Part 5 out of 5
name to the first island ever discovered in the central parts of the
"Well," said I, "let it be Axel Island. Then we had cleared two
hundred and seventy leagues of sea, and we were six hundred leagues
"Very well," answered my uncle; "let us start from that point and
count four days' storm, during which our rate cannot have been less
than eighty leagues in the twenty-four hours."
"That is right; and this would make three hundred leagues more."
"Yes, and the Liedenbrock sea would be six hundred leagues from shore
to shore. Surely, Axel, it may vie in size with the Mediterranean
"Especially," I replied, "if it happens that we have only crossed it
in its narrowest part. And it is a curious circumstance," I added,
"that if my computations are right, and we are nine hundred leagues
from Rejkiavik, we have now the Mediterranean above our head."
"That is a good long way, my friend. But whether we are under Turkey
or the Atlantic depends very much upon the question in what direction
we have been moving. Perhaps we have deviated."
"No, I think not. Our course has been the same all along, and I
believe this shore is south-east of Port Grauben."
"Well," replied my uncle, "we may easily ascertain this by consulting
the compass. Let us go and see what it says."
The Professor moved towards the rock upon which Hans had laid down
the instruments. He was gay and full of spirits; he rubbed his hands,
he studied his attitudes. I followed him, curious to know if I was
right in my estimate. As soon as we had arrived at the rock my uncle
took the compass, laid it horizontally, and questioned the needle,
which, after a few oscillations, presently assumed a fixed position.
My uncle looked, and looked, and looked again. He rubbed his eyes,
and then turned to me thunderstruck with some unexpected discovery.
"What is the matter?" I asked.
He motioned to me to look. An exclamation of astonishment burst from
me. The north pole of the needle was turned to what we supposed to be
the south. It pointed to the shore instead of to the open sea! I
shook the box, examined it again, it was in perfect condition. In
whatever position I placed the box the needle pertinaciously returned
to this unexpected quarter. Therefore there seemed no reason to doubt
that during the storm there had been a sudden change of wind
unperceived by us, which had brought our raft back to the shore which
we thought we had left so long a distance behind us.
THE LIEDENBROCK MUSEUM OF GEOLOGY
How shall I describe the strange series of passions which in
succession shook the breast of Professor Liedenbrock? First
stupefaction, then incredulity, lastly a downright burst of rage.
Never had I seen the man so put out of countenance and so disturbed.
The fatigues of our passage across, the dangers met, had all to be
begun over again. We had gone backwards instead of forwards!
But my uncle rapidly recovered himself.
"Aha! will fate play tricks upon me? Will the elements lay plots
against me? Shall fire, air, and water make a combined attack against
me? Well, they shall know what a determined man can do. I will not
yield. I will not stir a single foot backwards, and it will be seen
whether man or nature is to have the upper hand!"
Erect upon the rock, angry and threatening, Otto Liedenbrock was a
rather grotesque fierce parody upon the fierce Achilles defying the
lightning. But I thought it my duty to interpose and attempt to lay
some restraint upon this unmeasured fanaticism.
"Just listen to me," I said firmly. "Ambition must have a limit
somewhere; we cannot perform impossibilities; we are not at all fit
for another sea voyage; who would dream of undertaking a voyage of
five hundred leagues upon a heap of rotten planks, with a blanket in
rags for a sail, a stick for a mast, and fierce winds in our teeth?
We cannot steer; we shall be buffeted by the tempests, and we should
be fools and madmen to attempt to cross a second time."
I was able to develop this series of unanswerable reasons for ten
minutes without interruption; not that the Professor was paying any
respectful attention to his nephew's arguments, but because he was
deaf to all my eloquence.
"To the raft!" he shouted.
Such was his only reply. It was no use for me to entreat, supplicate,
get angry, or do anything else in the way of opposition; it would
only have been opposing a will harder than the granite rock.
Hans was finishing the repairs of the raft. One would have thought
that this strange being was guessing at my uncle's intentions. With a
few more pieces of surturbrand he had refitted our vessel. A sail
already hung from the new mast, and the wind was playing in its
The Professor said a few words to the guide, and immediately he put
everything on board and arranged every necessary for our departure.
The air was clear - and the north-west wind blew steadily.
What could I do? Could I stand against the two? It was impossible? If
Hans had but taken my side! But no, it was not to be. The Icelander
seemed to have renounced all will of his own and made a vow to forget
and deny himself. I could get nothing out of a servant so feudalised,
as it were, to his master. My only course was to proceed.
I was therefore going with as much resignation as I could find to
resume my accustomed place on the raft, when my uncle laid his hand
upon my shoulder.
"We shall not sail until to-morrow," he said.
I made a movement intended to express resignation.
"I must neglect nothing," he said; "and since my fate has driven me
on this part of the coast, I will not leave it until I have examined
To understand what followed, it must be borne in mind that, through
circumstances hereafter to be explained, we were not really where the
Professor supposed we were. In fact we were not upon the north shore
of the sea.
"Now let us start upon fresh discoveries," I said.
And leaving Hans to his work we started off together. The space
between the water and the foot of the cliffs was considerable. It
took half an hour to bring us to the wall of rock. We trampled under
our feet numberless shells of all the forms and sizes which existed
in the earliest ages of the world. I also saw immense carapaces more
than fifteen feet in diameter. They had been the coverings of those
gigantic glyptodons or armadilloes of the pleiocene period, of which
the modern tortoise is but a miniature representative.  The soil
was besides this scattered with stony fragments, boulders rounded by
water action, and ridged up in successive lines. I was therefore led
to the conclusion that at one time the sea must have covered the
ground on which we were treading. On the loose and scattered rocks,
now out of the reach of the highest tides, the waves had left
manifest traces of their power to wear their way in the hardest stone.
This might up to a certain point explain the existence of an ocean
forty leagues beneath the surface of the globe. But in my opinion
this liquid mass would be lost by degrees farther and farther within
the interior of the earth, and it certainly had its origin in the
waters of the ocean overhead, which had made their way hither through
some fissure. Yet it must be believed that that fissure is now
closed, and that all this cavern or immense reservoir was filled in a
very short time. Perhaps even this water, subjected to the fierce
action of central heat, had partly been resolved into vapour. This
would explain the existence of those clouds suspended over our heads
and the development of that electricity which raised such tempests
within the bowels of the earth.
This theory of the phenomena we had witnessed seemed satisfactory to
me; for however great and stupendous the phenomena of nature, fixed
physical laws will or may always explain them.
We were therefore walking upon sedimentary soil, the deposits of the
waters of former ages. The Professor was carefully examining every
little fissure in the rocks. Wherever he saw a hole he always wanted
to know the depth of it. To him this was important.
We had traversed the shores of the Liedenbrock sea for a mile when we
observed a sudden change in the appearance of the soil. It seemed
upset, contorted, and convulsed by a violent upheaval of the lower
strata. In many places depressions or elevations gave witness to some
tremendous power effecting the dislocation of strata.
 The glyptodon and armadillo are mammalian; the tortoise is a
chelonian, a reptile, distinct classes of the animal kingdom;
therefore the latter cannot be a representative of the former.
We moved with difficulty across these granite fissures and chasms
mingled with silex, crystals of quartz, and alluvial deposits, when a
field, nay, more than a field, a vast plain, of bleached bones lay
spread before us. It seemed like an immense cemetery, where the
remains of twenty ages mingled their dust together. Huge mounds of
bony fragments rose stage after stage in the distance. They undulated
away to the limits of the horizon, and melted in the distance in a
faint haze. There within three square miles were accumulated the
materials for a complete history of the animal life of ages, a
history scarcely outlined in the too recent strata of the inhabited
But an impatient curiosity impelled our steps; crackling and
rattling, our feet were trampling on the remains of prehistoric
animals and interesting fossils, the possession of which is a matter
of rivalry and contention between the museums of great cities. A
thousand Cuviers could never have reconstructed the organic remains
deposited in this magnificent and unparalleled collection.
