Travel Gear: A Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne: Chapters 21 & 22

One of the best things about a theme party for me is enjoying all of the incidentals that go with it: the “staying in the mode” through the inspiration of the books, films, posters, TV shows, music, and whatever else is out there. The Travel Gear posts will showcase things which keep us inspired.

A Journey to the Center of the Earth

by Jules Verne

This is the closest I could find to the Scholastic Book Services Edition, October 1965, that was the copy my father owned and I read when I was a kid. I believe the text is nearly identical to the English Translation, Griffith Farran London, 1871. I compared the texts at this website and found few differences:

I believe that since this is the 1871 text it is technically in the public domain, so for the convenience of our guests, I’m posting two chapters a week right here on the site. However, if you wish to own it or find it easier to read in either hard form or Kindle (which as far as I know is free)—and which I strongly recommend—here are the links:


Chapter 21

Under the Ocean

By the next day we had nearly forgotten our past sufferings. The first sensation I experienced was surprise at not being thirsty, and I actually asked myself the reason. The running stream, which flowed in rippling wavelets at my feet, was the satisfactory reply.

We breakfasted with a good appetite, and then drank our fill of the excellent water. I felt myself quite a new man, ready to go anywhere my uncle chose to lead. I began to think. Why should not a man as seriously convinced as my uncle, succeed, with so excellent a guide as worthy Hans, and so devoted a nephew as myself? These were the brilliant ideas which now invaded my brain. Had the proposition now been made to go back to the summit ofMount Sneffels, I should have declined the offer in a most indignant manner.

But fortunately there was no question of going up. We were about to descend farther into the interior of the earth.

“Let us be moving,” I cried, awakening the echoes of the old world.

We resumed our march on Thursday at eight o’clock in the morning. The great granite tunnel, as it went round by sinuous and winding ways, presented every now and then sharp turns, and in fact all the appearance of a labyrinth. Its direction, however, was in general towards the southwest. My uncle made several pauses in order to consult his compass.

The gallery now began to trend downwards in a horizontal direction, with about two inches of fall in every furlong. The murmuring stream flowed quietly at our feet. I could not but compare it to some familiar spirit, guiding us through the earth, and I dabbled my fingers in its tepid water, which sang like a naiad as we progressed. My good humor began to assume a mythological character.

As for my uncle he began to complain of the horizontal character of the road. His route, he found, began to be indefinitely prolonged, instead of “sliding down the celestial ray,” according to his expression.

But we had no choice; and as long as our road led towards the center—however little progress we made, there was no reason to complain.

Moreover, from time to time the slopes were much greater, the naiad sang more loudly, and we began to dip downwards in earnest.

As yet, however, I felt no painful sensation. I had not got over the excitement of the discovery of water.

That day and the next we did a considerable amount of horizontal, and relatively very little vertical, traveling.

On Friday evening, the tenth of July, according to our estimation, we ought to have been thirty leagues to the southeast ofReykjavik, and about two leagues and a half deep. We now received a rather startling surprise.

Under our feet there opened a horrible well. My uncle was so delighted that he actually clapped his hands—as he saw how steep and sharp was the descent.

“Ah, ah!” he cried, in rapturous delight; “this take us a long way. Look at the projections of the rock. Hah!” he exclaimed, “it’s a fearful staircase!”

Hans, however, who in all our troubles had never given up the ropes, took care so to dispose of them as to prevent any accidents. Our descent then began. I dare not call it a perilous descent, for I was already too familiar with that sort of work to look upon it as anything but a very ordinary affair.

This well was a kind of narrow opening in the massive granite of the kind known as a fissure. The contraction of the terrestrial scaffolding, when it suddenly cooled, had been evidently the cause. If it had ever served in former times as a kind of funnel through which passed the eruptive masses vomited by Sneffels, I was at a loss to explain how it had left no mark. We were, in fact, descending a spiral, something like those winding staircases in use in modern houses.

We were compelled every quarter of an hour or thereabouts to sit down in order to rest our legs. Our calves ached. We then seated ourselves on some projecting rock with our legs hanging over, and gossiped while we ate a mouthful—drinking still from the pleasantly warm running stream which had not deserted us.

It is scarcely necessary to say that in this curiously shaped fissure the Hansbach had become a cascade to the detriment of its size. It was still, however, sufficient, and more, for our wants. Besides we knew that, as soon as the declivity ceased to be so abrupt, the stream must resume its peaceful course. At this moment it reminded me of my uncle, his impatience and rage, while when it flowed more peacefully, I pictured to myself the placidity of the Icelandic guide.

During the whole of two days, the sixth and seventh of July, we followed the extraordinary spiral staircase of the fissure, penetrating two leagues farther into the crust of the earth, which put us five leagues below the level of the sea. On the eighth, however, at twelve o’clock in the day, the fissure suddenly assumed a much more gentle slope still trending in a southeast direction.

The road now became comparatively easy, and at the same time dreadfully monotonous. It would have been difficult for matters to have turned out otherwise. Our peculiar journey had no chance of being diversified by landscape and scenery. At all events, such was my idea.

