Thursday, June 20, 2013

20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Part 4: Treasures of the Deep

Captain Nemo has been showing Professor Aronnax and his companions some of the secrets of the ocean deeps; but there are some secrets which must remain hidden.

Aronnax is still puzzling over the events of the night Nemo had them confined in their cabin. What was it that Captain Nemo didn't want them to see? And what was the nature of the "collision" which resulted in the death of one of Nemo's crew?

The Nautilus is now in the Indian Ocean. As they approach Ceylon, the present-day Sri Lanka, which Aronnax describes as "that pearl that hangs from the lower lobe of the Indian peninsula"; Nemo asks the Professor if he would like to visit the island's famous pearl fisheries. Since the harvesting season hasn't started yet, they can go on a diving excursion to see the oyster beds up close.

"By the way," Nemo adds casually, "I suppose you are not afraid of sharks?"

As a matter of fact, this was not a subject to which the Professor had given much thought. Until now. The thought of hunting sharks ("It's an excellent sport," Nemo assures him) in the animal's own element makes him break out in a cold sweat.

His worries about huge jaws bristling with rows of razor-sharp teeth are interrupted by Ned and Conseil, to whom Nemo has extended the same invitation. (He made no mention to them about the sharks, though). Conseil asks the Professor to tell them a bit about the pearl fisheries, which provides an excuse for another of Verne's educational bits. But as the Professor expounds on the natural history of pearls, his mind is on another species of marine creature.
"... I have even heard of an oyster -- though I have some doubts on the matter -- that contained no fewer than one hundred and fifty sharks." 
"One hundred and fifty sharks!" cried Ned Land. 
"Did I say sharks?" I exclaimed. "Of course, I meant one hundred and fifty pearls. Sharks wouldn't make sense."
Finally, he breaks down and tells them about the possible danger from sharks, hoping that if his friends don't want to take the risk, it will give him an excuse to back out himself. No such luck. Although Ned is prudent enough that facing sharks gives him pause, he'd not particularly afraid of them. And Conseil happily announces "If Monsieur is prepared to face the sharks... I see no reason why his faithful servant should not be at his side."

In their trip to the oyster beds, Nemo takes them to a secret grotto containing a huge oyster, undiscovered by the pearl fishers. Opening the shell, Nemo shows them an enormous pearl, about the size of a coconut. He leaves the pearl where it is, so that it might grow over more seasons.

Returning from the grotto, they spot a native diver, who has come to fish for pearls before the regular harvest. A poor man, like most pearl divers, he has no diving apparatus save a large stone tied to his foot to anchor him in his dives, and practice in holding his breath. He doesn't see Nemo, but when a shark moves in to attack the man, Nemo interposes to save him.

To me this is one of the most exciting scenes in the book; right up there with the squid battle later on. The first copy of the book that I got from the library when I was young had a beautiful color plate by Kurt Weiss depicting Nemo, armed only with a knife, battling the vicious shark. Nemo is almost sheared in half by the creature's mighty jaws, but Ned finishes it off with his trusty harpoon. They bring the diver to the surface, and Nemo gives the terrified man a small bag of pearls before returning to the sea.

When they return to the Nautilus, Nemo gravely thanks Ned for saving his life. "I was repaying a debt, that's all," Ned answers. In the original French he says "C'est une revanche," which literally means "It was revenge," but also has the sense of "payback", or the paying of something owed. A grim flicker of -- not exactly friendship, because Ned and Nemo will never like each other -- but a mutual recognition of each other's honor.

Aronnax also comments on Nemo's altruistic act in saving the life of the pearl diver.
"That Indian, Monsieur le Professeur, lives in the land of the oppressed, and I belong, and -- to my last breath -- will always belong to that land!"
What doesn Nemo mean by that remark? Is he saying that he is an Indian too? Or is he making a general statement of solidarity with all the oppressed people of the world?

Throughout the entire book, Aronnax tries to figure out Nemo's nationality. Originally, Verne intended for Nemo to be a Polish nobleman, whose family had been killed by the Russians. In a later chapter, we see a glimpse of Nemo's cabin where he has portraits of his heroes which include, among portraits of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and John Brown, the Polish patriot Kosciusko. Verne's publisher, Pierre Hetzel, was worried that having the Russians be the bad guys would hurt book sales in that country, so he persuaded Verne to make Nemo's nationality and the target of his obsessive vendetta a mystery.

