Travel Gear: A Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne: Chapters 27 & 28

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: http://jv.gilead.org.il/vt/c_earth/

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:

http://bit.ly/AJourneyBook

http://amzn.to/AJourneyKindle

Enjoy!

Chapter 27

The Central Sea

At first I saw absolutely nothing. My eyes, wholly unused to the effulgence of light, could not bear the sudden brightness; and I was compelled to close them. When I was able to reopen them, I stood still, far more stupefied than astonished. Not all the wildest effects of imagination could have conjured up such a scene! “The sea—the sea,” I cried.

“Yes,” replied my uncle, in a tone of pardonable pride; “theCentralSea. No future navigator will deny the fact of my having discovered it; and hence of acquiring a right of giving it a name.”

It was quite true. A vast, limitless expanse of water, the end of a lake if not of an ocean, spread before us, until it was lost in the distance. The shore, which was very much indented, consisted of a beautiful soft golden sand, mixed with small shells, the long-deserted home of some of the creatures of a past age. The waves broke incessantly—and with a peculiarly sonorous murmur, to be found in underground localities. A slight frothy flake arose as the wind blew along the pellucid waters; and many a dash of spray was blown into my face. The mighty superstructure of rock which rose above to an inconceivable height left only a narrow opening—but where we stood, there was a large margin of strand. On all sides were capes and promontories and enormous cliffs, partially worn by the eternal breaking of the waves, through countless ages! And as I gazed from side to side, the mighty rocks faded away like a fleecy film of cloud.

It was in reality an ocean, with an the usual characteristics of an inland sea, only horribly wild—so rigid, cold and savage.

One thing startled and puzzled me greatly. How was it that I was able to look upon that vast sheet of water instead of being plunged in utter darkness? The vast landscape before me was lit up like day. But there was wanting the dazzling brilliancy, the splendid irradiation of the sun; the pale cold illumination of the moon; the brightness of the stars. The illuminating power in this subterranean region, from its trembling and Rickering character, its clear dry whiteness, the very slight elevation of its temperature, its great superiority to that of the moon, was evidently electric; something in the nature of the aurora borealis, only that its phenomena were constant, and able to light up the whole of the ocean cavern.

The tremendous vault above our heads, the sky, so to speak, appeared to be composed of a conglomeration of nebulous vapors, in constant motion. I should originally have supposed that, under such an atmospheric pressure as must exist in that place, the evaporation of water could not really take place, and yet from the action of some physical law, which escaped my memory, there were heavy and dense clouds rolling along that mighty vault, partially concealing the roof. Electric currents produced astonishing play of light and shade in the distance, especially around the heavier clouds. Deep shadows were cast beneath, and then suddenly, between two clouds, there would come a ray of unusual beauty, and remarkable intensity. And yet it was not like the sun, for it gave no heat.

The effect was sad and excruciatingly melancholy. Instead of a noble firmament of blue, studded with stars, there was above me a heavy roof of granite, which seemed to crush me.

Gazing around, I began to think of the theory of the English captain who compared the earth to a vast hollow sphere in the interior of which the air is retained in a luminous state by means of atmospheric pressure, while two stars, Pluto and Proserpine, circled there in their mysterious orbits. After all, suppose the old fellow was right!

In truth, we were imprisoned—bound as it were, in a vast excavation. Its width it was impossible to make out; the shore, on either hand, widening rapidly until lost to sight; while its length was equally uncertain. A haze on the distant horizon bounded our view. As to its height, we could see that it must be many miles to the roof. Looking upward, it was impossible to discover where the stupendous roof began. The lowest of the clouds must have been floating at an elevation of two thousand yards, a height greater than that of terrestrial vapors, which circumstance was doubtless owing to the extreme density of the air.

I use the word “cavern” in order to give an idea of the place. I cannot describe its awful grandeur; human language fails to convey an idea of its savage sublimity. Whether this singular vacuum had or had not been caused by the sudden cooling of the earth when in a state of fusion, I could not say. I had read of most wonderful and gigantic caverns—but, none in any way like this.

The great grotto of Guachara, in Colombia, visited by the learned Humboldt; the vast and partially explored Mammoth Cave in Kentucky—what were these holes in the earth to that in which I stood in speechless admiration! with its vapory clouds, its electric light, and the mighty ocean slumbering in its bosom! Imagination, not description, can alone give an idea of the splendor and vastness of the cave.