At length, on Wednesday the fifteenth, we were actually seven leagues (twenty-one miles) below the surface of the earth, and fifty leagues distant from themountainofSneffels. Though, if the truth be told, we were very tired, our health had resisted all suffering, and was in a most satisfactory state. Our traveler’s box of medicaments had not even been opened.

My uncle was careful to note every hour the indications of the compass, of the manometer, and of the thermometer, all which he afterwards published in his elaborate philosophical and scientific account of our remarkable voyage. He was therefore able to give an exact relation of the situation. When, therefore, he informed me that we were fifty leagues in a horizontal direction distant from our starting point, I could not suppress a loud exclamation.

“What is the matter now?” cried my uncle.

“Nothing very important, only an idea has entered my head,” was my reply.

“Well, out with it, My boy.”

“It is my opinion that if your calculations are correct we are no longer underIceland.”

“Do you think so?”

“We can very easily find out,” I replied, pulling out a map and compasses.

“You see,” I said, after careful measurement, “that I am not mistaken. We are far beyondCapePortland; and those fifty leagues to the southeast will take us into the open sea.”

“Under the open sea,” cried my uncle, rubbing his hands with a delighted air.

“Yes,” I cried, “no doubt old Ocean flows over our heads!”

“Well, my dear boy, what can be more natural! Do you not know that in the neighborhood ofNewcastlethere are coal mines which have been worked far out under the sea?”

Now my worthy uncle, the Professor, no doubt regarded this discovery as a very simple fact, but to me the idea was by no means a pleasant one. And yet when one came to think the matter over seriously, what mattered it whether the plains and mountains ofIcelandwere suspended over our devoted heads, or the mighty billows of theAtlantic Ocean? The whole question rested on the solidity of the granite roof above us. However, I soon got used to the ideal for the passage now level, now running down, and still always to the southeast, kept going deeper and deeper into the profound abysses of Mother Earth.

Three days later, on the eighteenth day of July, on a Saturday, we reached a kind of vast grotto. My uncle here paid Hans his usual six-dollars, and it was decided that the next day should be a day of rest.

Chapter 22

Sunday Below Ground

I awoke on Sunday morning without any sense of hurry and bustle attendant on an immediate departure. Though the day to be devoted to repose and reflection was spent under such strange circumstances, and in so wonderful a place, the idea was a pleasant one. Besides, we all began to get used to this kind of existence. I had almost ceased to think of the sun, of the moon, of the stars, of the trees, houses, and towns; in fact, about any terrestrial necessities. In our peculiar position we were far above such reflections.

The grotto was a vast and magnificent hall. Along its granitic soil the stream flowed placidly and pleasantly. So great a distance was it now from its fiery source that its water was scarcely lukewarm, and could be drunk without delay or difficulty.

After a frugal breakfast, the Professor made up his mind to devote some hours to putting his notes and calculations in order.

“In the first place,” he said, “I have a good many to verify and prove, in order that we may know our exact position. I wish to be able on our return to the upper regions to make a map of our journey, a kind of vertical section of the globe, which will be, as it were, the profile of the expedition.”

“That would indeed be a curious work, Uncle; but can you make your observations with anything like certainty and precision?”

“I can. I have never on any occasion failed to note with great care the angles and slopes. I am certain as to having made no mistake. Take the compass and examine how she points.”

I looked at the instrument with care.

“East one quarter southeast.”

“Very good,” resumed the Professor, noting the observation, and going through some rapid calculations. “I make out that we have journeyed two hundred and fifty miles from the point of our departure.”

“Then the mighty waves of theAtlanticare rolling over our heads?”


“And at this very moment it is possible that fierce tempests are raging above, and that men and ships are battling against the angry blasts just over our heads?”

“It is quite within the range of possibility,” rejoined my uncle, smiling.

“And that whales are playing in shoals, thrashing the bottom of the sea, the roof of our adamantine prison?”

“Be quite at rest on that point; there is no danger of their breaking through. But to return to our calculations. We are to the southeast, two hundred and fifty miles from the base of Sneffels, and, according to my preceding notes, I think we have gone sixteen leagues in a downward direction.”

“Sixteen leagues—fifty miles!” I cried.

“I am sure of it.”

“But that is the extreme limit allowed by science for the thickness of the earth’s crust,” I replied, referring to my geological studies.

“I do not contravene that assertion,” was his quiet answer.

“And at this stage of our journey, according to all known laws on the increase of heat, there should be here a temperature of fifteen hundred degrees of Reaumur.”

“There should be—you say, my boy.”

“In which case this granite would not exist, but be in a state of fusion.”

“But you perceive, my boy, that it is not so, and that facts, as usual, are very stubborn things, overruling all theories.”

“I am forced to yield to the evidence of my senses, but I am nevertheless very much surprised.”

“What heat does the thermometer really indicate?” continued the philosopher.

“Twenty-seven six-tenths.”

“So that science is wrong by fourteen hundred and seventy-four degrees and four-tenths. According to which, it is demonstrated that the proportional increase in temperature is an exploded error. Humphry Davy here shines forth in all his glory. He is right, and I have acted wisely to believe him. Have you any answer to make to this statement?”

