Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864)
By Jules Verne (1828 – 1905)
Jules Verne, the prolific French science fiction writer wrote “Journey to the Center of the Earth in 1864. This work was translated into English in 1871. Like many of his works, it involves a journey fraught with dangers and adventures. As the title implies, this journey is a scientific exploration of the interiors of the Earth.
The narrator is Axel, the nephew of Professor Lidenbrock. The professor finds a coded message in an old Icelandic language. The professor becomes obsessed with the message and spends a great deal of time studying the parchment. With the help of Axel, he eventually discovers the secrets of the code and deciphers and translates the text. The ancient text was written by explorer Arne Saknussemm who claims to have traveled to and explored the center of the earth. The text claims that a passageway into the bowels fo the earth is located in Iceland on the surface of a dormant volcano. The professor and reluctantly, Axel immediately proceed to Iceland where they hire Hans Bjelke, a local Icelandic guide and begin their adventure.
The text indicates that the passage can only be found in late June due to the location of sun and the shadows. That summer, the three companions approach the dormant volcano and using Saknussemm’s message, are able to locate the entrance. Professor Lidenbrock, Axel and Hans enter the volcano and proceed to descend into the depths of the earth. Along the way, they encounter various strange phenomenon. For example, the caverns and passageways are well lit, due to the electrically charged cavern walls. Because of this natural lighting, there is no need to carry any flashlights. They also encounter various dangers and wonders, such as 12 foot tall prehistoric men, extinct dinosaurs, large lakes and giant mushrooms. The subterranean explorers eventually reach the surface accidentally, with the help of a volcano. They surface in Italy and Professor Lidenbrock becomes a highly acclaimed scientist and explorer.
This work has been made into several movies, a TV show and even an animated adventure. The first attempt at putting this work on the big screen was in 1959. That version of the story lists Pat Boone as the lead character. A more recent version in 2008 lists Brendon Frasier as a lead character. These movies pretty much follow the original plot.
This Verne work translates from French fairly well, but the science is highly inaccurate. Many of Verne’s other works make somewhat accurate predictions of subsequent inventions (submarines, flight, space travel), but very little from this work survives under any level of scrutiny. However, the story is an easy read and entertaining. It is one of Jules Verne’s works that survive the test of time.