I gazed at these marvels in profound silence. Words were utterly wanting to indicate the sensations of wonder I experienced. I seemed, as I stood upon that mysterious shore, as if I were some wandering inhabitant of a distant planet, present for the first time at the spectacle of some terrestrial phenomena belonging to another existence. To give body and existence to such new sensations would have required the coinage of new words—and here my feeble brain found itself wholly at fault. I looked on, I thought, I reflected, I admired, in a state of stupefaction not altogether unmingled with fear!

The unexpected spectacle restored some color to my pallid cheeks. I seemed to be actually getting better under the influence of this novelty. Moreover, the vivacity of the dense atmosphere reanimated my body by inflating my lungs with unaccustomed oxygen.

It will be readily conceived that after an imprisonment of forty-seven days, in a dark and miserable tunnel it was with infinite delight that I breathed this saline air. It was like the genial, reviving influence of the salt sea waves.

My uncle had already got over the first surprise.

With the Latin poet Horace his idea was that—

Not to admire is all the art I know, To make man happy and to keep him so.

“Well,” he said, after giving me time thoroughly to appreciate the marvels of this underground sea, “do you feel strong enough to walk up and down?”

“Certainly,” was my ready answer, “nothing would give me greater pleasure.”

“Well then, my boy,” he said, lean on my arm, “and we will stroll along the beach.”

I accepted his offer eagerly, and we began to walk along the shores of this extraordinary lake. To our left were abrupt rocks, piled one upon the other—a stupendous titanic pile; down their sides leaped innumerable cascades, which at last, becoming limpid and murmuring streams, were lost in the waters of the lake. Light vapors, which rose here and there, and floated in fleecy clouds from rock to rock, indicatedhot springs, which also poured their superfluity into the vast reservoir at our feet.

Among them I recognized our old and faithful stream, the Hansbach, which, lost in that wild basin, seemed as if it had been flowing since the creation of the world.

“We shall miss our excellent friend,” I remarked, with a deep sigh.

“Bah!” said my uncle testily, “what matters it? That or another, it is all the same.”

I thought the remark ungrateful, and felt almost inclined to say so; but I forbore.

At this moment my attention was attracted by an unexpected spectacle. After we had gone about five hundred yards, we suddenly turned a steep promontory, and found ourselves close to a lofty forest! It consisted of straight trunks with tufted tops, in shape like parasols. The air seemed to have no effect upon these trees—which in spite of a tolerable breeze remained as still and motionless as if they had been petrified.

I hastened forward. I could find no name for these singular formations. Did they not belong to the two thousand and more known trees—or were we to make the discovery of a new growth? By no means. When we at last reached the forest, and stood beneath the trees, my surprise gave way to admiration.

In truth, I was simply in the presence of a very ordinary product of the earth, of singular and gigantic proportions. My uncle unhesitatingly called them by their real names.

“It is only,” he said, in his coolest manner, “a forest of mushrooms.”

On close examination I found that he was not mistaken. Judge of the development attained by this product of damp hot soils. I had heard that the lycoperdon giganteum reaches nine feet in circumference, but here were white mushrooms, nearly forty feet high, and with tops of equal dimensions. They grew in countless thousands—the light could not make its way through their massive substance, and beneath them reigned a gloomy and mystic darkness.

Still I wished to go forward. The cold in the shades of this singular forest was intense. For nearly an hour we wandered about in this visible darkness. At length I left the spot, and once more returned to the shores of the lake, to light and comparative warmth.

But the amazing vegetation of subterraneous land was not confined to gigantic mushrooms. New wonders awaited us at every step. We had not gone many hundred yards, when we came upon a mighty group of other trees with discolored leaves—the common humble trees of Mother Earth, of an exorbitant and phenomenal size: lycopods a hundred feet high; flowering ferns as tall as pines; gigantic grasses!

“Astonishing, magnificent, splendid!” cried my uncle; “here we have before us the whole flora of the second period of the world, that of transition. Behold the humble plants of our gardens, which in the first ages of the world were mighty trees. Look around you, my dear Harry. No botanist ever before gazed on such a sight!”

My uncle’s enthusiasm, always a little more than was required, was now excusable.

“You are right, Uncle,” I remarked. “Providenceappears to have designed the preservation in this vast and mysterious hothouse of antediluvian plants, to prove the sagacity of learned men in figuring them so marvelously on paper.”

