Part 3 out of 5
down the chimney. Each of us could then descend by holding with the
hand both halves of the rope, which would not be able to unroll
itself from its hold; when two hundred feet down, it would be easy to
get possession of the whole of the rope by letting one end go and
pulling down by the other. Then the exercise would go on again _ad
"Now," said my uncle, after having completed these preparations, "now
let us look to our loads. I will divide them into three lots; each of
us will strap one upon his back. I mean only fragile articles."
Of course, we were not included under that head.
"Hans," said he, "will take charge of the tools and a portion of the
provisions; you, Axel, will take another third of the provisions, and
the arms; and I will take the rest of the provisions and the delicate
"But," said I, "the clothes, and that mass of ladders and ropes, what
is to become of them?"
"They will go down by themselves."
"How so?" I asked.
"You will see presently."
My uncle was always willing to employ magnificent resources. Obeying
orders, Hans tied all the non-fragile articles in one bundle, corded
them firmly, and sent them bodily down the gulf before us.
I listened to the dull thuds of the descending bale. My uncle,
leaning over the abyss, followed the descent of the luggage with a
satisfied nod, and only rose erect when he had quite lost sight of it.
"Very well, now it is our turn."
Now I ask any sensible man if it was possible to hear those words
without a shudder.
The Professor fastened his package of instruments upon his shoulders;
Hans took the tools; I took the arms: and the descent commenced in
the following order; Hans, my uncle, and myself. It was effected in
profound silence, broken only by the descent of loosened stones down
the dark gulf.
I dropped as it were, frantically clutching the double cord with one
hand and buttressing myself from the wall with the other by means of
my stick. One idea overpowered me almost, fear lest the rock should
give way from which I was hanging. This cord seemed a fragile thing
for three persons to be suspended from. I made as little use of it as
possible, performing wonderful feats of equilibrium upon the lava
projections which my foot seemed to catch hold of like a hand.
When one of these slippery steps shook under the heavier form of
Hans, he said in his tranquil voice:
"_Gif akt!_ "
"Attention!" repeated my uncle.
In half an hour we were standing upon the surface of a rock jammed in
across the chimney from one side to the other.
Hans pulled the rope by one of its ends, the other rose in the air;
after passing the higher rock it came down again, bringing with it a
rather dangerous shower of bits of stone and lava.
Leaning over the edge of our narrow standing ground, I observed that
the bottom of the hole was still invisible.
The same man�uvre was repeated with the cord, and half an hour after
we had descended another two hundred feet.
I don't suppose the maddest geologist under such circumstances would
have studied the nature of the rocks that we were passing. I am sure
I did trouble my head about them. Pliocene, miocene, eocene,
cretaceous, jurassic, triassic, permian, carboniferous, devonian,
silurian, or primitive was all one to me. But the Professor, no
doubt, was pursuing his observations or taking notes, for in one of
our halts he said to me:
"The farther I go the more confidence I feel. The order of these
volcanic formations affords the strongest confirmation to the
theories of Davy. We are now among the primitive rocks, upon which
the chemical operations took place which are produced by the contact
of elementary bases of metals with water. I repudiate the notion of
central heat altogether. We shall see further proof of that very
No variation, always the same conclusion. Of course, I was not
inclined to argue. My silence was taken for consent and the descent
Another three hours, and I saw no bottom to the chimney yet. When I
lifted my head I perceived the gradual contraction of its aperture.
Its walls, by a gentle incline, were drawing closer to each other,
and it was beginning to grow darker.
Still we kept descending. It seemed to me that the falling stones
were meeting with an earlier resistance, and that the concussion gave
a more abrupt and deadened sound.
As I had taken care to keep an exact account of our man�uvres with
the rope, which I knew that we had repeated fourteen times, each
descent occupying half an hour, the conclusion was easy that we had
been seven hours, plus fourteen quarters of rest, making ten hours
and a half. We had started at one, it must therefore now be eleven
o'clock; and the depth to which we had descended was fourteen times
200 feet, or 2,800 feet.
At this moment I heard the voice of Hans.
"Halt!" he cried.
I stopped short just as I was going to place my feet upon my uncle's
"We are there," he cried.
"Where?" said I, stepping near to him.
"At the bottom of the perpendicular chimney," he answered.
"Is there no way farther?"
"Yes; there is a sort of passage which inclines to the right. We will
see about that to-morrow. Let us have our supper, and go to sleep."
The darkness was not yet complete. The provision case was opened; we
refreshed ourselves, and went to sleep as well as we could upon a bed
of stones and lava fragments.
When lying on my back, I opened my eyes and saw a bright sparkling
point of light at the extremity of the gigantic tube 3,000 feet long,
now a vast telescope.
It was a star which, seen from this depth, had lost all
scintillation, and which by my computation should be 46; _Ursa
minor._ Then I fell fast asleep.
THE WONDERS OF TERRESTRIAL DEPTHS
At eight in the morning a ray of daylight came to wake us up. The
thousand shining surfaces of lava on the walls received it on its
passage, and scattered it like a shower of sparks.
There was light enough to distinguish surrounding objects.
"Well, Axel, what do you say to it?" cried my uncle, rubbing his
hands. "Did you ever spend a quieter night in our little house at
K�nigsberg? No noise of cart wheels, no cries of basket women, no
"No doubt it is very quiet at the bottom of this well, but there is
something alarming in the quietness itself."
"Now come!" my uncle cried; "if you are frightened already, what will
you be by and by? We have not gone a single inch yet into the bowels
of the earth."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that we have only reached the level of the island. long
vertical tube, which terminates at the mouth of the crater, has its
lower end only at the level of the sea."
"Are you sure of that?"
"Quite sure. Consult the barometer."
In fact, the mercury, which had risen in the instrument as fast as we
descended, had stopped at twenty-nine inches.
"You see," said the Professor, "we have now only the pressure of our
atmosphere, and I shall be glad when the aneroid takes the place of
And in truth this instrument would become useless as soon as the
weight of the atmosphere should exceed the pressure ascertained at
the level of the sea.
"But," I said, "is there not reason to fear that this ever-increasing
pressure will become at last very painful to bear?"
"No; we shall descend at a slow rate, and our lungs will become
inured to a denser atmosphere. Aeronauts find the want of air as they
rise to high elevations, but we shall perhaps have too much: of the
two, this is what I should prefer. Don't let us lose a moment. Where
is the bundle we sent down before us?"
I then remembered that we had searched for it in vain the evening
before. My uncle questioned Hans, who, after having examined
attentively with the eye of a huntsman, replied:
And so it was. The bundle had been caught by a projection a hundred
feet above us. Immediately the Icelander climbed up like a cat, and
in a few minutes the package was in our possession.
"Now," said my uncle, "let us breakfast; but we must lay in a good
stock, for we don't know how long we may have to go on."
The biscuit and extract of meat were washed down with a draught of
water mingled with a little gin.
Breakfast over, my uncle drew from his pocket a small notebook,
intended for scientific observations. He consulted his instruments,
"Monday, July 1.
"Chronometer, 8.17 a.m.; barometer, 297 in.; thermometer, 6� (43�
F.). Direction, E.S.E."
This last observation applied to the dark gallery, and was indicated
by the compass.
"Now, Axel," cried the Professor with enthusiasm, "now we are really
going into the interior of the earth. At this precise moment the
So saying, my uncle took in one hand Ruhmkorff's apparatus, which was
hanging from his neck; and with the other he formed an electric
communication with the coil in the lantern, and a sufficiently bright
light dispersed the darkness of the passage.
Hans carried the other apparatus, which was also put into action.
This ingenious application of electricity would enable us to go on
for a long time by creating an artificial light even in the midst of
the most inflammable gases.
"Now, march!" cried my uncle.
Each shouldered his package. Hans drove before him the load of cords
and clothes; and, myself walking last, we entered the gallery.
At the moment of becoming engulfed in this dark gallery, I raised my
head, and saw for the last time through the length of that vast tube
the sky of Iceland, which I was never to behold again.
The lava, in the last eruption of 1229, had forced a passage through
this tunnel. It still lined the walls with a thick and glistening
coat. The electric light was here intensified a hundredfold by
The only difficulty in proceeding lay in not sliding too fast down an
incline of about forty-five degrees; happily certain asperities and a
few blisterings here and there formed steps, and we descended,
letting our baggage slip before us from the end of a long rope.
