Vingt mille lieues sous les mers. English, page 22
A gentle slope gravitated to an uneven bottom whose depth wasabout fifteen fathoms. This bottom was completely differentfrom the one I had visited during my first excursion underthe waters of the Pacific Ocean. Here I saw no fine-grained sand,no underwater prairies, not one open-sea forest. I immediately recognizedthe wondrous region in which Captain Nemo did the honors that day.It was the coral realm.
In the zoophyte branch, class Alcyonaria, one finds the order Gorgonaria,which contains three groups: sea fans, isidian polyps, and coral polyps.It's in this last that precious coral belongs, an unusual substance that,at different times, has been classified in the mineral, vegetable,and animal kingdoms. Medicine to the ancients, jewelry to the moderns,it wasn't decisively placed in the animal kingdom until 1694,by Peysonnel of Marseilles.
A coral is a unit of tiny animals assembled over a polyparythat's brittle and stony in nature. These polyps have a uniquegenerating mechanism that reproduces them via the budding process,and they have an individual existence while also participatingin a communal life. Hence they embody a sort of natural socialism.I was familiar with the latest research on this bizarre zoophyte--which turns to stone while taking on a tree form, as some naturalistshave very aptly observed--and nothing could have been more fascinatingto me than to visit one of these petrified forests that nature hasplanted on the bottom of the sea.
We turned on our Ruhmkorff devices and went along a coral shoalin the process of forming, which, given time, will someday closeoff this whole part of the Indian Ocean. Our path was borderedby hopelessly tangled bushes, formed from snarls of shrubsall covered with little star-shaped, white-streaked flowers.Only, contrary to plants on shore, these tree forms become attachedto rocks on the seafloor by heading from top to bottom.
Our lights produced a thousand delightful effects while playing overthese brightly colored boughs. I fancied I saw these cylindrical,membrane-filled tubes trembling beneath the water's undulations.I was tempted to gather their fresh petals, which were adorned withdelicate tentacles, some newly in bloom, others barely opened, whilenimble fish with fluttering fins brushed past them like flocks of birds.But if my hands came near the moving flowers of these sensitive,lively creatures, an alarm would instantly sound throughout the colony.The white petals retracted into their red sheaths, the flowers vanishedbefore my eyes, and the bush changed into a chunk of stony nipples.
Sheer chance had placed me in the presence of the most valuablespecimens of this zoophyte. This coral was the equal of those fishedup from the Mediterranean off the Barbary Coast or the shoresof France and Italy. With its bright colors, it lived up to thosepoetic names of blood flower and blood foam that the industryconfers on its finest exhibits. Coral sells for as much as 500francs per kilogram, and in this locality the liquid strata hidenough to make the fortunes of a whole host of coral fishermen.This valuable substance often merges with other polyparies,forming compact, hopelessly tangled units known as "macciota,"and I noted some wonderful pink samples of this coral.
But as the bushes shrank, the tree forms magnified.Actual petrified thickets and long alcoves from some fantasticschool of architecture kept opening up before our steps.Captain Nemo entered beneath a dark gallery whose gentle slopetook us to a depth of 100 meters. The light from our glass coilsproduced magical effects at times, lingering on the wrinkled roughnessof some natural arch, or some overhang suspended like a chandelier,which our lamps flecked with fiery sparks. Amid these shrubsof precious coral, I observed other polyps no less unusual:melita coral, rainbow coral with jointed outgrowths, then a fewtufts of genus Corallina, some green and others red, actually a typeof seaweed encrusted with limestone salts, which, after long disputes,naturalists have finally placed in the vegetable kingdom.But as one intellectual has remarked, "Here, perhaps, is the actualpoint where life rises humbly out of slumbering stone, but withoutbreaking away from its crude starting point."