“Well said, my boy—very well said; it is indeed a mighty hothouse. But you would also be within the bounds of reason and common sense, if you added that it is also a vast menagerie.”

I looked rather anxiously around. If the animals were as exaggerated as the plants, the matter would certainly be serious.

“A menagerie?”

“Doubtless. Look at the dust we are treading under foot—behold the bones with which the whole soil of the seashore is covered—”

“Bones,” I replied, “yes, certainly, the bones of antediluvian animals.”

I stooped down as I spoke, and picked up one or two singular remains, relics of a bygone age. It was easy to give a name to these gigantic bones, in some instances as big as trunks of trees.

“Here is, clearly, the lower jawbone of a mastodon,” I cried, almost as warmly and enthusiastically as my uncle; “here are the molars of the Dinotherium; here is a leg bone which belonged to the Megatherium. You are right, Uncle, it is indeed a menagerie; for the mighty animals to which these bones once belonged, have lived and died on the shores of this subterranean sea, under the shadow of these plants. Look, yonder are whole skeletons—and yet—”

“And yet, nephew?” said my uncle, noticing that I suddenly came to a full stop.

“I do not understand the presence of such beasts in granite caverns, however vast and prodigious,” was my reply.

“Why not?” said my uncle, with very much of his old professional impatience.

“Because it is well known that animal life only existed on earth during the secondary period, when the sedimentary soil was formed by the alluviums, and thus replaced the hot and burning rocks of the primitive age.”

“I have listened to you earnestly and with patience, Harry, and I have a simple and clear answer to your objections: and that is, that this itself is a sedimentary soil.”

“How can that be at such enormous depth from the surface of the earth?”

“The fact can be explained both simply and geologically. At a certain period, the earth consisted only of an elastic crust, liable to alternative upward and downward movements in virtue of the law of attraction. It is very probable that many a landslip took place in those days, and that large portions of sedimentary soil were cast into huge and mighty chasms.”

“Quite possible,” I dryly remarked. “But, Uncle, if these antediluvian animals formerly lived in these subterranean regions, what more likely than that one of these monsters may at this moment be concealed behind one of yonder mighty rocks.”

As I spoke, I looked keenly around, examining with care every point of the horizon; but nothing alive appeared to exist on these deserted shores.

I now felt rather fatigued, and told my uncle so. The walk and excitement were too much for me in my weak state. I therefore seated myself at the end of a promontory, at the foot of which the waves broke in incessant rolls. I looked round a bay formed by projections of vast granitic rocks. At the extreme end was a little port protected by huge pyramids of stones. A brig and three or four schooners might have lain there with perfect ease. So natural did it seem, that every minute my imagination induced me to expect a vessel coming out under all sail and making for the open sea under the influence of a warm southerly breeze.

But the fantastic illusion never lasted more than a minute. We were the only living creatures in this subterranean world!

During certain periods there was an utter cessation of wind, when a silence deeper, more terrible than the silence of the desert fell upon these solitary and arid rocks—and seemed to hang like a leaden weight upon the waters of this singular ocean. I sought, amid the awful stillness, to penetrate through the distant fog, to tear down the veil which concealed the mysterious distance. What unspoken words were murmured by my trembling lips—what questions did I wish to ask and did not! Where did this sea end—to what did it lead? Should we ever be able to examine its distant shores?

But my uncle had no doubts about the matter. He was convinced that our enterprise would in the end be successful. For my part, I was in a state of painful indecision—I desired to embark on the journey and to succeed, and still I feared the result.

After we had passed an hour or more in silent contemplation of the wondrous spectacle, we rose and went down towards the bank on our way to the grotto, which I was not sorry to gain. After a slight repast, I sought refuge in slumber, and at length, after many and tedious struggles, sleep came over my weary eyes.

Chapter 28

Launching the Raft

On the morning of the next day, to my great surprise, I awoke completely restored. I thought a bath would be delightful after my long illness and sufferings. So, soon after rising, I went and plunged into the waters of this newMediterranean. The bath was cool, fresh and invigorating.

I came back to breakfast with an excellent appetite. Hans, our worthy guide, thoroughly understood how to cook such eatables as we were able to provide; he had both fire and water at discretion, so that he was enabled slightly to vary the weary monotony of our ordinary repast.

Our morning meal was like a capital English breakfast, with coffee by way of a windup. And never had this delicious beverage been so welcome and refreshing.

My uncle had sufficient regard for my state of health not to interrupt me in the enjoyment of the meal, but he was evidently delighted when I had finished.