But that which formed steps under our feet became stalactites
overhead. The lava, which was porous in many places, had formed a
surface covered with small rounded blisters; crystals of opaque
quartz, set with limpid tears of glass, and hanging like clustered
chandeliers from the vaulted roof, seemed as it were to kindle and
form a sudden illumination as we passed on our way. It seemed as if
the genii of the depths were lighting up their palace to receive
their terrestrial guests.
"It is magnificent!" I cried spontaneously. "My uncle, what a sight!
Don't you admire those blending hues of lava, passing from reddish
brown to bright yellow by imperceptible shades? And these crystals
are just like globes of light."
"Ali, you think so, do you, Axel, my boy? Well, you will see greater
splendours than these, I hope. Now let us march: march!"
He had better have said slide, for we did nothing but drop down the
steep inclines. It was the facifs _descensus Averni_ of Virgil. The
compass, which I consulted frequently, gave our direction as
southeast with inflexible steadiness. This lava stream deviated
neither to the right nor to the left.
Yet there was no sensible increase of temperature. This justified
Davy's theory, and more than once I consulted the thermometer with
surprise. Two hours after our departure it only marked 10� (50�
Fahr.), an increase of only 4�. This gave reason for believing that
our descent was more horizontal than vertical. As for the exact depth
reached, it was very easy to ascertain that; the Professor measured
accurately the angles of deviation and inclination on the road, but
he kept the results to himself.
About eight in the evening he signalled to stop. Hans sat down at
once. The lamps were hung upon a projection in the lava; we were in a
sort of cavern where there was plenty of air. Certain puffs of air
reached us. What atmospheric disturbance was the cause of them? I
could not answer that question at the moment. Hunger and fatigue made
me incapable of reasoning. A descent of seven hours consecutively is
not made without considerable expenditure of strength. I was
exhausted. The order to 'halt' therefore gave me pleasure. Hans laid
our provisions upon a block of lava, and we ate with a good appetite.
But one thing troubled me, our supply of water was half consumed. My
uncle reckoned upon a fresh supply from subterranean sources, but
hitherto we had met with none. I could not help drawing his attention
to this circumstance.
"Are you surprised at this want of springs?" he said.
"More than that, I am anxious about it; we have only water enough for
"Don't be uneasy, Axel, we shall find more than we want."
"When we have left this bed of lava behind us. How could springs
break through such walls as these?"
"But perhaps this passage runs to a very great depth. It seems to me
that we have made no great progress vertically."
"Why do you suppose that?"
"Because if we had gone deep into the crust of earth, we should have
encountered greater heat."
"According to your system," said my uncle. "But what does the
"Hardly fifteen degrees (59� Fahr), nine degrees only since our
"Well, what is your conclusion?"
"This is my conclusion. According to exact observations, the increase
of temperature in the interior of the globe advances at the rate of
one degree (1 4/5� Fahr.) for every hundred feet. But certain local
conditions may modify this rate. Thus at Yakoutsk in Siberia the
increase of a degree is ascertained to be reached every 36 feet. This
difference depends upon the heat-conducting power of the rocks.
Moreover, in the neighbourhood of an extinct volcano, through gneiss,
it has been observed that the increase of a degree is only attained
at every 125 feet. Let us therefore assume this last hypothesis as
the most suitable to our situation, and calculate."
"Well, do calculate, my boy."
"Nothing is easier," said I, putting down figures in my note book.
"Nine times a hundred and twenty-five feet gives a depth of eleven
hundred and twenty-five feet."
"Very accurate indeed."
"By my observation we are at 10,000 feet below the level of the sea."
"Is that possible?"
"Yes, or figures are of no use."
The Professor's calculations were quite correct. We had already
attained a depth of six thousand feet beyond that hitherto reached by
the foot of man, such as the mines of Kitz Bahl in Tyrol, and those
of Wuttembourg in Bohemia.
The temperature, which ought to have been 81� (178� Fahr.) was
scarcely 15� (59� Fahr.). Here was cause for reflection.
GEOLOGICAL STUDIES IN SITU
Next day, Tuesday, June 30, at 6 a.m., the descent began again.
We were still following the gallery of lava, a real natural
staircase, and as gently sloping as those inclined planes which in
some old houses are still found instead of flights of steps. And so
we went on until 12.17, the, precise moment when we overtook Hans,
who had stopped.
"Ah! here we are," exclaimed my uncle, "at the very end of the
I looked around me. We were standing at the intersection of two
roads, both dark and narrow. Which were we to take? This was a
Still my uncle refused to admit an appearance of hesitation, either
before me or the guide; he pointed out the Eastern tunnel, and we
were soon all three in it.
Besides there would have been interminable hesitation before this
choice of roads; for since there was no indication whatever to guide
our choice, we were obliged to trust to chance.
The slope of this gallery was scarcely perceptible, and its sections
very unequal. Sometimes we passed a series of arches succeeding each
other like the majestic arcades of a gothic cathedral. Here the
architects of the middle ages might have found studies for every form
of the sacred art which sprang from the development of the pointed
arch. A mile farther we had to bow or heads under corniced elliptic
arches in the romanesque style; and massive pillars standing out from
the wall bent under the spring of the vault that rested heavily upon
them. In other places this magnificence gave way to narrow channels
between low structures which looked like beaver's huts, and we had to
creep along through extremely narrow passages.
The heat was perfectly bearable. Involuntarily I began to think of
its heat when the lava thrown out by Sn�fell was boiling and working
through this now silent road. I imagined the torrents of fire hurled
back at every angle in the gallery, and the accumulation of intensely
heated vapours in the midst of this confined channel.
I only hope, thought I, that this so-called extinct volcano won't
take a fancy in his old age to begin his sports again!
I abstained from communicating these fears to Professor Liedenbrock.
He would never have understood them at all. He had but one idea -
forward! He walked, he slid, he scrambled, he tumbled, with a
persistency which one could not but admire.
By six in the evening, after a not very fatiguing walk, we had gone
two leagues south, but scarcely a quarter of a mile down.
My uncle said it was time to go to sleep. We ate without talking, and
went to sleep without reflection.
Our arrangements for the night were very simple; a railway rug each,
into which we rolled ourselves, was our sole covering. We had neither
cold nor intrusive visits to fear. Travellers who penetrate into the
wilds of central Africa, and into the pathless forests of the New
World, are obliged to watch over each other by night. But we enjoyed
absolute safety and utter seclusion; no savages or wild beasts
infested these silent depths.
Next morning, we awoke fresh and in good spirits. The road was
resumed. As the day before, we followed the path of the lava. It was
impossible to tell what rocks we were passing: the tunnel, instead of
tending lower, approached more and more nearly to a horizontal
direction, I even fancied a slight rise. But about ten this upward
tendency became so evident, and therefore so fatiguing, that I was
obliged to slacken my pace.
"Well, Axel?" demanded the Professor impatiently.
"Well, I cannot stand it any longer," I replied.
"What! after three hours' walk over such easy ground."
"It may be easy, but it is tiring all the same."
"What, when we have nothing to do but keep going down!"
"Going up, if you please."
"Going up!" said my uncle, with a shrug.
"No doubt, for the last half-hour the inclines have gone the other
way, and at this rate we shall soon arrive upon the level soil of
The Professor nodded slowly and uneasily like a man that declines to
be convinced. I tried to resume the conversation. He answered not a
word, and gave the signal for a start. I saw that his silence was
nothing but ill-humour.
Still I had courageously shouldered my burden again, and was rapidly
following Hans, whom my uncle preceded. I was anxious not to be left
behind. My greatest care was not to lose sight of my companions. I
shuddered at the thought of being lost in the mazes of this vast
Besides, if the ascending road did become steeper, I was comforted
with the thought that it was bringing us nearer to the surface. There
was hope in this. Every step confirmed me in it, and I was rejoicing
at the thought of meeting my little Gr�uben again.
By midday there was a change in the appearance of this wall of the
gallery. I noticed it by a diminution of the amount of light
reflected from the sides; solid rock was appearing in the place of
the lava coating. The mass was composed of inclined and sometimes
vertical strata. We were passing through rocks of the transition or
silurian [l] system.
"It is evident," I cried, "the marine deposits formed in the second
period, these shales, limestones, and sandstones. We are turning away
from the primary granite. We are just as if we were people of Hamburg
going to Lubeck by way of Hanover!"
