll determineour exact position and fix the starting point of our voyage.It's fifteen minutes before noon. I'm going to rise to the surfaceof the water."

  The captain pressed an electric bell three times. The pumps beganto expel water from the ballast tanks; on the pressure gauge,a needle marked the decreasing pressures that indicated the Nautilus'supward progress; then the needle stopped.

  "Here we are," the captain said.

  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.

  The platform emerged only eighty centimeters above the waves.The Nautilus's bow and stern boasted that spindle-shaped outlinethat had caused the ship to be compared appropriately to a long cigar.I noted the slight overlap of its sheet-iron plates, which resembledthe scales covering the bodies of our big land reptiles. So I hada perfectly natural explanation for why, despite the best spyglasses,this boat had always been mistaken for a marine animal.

  Near the middle of the platform, the skiff was half set in theship's hull, making a slight bulge. Fore and aft stood two cupolasof moderate height, their sides slanting and partly inset with heavybiconvex glass, one reserved for the helmsman steering the Nautilus,the other for the brilliance of the powerful electric beaconlighting his way.

  The sea was magnificent, the skies clear. This long aquaticvehicle could barely feel the broad undulations of the ocean.A mild breeze out of the east rippled the
surface of the water.Free of all mist, the horizon was ideal for taking sights.

  There was nothing to be seen. Not a reef, not an islet.No more Abraham Lincoln. A deserted immenseness.

  Raising his sextant, Captain Nemo took the altitude of the sun,which would give him his latitude. He waited for a few minutesuntil the orb touched the rim of the horizon. While he was takinghis sights, he didn't move a muscle, and the instrument couldn'thave been steadier in hands made out of marble.

  "Noon," he said. "Professor, whenever you're ready. . . ."

  I took one last look at the sea, a little yellowish near the landingplaces of Japan, and I went below again to the main lounge.

  There the captain fixed his position and used a chronometerto calculate his longitude, which he double-checked against hisprevious observations of hour angles. Then he told me:

  "Professor Aronnax, we're in longitude 137 degrees 15' west--"

  "West of which meridian?" I asked quickly, hoping the captain'sreply might give me a clue to his nationality.

  "Sir," he answered me, "I have chronometers variously set to themeridians of Paris, Greenwich, and Washington, D.C. But in your honor,I'll use the one for Paris."

  This reply told me nothing. I bowed, and the commander went on:

  "We're in longitude 137 degrees 15' west of the meridian of Paris,and latitude 30 degrees 7' north, in other words, about 300 milesfrom the shores of Japan. At noon on this day of November 8,we hereby begin our voyage of exploration under the waters."

 

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