“Now then,” said he, “come with me. It is the height of the tide, and I am anxious to study its curious phenomena.”

“What,” I cried, rising in astonishment, “did you say the tide, Uncle?”

“Certainly I did.”

“You do not mean to say,” I replied, in a tone of respectful doubt, “that the influence of the sun and moon is felt here below.”

“And pray why not? Are not all bodies influenced by the law of universal attraction? Why should this vast underground sea be exempt from the general law, the rule of the universe? Besides, there is nothing like that which is proved and demonstrated. Despite the great atmospheric pressure down here, you will notice that this inland sea rises and falls with as much regularity as theAtlanticitself.”

As my uncle spoke, we reached the sandy shore, and saw and heard the waves breaking monotonously on the beach. They were evidently rising.

“This is truly the flood,” I cried, looking at the water at my feet.

“Yes, my excellent nephew,” replied my uncle, rubbing his hands with the gusto of a philosopher, “and you see by these several streaks of foam that the tide rises at least ten or twelve feet.”

“It is indeed marvelous.”

“By no means,” he responded; “on the contrary, it is quite natural.”

“It may appear so in your eyes, my dear uncle,” was my reply, “but all the phenomena of the place appear to me to partake of the marvelous. It is almost impossible to believe that which I see. Who in his wildest dreams could have imagined that, beneath the crust of our earth, there could exist a real ocean, with ebbing and flowing tides, with its changes of winds, and even its storms! I for one should have laughed the suggestion to scorn.”

“But, Harry, my boy, why not?” inquired my uncle, with a pitying smile; “is there any physical reason in opposition to it?”

“Well, if we give up the great theory of the central heat of the earth, I certainly can offer no reasons why anything should be looked upon as impossible.”

“Then you will own,” he added, “that the system of Sir Humphry Davy is wholly justified by what we have seen?”

“I allow that it is—and that point once granted, I certainly can see no reason for doubting the existence of seas and other wonders, even countries, in the interior of the globe.”

“That is so—but of course these varied countries are uninhabited?”

“Well, I grant that it is more likely than not: still, I do not see why this sea should not have given shelter to some species of unknown fish.”

“Hitherto we have not discovered any, and the probabilities are rather against our ever doing so,” observed the Professor.

I was losing my skepticism in the presence of these wonders.

“Well, I am determined to solve the question. It is my intention to try my luck with my fishing line and hook.”

“Certainly; make the experiment,” said my uncle, pleased with my enthusiasm. “While we are about it, it will certainly be only proper to discover all the secrets of this extraordinary region.”

“But, after all, where are we now?” I asked; “all this time I have quite forgotten to ask you a question, which, doubtless, your philosophical instruments have long since answered.”

“Well,” replied the Professor, “examining the situation from only one point of view, we are now distant three hundred and fifty leagues fromIceland.”

“So much?” was my exclamation.

“I have gone over the matter several times, and am sure not to have made a mistake of five hundred yards,” replied my uncle positively.

“And as to the direction—are we still going to the southeast?”

“Yes, with a western declination1 of nineteen degrees, forty-two minutes, just as it is above. As for the inclination2 I have discovered a very curious fact.”

“What may that be, Uncle? Your information interests me.”

“Why, that the needle instead of dipping towards the pole as it does on earth, in the northern hemisphere, has an upward tendency.”

“This proves,” I cried, “that the great point of magnetic attraction lies somewhere between the surface of the earth and the spot we have succeeded in reaching.”

“Exactly, my observant nephew,” exclaimed my uncle, elated and delighted, “and it is quite probable that if we succeed in getting toward the polar regions—somewhere near the seventy-third degree of latitude, where Sir James Ross discovered the magnetic pole, we shall behold the needle point directly upward. We have therefore discovered by analogy, that this great center of attraction is not situated at a very great depth.”

“Well,” said I, rather surprised, “this discovery will astonish experimental philosophers. It was never suspected.”

“Science, great, mighty and in the end unerring,” replied my uncle dogmatically, “science has fallen into many errors—errors which have been fortunate and useful rather than otherwise, for they have been the steppingstones to truth.”

After some further discussion, I turned to another matter.

“Have you any idea of the depth we have reached?”

“We are now,” continued the Professor, “exactly thirty-five leagues—above a hundred miles—down into the interior of the earth.”

“So,” said I, after measuring the distance on the map, “we are now beneath the Scottish Highlands, and have over our heads the lofty Grampian Hills.”