I stood amazed. My uncle had uplifted his long arms to the vault
which was our sky; his mouth gaping wide, his eyes flashing behind
his shining spectacles, his head balancing with an up-and-down
motion, his whole attitude denoted unlimited astonishment. Here he
stood facing an immense collection of scattered leptotheria,
mericotheria, lophiodia, anoplotheria, megatheria, mastodons,
protopithec�, pterodactyles, and all sorts of extinct monsters here
assembled together for his special satisfaction. Fancy an
enthusiastic bibliomaniac suddenly brought into the midst of the
famous Alexandrian library burnt by Omar and restored by a miracle
from its ashes! just such a crazed enthusiast was my uncle, Professor
But more was to come, when, with a rush through clouds of bone dust,
he laid his hand upon a bare skull, and cried with a voice trembling
"Axel! Axel! a human head!"
"A human skull?" I cried, no less astonished.
"Yes, nephew. Aha! M. Milne-Edwards! Ah! M. de Quatrefages, how I
wish you were standing here at the side of Otto Liedenbrock!"
THE PROFESSOR IN HIS CHAIR AGAIN
To understand this apostrophe of my uncle's, made to absent French
savants, it will be necessary to allude to an event of high
importance in a pal�ontological point of view, which had occurred a
little while before our departure.
On the 28th of March, 1863, some excavators working under the
direction of M. Boucher de Perthes, in the stone quarries of Moulin
Quignon, near Abbeville, in the department of Somme, found a human
jawbone fourteen feet beneath the surface. It was the first fossil of
this nature that had ever been brought to light. Not far distant were
found stone hatchets and flint arrow-heads stained and encased by
lapse of time with a uniform coat of rust.
The noise of this discovery was very great, not in France alone, but
in England and in Germany. Several savants of the French Institute,
and amongst them MM. Milne-Edwards and de Quatrefages, saw at once
the importance of this discovery, proved to demonstration the
genuineness of the bone in question, and became the most ardent
defendants in what the English called this 'trial of a jawbone.' To
the geologists of the United Kingdom, who believed in the certainty
of the fact - Messrs. Falconer, Busk, Carpenter, and others -
scientific Germans were soon joined, and amongst them the forwardest,
the most fiery, and the most enthusiastic, was my uncle Liedenbrock.
Therefore the genuineness of a fossil human relic of the quaternary
period seemed to be incontestably proved and admitted.
It is true that this theory met with a most obstinate opponent in M.
Elie de Beaumont. This high authority maintained that the soil of
Moulin Quignon was not diluvial at all, but was of much more recent
formation; and, agreeing in that with Cuvier, he refused to admit
that the human species could be contemporary with the animals of the
quaternary period. My uncle Liedenbrock, along with the great body of
the geologists, had maintained his ground, disputed, and argued,
until M. Elie de Beaumont stood almost alone in his opinion.
We knew all these details, but we were not aware that since our
departure the question had advanced to farther stages. Other similar
maxillaries, though belonging to individuals of various types and
different nations, were found in the loose grey soil of certain
grottoes in France, Switzerland, and Belgium, as well as weapons,
tools, earthen utensils, bones of children and adults. The existence
therefore of man in the quaternary period seemed to become daily more
Nor was this all. Fresh discoveries of remains in the pleiocene
formation had emboldened other geologists to refer back the human
species to a higher antiquity still. It is true that these remains
were not human bones, but objects bearing the traces of his
handiwork, such as fossil leg-bones of animals, sculptured and carved
evidently by the hand of man.
Thus, at one bound, the record of the existence of man receded far
back into the history of the ages past; he was a predecessor of the
mastodon; he was a contemporary of the southern elephant; he lived a
hundred thousand years ago, when, according to geologists, the
pleiocene formation was in progress.
Such then was the state of pal�ontological science, and what we knew
of it was sufficient to explain our behaviour in the presence of this
stupendous Golgotha. Any one may now understand the frenzied
excitement of my uncle, when, twenty yards farther on, he found
himself face to face with a primitive man!
It was a perfectly recognisable human body. Had some particular soil,
like that of the cemetery St. Michel, at Bordeaux, preserved it thus
for so many ages? It might be so. But this dried corpse, with its
parchment-like skin drawn tightly over the bony frame, the limbs
still preserving their shape, sound teeth, abundant hair, and finger
and toe nails of frightful length, this desiccated mummy startled us
by appearing just as it had lived countless ages ago. I stood mute
before this apparition of remote antiquity. My uncle, usually so
garrulous, was struck dumb likewise. We raised the body. We stood it
up against a rock. It seemed to stare at us out of its empty orbits.
We sounded with our knuckles his hollow frame.
After some moments' silence the Professor was himself again. Otto
Liedenbrock, yielding to his nature, forgot all the circumstances of
our eventful journey, forgot where we were standing, forgot the
vaulted cavern which contained us. No doubt he was in mind back again
in his Johann�um, holding forth to his pupils, for he assumed his
learned air; and addressing himself to an imaginary audience, he
"Gentlemen, I have the honour to introduce to you a man of the
quaternary or post-tertiary system. Eminent geologists have denied
his existence, others no less eminent have affirmed it. The St.
Thomases of pal�ontology, if they were here, might now touch him with
their fingers, and would be obliged to acknowledge their error. I am
quite aware that science has to be on its guard with discoveries of
this kind. I know what capital enterprising individuals like Barnum
have made out of fossil men. I have heard the tale of the kneepan of
Ajax, the pretended body of Orestes claimed to have been found by the
Spartans, and of the body of Asterius, ten cubits long, of which
Pausanias speaks. I have read the reports of the skeleton of Trapani,
found in the fourteenth century, and which was at the time identified
as that of Polyphemus; and the history of the giant unearthed in the
sixteenth century near Palermo. You know as well as I do, gentlemen,
the analysis made at Lucerne in 1577 of those huge bones which the
celebrated Dr. Felix Plater affirmed to be those of a giant nineteen
feet high. I have gone through the treatises of Cassanion, and all
those memoirs, pamphlets, answers, and rejoinders published
respecting the skeleton of Teutobochus, the invader of Gaul, dug out
of a sandpit in the Dauphin�, in 1613. In the eighteenth century I
would have stood up for Scheuchzer's pre-adamite man against Peter
Campet. I have perused a writing, entitled Gigan -"
Here my uncle's unfortunate infirmity met him - that of being unable
in public to pronounce hard words.
"The pamphlet entitled Gigan -"
He could get no further.
It was not to be done. The unlucky word would not come out. At the
Johann�um there would have been a laugh.
"Gigantosteologie," at last the Professor burst out, between two
words which I shall not record here.
Then rushing on with renewed vigour, and with great animation:
"Yes, gentlemen, I know all these things, and more. I know that
Cuvier and Blumenbach have recognised in these bones nothing more
remarkable than the bones of the mammoth and other mammals of the
post-tertiary period. But in the presence of this specimen to doubt
would be to insult science. There stands the body! You may see it,
touch it. It is not a mere skeleton; it is an entire body, preserved
for a purely anthropological end and purpose."
I was good enough not to contradict this startling assertion.
"If I could only wash it in a solution of sulphuric acid," pursued my
uncle, "I should be able to clear it from all the earthy particles
and the shells which are incrusted about it. But I do not possess
that valuable solvent. Yet, such as it is, the body shall tell us its
own wonderful story."
Here the Professor laid hold of the fossil skeleton, and handled it
with the skill of a dexterous showman.
"You see," he said, "that it is not six feet long, and that we are
still separated by a long interval from the pretended race of giants.
As for the family to which it belongs, it is evidently Caucasian. It
is the white race, our own. The skull of this fossil is a regular
oval, or rather ovoid. It exhibits no prominent cheekbones, no
projecting jaws. It presents no appearance of that prognathism which
diminishes the facial angle.  Measure that angle. It is nearly
ninety degrees. But I will go further in my deductions, and I will
affirm that this specimen of the human family is of the Japhetic
race, which has since spread from the Indies to the Atlantic. Don't
Nobody was smiling; but the learned Professor was frequently
disturbed by the broad smiles provoked by his learned eccentricities.
"Yes," he pursued with animation, "this is a fossil man, the
contemporary of the mastodons whose remains fill this amphitheatre.
But if you ask me how he came there, how those strata on which he lay
slipped down into this enormous hollow in the globe, I confess I
cannot answer that question. No doubt in the post-tertiary period
considerable commotions were still disturbing the crust of the earth.