Had I chosen to have spoken, I might have said a great deal. I in no way admitted the theory of Humphry Davy—I still held out for the theory of proportional increase of heat, though I did not feel it.

I was far more willing to allow that this chimney of an extinct volcano was covered by lava of a kind refractory to heat—in fact a bad conductor—which did not allow the great increase of temperature to percolate through its sides. The hot water jet supported my view of the matter.

But without entering on a long and useless discussion, or seeking for new arguments to controvert my uncle, I contented myself with taking up facts as they were.

“Well, sir, I take for granted that all your calculations are correct, but allow me to draw from them a rigorous and definite conclusion.”

“Go on, my boy—have your say,” cried my uncle goodhumoredly.

“At the place where we now are, under the latitude ofIceland, the terrestrial depth is about fifteen hundred and eighty-three leagues.”

“Fifteen hundred eighty-three and a quarter.”

“Well, suppose we say sixteen hundred in round numbers. Now, out of a voyage of sixteen hundred leagues we have completed sixteen.”

“As you say, what then?”

“At the expense of a diagonal journey of no less than eighty-five leagues.”


“We have been twenty days about it.”

“Exactly twenty days.”

“Now sixteen is the hundredth part of our contemplated expedition. If we go on in this way we shall be two thousand days, that is about five years and a half, going down.”

The Professor folded his arms, listened, but did not speak.

“Without counting that if a vertical descent of sixteen leagues costs us a horizontal of eighty-five, we shall have to go about eight thousand leagues to the southeast, and we must therefore come out somewhere in the circumference long before we can hope to reach the center.”

“Bother your calculations,” cried my uncle in one of his old rages. “On what basis do they rest? How do you know that this passage does not take us direct to the end we require? Moreover, I have in my favor, fortunately, a precedent. What I have undertaken to do, another has done, and he having succeeded, why should I not be equally successful?”

“I hope, indeed, you will, but still, I suppose I may be allowed to—”

“You are allowed to hold your tongue,” cried Professor Hardwigg, “when you talk so unreasonably as this.”

I saw at once that the old doctorial Professor was still alive in my uncle—and fearful to rouse his angry passions, I dropped the unpleasant subject.

“Now, then,” he explained, “consult the manometer. What does that indicate?”

“A considerable amount of pressure.”

“Very good. You see, then, that by descending slowly, and by gradually accustoming ourselves to the density of this lower atmosphere, we shall not suffer.”

“Well, I suppose not, except it may be a certain amount of pain in the ears,” was my rather grim reply.

“That, my dear boy, is nothing, and you will easily get rid of that source of discomfort by bringing the exterior air in communication with the air contained in your lungs.”

“Perfectly,” said I, for I had quite made up my mind in no wise to contradict my uncle. “I should fancy almost that I should experience a certain amount of satisfaction in making a plunge into this dense atmosphere. Have you taken note of how wonderfully sound is propagated?”

“Of course I have. There can be no doubt that a journey into the interior of the earth would be an excellent cure for deafness.”

“But then, Uncle,” I ventured mildly to observe, “this density will continue to increase.”

“Yes—according to a law which, however, is scarcely defined. It is true that the intensity of weight will diminish just in proportion to the depth to which we go. You know very well that it is on the surface of the earth that its action is most powerfully felt, while on the contrary, in the very center of the earth bodies cease to have any weight at all.”

“I know that is the case, but as we progress will not the atmosphere finally assume the density of water?”

“I know it; when placed under the pressure of seven hundred and ten atmospheres,” cried my uncle with imperturbable gravity.

“And when we are still lower down?” I asked with natural anxiety.

“Well, lower down, the density will become even greater.”

“Then how shall we be able to make our way through this atmospheric fog?”

“Well, my worthy nephew, we must ballast ourselves by filling our pockets with stones,” said Professor Hardwigg.

“Faith, Uncle, you have an answer for everything,” was my only reply.

I began to feel that it was unwise of me to go any farther into the wide field of hypotheses for I should certainly have revived some difficulty, or rather impossibility, that would have enraged the Professor.

It was evident, nevertheless, that the air under a pressure which might be multiplied by thousands of atmospheres, would end by becoming perfectly solid, and that then admitting our bodies resisted the pressure, we should have to stop, in spite of all the reasonings in the world. Facts overcome all arguments.

But I thought it best not to urge this argument. My uncle would simply have quoted the example of Saknussemm. Supposing the learned Icelander’s journey ever really to have taken place—there was one simple answer to be made:

In the sixteenth century neither the barometer nor the manometer had been invented—how, then, could Saknussemm have been able to discover when he did reach the center of the earth?

This unanswerable and learned objection I, however, kept to myself and, bracing up my courage, awaited the course of events-little aware of how adventurous yet were to be the incidents of our remarkable journey.

The rest of this day of leisure and repose was spent in calculation and conversation. I made it a point to agree with the Professor in everything; but I envied the perfect indifference of Hans, who, without taking any such trouble about the cause and effect, went blindly onwards wherever destiny chose to lead him.

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