Finally, after two hours of walking, we reached a depth of about300 meters, in other words, the lowermost limit at which coralcan begin to form. But here it was no longer some isolated bushor a modest grove of low timber. It was an immense forest,huge mineral vegetation, enormous petrified trees linked by garlandsof elegant hydras from the genus Plumularia, those tropicalcreepers of the sea, all decked out in shades and gleams.We passed freely under their lofty boughs, lost up in the shadowsof the waves, while at our feet organ-pipe coral, stony coral,star coral, fungus coral, and sea anemone from the genus Caryophyliaformed a carpet of flowers all strewn with dazzling gems.
What an indescribable sight! Oh, if only we could share our feelings!Why were we imprisoned behind these masks of metal and glass!Why were we forbidden to talk with each other! At least let uslead the lives of the fish that populate this liquid element,or better yet, the lives of amphibians, which can spend long hourseither at sea or on shore, traveling through their double domainas their whims dictate!
Meanwhile Captain Nemo had called a halt. My companions and Istopped walking, and turning around, I saw the crewmen forma semicircle around their leader. Looking with greater care,I observed that four of them were carrying on their shouldersan object that was oblong in shape.
At this locality we stood in the center of a huge clearingsurrounded by the tall tree forms of this underwater forest.Our lamps cast a sort of brilliant twilight over the area,making inordinately long shadows on the seafloor. Past the boundariesof the clearing, the darkness deepened again, relieved only by littlesparkles given off by the sharp crests of coral.
Ned Land and Conseil stood next to me. We stared, and itdawned on me that I was about to witness a strange scene.Observing the seafloor, I saw that it swelled at certain points fromlow bulges that were encrusted with limestone deposits and arrangedwith a symmetry that betrayed the hand of man.
In the middle of the clearing, on a pedestal of roughly piled rocks,there stood a cross of coral, extending long arms you would havethought were made of petrified blood.
At a signal from Captain Nemo, one of his men stepped forward and,a few feet from this cross, detached a mattock from his beltand began to dig a hole.
I finally understood! This clearing was a cemetery, this hole a grave,that oblong object the body of the man who must have died duringthe night! Captain Nemo and his men had come to bury their companionin this communal resting place on the inaccessible ocean floor!
No! My mind was reeling as never before! Never had ideas of such impactraced through my brain! I didn't want to see what my eyes saw!
Meanwhile the grave digging went slowly. Fish fled here andthere as their retreat was disturbed. I heard the pick ringingon the limestone soil, its iron tip sometimes giving off sparkswhen it hit a stray piece of flint on the sea bottom. The holegrew longer, wider, and soon was deep enough to receive the body.
Then the pallbearers approached. Wrapped in white fabric made fromfilaments of the fan mussel, the body was lowered into its watery grave.Captain Nemo, arms crossed over his chest, knelt in a postureof prayer, as did all the friends of him who had loved them. . . .My two companions and I bowed reverently.
The grave was then covered over with the rubble dug from the seafloor,and it formed a low mound.
When this was done, Captain Nemo and his men stood up; then theyall approached the grave, sank again on bended knee, and extendedtheir hands in a sign of final farewell. . . .
Then the funeral party went back up the path to the Nautilus,returning beneath the arches of the forest, through the thickets,along the coral bushes, going steadily higher.
Finally the ship's rays appeared. Their luminous trail guided usto the Nautilus. By one o'clock we had returned.
After changing clothes, I climbed onto the platform, and in the gripof dreadfully obsessive thoughts, I sat next to the beacon.
Captain Nemo rejoined me. I stood up and said to him:
"So, as I predicted, that man died during the night?"
"Yes, Professor Aronnax," Captain Nemo replied.
"Yes, forgotten by the world but not by us! We dig the graves,then entrust the polyps with sealing away our dead for eternity!"
And with a sudden gesture, the captain hid his face in his clenched fists,vainly trying to hold back a sob. Then he added:
"There lies our peaceful cemetery, hundreds of feet beneaththe surface of the waves!"
"At least, captain, your dead can sleep serenely there, out ofthe reach of sharks!"
"Yes, sir," Captain Nemo replied solemnly, "of sharks and men!"