It isn't until a later book, The Mysterious Island, that Verne fills in Nemo's backstory. He reveals that Nemo was actually an Indian prince named Dakaar, whose family was killed by the British during the Sepoy Mutiny. (Apparently Hetzel didn't care if the British were offended by this; maybe the British aren't as touchy about these things.) So perhaps Nemo is being literal when hes says of the poor Singhalese diver, "I am of that country." Then again, the chronologies of Twenty Thousand Leagues and The Mysterious Island are inconsistent, so I'm not sure if I buy the "Prince Dakaar" story. I prefer to leave his background mysterious.

Leaving India behind them, the Nautilus crosses the Arabian Sea and enters the Red Sea. Aronnax is a little surprised that Nemo is going this way, since the Red Sea is effectively a dead end. At the time the story takes place, Aronnax's countryman, the engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps, is still working on constructing the Suez Canal; and even if the canal was completed, the Nautilus could scarcely pass through its locks.
Nemo assures the Professor that they will soon be cruising in the Mediterranean. He knows of an underground passage running beneath the Isthmus of Suez, running roughly parallel to de Lesseps' canal. He explains that he found it "By chance and by reasoning ... but more by reasoning than by chance." And Nemo goes on to give a splendid demonstration of the Scientific Method.
"...I had noticed that in the Red Sea and in the Mediterranean there were many fishes that were identical -- ophidia, fiatoles, girelles, exocoeti, persegaw and joels. Having assured myself of this fact, I asked myself whether any communication existed between the two seas.... I therefore fished a great number of specimens in the Suez waters. I passed a copper ring through their tails, and threw them back into the sea. A few months later, off the coasts of Syria, I caught some of them again, identified by their copper rings. I had therefore proved that there was some passage between the two seas. I looked for it in my Nautilus, discovered it, sailed through it, and before long, Professor, you, too, will have traveled through my Arabian Tunnel!"
Observation; Hypothesis; Testing; Conclusion. It's called Science.

Ned Land is less interested in how Nemo discovered his "Arabian Tunnel" than he is in the fact that they are now sailing in more civilized waters. He's been keeping mostly quiet for months, but now that they are nearing Europe, escape is becoming a practical option.

The Professor protests that Nemo is unlikely to permit any opportunity of escape to arise and urges Ned to be more patient and wait to see what the future brings. The truth is, Aronnax doesn't wish his voyage to end; he is torn between his scientific curiosity and his duty to his friends. Ned calls him out on it.
"Monsieur," continued Ned. "Let us assume the impossible. Suppose the Captain were to offer you your freedom now -- this very day -- would you accept?" 
"I do not know," I replied. 
"And if he were to add that the offer he is making to you today would never be renewed? Would you accept?" 
I did not answer. 
"And what does my friend Conseil have to say about all this?" asked Ned Land. 
"Your friend Conseil," replied the worthy lad calmly, "has nothing to say. He is absolutely unconcerned in this matter. Conseil is a bachelor just like his master and just like his companion. He has no wife, he has no parents, he has no children, waiting for his return home. Conseil is in the service of Monsieur, and he thinks like Monsieur, he talks like Monsieur, and to his great regret, he cannot be counted upon to decide this issue. Only two persons are facing each other here: on one had we have Monsieur, on the other Ned Land. Conseil is here to listen, and he is ready to keep score."
Forced into a corner, Aronnax promises that if the opportunity arises, he will help Ned escape. But he warns Ned that they are likely to only get one chance; if they try and fail, Nemo will never let them have a second opportunity.

While pausing in Greek Archipelago, near the island of Crete, they see a man swimming alongside the Nautilus. Captain Nemo signals to the swimmer, and has his men prepare a chest full of gold ingots which they bring up to the deck. Nemo explains that the man is Nicholas "The Fish", a native of the Greek islands known for swimming long distances; but he does not explain about the gold.

From there, the Nautilus speeds across the Mediterranean, passing the Straits of Gibralter in less than forty-eight hours. The Professor gets only glimpses of fish through the windows of the Nautilus' saloon, as well as the hulks of centuries worth of shipwrecks. Traveling so quickly, they have no chances to attempt Ned's plan of escape.