I had better have kept my observations to myself. But my geological
instinct was stronger than my prudence, and uncle Liedenbrock heard
"What's that you are saying?" he asked.
"See," I said, pointing to the varied series of sandstones and
limestones, and the first indication of slate.
"We are at the period when the first plants and animals appeared."
"Do you think so?"
"Look close, and examine."
I obliged the Professor to move his lamp over the walls of the
gallery. I expected some signs of astonishment; but he spoke not a
word, and went on.
Had he understood me or not? Did he refuse to admit, out of self-love
as an uncle and a philosopher, that he had mistaken his way when he
chose the eastern tunnel? or was he determined to examine this
passage to its farthest extremity? It was evident that we had left
the lava path, and that this road could not possibly lead to the
extinct furnace of Sn�fell.
Yet I asked myself if I was not depending too much on this change in
the rock. Might I not myself be mistaken? Were we really crossing the
layers of rock which overlie the granite foundation?
The name given by Sir Roderick Murchison to a vast series of
fossiliferous strata, which lies between the non-fossiliferous slaty
schists below and the old red sandstone above. The system is well
developed in the region of Shropshire, etc., once inhabited by the
Silures under Caractacus, or Caradoc. (Tr.)
If I am right, I thought, I must soon find some fossil remains of
primitive life; and then we must yield to evidence. I will look.
I had not gone a hundred paces before incontestable proofs presented
themselves. It could not be otherwise, for in the Silurian age the
seas contained at least fifteen hundred vegetable and animal species.
My feet, which had become accustomed to the indurated lava floor,
suddenly rested upon a dust composed of the _debris_ of plants and
shells. In the walls were distinct impressions of fucoids and
Professor Liedenbrock could not be mistaken, I thought, and yet he
pushed on, with, I suppose, his eyes resolutely shut.
This was only invincible obstinacy. I could hold out no longer. I
picked up a perfectly formed shell, which had belonged to an animal
not unlike the woodlouse: then, joining my uncle, I said:
"Look at this!"
"Very well," said he quietly, "it is the shell of a crustacean, of an
extinct species called a trilobite. Nothing more."
"But don't you conclude --?"
"Just what you conclude yourself. Yes; I do, perfectly. We have left
the granite and the lava. It is possible that I may be mistaken. But
I cannot be sure of that until I have reached the very end of this
"You are right in doing this, my uncle, and I should quite approve of
your determination, if there were not a danger threatening us nearer
"The want of water."
"Well, Axel, we will put ourselves upon rations."
THE FIRST SIGNS OF DISTRESS
In fact, we had to ration ourselves. Our provision of water could not
last more than three days. I found that out for certain when
supper-time came. And, to our sorrow, we had little reason to expect
to find a spring in these transition beds.
The whole of the next day the gallery opened before us its endless
arcades. We moved on almost without a word. Hans' silence seemed to
be infecting us.
The road was now not ascending, at least not perceptibly. Sometimes,
even, it seemed to have a slight fall. But this tendency, which was
very trifling, could not do anything to reassure the Professor; for
there was no change in the beds, and the transitional characteristics
became more and more decided.
The electric light was reflected in sparkling splendour from the
schist, limestone, and old red sandstone of the walls. It might have
been thought that we were passing through a section of Wales, of
which an ancient people gave its name to this system. Specimens of
magnificent marbles clothed the walls, some of a greyish agate
fantastically veined with white, others of rich crimson or yellow
dashed with splotches of red; then came dark cherry-coloured marbles
relieved by the lighter tints of limestone.
The greater part of these bore impressions of primitive organisms.
Creation had evidently advanced since the day before. Instead of
rudimentary trilobites, I noticed remains of a more perfect order of
beings, amongst others ganoid fishes and some of those sauroids in
which palaeontologists have discovered the earliest reptile forms.
The Devonian seas were peopled by animals of these species, and
deposited them by thousands in the rocks of the newer formation.
It was evident that we were ascending that scale of animal life in
which man fills the highest place. But Professor Liedenbrock seemed
not to notice it.
He was awaiting one of two events, either the appearance of a
vertical well opening before his feet, down which our descent might
be resumed, or that of some obstacle which should effectually turn us
back on our own footsteps. But evening came and neither wish was
On Friday, after a night during which I felt pangs of thirst, our
little troop again plunged into the winding passages of the gallery.
After ten hours' walking I observed a singular deadening of the
reflection of our lamps from the side walls. The marble, the schist,
the limestone, and the sandstone were giving way to a dark and
lustreless lining. At one moment, the tunnel becoming very narrow, I
leaned against the wall.
When I removed my hand it was black. I looked nearer, and found we
were in a coal formation.
"A coal mine!" I cried.
"A mine without miners," my uncle replied.
"Who knows?" I asked.
"I know," the Professor pronounced decidedly, "I am certain that this
gallery driven through beds of coal was never pierced by the hand of
man. But whether it be the hand of nature or not does not matter.
Supper time is come; let us sup."
Hans prepared some food. I scarcely ate, and I swallowed down the few
drops of water rationed out to me. One flask half full was all we had
left to slake the thirst of three men.
After their meal my two companions laid themselves down upon their
rugs, and found in sleep a solace for their fatigue. But I could not
sleep, and I counted every hour until morning.
On Saturday, at six, we started afresh. In twenty minutes we reached
a vast open space; I then knew that the hand of man had not hollowed
out this mine; the vaults would have been shored up, and, as it was,
they seemed to be held up by a miracle of equilibrium.
This cavern was about a hundred feet wide and a hundred and fifty in
height. A large mass had been rent asunder by a subterranean
disturbance. Yielding to some vast power from below it had broken
asunder, leaving this great hollow into which human beings were now
penetrating for the first time.
The whole history of the carboniferous period was written upon these
gloomy walls, and a geologist might with ease trace all its diverse
phases. The beds of coal were separated by strata of sandstone or
compact clays, and appeared crushed under the weight of overlying
At the age of the world which preceded the secondary period, the
earth was clothed with immense vegetable forms, the product of the
double influence of tropical heat and constant moisture; a vapoury
atmosphere surrounded the earth, still veiling the direct rays of the
Thence arises the conclusion that the high temperature then existing
was due to some other source than the heat of the sun. Perhaps even
the orb of day may not have been ready yet to play the splendid part
he now acts. There were no 'climates' as yet, and a torrid heat,
equal from pole to equator, was spread over the whole surface of the
globe. Whence this heat? Was it from the interior of the earth?
Notwithstanding the theories of Professor Liedenbrock, a violent heat
did at that time brood within the body of the spheroid. Its action
was felt to the very last coats of the terrestrial crust; the plants,
unacquainted with the beneficent influences of the sun, yielded
neither flowers nor scent. But their roots drew vigorous life from
the burning soil of the early days of this planet.
There were but few trees. Herbaceous plants alone existed. There were
tall grasses, ferns, lycopods, besides sigillaria, asterophyllites,
now scarce plants, but then the species might be counted by thousands.
The coal measures owe their origin to this period of profuse
vegetation. The yet elastic and yielding crust of the earth obeyed
the fluid forces beneath. Thence innumerable fissures and
depressions. The plants, sunk underneath the waters, formed by
degrees into vast accumulated masses.
Then came the chemical action of nature; in the depths of the seas
the vegetable accumulations first became peat; then, acted upon by
generated gases and the heat of fermentation, they underwent a
process of complete mineralization.
Thus were formed those immense coalfields, which nevertheless, are
not inexhaustible, and which three centuries at the present
accelerated rate of consumption will exhaust unless the industrial
world will devise a remedy.
These reflections came into my mind whilst I was contemplating the
mineral wealth stored up in this portion of the globe. These no
doubt, I thought, will never be discovered; the working of such deep
mines would involve too large an outlay, and where would be the use
as long as coal is yet spread far and wide near the surface? Such as
my eyes behold these virgin stores, such they will be when this world
comes to an end.
But still we marched on, and I alone was forgetting the length of the
way by losing myself in the midst of geological contemplations. The
temperature remained what it had been during our passage through the
lava and schists. Only my sense of smell was forcibly affected by an
odour of protocarburet of hydrogen. I immediately recognised in this
gallery the presence of a considerable quantity of the dangerous gas
called by miners firedamp, the explosion of which has often
occasioned such dreadful catastrophes.