The long-continued cooling of the globe produced chasms, fissures,
clefts, and faults, into which, very probably, portions of the upper
earth may have fallen. I make no rash assertions; but there is the
man surrounded by his own works, by hatchets, by flint arrow-heads,
which are the characteristics of the stone age. And unless he came
here, like myself, as a tourist on a visit and as a pioneer of
science, I can entertain no doubt of the authenticity of his remote
 The facial angle is formed by two lines, one touching the brow
and the front teeth, the other from the orifice of the ear to the
lower line of the nostrils. The greater this angle, the higher
intelligence denoted by the formation of the skull. Prognathism is
that projection of the jaw-bones which sharpens or lessons this
angle, and which is illustrated in the negro countenance and in the
The Professor ceased to speak, and the audience broke out into loud
and unanimous applause. For of course my uncle was right, and wiser
men than his nephew would have had some trouble to refute his
Another remarkable thing. This fossil body was not the only one in
this immense catacomb. We came upon other bodies at every step
amongst this mortal dust, and my uncle might select the most curious
of these specimens to demolish the incredulity of sceptics.
In fact it was a wonderful spectacle, that of these generations of
men and animals commingled in a common cemetery. Then one very
serious question arose presently which we scarcely dared to suggest.
Had all those creatures slided through a great fissure in the crust
of the earth, down to the shores of the Liedenbrock sea, when they
were dead and turning to dust, or had they lived and grown and died
here in this subterranean world under a false sky, just like
inhabitants of the upper earth? Until the present time we had seen
alive only marine monsters and fishes. Might not some living man,
some native of the abyss, be yet a wanderer below on this desert
FOREST SCENERY ILLUMINATED BY ELETRICITY
For another half hour we trod upon a pavement of bones. We pushed on,
impelled by our burning curiosity. What other marvels did this cavern
contain? What new treasures lay here for science to unfold? I was
prepared for any surprise, my imagination was ready for any
astonishment however astounding.
We had long lost sight of the sea shore behind the hills of bones.
The rash Professor, careless of losing his way, hurried me forward.
We advanced in silence, bathed in luminous electric fluid. By some
phenomenon which I am unable to explain, it lighted up all sides of
every object equally. Such was its diffusiveness, there being no
central point from which the light emanated, that shadows no longer
existed. You might have thought yourself under the rays of a vertical
sun in a tropical region at noonday and the height of summer. No
vapour was visible. The rocks, the distant mountains, a few isolated
clumps of forest trees in the distance, presented a weird and
wonderful aspect under these totally new conditions of a universal
diffusion of light. We were like Hoffmann's shadowless man.
After walking a mile we reached the outskirts of a vast forest, but
not one of those forests of fungi which bordered Port Gr�uben.
Here was the vegetation of the tertiary period in its fullest blaze
of magnificence. Tall palms, belonging to species no longer living,
splendid palmacites, firs, yews, cypress trees, thujas,
representatives of the conifers. were linked together by a tangled
network of long climbing plants. A soft carpet of moss and hepaticas
luxuriously clothed the soil. A few sparkling streams ran almost in
silence under what would have been the shade of the trees, but that
there was no shadow. On their banks grew tree-ferns similar to those
we grow in hothouses. But a remarkable feature was the total absence
of colour in all those trees, shrubs, and plants, growing without the
life-giving heat and light of the sun. Everything seemed mixed-up and
confounded in one uniform silver grey or light brown tint like that
of fading and faded leaves. Not a green leaf anywhere, and the
flowers - which were abundant enough in the tertiary period, which
first gave birth to flowers - looked like brown-paper flowers,
without colour or scent.
My uncle Liedenbrock ventured to penetrate under this colossal grove.
I followed him, not without fear. Since nature had here provided
vegetable nourishment, why should not the terrible mammals be there
too? I perceived in the broad clearings left by fallen trees, decayed
with age, leguminose plants, acerine�, rubice� and many other eatable
shrubs, dear to ruminant animals at every period. Then I observed,
mingled together in confusion, trees of countries far apart on the
surface of the globe. The oak and the palm were growing side by side,
the Australian eucalyptus leaned against the Norwegian pine, the
birch-tree of the north mingled its foliage with New Zealand kauris.
It was enough to distract the most ingenious classifier of
Suddenly I halted. I drew back my uncle.
The diffused light revealed the smallest object in the dense and
distant thickets. I had thought I saw - no! I did see, with my own
eyes, vast colossal forms moving amongst the trees. They were
gigantic animals; it was a herd of mastodons - not fossil remains,
but living and resembling those the bones of which were found in the
marshes of Ohio in 1801. I saw those huge elephants whose long,
flexible trunks were grouting and turning up the soil under the trees
like a legion of serpents. I could hear the crashing noise of their
long ivory tusks boring into the old decaying trunks. The boughs
cracked, and the leaves torn away by cartloads went down the
cavernous throats of the vast brutes.
So, then, the dream in which I had had a vision of the prehistoric
world, of the tertiary and post-tertiary periods, was now realised.
And there we were alone, in the bowels of the earth, at the mercy of
its wild inhabitants!
My uncle was gazing with intense and eager interest.
"Come on!" said he, seizing my arm. "Forward! forward!"
"No, I will not!" I cried. "We have no firearms. What could we do in
the midst of a herd of these four-footed giants? Come away, uncle -
come! No human being may with safety dare the anger of these
"No human creature?" replied my uncle in a lower voice. "You are
wrong, Axel. Look, look down there! I fancy I see a living creature
similar to ourselves: it is a man!"
I looked, shaking my head incredulously. But though at first I was
unbelieving I had to yield to the evidence of my senses.
In fact, at a distance of a quarter of a mile, leaning against the
trunk of a gigantic kauri, stood a human being, the Proteus of those
subterranean regions, a new son of Neptune, watching this countless
herd of mastodons.
Immanis pecoris custos, immanior ipse. 
 "The shepherd of gigantic herds, and huger still himself."
Yes, truly, huger still himself. It was no longer a fossil being like
him whose dried remains we had easily lifted up in the field of
bones; it was a giant, able to control those monsters. In stature he
was at least twelve feet high. His head, huge and unshapely as a
buffalo's, was half hidden in the thick and tangled growth of his
unkempt hair. It most resembled the mane of the primitive elephant.
In his hand he wielded with ease an enormous bough, a staff worthy of
this shepherd of the geologic period.
We stood petrified and speechless with amazement. But he might see
us! We must fly!
"Come, do come!" I said to my uncle, who for once allowed himself to
In another quarter of an hour our nimble heels had carried us beyond
the reach of this horrible monster.
And yet, now that I can reflect quietly, now that my spirit has grown
calm again, now that months have slipped by since this strange and
supernatural meeting, what am I to think? what am I to believe? I
must conclude that it was impossible that our senses had been
deceived, that our eyes did not see what we supposed they saw. No
human being lives in this subterranean world; no generation of men
dwells in those inferior caverns of the globe, unknown to and
unconnected with the inhabitants of its surface. It is absurd to
I had rather admit that it may have been some animal whose structure
resembled the human, some ape or baboon of the early geological ages,
some protopitheca, or some mesopitheca, some early or middle ape like
that discovered by Mr. Lartet in the bone cave of Sansau. But this
creature surpassed in stature all the measurements known in modern
pal�ontology. But that a man, a living man, and therefore whole
generations doubtless besides, should be buried there in the bowels
of the earth, is impossible.
However, we had left behind us the luminous forest, dumb with
astonishment, overwhelmed and struck down with a terror which
amounted to stupefaction. We kept running on for fear the horrible
monster might be on our track. It was a flight, a fall, like that
fearful pulling and dragging which is peculiar to nightmare.
Instinctively we got back to the Liedenbrock sea, and I cannot say
into what vagaries my mind would not have carried me but for a
circumstance which brought me back to practical matters.
Although I was certain that we were now treading upon a soil not
hitherto touched by our feet, I often perceived groups of rocks which
reminded me of those about Port Gr�uben. Besides, this seemed to
confirm the indications of the needle, and to show that we had
against our will returned to the north of the Liedenbrock sea.