Until entering the Atlantic, when the Nautilus turns north up the coast of Portugal. "This evening we will be only a few miles off the Spanish coast. The night is dark. The wind is blowing in from the sea. You have given me your word, Monsieur Aronnax," Ned says, "and I am counting on you." Ned has already hidden oars and provisions in the Nautilus' dinghy, as well as a wrench to unbolt it from the deck. At nine that night, when Nemo will be in his cabin asleep and the on-duty crew busy in the engine room, they will rendezvous and make their attempt.

Aronnax spends a tense next few hours. He doesn't want to leave the Nautilus. What's more, he feels no little guilt at betraying Nemo, and dreads the possibility of meeting him.

As he waits in the library, the sounds of the engines cease and the Nautilus comes to a halt. Nemo appears, and, not seeming to notice the fact that Aronnax is dressed for outdoor travel, proceeds to give the Professor a lecture on Spanish history; in particular, a incident where a fortune in gold brought back from the Americas was scuttled by the Spanish to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. This incident happened at a place called Vigo Bay, which is where the Nautilus is right now.

Aronnax understands. Nemo has paused to "transact some business with his banker," as he later explains to Ned. Nemo knows of many sunken ships all over the ocean floor which are the source of his incredible wealth.

When the Professor mildly comments that the gold Nemo has liberated from the ocean floor is not going to benefit anybody, the Captain becomes angry. "What makes you think that I do not make good use of them? Do you think that I am unaware that there are human beings who are suffering, people who are oppressed int the world, wretches who need to be comforted, victims to be avenged?"

Now the mystery of Nikky the Fish and the casket of gold becomes clear. The island of Crete is currently under Turkish domination and the natives are fighting for independence. Nemo is taking the gold he retrieves from the ocean and funneling it into insurgent movements all over the world. Aronnax realizes that Nemo has not broken all contact with the surface world after all.
Whatever the reasons may have been that had driven him to seek his independence under the seas, he had remained a man, in spite of all! His heart was still beating for suffering humanity, and his immense charity was given not only to oppressed races, but to the unfortunate individual as well!
 NEXT:  Atlantis, an eco-unfriendly bloodbath, the South Pole and Trapped Beneath the Ice!

Friday, June 14, 2013

20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Part 3: The Coral Kingdom

Professor Pierre Aronnax, his servant Conseil, and Canadian harpooner Ned Land, have become the unwilling guests of the enigmatic Captain Nemo, who's incredible submarine, the Nautilus, has been frequently mistaken for a sea monster. They may not be all that wrong. In our last section, Nemo gave the Professor a guided tour of his submarine, and later took him on a diving excursion through an underwater forest.

The Nautilus continues its voyage. The Professor watches the fish they pass through the windows of the Nautilus' saloon, and often goes up on deck to observe the crew hauling in their nets bringing in their daily catch of fish. On occasion, Nemo speaks to him, to rhapsodize about the sea which he loves. At one point they pass a wrecked ship which has sunken vertically, its dead passengers and crew still trapped in its cabins or tangled in its rigging.

They now pass the Hawaiian Islands, or the Sandwich Islands, as Verne knew them, and enter the South Pacific. The islands they pass in these waters are coral islands, and Aronnax suggests that from the slow growth of the coral reefs, the islands may eventually be linked together forming a new continent. Nemo replies:

"There is no need for new continents, but there is need for new men."

But this does give Verne another excuse to slip in one of his science lessons as Aronnax muses on the reef-building of the coral polyps. He describes Charles Darwin's theory of how coral atolls develop, a theory which, although overshadowed by his writings on Natural Selection, is nevertheless a significant one. When Conseil asks how long it takes for a coral reef to form, the Professor answers "A hundred and ninety-two thousand years, my lad..." And perhaps because he has just invoked Darwin, he adds what Conseil and the reader must be thinking. This span of time contradicts the Biblical account of Creation. "...which makes those 'days' referred to in the Bible a good bit longer.... However, I must add that the 'days' of the Bible represent epochs, and tnot the interval between sunrise to sunrise." Thus Verne finds away to reconcile, at least to his own satisfaction the account of Genesis with the findings of Science. Nevertheless, this heretical passage was also one of the ones Verne's original English translator decided to cut.