END OF THE FIRST PART
*Author's Note: About 106 meters. An English foot is only 30.4 centimeters. *German: "Bulletin." Ed. *Author's Note: A pier is a type of wharf expressly set aside for an individual vessel. *Author's Note: Tenders are small steamboats that assist the big liners. *Author's Note: A Bowie knife is a wide-bladed dagger that Americans are forever carrying around. *Author's Note: A steward is a waiter on board a steamer. *Latin: nemo means "no one." Ed. *Latin: "in a class by itself." Ed. **Author's Note: And sure enough, there's now talk of such a discovery, in which a new set of levers generatesconsiderable power. Did its inventor meet up with Captain Nemo? *Author's Note: "Ladyfingers" are small, thin, white clouds with ragged edges. *Latin: a spigot "just for that purpose." Ed. *Latin: "troubled dreams." Ed.2 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
8 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
A Runaway Reef ? 9
A Runaway Reef ? 11
16 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Pros and Cons ? 17
18 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
As Master Wishes ? 19
22 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
As Master Wishes ? 23
28 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Ned Land ? 27
30 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
At Random! ? 29
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At Random! ? 31
32 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
At Random! ? 35
At Random! ? 37
42 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
At Full Steam ? 43
46 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
At Full Steam ? 47
52 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
A Whale of Unknown Species ? 53
54 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
"Mobilis in Mobili" ? 54
"Mobilis in Mobili" ? 53
54 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
60 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
"Mobilis in Mobili" ? 61
62 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Tantrums of Ned Land ? 62
The Tantrums of Ned Land ? 61
64 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
70 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Tantrums of Ned Land ? 69
76 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Man of the Waters ? 77
78 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
80 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
86 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Nautilus ? 87
94 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Everything through Electricity ? 93
96 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Some Figures ? 96
Some Figures ? 95
102 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Some Figures ? 101
Some Figures ? 103
112 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Black Current ? 111
The Black Current ?
114 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
An Invitation in Writing ? 113
Strolling the Plains ? 121
122 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Strolling the Plains ? 123
124 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Strolling the Plains ? 124
Strolling the Plains ? 125
126 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
130 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
An Underwater Forest ? 129
94 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas 94 ?Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
131 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
140 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Four Thousand Leagues Under the Pacific ? 139
148 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Vanikoro ? 147
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The Torres Strait ?
The Torres Strait ? 149
156 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Torres Strait ? 155
158 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Some Days Ashore ? 158
Some Days Ashore ? 157
168 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
Some Days Ashore ? 167
170 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Lightning Bolts of Captain Nemo ? 170
The Lightning Bolts of Captain Nemo ? 169
180 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Lightning Bolts of Captain Nemo ? 179
182 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
184 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
"Aegri Somnia" ? 131
186 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
190 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
"Aegri Somnia" ? 189
192 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Coral Realm ? 193
194 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
198 ? Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
The Coral Realm ? 197
The Indian Ocean
NOW WE BEGIN the second part of this voyage under the seas.The first ended in that moving scene at the coral cemetery,which left a profound impression on my mind. And so Captain Nemowould live out his life entirely in the heart of this immense sea,and even his grave lay ready in its impenetrable depths.There the last sleep of the Nautilus's occupants, friends bound togetherin death as in life, would be disturbed by no monster of the deep!"No man either!" the captain had added.
Always that same fierce, implacable defiance of human society!
As for me, I was no longer content with the hypothesesthat satisfied Conseil. That fine lad persisted in seeingthe Nautilus's commander as merely one of those unappreciatedscientists who repay humanity's indifference with contempt.For Conseil, the captain was still a misunderstood genius who,tired of the world's deceptions, had been driven to take refuge in thisinaccessible environment where he was free to follow his instincts.But to my mind, this hypothesis explained only one side of Captain Nemo.
Other author's books:
- Voyage au centre de la terre. EnglishA Voyage in a BalloonJourney Through the ImpossibleMaître du monde. EnglishThe Castaways of the FlagL'île mystérieuse. EnglishFrom the Earth to the Moon, Direct in Ninety-Seven Hours and Twenty Minutes: and a Trip Round ItMichael Strogoff; Or the Courier of the Czar: A Literary Classic
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