Happily, our light was from Ruhmkorff's ingenious apparatus. If
unfortunately we had explored this gallery with torches, a terrible
explosion would have put an end to travelling and travellers at one
This excursion through the coal mine lasted till night. My uncle
scarcely could restrain his impatience at the horizontal road. The
darkness, always deep twenty yards before us, prevented us from
estimating the length of the gallery; and I was beginning to think it
must be endless, when suddenly at six o'clock a wall very
unexpectedly stood before us. Right or left, top or bottom, there was
no road farther; we were at the end of a blind alley. "Very well,
it's all right!" cried my uncle, "now, at any rate, we shall know
what we are about. We are not in Saknussemm's road, and all we have
to do is to go back. Let us take a night's rest, and in three days we
shall get to the fork in the road." "Yes," said I, "if we have any
strength left." "Why not?" "Because to-morrow we shall have no
water." "Nor courage either?" asked my uncle severely. I dared make
COMPASSION FUSES THE PROFESSOR'S HEART
Next day we started early. We had to hasten forward. It was a three
days' march to the cross roads.
I will not speak of the sufferings we endured in our return. My uncle
bore them with the angry impatience of a man obliged to own his
weakness; Hans with the resignation of his passive nature; I, I
confess, with complaints and expressions of despair. I had no spirit
to oppose this ill fortune.
As I had foretold, the water failed entirely by the end of the first
day's retrograde march. Our fluid aliment was now nothing but gin;
but this infernal fluid burned my throat, and I could not even endure
the sight of it. I found the temperature and the air stifling.
Fatigue paralysed my limbs. More than once I dropped down motionless.
Then there was a halt; and my uncle and the Icelander did their best
to restore me. But I saw that the former was struggling painfully
against excessive fatigue and the tortures of thirst.
At last, on Tuesday, July 8, we arrived on our hands and knees, and
half dead, at the junction of the two roads. There I dropped like a
lifeless lump, extended on the lava soil. It was ten in the morning.
Hans and my uncle, clinging to the wall, tried to nibble a few bits
of biscuit. Long moans escaped from my swollen lips.
After some time my uncle approached me and raised me in his arms.
"Poor boy!" said he, in genuine tones of compassion.
I was touched with these words, not being accustomed to see the
excitable Professor in a softened mood. I grasped his trembling hands
in mine. He let me hold them and looked at me. His eyes were
Then I saw him take the flask that was hanging at his side. To my
amazement he placed it on my lips.
"Drink!" said he.
Had I heard him? Was my uncle beside himself? I stared at, him
stupidly, and felt as if I could not understand him.
"Drink!" he said again.
And raising his flask he emptied it every drop between my lips.
Oh! infinite pleasure! a slender sip of water came to moisten my
burning mouth. It was but one sip but it was enough to recall my
I thanked my uncle with clasped hands.
"Yes," he said, "a draught of water; but it is the very last - you
hear! - the last. I had kept it as a precious treasure at the bottom
of my flask. Twenty times, nay, a hundred times, have I fought
against a frightful impulse to drink it off. But no, Axel, I kept it
"My dear uncle," I said, whilst hot tears trickled down my face.
"Yes, my poor boy, I knew that as soon as you arrived at these cross
roads you would drop half dead, and I kept my last drop of water to
"Thank you, thank you," I said. Although my thirst was only partially
quenched, yet some strength had returned. The muscles of my throat,
until then contracted, now relaxed again; and the inflammation of my
lips abated somewhat; and I was now able to speak. .
"Let us see," I said, "we have now but one thing to do. We have no
water; we must go back."
While I spoke my uncle avoided looking at me; he hung his head down;
his eyes avoided mine.
"We must return," I exclaimed vehemently; "we must go back on our way
to Sn�fell. May God give us strength to climb up the crater again!"
"Return!" said my uncle, as if he was rather answering himself than
"Yes, return, without the loss of a minute."
A long silence followed.
"So then, Axel," replied the Professor ironically, "you have found no
courage or energy in these few drops of water?"
"I see you just as feeble-minded as you were before, and still
expressing only despair!"
What sort of a man was this I had to do with, and what schemes was he
now revolving in his fearless mind?
"What! you won't go back?"
"Should I renounce this expedition just when we have the fairest
chance of success! Never!"
"Then must we resign ourselves to destruction?"
"No, Axel, no; go back. Hans will go with you. Leave me to myself!"
"Leave you here!"
"Leave me, I tell you. I have undertaken this expedition. I will
carry it out to the end, and I will not return. Go, Axel, go!"
My uncle was in high state of excitement. His voice, which had for a
moment been tender and gentle, had now become hard and threatening.
He was struggling with gloomy resolutions against impossibilities. I
would not leave him in this bottomless abyss, and on the other hand
the instinct of self-preservation prompted me to fly.
The guide watched this scene with his usual phlegmatic unconcern. Yet
he understood perfectly well what was going on between his two
companions. The gestures themselves were sufficient to show that we
were each bent on taking a different road; but Hans seemed to take no
part in a question upon which depended his life. He was ready to
start at a given signal, or to stay, if his master so willed it.
How I wished at this moment I could have made him understand me. My
words, my complaints, my sorrow would have had some influence over
that frigid nature. Those dangers which our guide could not
understand I could have demonstrated and proved to him. Together we
might have over-ruled the obstinate Professor; if it were needed, we
might perhaps have compelled him to regain the heights of Sn�fell.
I drew near to Hans. I placed my hand upon his. He made no movement.
My parted lips sufficiently revealed my sufferings. The Icelander
slowly moved his head, and calmly pointing to my uncle said:
"Master!" I shouted; "you madman! no, he is not the master of our
life; we must fly, we must drag him. Do you hear me? Do you
I had seized Hans by the arm. I wished to oblige him to rise. I
strove with him. My uncle interposed.
"Be calm, Axel! you will get nothing from that immovable servant.
Therefore, listen to my proposal."
I crossed my arms, and confronted my uncle boldly.
"The want of water," he said, "is the only obstacle in our way. In
this eastern gallery made up of lavas, schists, and coal, we have not
met with a single particle of moisture. Perhaps we shall be more
fortunate if we follow the western tunnel."
I shook my head incredulously.
"Hear me to the end," the Professor went on with a firm voice.
"Whilst you were lying there motionless, I went to examine the
conformation of that gallery. It penetrates directly downward, and in
a few hours it will bring us to the granite rocks. There we must meet
with abundant springs. The nature of the rock assures me of this, and
instinct agrees with logic to support my conviction. Now, this is my
proposal. When Columbus asked of his ships' crews for three days more
to discover a new world, those crews, disheartened and sick as they
were, recognised the justice of the claim, and he discovered America.
I am the Columbus of this nether world, and I only ask for one more
day. If in a single day I have not met with the water that we want, I
swear to you we will return to the surface of the earth."
In spite of my irritation I was moved with these words, as well as
with the violence my uncle was doing to his own wishes in making so
hazardous a proposal.
"Well," I said, "do as you will, and God reward your superhuman
energy. You have now but a few hours to tempt fortune. Let us start!"
TOTAL FAILURE OF WATER
This time the descent commenced by the new gallery. Hans walked first
as was his custom.
We had not gone a hundred yards when the Professor, moving his
lantern along the walls, cried:
"Here are primitive rocks. Now we are in the right way. Forward!"
When in its early stages the earth was slowly cooling, its
contraction gave rise in its crust to disruptions, distortions,
fissures, and chasms. The passage through which we were moving was
such a fissure, through which at one time granite poured out in a
molten state. Its thousands of windings formed an inextricable
labyrinth through the primeval mass.
As fast as we descended, the succession of beds forming the primitive
foundation came out with increasing distinctness. Geologists consider
this primitive matter to be the base of the mineral crust of the
earth, and have ascertained it to be composed of three different
formations, schist, gneiss, and mica schist, resting upon that
unchangeable foundation, the granite.
Never had mineralogists found themselves in so marvellous a situation
to study nature in situ. What the boring machine, an insensible,
inert instrument, was unable to bring to the surface of the inner
structure of the globe, we were able to peruse with our own eyes and
handle with our own hands.
Through the beds of schist, coloured with delicate shades of green,
ran in winding course threads of copper and manganese, with traces of
platinum and gold. I thought, what riches are here buried at an
unapproachable depth in the earth, hidden for ever from the covetous
eyes of the human race! These treasures have been buried at such a
profound depth by the convulsions of primeval times that they run no
chance of ever being molested by the pickaxe or the spade.