Occasionally we felt quite convinced. Brooks and waterfalls were
tumbling everywhere from the projections in the rocks. I thought I
recognised the bed of surturbrand, our faithful Hansbach, and the
grotto in which I had recovered life and consciousness. Then a few
paces farther on, the arrangement of the cliffs, the appearance of an
unrecognised stream, or the strange outline of a rock, carne to throw
me again into doubt.
I communicated my doubts to my uncle. Like myself, he hesitated; he
could recognise nothing again amidst this monotonous scene.
"Evidently," said I, "we have not landed again at our original
starting point, but the storm has carried us a little higher, and if
we follow the shore we shall find Port Gr�uben."
"If that is the case it will be useless to continue our exploration,
and we had better return to our raft. But, Axel, are you not
"It is difficult to speak decidedly, uncle, for all these rocks are
so very much alike. Yet I think I recognise the promontory at the
foot of which Hans constructed our launch. We must be very near the
little port, if indeed this is not it," I added, examining a creek
which I thought I recognised.
"No, Axel, we should at least find our own traces and I see nothing -"
"But I do see," I cried, darting upon an object lying on the sand.
And I showed my uncle a rusty dagger which I had just picked up.
"Come," said he, "had you this weapon with you?"
"I! No, certainly! But you, perhaps -"
"Not that I am aware," said the Professor. "I have never had this
object in my possession."
"Well, this is strange!"
"No, Axel, it is very simple. The Icelanders often wear arms of this
kind. This must have belonged to Hans, and he has lost it."
I shook my head. Hans had never had an object like this in his
"Did it not belong to some preadamite warrior?" I cried, "to some
living man, contemporary with the huge cattle-driver? But no. This is
not a relic of the stone age. It is not even of the iron age. This
blade is steel -"
My uncle stopped me abruptly on my way to a dissertation which would
have taken me a long way, and said coolly:
"Be calm, Axel, and reasonable. This dagger belongs to the sixteenth
century; it is a poniard, such as gentlemen carried in their belts to
give the coup _de grace._ Its origin is Spanish. It was never either
yours, or mine, or the hunter's, nor did it belong to any of those
human beings who may or may not inhabit this inner world. See, it was
never jagged like this by cutting men's throats; its blade is coated
with a rust neither a day, nor a year, nor a hundred years old."
The Professor was getting excited according to his wont, and was
allowing his imagination to run away with him.
"Axel, we are on the way towards the grand discovery. This blade has
been left on the strand for from one to three hundred years, and has
blunted its edge upon the rocks that fringe this subterranean sea!"
"But it has not come alone. It has not twisted itself out of shape;
some one has been here before us!
"Yes - a man has."
"And who was that man?"
"A man who has engraved his name somewhere with that dagger. That man
wanted once more to mark the way to the centre of the earth. Let us
look about: look about!"
And, wonderfully interested, we peered all along the high wall,
peeping into every fissure which might open out into a gallery.
And so we arrived at a place where the shore was much narrowed. Here
the sea came to lap the foot of the steep cliff, leaving a passage no
wider than a couple of yards. Between two boldly projecting rocks
appeared the mouth of a dark tunnel.
There, upon a granite slab, appeared two mysterious graven letters,
half eaten away by time. They were the initials of the bold and
[Runic initials appear here]
"A. S.," shouted my uncle. "Arne Saknussemm! Arne Saknussemm
PREPARATIONS FOR BLASTING A PASSAGE TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Since the start upon this marvellous pilgrimage I had been through so
many astonishments that I might well be excused for thinking myself
well hardened against any further surprise. Yet at the sight of these
two letters, engraved on this spot three hundred years ago, I stood
aghast in dumb amazement. Not only were the initials of the learned
alchemist visible upon the living rock, but there lay the iron point
with which the letters had been engraved. I could no longer doubt of
the existence of that wonderful traveller and of the fact of his
unparalleled journey, without the most glaring incredulity.
Whilst these reflections were occupying me, Professor Liedenbrock had
launched into a somewhat rhapsodical eulogium, of which Arne
Saknussemm was, of course, the hero.
"Thou marvellous genius!" he cried, "thou hast not forgotten one
indication which might serve to lay open to mortals the road through
the terrestrial crust; and thy fellow-creatures may even now, after
the lapse of three centuries, again trace thy footsteps through these
deep and darksome ways. You reserved the contemplation of these
wonders for other eyes besides your own. Your name, graven from stage
to stage, leads the bold follower of your footsteps to the very
centre of our planet's core, and there again we shall find your own
name written with your own hand. I too will inscribe my name upon
this dark granite page. But for ever henceforth let this cape that
advances into the sea discovered by yourself be known by your own
illustrious name - Cape Saknussemm."
Such were the glowing words of panegyric which fell upon my attentive
ear, and I could not resist the sentiment of enthusiasm with which I
too was infected. The fire of zeal kindled afresh in me. I forgot
everything. I dismissed from my mind the past perils of the journey,
the future danger of our return. That which another had done I
supposed we might also do, and nothing that was not superhuman
appeared impossible to me.
"Forward! forward!" I cried.
I was already darting down the gloomy tunnel when the Professor
stopped me; he, the man of impulse, counselled patience and coolness.
"Let us first return to Hans," he said, "and bring the raft to this
I obeyed, not without dissatisfaction, and passed out rapidly among
the rocks on the shore.
I said: "Uncle, do you know it seems to me that circumstances have
wonderfully befriended us hitherto?"
"You think so, Axel?"
"No doubt; even the tempest has put us on the right way. Blessings on
that storm! It has brought us back to this coast from which fine
weather would have carried us far away. Suppose we had touched with
our prow (the prow of a rudder!) the southern shore of the
Liedenbrock sea, what would have become of us? We should never have
seen the name of Saknussemm, and we should at this moment be
imprisoned on a rockbound, impassable coast."
"Yes, Axel, it is providential that whilst supposing we were steering
south we should have just got back north at Cape Saknussemm. I must
say that this is astonishing, and that I feel I have no way to
"What does that signify, uncle? Our business is not to explain facts,
but to use them!"
"Certainly; but -"
"Well, uncle, we are going to resume the northern route, and to pass
under the north countries of Europe - under Sweden, Russia, Siberia:
who knows where? -instead of burrowing under the deserts of Africa,
or perhaps the waves of the Atlantic; and that is all I want to know."
"Yes, Axel, you are right. It is all for the best, since we have left
that weary, horizontal sea, which led us nowhere. Now we shall go
down, down, down! Do you know that it is now only 1,500 leagues. to
the centre of the globe?"
"Is that all?" I cried. "Why, that's nothing. Let us start: march!"
All this crazy talk was going on still when we met the hunter.
Everything was made ready for our instant departure. Every bit of
cordage was put on board. We took our places, and with our sail set,
Hans steered us along the coast to Cape Saknussemm.
The wind was unfavourable to a species of launch not calculated for
shallow water. In many places we were obliged to push ourselves along
with iron-pointed sticks. Often the sunken rocks just beneath the
surface obliged us to deviate from our straight course. At last,
after three hours' sailing, about six in the evening we reached a
place suitable for our landing. I jumped ashore, followed by my uncle
and the Icelander. This short passage had not served to cool my
ardour. On the contrary, I even proposed to burn 'our ship,' to
prevent the possibility of return; but my uncle would not consent to
that. I thought him singularly lukewarm.
"At least," I said, "don't let us lose a minute."
"Yes, yes, lad," he replied; "but first let us examine this new
gallery, to see if we shall require our ladders."
My uncle put his Ruhmkorff's apparatus in action; the raft moored to
the shore was left alone; the mouth of the tunnel was not twenty
yards from us; and our party, with myself at the head, made for it
without a moment's delay.
The aperture, which was almost round, was about five feet in
diameter; the dark passage was cut out in the live rock and lined
with a coat of the eruptive matter which formerly issued from it; the
interior was level with the ground outside, so that we were able to
enter without difficulty. We were following a horizontal plane, when,
only six paces in, our progress was interrupted by an enormous block
just across our way.
"Accursed rock!" I cried in a passion, finding myself suddenly
confronted by an impassable obstacle.
Right and left we searched in vain for a way, up and down, side to
side; there was no getting any farther. I felt fearfully
disappointed, and I would not admit that the obstacle was final. I
stopped, I looked underneath the block: no opening. Above: granite
still. Hans passed his lamp over every portion of the barrier in
vain. We must give up all hope of passing it.