Continuing on through the treacherous reefs and atolls of the Coral Sea, the Nautilus pauses at the island of Vanikoro, where in 1785 a pair of French vessels sent on an expedition around the world disappeared. The site gives Aronnax and Nemo the opportunity to discuss the mystery and the voyage of Dumont d'Urville, a French naval officer and explorer who in 1828 was sent to find the missing ships. Verne loves invoking the Heroes of Science, like Charles Darwin; or Ferdinand de Lesseps, the engineer who at the time of Verne's writing was building the Suez Canal; or Commander Maury, the American naval officer who by compiling data from ship's logs helped found the science of oceanography. Here, in another of his educational passages, Verne tells the story of a near contemporary of Captain Cook who is little-known outside of France, (and possibly forgotten even there, considering the space Verne devotes to the man).

Professor Aronnax and his companions have now been on board the Nautilus for about two months. A new year is beginning, and Aronnax wonders what the new year will bring. "Will this year see the end of our imprisonment, or will it see the continuation of this strange voyage?"

Conseil is quite happy and content where he is, although he admits, "Ned Land disagrees with me in everything... He's a positive thinker with an imperious stomach. For any Anglo-Saxon worthy of the name the lack of bread and meat, especially beefsteaks, the lack of brandy or gin, drunk in moderation, is unthinkable."

Passing through the Torres Straits, the treacherous body of water separating Australia from the island of New Guinea, the Nautilus unexpectedly strikes a reef and runs aground. As one critic has observed, Nemo seems to have a problem colliding with things; but d'Urville had also run aground and been nearly wrecked in these same waters.

"An accident?" Aronnax asks the Captain. Nemo is unruffled. "No... an incident." The hull of the Nautilus has not been damaged. In a few more days the moon will be full, and the resulting spring tide will raise the ocean level sufficient to re-float the submarine. Nemo is content to wait.

In the meantime, the Nautilus is resting not far from an island. Ned wants to check it out. "On an island like that there are trees; under those trees there are animals, purveyours of chops and steaks, which I wouldn't mind getting my teeth into."

Conseil agrees. "Could not Monsieur obtain permission from his friend Captain Nemo to have us taken ashore, just so we don't lose the feel of terra firma?"

To the Professor's surprise, Nemo consents; and so soon Aronnax and his friends, armed with Nemo's electric rifles, are rowing the Nautilus' dinghy to the island.

Verne was a fan of a type of fiction known as a Robinsonade, stories about people surviving on desert islands as in the original Robinson Crusoe. He wrote a number of them himself, including a sort of fanfic sequel to The Swiss Family Robinson. His best exploration of this theme is probably his sequel to Twenty Thousand Leagues, The Mysterious Island; but here in this next chapter, he embarks on a kind of mini-Robinsonade as Ned, the Professor and Conseil enjoy a few days on land.

Here Ned is in his glory. He's been mostly in the background for the past several chapters with nothing to do but grumble about his lack of liberty. But here he can actually do stuff. We see that he has talents besides impaling large cetaceans with harpoons; he's familiar with the edible plants and fruits of tropical islands; he can prepare breadfruit into a paste which will keep indefinitely; and he can roast a wild pig with the same skill as he can shoot it.

For his part, Aronnax is looking for rare animal specimens, and is delighted when Conseil manages to capture a rare bird of paradise. It took no skill, Conseil admits; the bird had become drunk on the fruit of the nutmeg tree which had fermented in the sun.

The three are enjoying an impromptu luau and Conseil suggests that they spend the night on the island. "What do you say we never go back?" Ned replies.

And that's when a stone lands at their feet.

The island is inhabited by Papuans, natives of New Guinea, and the three companions find themselves fleeing through the forest from a hail of stones and arrows. They get to the beach ahead of the natives, (Ned carrying the roast pig under one arm and a couple small kangaroos in the other), and row back the the Nautilus.

Verne's own contradictory feelings about race can be capsulized in brief exchange here. When the first stones begin to pelt them from the trees, Ned wonders if they were thrown by monkeys. "Or something of that order," Conseil replies, "Savages!" As we see in other places, Verne was no champion of colonialism; but in places his writing still betrays a condescending, paternalistic attitude towards the less civilized races.

Nemo, with his contempt for civilization, responds to the news sarcastically. "Are you astonished, Monsieur le Professeur, that having set foot on land, you discovered savages?" As far as he's concerned all the nations of the world are inhabited by savages. But he seems unconcerned that the Papuans might attack the Nautilus.