To the schists succeeded gneiss, partially stratified, remarkable for
the parallelism and regularity of its lamina, then mica schists, laid
in large plates or flakes, revealing their lamellated structure by
the sparkle of the white shining mica.
The light from our apparatus, reflected from the small facets of
quartz, shot sparkling rays at every angle, and I seemed to be moving
through a diamond, within which the quickly darting rays broke across
each other in a thousand flashing coruscations.
About six o'clock this brilliant fete of illuminations underwent a
sensible abatement of splendour, then almost ceased. The walls
assumed a crystallised though sombre appearance; mica was more
closely mingled with the feldspar and quartz to form the proper rocky
foundations of the earth, which bears without distortion or crushing
the weight of the four terrestrial systems. We were immured within
prison walls of granite.
It was eight in the evening. No signs of water had yet appeared. I
was suffering horribly. My uncle strode on. He refused to stop. He
was listening anxiously for the murmur of distant springs. But, no,
there was dead silence.
And now my limbs were failing beneath me. I resisted pain and
torture, that I might not stop my uncle, which would have driven him
to despair, for the day was drawing near to its end, and it was his
At last I failed utterly; I uttered a cry and fell.
"Come to me, I am dying."
My uncle retraced his steps. He gazed upon me with his arms crossed;
then these muttered words passed his lips:
"It's all over!"
The last thing I saw was a fearful gesture of rage, and my eyes
When I reopened them I saw my two companions motionless and rolled up
in their coverings. Were they asleep? As for me, I could not get one
moment's sleep. I was suffering too keenly, and what embittered my
thoughts was that there was no remedy. My uncle's last words echoed
painfully in my ears: "it's all over!" For in such a fearful state of
debility it was madness to think of ever reaching the upper world
We had above us a league and a half of terrestrial crust. The weight
of it seemed to be crushing down upon my shoulders. I felt weighed
down, and I exhausted myself with imaginary violent exertions to turn
round upon my granite couch.
A few hours passed away. A deep silence reigned around us, the
silence of the grave. No sound could reach us through walls, the
thinnest of which were five miles thick.
Yet in the midst of my stupefaction I seemed to be aware of a noise.
It was dark down the tunnel, but I seemed to see the Icelander
vanishing from our sight with the lamp in his hand.
Why was he leaving us? Was Hans going to forsake us? My uncle was
fast asleep. I wanted to shout, but my voice died upon my parched and
swollen lips. The darkness became deeper, and the last sound died
away in the far distance.
"Hans has abandoned us," I cried. "Hans! Hans!"
But these words were only spoken within me. They went no farther. Yet
after the first moment of terror I felt ashamed of suspecting a man
of such extraordinary faithfulness. Instead of ascending he was
descending the gallery. An evil design would have taken him up not
down. This reflection restored me to calmness, and I turned to other
thoughts. None but some weighty motive could have induced so quiet a
man to forfeit his sleep. Was he on a journey of discovery? Had he
during the silence of the night caught a sound, a murmuring of
something in the distance, which had failed to affect my hearing?
For a whole hour I was trying to work out in my delirious brain the
reasons which might have influenced this seemingly tranquil huntsman.
The absurdest notions ran in utter confusion through my mind. I
thought madness was coming on!
But at last a noise of footsteps was heard in the dark abyss. Hans
was approaching. A flickering light was beginning to glimmer on the
wall of our darksome prison; then it came out full at the mouth of
the gallery. Hans appeared.
He drew close to my uncle, laid his hand upon his shoulder, and
gently woke him. My uncle rose up.
"What is the matter?" he asked.
"_Watten!_" replied the huntsman.
No doubt under the inspiration of intense pain everybody becomes
endowed with the gift of divers tongues. I did not know a word of
Danish, yet instinctively I understood the word he had uttered.
"Water! water!" I cried, clapping my hands and gesticulating like a
"Water!" repeated my uncle. "Hvar?" he asked, in Icelandic.
"_Nedat,_" replied Hans.
"Where? Down below!" I understood it all. I seized the hunter's
hands, and pressed them while he looked on me without moving a muscle
of his countenance.
The preparations for our departure were not long in making, and we
were soon on our way down a passage inclining two feet in seven. In
an hour we had gone a mile and a quarter, and descended two thousand
Then I began to hear distinctly quite a new sound of something
running within the thickness of the granite wall, a kind of dull,
dead rumbling, like distant thunder. During the first part of our
walk, not meeting with the promised spring, I felt my agony
returning; but then my uncle acquainted me with the cause of the
"Hans was not mistaken," he said. "What you hear is the rushing of a
"A torrent?" I exclaimed.
"There can be no doubt; a subterranean river is flowing around us."
We hurried forward in the greatest excitement. I was no longer
sensible of my fatigue. This murmuring of waters close at hand was
already refreshing me. It was audibly increasing. The torrent, after
having for some time flowed over our heads, was now running within
the left wall, roaring and rushing. Frequently I touched the wall,
hoping to feel some indications of moisture: But there was no hope
Yet another half hour, another half league was passed.
Then it became clear that the hunter had gone no farther. Guided by
an instinct peculiar to mountaineers he had as it were felt this
torrent through the rock; but he had certainly seen none of the
precious liquid; he had drunk nothing himself.
Soon it became evident that if we continued our walk we should widen
the distance between ourselves and the stream, the noise of which was
We returned. Hans stopped where the torrent seemed closest. I sat
near the wall, while the waters were flowing past me at a distance of
two feet with extreme violence. But there was a thick granite wall
between us and the object of our desires.
Without reflection, without asking if there were any means of
procuring the water, I gave way to a movement of despair.
Hans glanced at me with, I thought, a smile of compassion.
He rose and took the lamp. I followed him. He moved towards the wall.
I looked on. He applied his ear against the dry stone, and moved it
slowly to and fro, listening intently. I perceived at once that he
was examining to find the exact place where the torrent could be
heard the loudest. He met with that point on the left side of the
tunnel, at three feet from the ground.
I was stirred up with excitement. I hardly dared guess what the
hunter was about to do. But I could not but understand, and applaud
and cheer him on, when I saw him lay hold of the pickaxe to make an
attack upon the rock.
"We are saved!" I cried.
"Yes," cried my uncle, almost frantic with excitement. "Hans is
right. Capital fellow! Who but he would have thought of it?"
Yes; who but he? Such an expedient, however simple, would never have
entered into our minds. True, it seemed most hazardous to strike a
blow of the hammer in this part of the earth's structure. Suppose
some displacement should occur and crush us all! Suppose the torrent,
bursting through, should drown us in a sudden flood! There was
nothing vain in these fancies. But still no fears of falling rocks or
rushing floods could stay us now; and our thirst was so intense that,
to satisfy it, we would have dared the waves of the north Atlantic.
Hans set about the task which my uncle and I together could not have
accomplished. If our impatience had armed our hands with power, we
should have shattered the rock into a thousand fragments. Not so
Hans. Full of self possession, he calmly wore his way through the
rock with a steady succession of light and skilful strokes, working
through an aperture six inches wide at the outside. I could hear a
louder noise of flowing waters, and I fancied I could feel the
delicious fluid refreshing my parched lips.
The pick had soon penetrated two feet into the granite partition, and
our man had worked for above an hour. I was in an agony of
impatience. My uncle wanted to employ stronger measures, and I had
some difficulty in dissuading him; still he had just taken a pickaxe
in his hand, when a sudden hissing was heard, and a jet of water
spurted out with violence against the opposite wall.
Hans, almost thrown off his feet by the violence of the shock,
uttered a cry of grief and disappointment, of which I soon under-.
stood the cause, when plunging my hands into the spouting torrent, I
withdrew them in haste, for the water was scalding hot.
"The water is at the boiling point," I cried.
"Well, never mind, let it cool," my uncle replied.
The tunnel was filling with steam, whilst a stream was forming, which
by degrees wandered away into subterranean windings, and soon we had
the satisfaction of swallowing our first draught.
Could anything be more delicious than the sensation that our burning
intolerable thirst was passing away, and leaving us to enjoy comfort
and pleasure? But where was this water from? No matter. It was water;
and though still warm, it brought life back to the dying. I kept
drinking without stopping, and almost without tasting.
At last after a most delightful time of reviving energy, I cried,
"Why, this is a chalybeate spring!"
"Nothing could be better for the digestion," said my uncle. "It is
highly impregnated with iron. It will be as good for us as going to
the Spa, or to T�plitz."