I sat down in despair. My uncle strode from side to side in the
"But how was it with Saknussemm?" I cried.
"Yes," said my uncle, "was he stopped by this stone barrier?"
"No, no," I replied with animation. "This fragment of rock has been
shaken down by some shock or convulsion, or by one of those magnetic
storms which agitate these regions, and has blocked up the passage
which lay open to him. Many years have elapsed since the return of
Saknussemm to the surface and the fall of this huge fragment. Is it
not evident that this gallery was once the way open to the course of
the lava, and that at that time there must have been a free passage?
See here are recent fissures grooving and channelling the granite
roof. This roof itself is formed of fragments of rock carried down,
of enormous stones, as if by some giant's hand; but at one time the
expulsive force was greater than usual, and this block, like the
falling keystone of a ruined arch, has slipped down to the ground and
blocked up the way. It is only an accidental obstruction, not met by
Saknussemm, and if we don't destroy it we shall be unworthy to reach
the centre of the earth."
Such was my sentence! The soul of the Professor had passed into me.
The genius of discovery possessed me wholly. I forgot the past, I
scorned the future. I gave not a thought to the things of the surface
of this globe into which I had dived; its cities and its sunny
plains, Hamburg and the K�nigstrasse, even poor Gr�uben, who must
have given us up for lost, all were for the time dismissed from the
pages of my memory.
"Well," cried my uncle, "let us make a way with our pickaxes."
"Too hard for the pickaxe."
"Well, then, the spade."
"That would take us too long."
"Why gunpowder, to be sure! Let us mine the obstacle and blow it up."
"Oh, yes, it is only a bit of rock to blast!"
"Hans, to work!" cried my uncle.
The Icelander returned to the raft and soon came back with an iron
bar which he made use of to bore a hole for the charge. This was no
easy work. A hole was to be made large enough to hold fifty pounds of
guncotton, whose expansive force is four times that of gunpowder.
I was terribly excited. Whilst Hans was at work I was actively
helping my uncle to prepare a slow match of wetted powder encased in
"This will do it," I said.
"It will," replied my uncle.
By midnight our mining preparations were over; the charge was rammed
into the hole, and the slow match uncoiled along the gallery showed
its end outside the opening.
A spark would now develop the whole of our preparations into activity.
"To-morrow," said the Professor.
I had to be resigned and to wait six long hours.
THE GREAT EXPLOSION AND THE RUSH DOWN BELOW
The next day, Thursday, August 27, is a well-remembered date in our
subterranean journey. It never returns to my memory without sending
through me a shudder of horror and a palpitation of the heart. From
that hour we had no further occasion for the exercise of reason, or
judgment, or skill, or contrivance. We were henceforth to be hurled
along, the playthings of the fierce elements of the deep.
At six we were afoot. The moment drew near to clear a way by blasting
through the opposing mass of granite.
I begged for the honour of lighting the fuse. This duty done, I was
to join my companions on the raft, which had not yet been unloaded;
we should then push off as far as we could and avoid the dangers
arising from the explosion, the effects of which were not likely to
be confined to the rock itself.
The fuse was calculated to burn ten minutes before setting fire to
the mine. I therefore had sufficient time to get away to the raft.
I prepared to fulfil my task with some anxiety.
After a hasty meal, my uncle and the hunter embarked whilst I
remained on shore. I was supplied with a lighted lantern to set fire
to the fuse. "Now go," said my uncle, "and return immediately to us."
"Don't be uneasy," I replied. "I will not play by the way." I
immediately proceeded to the mouth of the tunnel. I opened my
lantern. I laid hold of the end of the match. The Professor stood,
chronometer in hand. "Ready?" he cried.
I instantly plunged the end of the fuse into the lantern. It
spluttered and flamed, and I ran at the top of my speed to the raft.
"Come on board quickly, and let us push off."
Hans, with a vigorous thrust, sent us from the shore. The raft shot
twenty fathoms out to sea.
It was a moment of intense excitement. The Professor was watching the
hand of the chronometer.
"Five minutes more!" he said. "Four! Three!"
My pulse beat half-seconds.
"Two! One! Down, granite rocks; down with you."
What took place at that moment? I believe I did not hear the dull
roar of the explosion. But the rocks suddenly assumed a new
arrangement: they rent asunder like a curtain. I saw a bottomless pit
open on the shore. The sea, lashed into sudden fury, rose up in an
enormous billow, on the ridge of which the unhappy raft was uplifted
bodily in the air with all its crew and cargo.
We all three fell down flat. In less than a second we were in deep,
unfathomable darkness. Then I felt as if not only myself but the raft
also had no support beneath. I thought it was sinking; but it was not
so. I wanted to speak to my uncle, but the roaring of the waves
prevented him from hearing even the sound of my voice.
In spite of darkness, noise, astonishment, and terror, I then
understood what had taken place.
On the other side of the blown-up rock was an abyss. The explosion
had caused a kind of earthquake in this fissured and abysmal region;
a great gulf had opened; and the sea, now changed into a torrent, was
hurrying us along into it.
I gave myself up for lost.
An hour passed away - two hours, perhaps - I cannot tell. We clutched
each other fast, to save ourselves from being thrown off the raft. We
felt violent shocks whenever we were borne heavily against the craggy
projections. Yet these shocks were not very frequent, from which I
concluded that the gully was widening. It was no doubt the same road
that Saknussemm had taken; but instead of walking peaceably down it,
as he had done, we were carrying a whole sea along with us.
These ideas, it will be understood, presented themselves to my mind
in a vague and undetermined form. I had difficulty in associating any
ideas together during this headlong race, which seemed like a
vertical descent. To judge by the air which was whistling past me and
made a whizzing in my ears, we were moving faster than the fastest
express trains. To light a torch under these' conditions would have
been impossible; and our last electric apparatus had been shattered
by the force of the explosion.
I was therefore much surprised to see a clear light shining near me.
It lighted up the calm and unmoved countenance of Hans. The skilful
huntsman had succeeded in lighting the lantern; and although it
flickered so much as to threaten to go out, it threw a fitful light
across the awful darkness.
I was right in my supposition. It was a wide gallery. The dim light
could not show us both its walls at once. The fall of the waters
which were carrying us away exceeded that of the swiftest rapids in
American rivers. Its surface seemed composed of a sheaf of arrows
hurled with inconceivable force; I cannot convey my impressions by a
better comparison. The raft, occasionally seized by an eddy, spun
round as it still flew along. When it approached the walls of the
gallery I threw on them the light of the lantern, and I could judge
somewhat of the velocity of our speed by noticing how the jagged
projections of the rocks spun into endless ribbons and bands, so that
we seemed confined within a network of shifting lines. I supposed we
were running at the rate of thirty leagues an hour.
My uncle and I gazed on each other with haggard eyes, clinging to the
stump of the mast, which had snapped asunder at the first shock of
our great catastrophe. We kept our backs to the wind, not to be
stifled by the rapidity of a movement which no human power could
Hours passed away. No change in our situation; but a discovery came
to complicate matters and make them worse.
In seeking to put our cargo into somewhat better order, I found that
the greater part of the articles embarked had disappeared at the
moment of the explosion, when the sea broke in upon us with such
violence. I wanted to know exactly what we had saved, and with the
lantern in my hand I began my examination. Of our instruments none
were saved but the compass and the chronometer; our stock of ropes
and ladders was reduced to the bit of cord rolled round the stump of
the mast! Not a spade, not a pickaxe, not a hammer was left us; and,
irreparable disaster! we had only one day's provisions left.
I searched every nook and corner, every crack and cranny in the raft.
There was nothing. Our provisions were reduced to one bit of salt
meat and a few biscuits.
I stared at our failing supplies stupidly. I refused to take in the
gravity of our loss. And yet what was the use of troubling myself. If
we had had provisions enough for months, how could we get out of the
abyss into which we were being hurled by an irresistible torrent? Why
should we fear the horrors of famine, when death was swooping down
upon us in a multitude of other forms? Would there be time left to
die of starvation?
