Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Puffin Classics) - Jules Verne

Ah, Captain Nemo - Nemesis of the seas, visionary and troubled soul.


I loved this book when I was a kid and it was long overdue for a re-read. I am delighted to say it is still a good story, and this time around I particularly enjoyed the technical details.


Of course, I have no idea whether any of the science described is correct - but the idea of how the Nautilus works and how they are able to source everything from the bottom of the sea is still amazing:


"Electricity?" I cried in surprise. "Yes, sir." "Nevertheless, Captain, you possess an extreme rapidity of movement, which does not agree well with the power of electricity. Until now, its dynamic force has remained under restraint, and has only been able to produce a small amount of power." "Professor," said Captain Nemo, "my electricity is not everybody's. You know what sea-water is composed of. In a thousand grammes are found 96 1/ 2 per cent. of water, and about 2 2/ 3 per cent. of chloride of sodium; then, in a smaller quantity, chlorides of magnesium and of potassium, bromide of magnesium, sulphate of magnesia, sulphate and carbonate of lime. You see, then, that chloride of sodium forms a large part of it. So it is this sodium that I extract from the sea-water, and of which I compose my ingredients. I owe all to the ocean; it produces electricity, and electricity gives heat, light, motion, and, in a word, life to the Nautilus."


And I also enjoyed meeting Captain Nemo again. He has been somewhat demonised in more recent comic book appearances and of course lent himself as a model to other villains such as Karl Stromberg of The Spy Who Loved Me (the film, not the book), but in agreement with M. Arronax I am quite fond of Captain Nemo and his ideals:


"You like the sea, Captain?" "Yes; I love it! The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides. The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. It is nothing but love and emotion; it is the ` Living Infinite,' as one of your poets has said. In fact, Professor, Nature manifests herself in it by her three kingdoms— mineral, vegetable, and animal. The sea is the vast reservoir of Nature. The globe began with sea, so to speak; and who knows if it will not end with it? In it is supreme tranquillity. The sea does not belong to despots. Upon its surface men can still exercise unjust laws, fight, tear one another to pieces, and be carried away with terrestrial horrors. But at thirty feet below its level, their reign ceases, their influence is quenched, and their power disappears. Ah! sir, live— live in the bosom of the waters!"