"Well, it is delicious!"
"Of course it is, water should be, found six miles underground. It
has an inky flavour, which is not at all unpleasant. What a capital
source of strength Hans has found for us here. We will call it after
"Agreed," I cried.
And Hansbach it was from that moment.
Hans was none the prouder. After a moderate draught, he went quietly
into a corner to rest.
"Now," I said, "we must not lose this water."
"What is the use of troubling ourselves?" my uncle, replied. "I fancy
it will never fail."
"Never mind, we cannot be sure; let us fill the water bottle and our
flasks, and then stop up the opening."
My advice was followed so far as getting in a supply; but the
stopping up of the hole was not so easy to accomplish. It was in vain
that we took up fragments of granite, and stuffed them in with tow,
we only scalded our hands without succeeding. The pressure was too
great, and our efforts were fruitless.
"It is quite plain," said I, "that the higher body of this water is
at a considerable elevation. The force of the jet shows that."
"No doubt," answered my uncle. "If this column of water is 32,000
feet high - that is, from the surface of the earth, it is equal to
the weight of a thousand atmospheres. But I have got an idea."
"Why should we trouble ourselves to stop the stream from coming out
"Because --" Well, I could not assign a reason.
"When our flasks are empty, where shall we fill them again? Can we
No; there was no certainty.
"Well, let us allow the water to run on. It will flow down, and will
both guide and refresh us."
"That is well planned," I cried. "With this stream for our guide,
there is no reason why we should not succeed in our undertaking."
"Ah, my boy! you agree with me now," cried the Professor, laughing.
"I agree with you most heartily."
"Well, let us rest awhile; and then we will start again."
I was forgetting that it was night. The chronometer soon informed me
of that fact; and in a very short time, refreshed and thankful, we
all three fell into a sound sleep.
WELL SAID, OLD MOLE! CANST THOU WORK I' THE GROUND SO FAST?
By the next day we had forgotten all our sufferings. At first, I was
wondering that I was no longer thirsty, and I was for asking for the
reason. The answer came in the murmuring of the stream at my feet.
We breakfasted, and drank of this excellent chalybeate water. I felt
wonderfully stronger, and quite decided upon pushing on. Why should
not so firmly convinced a man as my uncle, furnished with so
industrious a guide as Hans, and accompanied by so determined a
nephew as myself, go on to final success? Such were the magnificent
plans which struggled for mastery within me. If it had been proposed
to me to return to the summit of Sn�fell, I should have indignantly
Most fortunately, all we had to do was to descend.
"Let us start!" I cried, awakening by my shouts the echoes of the
vaulted hollows of the earth.
On Thursday, at 8 a.m., we started afresh. The granite tunnel winding
from side to side, earned us past unexpected turns, and
seemed almost to form a labyrinth; but, on the whole, its direction
seemed to be south-easterly. My uncle never ceased to consult his
compass, to keep account of the ground gone over.
The gallery dipped down a very little way from the horizontal,
scarcely more than two inches in a fathom, and the stream ran gently
murmuring at our feet. I compared it to a friendly genius guiding us
underground, and caressed with my hand the soft naiad, whose
comforting voice accompanied our steps. With my reviving spirits
these mythological notions seemed to come unbidden.
As for my uncle, he was beginning to storm against the horizontal
road. He loved nothing better than a vertical path; but this way
seemed indefinitely prolonged, and instead of sliding along the
hypothenuse as we were now doing, he would willingly have dropped
down the terrestrial radius. But there was no help for it, and as
long as we were approaching the centre at all we felt that we must
From time to time, a steeper path appeared; our naiad then began to
tumble before us with a hoarser murmur, and we went down with her to
a greater depth.
On the whole, that day and the next we made considerable way
horizontally, very little vertically.
On Friday evening, the 10th of July, according to our calculations,
we were thirty leagues south-east of Rejkiavik, and at a depth of two
leagues and a half.
At our feet there now opened a frightful abyss. My uncle, however,
was not to be daunted, and he clapped his hands at the steepness of
"This will take us a long way," he cried, "and without much
difficulty; for the projections in the rock form quite a staircase."
The ropes were so fastened by Hans as to guard against accident, and
the descent commenced. I can hardly call it perilous, for I was
beginning to be familiar with this kind of exercise.
This well, or abyss, was a narrow cleft in the mass of the granite,
called by geologists a 'fault,' and caused by the unequal cooling of
the globe of the earth. If it had at one time been a passage for
eruptive matter thrown out by Sn�fell, I still could not understand
why no trace was left of its passage. We kept going down a kind of
winding staircase, which seemed almost to have been made by the hand
Every quarter of an hour we were obliged to halt, to take a little
necessary repose and restore the action of our limbs. We then sat
down upon a fragment of rock, and we talked as we ate and drank from
Of course, down this fault the Hansbach fell in a cascade, and lost
some of its volume; but there was enough and to spare to slake our
thirst. Besides, when the incline became more gentle, it would of
course resume its peaceable course. At this moment it reminded me of
my worthy uncle, in his frequent fits of impatience and anger, while
below it ran with the calmness of the Icelandic hunter.
On the 6th and 7th of July we kept following the spiral curves of
this singular well, penetrating in actual distance no more than two
leagues; but being carried to a depth of five leagues below the level
of the sea. But on the 8th, about noon, the fault took, towards the
south-east, a much gentler slope, one of about forty-five degrees.
Then the road became monotonously easy. It could not be otherwise,
for there was no landscape to vary the stages of our journey.
On Wednesday, the 15th, we were seven leagues underground, and had
travelled fifty leagues away from Sn�fell. Although we were tired,
our health was perfect, and the medicine chest had not yet had
occasion to be opened.
My uncle noted every hour the indications of the compass, the
chronometer, the aneroid, and the thermometer the very same which he
has published in his scientific report of our journey. It was
therefore not difficult to know exactly our whereabouts. When he told
me that we had gone fifty leagues horizontally, I could not repress
an exclamation of astonishment, at the thought that we had now long
left Iceland behind us.
"What is the matter?" he cried.
"I was reflecting that if your calculations are correct we are no
longer under Iceland."
"Do you think so?"
"I am not mistaken," I said, and examining the map, I added, "We have
passed Cape Portland, and those fifty leagues bring us under the wide
expanse of ocean."
"Under the sea," my uncle repeated, rubbing his hands with delight.
"Can it be?" I said. "Is the ocean spread above our heads?"
"Of course, Axel. What can be more natural? At Newcastle are there
not coal mines extending far under the sea?"
It was all very well for the Professor to call this so simple, but I
could not feel quite easy at the thought that the boundless ocean was
rolling over my head. And yet it really mattered very little whether
it was the plains and mountains that covered our heads, or the
Atlantic waves, as long as we were arched over by solid granite. And,
besides, I was getting used to this idea; for the tunnel, now running
straight, now winding as capriciously in its inclines as in its
turnings, but constantly preserving its south-easterly direction, and
always running deeper, was gradually carrying us to very great depths
Four days later, Saturday, the 18th of July, in the evening, we
arrived at a kind of vast grotto; and here my uncle paid Hans his
weekly wages, and it was settled that the next day, Sunday, should be
a day of rest.
I therefore awoke next day relieved from the preoccupation of an
immediate start. Although we were in the very deepest of known
depths, there was something not unpleasant about it. And, besides, we
were beginning to get accustomed to this troglodyte [l] life. I no
longer thought of sun, moon, and stars, trees, houses, and towns, nor
of any of those terrestrial superfluities which are necessaries of
men who live upon the earth's surface. Being fossils, we looked upon
all those things as mere jokes.
The grotto was an immense apartment. Along its granite floor ran our
faithful stream. At this distance from its spring the water was
scarcely tepid, and we drank of it with pleasure.
After breakfast the Professor gave a few hours to the arrangement of
his daily notes.
"First," said he, "I will make a calculation to ascertain our exact
position. I hope, after our return, to draw a map of our journey,
which will be in reality a vertical section of the globe, containing
the track of our expedition."
"That will be curious, uncle; but are your observations sufficiently
accurate to enable you to do this correctly?"
"Yes; I have everywhere observed the angles and the inclines. I am
sure there is no error. Let us see where we are now. Take your
compass, and note the direction."
I looked, and replied carefully:
 tpwgln, a hole; dnw, to creep into. The name of an Ethiopian
tribe who lived in caves and holes. ??????, a hole, and ???, to creep
"South-east by east."