For a while, his confidence seems justified. The natives are not sure what to make of the Nautilus, and so for the time being they are content to simply watch from a distance. Aronnax observes that he could easily pick one of their chiefs off with his rifle, but decides that it would be better to wait. He muses that "There is a tacit agreement between Europeans and savages: Europeans may retaliate but do not attack." It does not seem to occur to Aronnax that by trespassing on the island, he and his friends were the aggressors.
From the safety of the Nautilus, Conseil happily adopts a live and let live attitude.
"What about those savages?" Conseil asked me. "If Monsieur doesn't mind my saying so, they look rather harmless to me!" 
"Nevertheless, my lad, they are cannibals." 
"One can be a cannibal and be respectable," replied Conseil. "just as one can be greedy about food and yet be a good man. One does not exclude the other."
But it is the mild-mannered, easy-going Conseil who precipiates the crisis. As the crew is drawing up the nets for the day's fishing, Aronnax finds a rare type of shell which spirals in the opposite direction than most do. "A left-handed shell!"

As the Professor and his servant examine this rarity, one of the natives shatters it with a well-aimed stone from a sling. Outraged, Conseil grabs the Professor's rifle and shoots at the native, breaking a bracelet on the man's arm. "The knave! ...I'd rather he had broken my shoulder than that shell!"

Now the unspoken truce has been broken. The Papuans board their canoes and make for the Nautilus, shooting arrows as they advance. Nemo serenely throws a switch which automatically closes the hatches, but Aronnax does not share his calm. Eventually they will need to open those hatches to replenish the Nautilus' air supply; and then the Papuans will swarm aboard.

The next day, just as the tide is finally beginning to raise the Nautilus, Nemo orders the hatches opened. As Aronnax fears, the Papuans gather around to climb down the ladder into the sub. But as soon as they try, they are hurled back as if by an invisible force! Nemo has electrified the railing of the ladder, making it impossible for anyone to enter. Terrified, the Papuans flee the Nautilus, and as the tide lifts it, precisely at the minute Nemo predicted, the submarine continues on its voyage.

For the next few days, Nemo performs experiments, recording the temperature of the ocean at different levels. Aronnax finds these experiments fascinating, but tells Nemo that because he has vowed to never return to land, no other scientists will ever benefit from his discoveries. "Since chance has joined our destinies," Nemo replies, "I can tell you the results of my observations."

Several days later, the Professor is up on deck at about the time the Second in Command performs his ritual scan of the horizon. This time, instead of reporting, "Nautron respoc lorni virch," as he usually does, he says something different. Nemo hurries up to the deck and looks out on the horizon himself. When Aronnax lifts up his own spyglass to see what they're looking at, Nemo snatches it away from him.
"Monsieur Aronnax," he said in a somewhat commanding tone, "I am asking you to observe one of the conditions of our bargain." 
"What is that, Captain?" 
"You must be confined, you and your companions, until I decide to grant you your freedom again."
Aronnax, Ned and Conseil are hustled into the cell they were originally placed in. Food is brought for them, which at first they find curious. But soon after they finish their dinner, one by one, they fall asleep, and Aronnax realizes that the food must have been drugged. Something was going down that Nemo did not want them to know about. But what?

Aronnax awakens in his own room, as if nothing had happened. He goes about his usual activities. After a while, though, Nemo comes to him and asks if he has any medical training.

During the night, one of his crew has been severely injured. Nemo is vague as to how it happened. "A collision broke one of the levers in the engine room and it hit this man on the head. The second-in-command was in danger. He threw himself forward to receive the blow -- a brother gives his life for a brother -- a friend dies for a friend -- what could be simpler! That is the law aboard the Nautilus!"

The man's condition is bad. Aronnax judges that he will die within a couple hours. There is nothing that can be done to save him. They watch over the dying man in silence for a while, then Nemo dismisses the Professor.

The next day Nemo invites Aronnax for another undersea excursion. Both Conseil and Ned join him this time, as well as several other crewmen. Nemo leads the group to a fantastic coral garden on the sea floor; a cemetary, where the dead crewman is buried in strange, silent and solemn ceremony, beside his crewmates who have died before him, in a tomb which will be sealed by the coral polyps.

Afterwards, Aronnax speaks with Nemo.
"Your dead sleep quietly there, Captain, well beyond the reach of sharks!' 
"Yes, monsieur," Captain Nemo replied gravely. "Beyond the reach of sharks -- and -- of men!"