Yet by an inexplicable play of the imagination I forgot my present
dangers, to contemplate the threatening future. Was there any chance
of escaping from the fury of this impetuous torrent, and of returning
to the surface of the globe? I could not form the slightest
conjecture how or when. But one chance in a thousand, or ten
thousand, is still a chance; whilst death from starvation would leave
us not the smallest hope in the world.
The thought came into my mind to declare the whole truth to my uncle,
to show him the dreadful straits to which we were reduced, and to
calculate how long we might yet expect to live. But I had the courage
to preserve silence. I wished to leave him cool and self-possessed.
At that moment the light from our lantern began to sink by little and
little, and then went out entirely. The wick had burnt itself out.
Black night reigned again; and there was no hope left of being able
to dissipate the palpable darkness. We had yet a torch left, but we
could not have kept it alight. Then, like a child, I closed my eyes
firmly, not to see the darkness.
After a considerable lapse of time our speed redoubled. I could
perceive it by the sharpness of the currents that blew past my face.
The descent became steeper. I believe we were no longer sliding, but
falling down. I had an impression that we were dropping vertically.
My uncle's hand, and the vigorous arm of Hans, held me fast.
Suddenly, after a space of time that I could not measure, I felt a
shock. The raft had not struck against any hard resistance, but had
suddenly been checked in its fall. A waterspout, an immense liquid
column, was beating upon the surface of the waters. I was
suffocating! I was drowning!
But this sudden flood was not of long duration. In a few seconds I
found myself in the air again, which I inhaled with all the force of
my lungs. My uncle and Hans were still holding me fast by the arms;
and the raft was still carrying us.
HEADLONG SPEED UPWARD THROUGH THE HORRORS OF DARKNESS
It might have been, as I guessed, about ten at night. The first of my
senses which came into play after this last bout was that of hearing.
All at once I could hear; and it was a real exercise of the sense of
hearing. I could hear the silence in the gallery after the din which
for hours had stunned me. At last these words of my uncle's came to
me like a vague murmuring:
"We are going up."
"What do you mean?" I cried.
"Yes, we are going up - up!"
I stretched out my arm. I touched the wall, and drew back my hand
bleeding. We were ascending with extreme rapidity.
"The torch! The torch!" cried the Professor.
Not without difficulty Hans succeeded in lighting the torch; and the
flame, preserving its upward tendency, threw enough light to show us
what kind of a place we were in.
"Just as I thought," said the Professor "We are in a tunnel not
four-and-twenty feet in diameter The water had reached the bottom of
the gulf. It is now rising to its level, and carrying us with it."
"I cannot tell; but we must be ready for anything. We are mounting at
a speed which seems to me of fourteen feet in a second, or ten miles
an hour. At this rate we shall get on."
"Yes, if nothing stops us; if this well has an aperture. But suppose
it to be stopped. If the air is condensed by the pressure of this
column of water we shall be crushed."
"Axel," replied the Professor with perfect coolness, "our situation
is almost desperate; but there are some chances of deliverance, and
it is these that I am considering. If at every instant we may perish,
so at every instant we may be saved. Let us then be prepared to seize
upon the smallest advantage."
"But what shall we do now?"
"Recruit our strength by eating."
At these words I fixed a haggard eye upon my uncle. That which I had
been so unwilling to confess at last had to be told.
"Eat, did you say?"
"Yes, at once."
The Professor added a few words in Danish, but Hans shook his head
"What!" cried my uncle. "Have we lost our provisions?"
"Yes; here is all we have left; one bit of salt meat for the three."
My uncle stared at me as if he could not understand.
"Well," said I, "do you think we have any chance of being saved?"
My question was unanswered.
An hour passed away. I began to feel the pangs of a violent hunger.
My companions were suffering too, and not one of us dared touch this
wretched remnant of our goodly store.
But now we were mounting up with excessive speed. Sometimes the air
would cut our breath short, as is experienced by aeronauts ascending
too rapidly. But whilst they suffer from cold in proportion to their
rise, we were beginning to feel a contrary effect. The heat was
increasing in a manner to cause us the most fearful anxiety, and
certainly the temperature was at this moment at the height of 100�
What could be the meaning of such a change? Up to this time facts had
supported the theories of Davy and of Liedenbrock; until now
particular conditions of non-conducting rocks, electricity and
magnetism, had tempered the laws of nature, giving us only a
moderately warm climate, for the theory of a central fire remained in
my estimation the only one that was true and explicable. Were we then
turning back to where the phenomena of central heat ruled in all
their rigour and would reduce the most refractory rocks to the state
of a molten liquid? I feared this, and said to the Professor:
"If we are neither drowned, nor shattered to pieces, nor starved to
death, there is still the chance that we may be burned alive and
reduced to ashes."
At this he shrugged his shoulders and returned to his thoughts.
Another hour passed, and, except some slight increase in the
temperature, nothing new had happened.
"Come," said he, "we must determine upon something."
"Determine on what?" said I.
"Yes, we must recruit our strength by carefully rationing ourselves,
and so prolong our existence by a few hours. But we shall be reduced
to very great weakness at last."
"And our last hour is not far off."
"Well, if there is a chance of safety, if a moment for active
exertion presents itself, where should we find the required strength
if we allowed ourselves to be enfeebled by hunger?"
"Well, uncle, when this bit of meat has been devoured what shall we
"Nothing, Axel, nothing at all. But will it do you any more good to
devour it with your eyes than with your teeth? Your reasoning has in
it neither sense nor energy."
"Then don't you despair?" I cried irritably.
"No, certainly not," was the Professor's firm reply.
"What! do you think there is any chance of safety left?"
"Yes, I do; as long as the heart beats, as long as body and soul keep
together, I cannot admit that any creature endowed with a will has
need to despair of life."
Resolute words these! The man who could speak so, under such
circumstances, was of no ordinary type.
"Finally, what do you mean to do?" I asked.
"Eat what is left to the last crumb, and recruit our fading strength.
This meal will be our last, perhaps: so let it be! But at any rate we
shall once more be men, and not exhausted, empty bags."
"Well, let us consume it then," I cried.
My uncle took the piece of meat and the few biscuits which had
escaped from the general destruction. He divided them into three
equal portions and gave one to each. This made about a pound of
nourishment for each. The Professor ate his greedily, with a kind of
feverish rage. I ate without pleasure, almost with disgust; Hans
quietly, moderately, masticating his small mouthfuls without any
noise, and relishing them with the calmness of a man above all
anxiety about the future. By diligent search he had found a flask of
Hollands; he offered it to us each in turn, and this generous
beverage cheered us up slightly.
"_Fortr�fflig,_" said Hans, drinking in his turn.
"Excellent," replied my uncle.
A glimpse of hope had returned, although without cause. But our last
meal was over, and it was now five in the morning.
Man is so constituted that health is a purely negative state. Hunger
once satisfied, it is difficult for a man to imagine the horrors of
starvation; they cannot be understood without being felt.
Therefore it was that after our long fast these few mouthfuls of meat
and biscuit made us triumph over our past agonies.
But as soon as the meal was done, we each of us fell deep into
thought. What was Hans thinking of - that man of the far West, but
who seemed ruled by the fatalist doctrines of the East?
As for me, my thoughts were made up of remembrances, and they carried
me up to the surface of the globe of which I ought never to have
taken leave. The house in the K�nigstrasse, my poor dear Gr�uben,
that kind soul Martha, flitted like visions before my eyes, and in
the dismal moanings which from time to time reached my ears I thought
I could distinguish the roar of the traffic of the great cities upon
My uncle still had his eye upon his work. Torch in hand, he tried to
gather some idea of our situation from the observation of the strata.
This calculation could, at best, be but a vague approximation; but a
learned man is always a philosopher when he succeeds in remaining
cool, and assuredly Professor Liedenbrock possessed this quality to a
I could hear him murmuring geological terms. I could understand them,
and in spite of myself I felt interested in this last geological
"Eruptive granite," he was saying. "We are still in the primitive
period. But we are going up, up, higher still. Who can tell?"
Ah! who can tell? With his hand he was examining the perpendicular
wall, and in a few more minutes he continued:
"This is gneiss! here is mica schist! Ah! presently we shall come to
the transition period, and then -"
What did the Professor mean? Could he be trying to measure the
thickness of the crust of the earth that lay between us and the world
above? Had he any means of making this calculation? No, he had not
the aneroid, and no guessing could supply its place.