"Well," answered the Professor, after a rapid calculation, "I infer
that we have gone eighty-five leagues since we started.!
"Therefore we are under mid-Atlantic?"
"To be sure we are."
"And perhaps at this very moment there is a storm above, and ships
over our heads are being rudely tossed by the tempest."
"And whales are lashing the roof of our prison with their tails?"
"It may be, Axel, but they won't shake us here. But let us go back to
our calculation. Here we are eighty-five leagues south-east of
Sn�fell, and I reckon that we are at a depth of sixteen leagues."
"Sixteen leagues?" I cried.
"Why, this is the very limit assigned by science to the thickness of
the crust of the earth."
"I don't deny it."
"And here, according to the law of increasing temperature, there
ought to be a heat of 2,732� Fahr.!"
"So there should, my lad."
"And all this solid granite ought to be running in fusion."
"You see that it is not so, and that, as so often happens, facts come
to overthrow theories."
"I am obliged to agree; but, after all, it is surprising."
"What does the thermometer say?"
"Twenty-seven, six tenths (82� Fahr.)."
"Therefore the savants are wrong by 2,705�, and the proportional
increase is a mistake. Therefore Humphry Davy was right, and I am not
wrong in following him. What do you say now?"
In truth, I had a good deal to say. I gave way in no respect to
Davy's theory. I still held to the central heat, although I did not
feel its effects. I preferred to admit in truth, that this chimney of
an extinct volcano, lined with lavas, which are non-conductors of
heat, did not suffer the heat to pass through its walls.
But without stopping to look up new arguments I simply took up our
situation such as it was.
"Well, admitting all your calculations to be quite correct, you must
allow me to draw one rigid result therefrom."
"What is it. Speak freely.!
"At the latitude of Iceland, where we now are, the radius of the
earth, the distance from the centre to the surface is about 1,583
leagues; let us say in round numbers 1,600 leagues, or 4,800 miles.
Out of 1,600 leagues we have gone twelve!"
"So you say."
"And these twelve at a cost of 85 leagues diagonally?"
"In twenty days?"
"Now, sixteen leagues are the hundredth part of the earth's radius.
At this rate we shall be two thousand days, or nearly five years and
a half, in getting to the centre."
No answer was vouchsafed to this rational conclusion. "Without
reckoning, too, that if a vertical depth of sixteen leagues can be
attained only by a diagonal descent of eighty-four, it follows that
we must go eight thousand miles in a south-easterly direction; so
that we shall emerge from some point in the earth's circumference
instead of getting to the centre!"
"Confusion to all your figures, and all your hypotheses besides,"
shouted my uncle in a sudden rage. "What is the basis of them all?
How do you know that this passage does not run straight to our
destination? Besides, there is a precedent. What one man has done,
another may do."
"I hope so; but, still, I may be permitted -"
"You shall have my leave to hold your tongue, Axel, but not to talk
in that irrational way."
I could see the awful Professor bursting through my uncle's skin, and
I took timely warning.
"Now look at your aneroid. What does that say?"
"It says we are under considerable pressure."
"Very good; so you see that by going gradually down, and getting
accustomed to the density of the atmosphere, we don't suffer at all."
"Nothing, except a little pain in the ears."
"That's nothing, and you may get rid of even that by quick breathing
whenever you feel the pain."
"Exactly so," I said, determined not to say a word that might cross
my uncle's prejudices. "There is even positive pleasure in living in
this dense atmosphere. Have you observed how intense sound is down
"No doubt it is. A deaf man would soon learn to hear perfectly."
"But won't this density augment?"
"Yes; according to a rather obscure law. It is well known that the
weight of bodies diminishes as fast as we descend. You know that it
is at the surface of the globe that weight is most sensibly felt, and
that at the centre there is no weight at all."
"I am aware of that; but, tell me, will not air at last acquire the
density of water?"
"Of course, under a pressure of seven hundred and ten atmospheres."
"And how, lower down still?"
"Lower down the density will still increase."
"But how shall we go down then."
"Why, we must fill our pockets with stones."
"Well, indeed, my worthy uncle, you are never at a loss for an
I dared venture no farther into the region of probabilities, for I
might presently have stumbled upon an impossibility, which would have
brought the Professor on the scene when he was not wanted.
Still, it was evident that the air, under a pressure which might
reach that of thousands of atmospheres, would at last reach the solid
state, and then, even if our bodies could resist the strain, we
should be stopped, and no reasonings would be able to get us on any
But I did not advance this argument. My uncle would have met it with
his inevitable Saknussemm, a precedent which possessed no weight with
me; for even if the journey of the learned Icelander were really
attested, there was one very simple answer, that in the sixteenth
century there was neither barometer or aneroid and therefore
Saknussemm could not tell how far he had gone.
But I kept this objection to myself, and waited the course of events.
The rest of the day was passed in calculations and in conversations.
I remained a steadfast adherent of the opinions of Professor
Liedenbrock, and I envied the stolid indifference of Hans, who,
without going into causes and effects, went on with his eyes shut
wherever his destiny guided him.
THE WORST PERIL OF ALL
It must be confessed that hitherto things had not gone on so badly,
and that I had small reason to complain. If our difficulties became
no worse, we might hope to reach our end. And to what a height of
scientific glory we should then attain! I had become quite a
Liedenbrock in my reasonings; seriously I had. But would this state
of things last in the strange place we had come to? Perhaps it might.
For several days steeper inclines, some even frightfully near to the
perpendicular, brought us deeper and deeper into the mass of the
interior of the earth. Some days we advanced nearer to the centre by
a league and a half, or nearly two leagues. These were perilous
descents, in which the skill and marvellous coolness of Hans were
invaluable to us. That unimpassioned Icelander devoted himself with
incomprehensible deliberation; and, thanks to him, we crossed many a
dangerous spot which we should never have cleared alone.
But his habit of silence gained upon him day by day, and was
infecting us. External objects produce decided effects upon the
brain. A man shut up between four walls soon loses the power to
associate words and ideas together. How many prisoners in solitary
confinement become idiots, if not mad, for want of exercise for the
During the fortnight following our last conversation, no incident
occurred worthy of being recorded. But I have good reason for
remembering one very serious event which took place at this time, and
of which I could scarcely now forget the smallest details.
By the 7th of August our successive descents had brought us to a
depth of thirty leagues; that is, that for a space of thirty leagues
there were over our heads solid beds of rock, ocean, continents, and
towns. We must have been two hundred leagues from Iceland.
On that day the tunnel went down a gentle slope. I was ahead of the
others. My uncle was carrying one of Ruhmkorff's lamps and I the.
other. I was examining the beds of granite.
Suddenly turning round I observed that I was alone.
Well, well, I thought; I have been going too fast, or Hans and my
uncle have stopped on the way. Come, this won't do; I must join them.
Fortunately there is not much of an ascent.
I retraced my steps. I walked for a quarter of an hour. I gazed into
the darkness. I shouted. No reply: my voice was lost in the midst of
the cavernous echoes which alone replied to my call.
I began to feel uneasy. A shudder ran through me.
"Calmly!" I said aloud to myself, "I am sure to find my companions
again. There are not two roads. I was too far ahead. I will return!"
For half an hour I climbed up. I listened for a call, and in that
dense atmosphere a voice could reach very far. But there was a dreary
silence in all that long gallery. I stopped. I could not believe that
I was lost. I was only bewildered for a time, not lost. I was sure I
should find my way again.
"Come," I repeated, "since there is but one road, and they are on it,
I must find them again. I have but to ascend still. Unless, indeed,
missing me, and supposing me to be behind, they too should have gone
back. But even in this case I have only to make the greater haste. I
shall find them, I am sure."
I repeated these words in the fainter tones of a half-convinced man.
Besides, to associate even such simple ideas with words, and reason
with them, was a work of time.
A doubt then seized upon me. Was I indeed in advance when we became
separated? Yes, to be sure I was. Hans was after me, preceding my
uncle. He had even stopped for a while to strap his baggage better
over his shoulders. I could remember this little incident. It was at
that very moment that I must have gone on.
Besides, I thought, have not I a guarantee that I shall not lose my
way, a clue in the labyrinth, that cannot be broken, my faithful
stream? I have but to trace it back, and I must come upon them.
This conclusion revived my spirits, and I resolved to resume my march
without loss of time.