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Part 2: Captain Nemo

A mysterious sea creature unknown to science has been spotted in the oceans. Vessels have been struck by this leviathan and the U.S. Navy has dispatched one of it's warships, the Abraham Lincoln, to hunt down the beast. Pierre Aronnax, an eminent naturalist from the Paris Museum, joined the expedition, hoping to classify a new cetacean; but he got more than he bargained for when he got knocked overboard and ended up on the creature's back.

The "creature" has turned out to be a submarine vessel and not a narwhale after all. Professor Aronnax, his servant Conseil, and their friend Ned Land, a Canadian harpooner, are now captives on board this vessel and are about to meet its enigmatic commander.

Earlier, when the three were waiting in their cell, Professor Aronnax had speculated, "I think that a mere chance has let us into an importunate secret. So, if the crew of this underwater craft is interested in keeping it, and if their interest is of more consequence that the lives of three men, I should conclude that our existence is more than a little compromised."

The captain of the submarine now confirms this guess. He tells them frankly that he regards them as an annoying intrusion and that he has thought long and hard on how to deal with them. Aronnax protests that the intrusion was unintentional, and that the Navy vessel thought it was chasing a sea monster.

"Mounsieur Aronnax, would you venture to suggest that your frigate would not have pursued and bombarded a submarine vessel as readily as it did a monster?" The Professor does not have a good answer for that.

The captain goes on to tell them he has a right to treat them as enemies and throw them back into the sea where he found them.

"It might be the right of a savage," Aronnax protests, "but not of a civilized man."

This provokes an angry response. "Mounsieur le Professeur... I am not what you would call a civilized man!"

But the captain has decided to have mercy on his unwanted guests. They may remain on board his ship. The only condition he places on them is that on occasion he may require them to remain sequestered in their cabin; apart from that they are free to go wherever they like aboard the ship.
"Forgive me, sir... but this freedom is only the one that all prisoners have, of being able to walk about the cell! That cannot possibly be sufficient for us.... you are abusing your position to take advantage of us! This is cruelty!" 
"No, monsieur, it is clemency. You are prisoners of war! ... You attacked me! You have stumbled on a secret that no man on earth shall ever penetrate, the secret of my whole existence!"
Ned doesn't like this situation one bit, but Professor Aronnax does not see they have any choice but agree. The Captain tells him he might not find it so bad. He is familiar with Aronnax's work, and has a copy of his book in his own library. This is undoubtedly why he chose to spare them. He recognizes Aronnax as a fellow scientist. And perhaps he has been lonely as well.
"Let me tell you, Professor, you will not regret the time you spend on board. You are going to travel through a wonderland. Astonishment and amazement will probably become your habitual state of mind. ... I plan to revisit, in another underwater journey around the world -- perhaps it will be my last, who knows? -- everything that I have so far been able to study on the bottom of the sea, where I have so often been, and you shall be my fellow student. From this day on, you will be entering a new world, you will be seeing what no man has yet seen ... and our planet, thanks to me, will deliver up to you it's last secrets."
Ned and Conseil obviously don't count. But Aronnax is dazzled by the scientific opportunities that have opened up for him.

"How should I address you?" the Professor asks.

"To you, I am just Captain Nemo. To me, you and your companions are just passengers on board the Nautilus." Verne chose to name the submarine after an early submersible craft built by the American inventor Robert Fulton. He tried selling it to Napoleon, but the Emperor could see no use for it in invading Russia and so turned Fulton down. "Nemo" is Latin for "No one", and is symbolic of how the Captain has cut off all ties to his former life on the land. As far as the world is concerned, the man he was is dead, just as the surface world is dead to him.

Nemo takes the Professor to his private dining room for dinner. Ned and Conseil are permitted to dine in a cabin of their own. A bit of classism here, perhaps unconscious on Verne's part, perhaps not. Aronnax is treated by the Captain as an equal; the servant Conseil and the working class harpooner Ned are not. Aronnax is astounded to learn that all of the food on the table come from the sea. "What you believe to be meat, Professor, is only fillet of turtle. And here is some dolphin's liver that you would take for a pork stew. ...there is a cream supplied by the udders of cetaceans, and sugar by the great fucus plants that grown in the North Sea." Even the Captain's cigars are rolled from a variety of seaweed rich in nicotine.

