20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870)
By Jules Verne (1828 – 1905)
Jules Verne classic novel about a submarine adventure was written in 1870, well before submarines were a reality. The novel begins with rumors spreading between sailors about a large sea monster that inhabiting the ocean waters and destroying surface vessels. In response, the United States provisions the USS Abraham Lincoln to search out and destroy this “monster”. Aboard the Abraham Lincoln are marine biologist and protagonist, Professor Pierre Aronnax along with his servant, Conseil. Additionally, one of the worlds leading whaler and harpoonists, Ned Land is also on board the vessel.
The expedition starts in the Atlantic Ocean. After a long period of time without sighting the sea monster, the Abraham Lincoln finds the creature in the Pacific Ocean. The surface vessel gives chase, but the monster is simply too fast for it and is unable to catch its prey. During the chase, the Abraham Lincoln is damaged and the three main characters fall overboard and into the ocean. Aronnax, Conseil and Land eventually find refuge on top of the sea creature, which they come to realize is not alive at all. They understand that it is an underwater vessel run by men. They are quickly captured by the crew and brought on board, where they meet the commander of the vessel. His name is Captain Nemo and he calls the vessel the Nautilus. The submarine is powered by electricity and can easily out maneuver any surface vessel in existence.
Captain Nemo is a scientific genius and he created this vessel and recruited the crew in order to “escape” from the real world. He desires above all, to live his life alone and away from the evil nature of man.
The protagonists, along with Captain Nemo and his crew spend the next year traveling the world, mostly underwater. They had a series of adventures, including being trapped underneath a gigantic iceberg. Captain Nemo showed Professor Aronnax the beauty of the underwater world and was very cordial to his guests. However, Aronnax, Conseil and Land were more than guests, they were also prisoners. Captain Nemo did not allow them to leave. Anyone who comes aboard the vessel will not be allowed to leave.
Jules Verne never gave the readers much information about the mysterious Captain Nemo. For example, we are never told of his nationality or the make up of the crew. We are never told of the reasons for the Captains choices.
After about one year on the Nautilus, the submarine was in the North Atlantic. The vessel is attacked by a giant squid. The crew is forced to combat this giant animal with axes and spears. Aronnax, Conseil and Land join forces with the crew of the Nautilus and eventually, drive off the attacker. After the attack by the squid, the vessel gets trapped in a whirlpool and the three protagonists use this opportunity to escape from their captivity. The three confiscate one of the Nautilus’ small boats and make their way to Norway, and freedom.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is perhaps, Jules Verne most famous work. It has been made into several movies, including the 1954 version which starred Kirk Douglas as Ned Land. In 1916, there was a silent movie version of this work. All in all, this is an entertaining work and the name of Captain Nemo and his vessel the Nautilus are known throughout the entire world.