How I then blessed my uncle's foresight in preventing the hunter from
stopping up the hole in the granite. This beneficent spring, after
having satisfied our thirst on the road, would now be my guide among
the windings of the terrestrial crust.
Before starting afresh I thought a wash would do me good. I stooped
to bathe my face in the Hansbach.
To my stupefaction and utter dismay my feet trod only - the rough dry
granite. The stream was no longer at my feet.
LOST IN THE BOWELS OF THE EARTH
To describe my despair would be impossible. No words could tell it. I
was buried alive, with the prospect before me of dying of hunger and
Mechanically I swept the ground with my hands. How dry and hard the
rock seemed to me!
But how had I left the course of the stream? For it was a terrible
fact that it no longer ran at my side. Then I understood the reason
of that fearful, silence, when for the last time I listened to hear
if any sound from my companions could reach my ears. At the moment
when I left the right road I had not noticed the absence of the
stream. It is evident that at that moment a deviation had presented
itself before me, whilst the Hansbach, following the caprice of
another incline, had gone with my companions away into unknown depths.
How was I to return? There was not a trace of their footsteps or of
my own, for the foot left no mark upon the granite floor. I racked my
brain for a solution of this impracticable problem. One word
described my position. Lost!
Lost at an immeasurable depth! Thirty leagues of rock seemed to weigh
upon my shoulders with a dreadful pressure. I felt crushed.
I tried to carry back my ideas to things on the surface of the earth.
I could scarcely succeed. Hamburg, the house in the K�nigstrasse, my
poor Gr�uben, all that busy world underneath which I was wandering
about, was passing in rapid confusion before my terrified memory. I
could revive with vivid reality all the incidents of our voyage,
Iceland, M. Fridrikssen, Sn�fell. I said to myself that if, in such a
position as I was now in, I was fool enough to cling to one glimpse
of hope, it would be madness, and that the best thing I could do was
What human power could restore me to the light of the sun by rending
asunder the huge arches of rock which united over my head,
buttressing each other with impregnable strength? Who could place my
feet on the right path, and bring me back to my company?
"Oh, my uncle!" burst from my lips in the tone of despair.
It was my only word of reproach, for I knew how much he must be
suffering in seeking me, wherever he might be.
When I saw myself thus far removed from all earthly help I had
recourse to heavenly succour. The remembrance of my childhood, the
recollection of my mother, whom I had only known in my tender early
years, came back to me, and I knelt in prayer imploring for the
Divine help of which I was so little worthy.
This return of trust in God's providence allayed the turbulence of my
fears, and I was enabled to concentrate upon my situation all the
force of my intelligence.
I had three days' provisions with me and my flask was full. But I
could not remain alone for long. Should I go up or down?
Up, of course; up continually.
I must thus arrive at the point where I had left the stream, that
fatal turn in the road. With the stream at my feet, I might hope to
regain the summit of Sn�fell.
Why had I not thought of that sooner? Here was evidently a chance of
safety. The most pressing duty was to find out again the course of
the Hansbach. I rose, and leaning upon my iron-pointed stick I
ascended the gallery. The slope was rather steep. I walked on without
hope but without indecision, like a man who has made up his mind.
For half an hour I met with no obstacle. I tried to recognise my way
by the form of the tunnel, by the projections of certain rocks, by
the disposition of the fractures. But no particular sign appeared,
and I soon saw that this gallery could not bring me back to the
turning point. It came to an abrupt end. I struck against an
impenetrable wall, and fell down upon the rock.
Unspeakable despair then seized upon me. I lay overwhelmed, aghast!
My last hope was shattered against this granite wall.
Lost in this labyrinth, whose windings crossed each other in all
directions, it was no use to think of flight any longer. Here I must
die the most dreadful of deaths. And, strange to say, the thought
came across me that when some day my petrified remains should be
found thirty leagues below the surface in the bowels of the earth,
the discovery might lead to grave scientific discussions.
I tried to speak aloud, but hoarse sounds alone passed my dry lips. I
panted for breath.
In the midst of my agony a new terror laid hold of me. In falling my
lamp had got wrong. I could not set it right, and its light was
paling and would soon disappear altogether.
I gazed painfully upon the luminous current growing weaker and weaker
in the wire coil. A dim procession of moving shadows seemed slowly
unfolding down the darkening walls. I scarcely dared to shut my eyes
for one moment, for fear of losing the least glimmer of this precious
light. Every instant it seemed about to vanish and the dense
blackness to come rolling in palpably upon me.
One last trembling glimmer shot feebly up. I watched it in trembling
and anxiety; I drank it in as if I could preserve it, concentrating
upon it the full power of my eyes, as upon the very last sensation of
light which they were ever to experience, and the next moment I lay
in the heavy gloom of deep, thick, unfathomable darkness.
A terrible cry of anguish burst from me. Upon earth, in the midst of
the darkest night, light never abdicates its functions altogether. It
is still subtle and diffusive, but whatever little there may be, the
eye still catches that little. Here there was not an atom; the total
darkness made me totally blind.
Then I began to lose my head. I arose with my arms stretched out
before me, attempting painfully to feel my way. I began to run
wildly, hurrying through the inextricable maze, still descending,
still running through the substance of the earth's thick crust, a
struggling denizen of geological 'faults,' crying, shouting, yelling,
soon bruised by contact with the jagged rock, falling and rising
again bleeding, trying to drink the blood which covered my face, and
even waiting for some rock to shatter my skull against.
I shall never know whither my mad career took me. After the lapse of
some hours, no doubt exhausted, I fell like a lifeless lump at the
foot of the wall, and lost all consciousness.
THE RESCUE IN THE WHISPERING GALLERY
When I returned to partial life my face was wet with tears. How long
that state of insensibility had lasted I cannot say. I had no means
now of taking account of time. Never was solitude equal to this,
never had any living being been so utterly forsaken.
After my fall I had lost a good deal of blood. I felt it flowing over
me. Ah! how happy I should have been could I have died, and if death
were not yet to be gone through. I would think no longer. I drove
away every idea, and, conquered by my grief, I rolled myself to the
foot of the opposite wall.
Already I was feeling the approach of another faint, and was hoping
for complete annihilation, when a loud noise reached me. It was like
the distant rumble of continuous thunder, and I could hear its
sounding undulations rolling far away into the remote recesses of the
Whence could this noise proceed? It must be from some phenomenon
proceeding in the great depths amidst which I lay helpless. Was it an
explosion of gas? Was it the fall of some mighty pillar of the globe?
I listened still. I wanted to know if the noise would be repeated. A
quarter of an hour passed away. Silence reigned in this gallery. I
could not hear even the beating of my heart.
Suddenly my ear, resting by chance against the wall, caught, or
seemed to catch, certain vague, indescribable, distant, articulate
sounds, as of words.
"This is a delusion," I thought.
But it was not. Listening more attentively, I heard in reality a
murmuring of voices. But my weakness prevented me from understanding
what the voices said. Yet it was language, I was sure of it.
For a moment I feared the words might be my own, brought back by the
echo. Perhaps I had been crying out unknown to myself. I closed my
lips firmly, and laid my ear against the wall again.
"Yes, truly, some one is speaking; those are words!"
Even a few feet from the wall I could hear distinctly. I succeeded in
catching uncertain, strange, undistinguishable words. They came as if
pronounced in low murmured whispers. The word '_forlorad_' was
several times repeated in a tone of sympathy and sorrow.
"Help!" I cried with all my might. "Help!"
I listened, I watched in the darkness for an answer, a cry, a mere
breath of sound, but nothing came. Some minutes passed. A whole world
of ideas had opened in my mind. I thought that my weakened voice
could never penetrate to my companions.
"It is they," I repeated. "What other men can be thirty leagues under
I again began to listen. Passing my ear over the wall from one place
to another, I found the point where the voices seemed to be best
heard. The word '_forlorad_' again returned; then the rolling of
thunder which had roused me from my lethargy.
"No," I said, "no; it is not through such a mass that a voice can be
heard. I am surrounded by granite walls, and the loudest explosion
could never be heard here! This noise comes along the gallery. There
must be here some remarkable exercise of acoustic laws!"
I listened again, and this time, yes this time, I did distinctly hear
my name pronounced across the wide interval.
It was my uncle's own voice! He was talking to the guide. And
'_forlorad_' is a Danish word.
Then I understood it all. To make myself heard, I must speak along
this wall, which would conduct the sound of my voice just as wire