Still the temperature kept rising, and I felt myself steeped in a
broiling atmosphere. I could only compare it to the heat of a furnace
at the moment when the molten metal is running into the mould.
Gradually we had been obliged to throw aside our coats and
waistcoats, the. lightest covering became uncomfortable and even
"Are we rising into a fiery furnace?" I cried at one moment when the
heat was redoubling.
"No," replied my uncle, "that is impossible -quite impossible!"
"Yet," I answered, feeling the wall, "this well is burning hot."
At the same moment, touching the water, I had to withdraw my hand in
"The water is scalding," I cried.
This time the Professor's only answer was an angry gesture.
Then an unconquerable terror seized upon me, from which I could no
longer get free. I felt that a catastrophe was approaching before
which the boldest spirit must quail. A dim, vague notion laid hold of
my mind, but which was fast hardening into certainty. I tried to
repel it, but it would return. I dared not express it in plain terms.
Yet a few involuntary observations confirmed me in my view. By the
flickering light of the torch I could distinguish contortions in the
granite beds; a phenomenon was unfolding in which electricity would
play the principal part; then this unbearable heat, this boiling
water! I consulted the compass.
The compass had lost its properties! it had ceased to act properly!
SHOT OUT OF A VOLCANO AT LAST!
Yes: our compass was no longer a guide; the needle flew from pole to
pole with a kind of frenzied impulse; it ran round the dial, and spun
hither and thither as if it were giddy or intoxicated.
I knew quite well that according to the best received theories the
mineral covering of the globe is never at absolute rest; the changes
brought about by the chemical decomposition of its component parts,
the agitation caused by great liquid torrents, and the magnetic
currents, are continually tending to disturb it -even when living
beings upon its surface may fancy that all is quiet below. A
phenomenon of this kind would not have greatly alarmed me, or at any
rate it would not have given rise to dreadful apprehensions.
But other facts, other circumstances, of a peculiar nature, came to
reveal to me by degrees the true state of the case. There came
incessant and continuous explosions. I could only compare them to the
loud rattle of along train of chariots driven at full speed over the
stones, or a roar of unintermitting thunder.
Then the disordered compass, thrown out of gear by the electric
currents, confirmed me in a growing conviction. The mineral crust of
the globe threatened to burst up, the granite foundations to come
together with a crash, the fissure through which we were helplessly
driven would be filled up, the void would be full of crushed
fragments of rock, and we poor wretched mortals were to be buried and
annihilated in this dreadful consummation.
"My uncle," I cried, "we are lost now, utterly lost!"
"What are you in a fright about now?" was the calm rejoinder. "What
is the matter with you?"
"The matter? Look at those quaking walls! look at those shivering
rocks. Don't you feel the burning heat? Don't you see how the water
boils and bubbles? Are you blind to the dense vapours and steam
growing thicker and denser every minute? See this agitated compass
needle. It is an earthquake that is threatening us."
My undaunted uncle calmly shook his head.
"Do you think," said he, "an earthquake is coming?"
"Well, I think you are mistaken."
"What! don't you recognise the symptoms?"
"Of an earthquake? no! I am looking out for something better."
"What can you mean? Explain?"
"It is an eruption, Axel."
"An eruption! Do you mean to affirm that we are running up the shaft
of a volcano?"
"I believe we are," said the indomitable Professor with an air of
perfect self-possession; "and it is the best thing that could
possibly happen to us under our circumstances."
The best thing! Was my uncle stark mad? What did the man mean? and
what was the use of saying facetious things at a time like this?
"What!" I shouted. "Are we being taken up in an eruption? Our fate
has flung us here among burning lavas, molten rocks, boiling waters,
and all kinds of volcanic matter; we are going to be pitched out,
expelled, tossed up, vomited, spit out high into the air, along with
fragments of rock, showers of ashes and scoria, in the midst of a
towering rush of smoke and flames; and it is the best thing that
could happen to us!"
"Yes," replied the Professor, eyeing me over his spectacles, "I don't
see any other way of reaching the surface of the earth."
I pass rapidly over the thousand ideas which passed through my mind.
My uncle was right, undoubtedly right; and never had he seemed to me
more daring and more confirmed in his notions than at this moment
when he was calmly contemplating the chances of being shot out of a
In the meantime up we went; the night passed away in continual
ascent; the din and uproar around us became more and more
intensified; I was stifled and stunned; I thought my last hour was
approaching; and yet imagination is such a strong thing that even in
this supreme hour I was occupied with strange and almost childish
speculations. But I was the victim, not the master, of my own
It was very evident that we were being hurried upward upon the crest
of a wave of eruption; beneath our raft were boiling waters, and
under these the more sluggish lava was working its way up in a heated
mass, together with shoals of fragments of rock which, when they
arrived at the crater, would be dispersed in all directions high and
low. We were imprisoned in the shaft or chimney of some volcano.
There was no room to doubt of that.
But this time, instead of Sn�fell, an extinct volcano, we were inside
one in full activity. I wondered, therefore, where could this
mountain be, and in what part of the world we were to be shot out.
I made no doubt but that it would be in some northern region. Before
its disorders set in, the needle had never deviated from that
direction. From Cape Saknussemm we had been carried due north for
hundreds of leagues. Were we under Iceland again? Were we destined to
be thrown up out of Hecla, or by which of the seven other fiery
craters in that island? Within a radius of five hundred leagues to
the west I remembered under this parallel of latitude only the
imperfectly known volcanoes of the north-east coast of America. To
the east there was only one in the 80th degree of north latitude, the
Esk in Jan Mayen Island, not far from Spitzbergen! Certainly there
was no lack of craters, and there were some capacious enough to throw
out a whole army! But I wanted to know which of them was to serve us
for an exit from the inner world.
Towards morning the ascending movement became accelerated. If the
heat increased, instead of diminishing, as we approached nearer to
the surface of the globe, this effect was due to local causes alone,
and those volcanic. The manner of our locomotion left no doubt in my
mind. An enormous force, a force of hundreds of atmospheres,
generated by the extreme pressure of confined vapours, was driving us
irresistibly forward. But to what numberless dangers it exposed us!
Soon lurid lights began to penetrate the vertical gallery which
widened as we went up. Right and left I could see deep channels, like
huge tunnels, out of which escaped dense volumes of smoke; tongues of
fire lapped the walls, which crackled and sputtered under the intense
"See, see, my uncle!" I cried.
"Well, those are only sulphureous flames and vapours, which one must
expect to see in an eruption. They are quite natural."
"But suppose they should wrap us round."
"But they won't wrap us round."
"But we shall be stifled."
"We shall, not be stifled at all. The gallery is widening, and if it
becomes necessary, we shall abandon the raft, and creep into a
"But the water - the rising water?"
"There is no more water, Axel; only a lava paste, which is bearing us
up on its surface to the top of the crater."
The liquid column had indeed disappeared, to give place to dense and
still boiling eruptive matter of all kinds. The temperature was
becoming unbearable. A thermometer exposed to this atmosphere would
have marked 150�. The perspiration streamed from my body. But for the
rapidity of our ascent we should have been suffocated.
But the Professor gave up his idea of abandoning the raft, and it was
well he did. However roughly joined together, those planks afforded
us a firmer support than we could have found anywhere else.
About eight in the morning a new incident occurred. The upward
movement ceased. The raft lay motionless.
"What is this?" I asked, shaken by this sudden stoppage as if by a
"It is a halt," replied my uncle.
"Is the eruption checked?" I asked.
"I hope not."
I rose, and tried to look around me. Perhaps the raft itself, stopped
in its course by a projection, was staying the volcanic torrent. If
this were the case we should have to release it as soon as possible.
But it was not so. The blast of ashes, scorix, and rubbish had ceased
"Has the eruption stopped?" I cried.
"Ah!" said my uncle between his clenched teeth, "you are afraid. But
don't alarm yourself - this lull cannot last long. It has lasted now
five minutes, and in a short time we shall resume our journey to the
mouth of the crater."
As he spoke, the Professor continued to consult his chronometer, and
he was again right in his prognostications. The raft was soon hurried
and driven forward with a rapid but irregular movement, which lasted
about ten minutes, and then stopped again.