“You are quite right,” said the Professor, laughing; “it sounds very alarming, the weight being heavy—but the vault which supports this vast mass of earth and rock is solid and safe; the mighty Architect of the Universe has constructed it of solid materials. Man, even in his highest flights of vivid and poetic imagination, never thought of such things! What are the finest arches of our bridges, what the vaulted roofs of our cathedrals, to that mighty dome above us, and beneath which floats an ocean with its storms and calms and tides!”

“I admire it all as much as you can, Uncle, and have no fear that our granite sky will fall upon our heads. But now that we have discussed matters of science and discovery, what are your future intentions? Are you not thinking of getting back to the surface of our beautiful earth?”

This was said more as a feeler than with any hope of success.

“Go back, nephew,” cried my uncle in a tone of alarm, “you are not surely thinking of anything so absurd or cowardly. No, my intention is to advance and continue our journey. We have as yet been singularly fortunate, and henceforth I hope we shall be more so.”

“But,” said I, “how are we to cross yonder liquid plain?”

“It is not my intention to leap into it head foremost, or even to swim across it, like Leander over theHellespont. But as oceans are, after all, only great lakes, inasmuch as they are surrounded by land, so does it stand to reason, that this central sea is circumscribed by granite surroundings.”

“Doubtless,” was my natural reply.

“Well, then, do you not think that when once we reach the other end, we shall find some means of continuing our journey?”

“Probably, but what extent do you allow to this internal ocean?”

“Well, I should fancy it to extend about forty or fifty leagues—more or less.”

“But even supposing this approximation to be a correct one—what then?” I asked.

“My dear boy, we have no time for further discussion. We shall embark tomorrow.”

I looked around with surprise and incredulity. I could see nothing in the shape of boat or vessel.

“What!” I cried, “we are about to launch out upon an unknown sea; and where, if I may ask, is the vessel to carry us?”

“Well, my dear boy, it will not be exactly what you would call a vessel. For the present we must be content with a good and solid raft.”

“A raft,” I cried, incredulously, “but down here a raft is as impossible of construction as a vessel—and I am at a loss to imagine—”

“My good Harry—if you were to listen instead of talking so much, you would hear,” said my uncle, waxing a little impatient.

“I should hear?”

“Yes—certain knocks with the hammer, which Hans is now employing to make the raft. He has been at work for many hours.”

“Making a raft?”

“Yes.”

“But where has he found trees suitable for such a construction?”

“He found the trees all ready to his hand. Come, and you shall see our excellent guide at work.”

More and more amazed at what I heard and saw, I followed my uncle like one in a dream.

After a walk of about a quarter of an hour, I saw Hans at work on the other side of the promontory which formed our natural port. A few minutes more and I was beside him. To my great surprise, on the sandy shore lay a half-finished raft. It was made from beams of a very peculiar wood, and a great number of limbs, joints, boughs, and pieces lay about, sufficient to have constructed a fleet of ships and boats.

I turned to my uncle, silent with astonishment and awe.

“Where did all this wood come from?” I cried; “what wood is it?”

“Well, there is pinewood, fir, and the palms of the northern regions, mineralized by the action of the sea,” he replied, sententiously.

“Can it be possible?”

“Yes,” said the learned Professor, “what you see is called fossil wood.”

“But then,” cried I, after reflecting for a moment, “like the lignites, it must be as hard and as heavy as iron, and therefore will certainly not float.”

“Sometimes that is the case. Many of these woods have become true anthracites, but others again, like those you see before you, have only undergone one phase of fossil transformation. But there is no proof like demonstration,” added my uncle, picking one or two of these precious waifs and casting them into the sea.

The piece of wood, after having disappeared for a moment, came to the surface, and floated about with the oscillation produced by wind and tide.

“Are you convinced?” said my uncle, with a self-satisfied smile.

“I am convinced,” I cried, “that what I see is incredible.”

The fact was that my journey into the interior of the earth was rapidly changing all preconceived notions, and day by day preparing me for the marvelous.

I should not have been surprised to have seen a fleet of native canoes afloat upon that silent sea.

The very next evening, thanks to the industry and ability of Hans, the raft was finished. It was about ten feet long and five feet wide. The beams bound together with stout ropes, were solid and firm, and once launched by our united efforts, the improvised vessel floated tranquilly upon the waters of what the Professor had well named the Central Sea.

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