Nemo expresses his rapturous love of the sea.
"Yes, I love it! The sea is everything! ...On the surface, they can still exercise their iniquitous laws, fight, devour each other, and indulge in all their earthly horrors. But thirty feet below its surface their power ceases, their influence fades, and their dominion vanishes! Ah, monsieur, to live in the bosom of the sea! Only there can independence be found! There I recognize no master! There I am free!"
Nemo gives Professor Aronnax a guided tour of the Nautilus. We see his library containing works on virtually every subject, (except, Aronnax observes, political economy). Verne includes shout-outs here to some of his own influences such as Victor Hugo, Michelet and George Sand. These are writers who were out of favor with Napoleon III, the then ruler of France, and so their mention was something of a political statement as well as a literary one. Nemo also has a small but impressive art collection; " last souvenirs of a world that is dead for me." Aronnax is impressed by his collection of specimens of aquatic plant and animal life.

Nemo shows him more of the submarine, answering his questions about how air is supplied underwater, how the vessel can endure the crushing pressures of the ocean depths, and how it can navigate underwater. Here we have Verne in his glory. He has thought out a lot of the details and provides the figures for his readers. Verne tried to be meticulous about these things and had his brother, an engineer, check his math for him in many of his books.

Nemo explains the puzzle Aronnax mentioned early on in the book; how such a fantastic submarine could be built without anyone knowing about it. He had it fabricated piece by piece by several different firms in different countries, each order under a different assumed name. He then had the pieces assembled by his own crew in an undisclosed location.

When Aronnax asks how the submarine is powered, Nemo explains that it all comes from electricity. "My electricity is not the electricity known to the rest of the world," Nemo says enigmatically. Some readers have inferred from this that the Nautilus, like its namesake in the US Navy a century later, is atomic-powered.

At the end of the tour, Nemo leaves the Professor back in the saloon, where he is joined by Ned and Conseil. As they discuss their situation, (Ned wonders aloud if the crew of the Nautilus are also run by electricity), panels on the wall open up and they receive a breathtaking view of the ocean depths through a large window. Even Ned, who has calmed down a bit with a full belly but is still unhappy with their situation, is impressed by the spectacle of the fish swimming by.

"Why should you care, Ned," Conseil teases him. "You know nothing about fish."

"I know nothing about fish -- I a fisherman!"

Conseil tells him he knows nothing about the classification of fish, which Ned strenuously denies. "They can be classified into fish that can be eaten and fish that can't!"

So here Verne gives us another dose of educational material. Conseil patiently explains to Ned the different subdivisions and orders of aquatic life; and to each, Ned gives his own analysis based on his culinary standards. But when a school of fish swims by, Conseil has to admit he has no idea what they are. He has picked up a lot of book-learning from working among savants at the Paris Museum and has a thorough knowledge of classification; he's less adept at actually identifying fish. So we get a bit, which becomes a running gag throughout the book, where Ned will name the fish and Conseil will give it's genus and species. As Professor Aronnax observes, "Without a doubt, Ned and Conseil put together would have made one distinguished naturalist.

A couple weeks pass. The Professor sees no more of Nemo in this time. Aronnax takes to spending some time each morning up on the deck of the Nautilus. Each morning, the ship's second-in-command comes up on deck, scans the horizon with a telescope and says the same thing: "Nautron respoc lorni virch." It takes several weeks for Aronnax to suss out that the phrase must mean something like "No ships on the horizon", but for the time being it's "Klaatu barata nikto" for all he knows.

Then the Professor receives a note from the Captain inviting him and his friends on a hunting trip in the forests of the Island of Crespo. This surprises Aronnax because he didn't think Nemo ever went on the land. He soon finds out that Nemo is referring to an underwater forest. Nemo explains the advanced diving suits he has invented which will allow them to walk about on the ocean floor without having to be connected by air hoses to the surface, as was necessary with diving gear of the previous century. He has also devised powerful air rifles, capable of operating underwater, which shoot electrically-charged glass bullets.

Aronnax is dazzled by the wondrous plant and animal life of the undersea forest. The hunting party spends several hours on the sea floor. The Professor has a frightening encounter with a large, spider-like crustacean, which Nemo easily dispatches. Nemo also shoots a sea otter with a magnificent coat; a species which Aronnax observes will probably soon become extinct. This occurs a couple other places in the text: Aronnax observes that a creature is an endangered species, but the critter is killed anyway. The notion of not killing the critter doesn't seem to occur to anybody.

After a day in the submarine forests, Nemo's party returns to the Nautilus.

NEXT:  French explorers of the South Pacific; a few days on land; Captain Nemo's Thunderbolt; and a New Mystery.