"Very good," said my uncle; "in ten minutes more we shall be off
again, for our present business lies with an intermittent volcano. It
gives us time now and then to take breath."
This was perfectly true. When the ten minutes were over we started
off again with renewed and increased speed. We were obliged to lay
fast hold of the planks of the raft, not to be thrown off. Then again
the paroxysm was over.
I have since reflected upon this singular phenomenon without being
able to explain it. At any rate it was clear that we were not in the
main shaft of the volcano, but in a lateral gallery where there were
felt recurrent tunes of reaction.
How often this operation was repeated I cannot say. All I know is,
that at each fresh impulse we were hurled forward with a greatly
increased force, and we seemed as if we were mere projectiles. During
the short halts we were stifled with the heat; whilst we were being
projected forward the hot air almost stopped my breath. I thought for
a moment how delightful it would be to find myself carried suddenly
into the arctic regions, with a cold 30� below the freezing point. My
overheated brain conjured up visions of white plains of cool snow,
where I might roll and allay my feverish heat. Little by little my
brain, weakened by so many constantly repeated shocks, seemed to be
giving way altogether. But for the strong arm of Hans I should more
than once have had my head broken against the granite roof of our
I have therefore no exact recollection of what took place during the
following hours. I have a confused impression left of continuous
explosions, loud detonations, a general shaking of the rocks all
around us, and of a spinning movement with which our raft was once
whirled helplessly round. It rocked upon the lava torrent, amidst a
dense fall of ashes. Snorting flames darted their fiery tongues at
us. There were wild, fierce puffs of stormy wind from below,
resembling the blasts of vast iron furnaces blowing all at one time;
and I caught a glimpse of the figure of Hans lighted up by the fire;
and all the feeling I had left was just what I imagine must be the
feeling of an unhappy criminal doomed to be blown away alive from the
mouth of a cannon, just before the trigger is pulled, and the flying
limbs and rags of flesh and skin fill the quivering air and spatter
the blood-stained ground.
SUNNY LANDS IN THE BLUE MEDITERRANEAN
When I opened my eyes again I felt myself grasped by the belt with
the strong hand of our guide. With the other arm he supported my
uncle. I was not seriously hurt, but I was shaken and bruised and
battered all over. I found myself lying on the sloping side of a
mountain only two yards from a gaping gulf, which would have
swallowed me up had I leaned at all that way. Hans had saved me from
death whilst I lay rolling on the edge of the crater.
"Where are we?" asked my uncle irascibly, as if he felt much injured
by being landed upon the earth again.
The hunter shook his head in token of complete ignorance.
"Is it Iceland?" I asked.
"_Nej,_" replied Hans.
"What! Not Iceland?" cried the Professor.
"Hans must be mistaken," I said, raising myself up.
This was our final surprise after all the astonishing events of our
wonderful journey. I expected to see a white cone covered with the
eternal snow of ages rising from the midst of the barren deserts of
the icy north, faintly lighted with the pale rays of the arctic sun,
far away in the highest latitudes known; but contrary to all our
expectations, my uncle, the Icelander, and myself were sitting
half-way down a mountain baked under the burning rays of a southern
sun, which was blistering us with the heat, and blinding us with the
fierce light of his nearly vertical rays.
I could not believe my own eyes; but the heated air and the sensation
of burning left me no room for doubt. We had come out of the crater
half naked, and the radiant orb to which we had been strangers for
two months was lavishing upon us out of his blazing splendours more
of his light and heat than we were able to receive with comfort.
When my eyes had become accustomed to the bright light to which they
had been so long strangers, I began to use them to set my imagination
right. At least I would have it to be Spitzbergen, and I was in no
humour to give up this notion.
The Professor was the first to speak, and said:
"Well, this is not much like Iceland."
"But is it Jan Mayen?" I asked.
"Nor that either," he answered. "This is no northern mountain; here
are no granite peaks capped with snow. Look, Axel, look!"
Above our heads, at a height of five hundred feet or more, we saw the
crater of a volcano, through. which, at intervals of fifteen minutes
or so, there issued with loud explosions lofty columns of fire,
mingled with pumice stones, ashes, and flowing lava. I could feel the
heaving of the mountain, which seemed to breathe like a huge whale,
and puff out fire and wind from its vast blowholes. Beneath, down a
pretty steep declivity, ran streams of lava for eight or nine hundred
feet, giving the mountain a height of about 1,300 or 1,400 feet. But
the base of the mountain was hidden in a perfect bower of rich
verdure, amongst which I was able to distinguish the olive, the fig,
and vines, covered with their luscious purple bunches.
I was forced to confess that there was nothing arctic here.
When the eye passed beyond these green surroundings it rested on a
wide, blue expanse of sea or lake, which appeared to enclose this
enchanting island, within a compass of only a few leagues. Eastward
lay a pretty little white seaport town or village, with a few houses
scattered around it, and in the harbour of which a few vessels of
peculiar rig were gently swayed by the softly swelling waves. Beyond
it, groups of islets rose from the smooth, blue waters, but in such
numbers that they seemed to dot the sea like a shoal. To the west
distant coasts lined the dim horizon, on some rose blue mountains of
smooth, undulating forms; on a more distant coast arose a prodigious
cone crowned on its summit with a snowy plume of white cloud. To the
northward lay spread a vast sheet of water, sparkling and dancing
under the hot, bright rays, the uniformity broken here and there by
the topmast of a gallant ship appearing above the horizon, or a
swelling sail moving slowly before the wind.
This unforeseen spectacle was most charming to eyes long used to
"Where are we? Where are we?" I asked faintly.
Hans closed his eyes with lazy indifference. What did it matter to
him? My uncle looked round with dumb surprise.
"Well, whatever mountain this may be," he said at last, "it is very
hot here. The explosions are going on still, and I don't think it
would look well to have come out by an eruption, and then to get our
heads broken by bits of falling rock. Let us get down. Then we shall
know better what we are about. Besides, I am starving, and parching
Decidedly the Professor was not given to contemplation. For my part,
I could for another hour or two have forgotten my hunger and my
fatigue to enjoy the lovely scene before me; but I had to follow my
The slope of the volcano was in many places of great steepness. We
slid down screes of ashes, carefully avoiding the lava streams which
glided sluggishly by us like fiery serpents. As we went I chattered
and asked all sorts of questions as to our whereabouts, for L was too
much excited not to talk a great deal.
"We are in Asia," I cried, "on the coasts of India, in the Malay
Islands, or in Oceania. We have passed through half the globe, and
come out nearly at the antipodes."
"But the compass?" said my uncle.
"Ay, the compass!" I said, greatly puzzled. "According to the compass
we have gone northward."
"Has it lied?"
"Surely not. Could it lie?"
"Unless, indeed, this is the North Pole!"
"Oh, no, it is not the Pole; but -"
Well, here was something that baffled us completely. I could not tell
what to say.
But now we were coming into that delightful greenery, and I was
suffering greatly from hunger and thirst. Happily, after two hours'
walking, a charming country lay open before us, covered with olive
trees, pomegranate trees, and delicious vines, all of which seemed to
belong to anybody who pleased to claim them. Besides, in our state of
destitution and famine we were not likely to be particular. Oh, the
inexpressible pleasure of pressing those cool, sweet fruits to our
lips, and eating grapes by mouthfuls off the rich, full bunches! Not
far off, in the grass, under the delicious shade of the trees, I
discovered a spring of fresh, cool water, in which we luxuriously
bathed our faces, hands, and feet.
Whilst we were thus enjoying the sweets of repose a child appeared
out of a grove of olive trees.
"Ah!" I cried, "here is an inhabitant of this happy land!"
It was but a poor boy, miserably ill-clad, a sufferer from poverty,
and our aspect seemed to alarm him a great deal; in fact, only half
clothed, with ragged hair and beards, we were a suspicious-looking
party; and if the people of the country knew anything about thieves,
we were very likely to frighten them.
Just as the poor little wretch was going to take to his heels, Hans
caught hold of him, and brought him to us, kicking and struggling.
My uncle began to encourage him as well as he could, and said to him
in good German:
"_Was heiszt diesen Berg, mein Knablein? Sage mir geschwind!_"
("What is this mountain called, my little friend?")
The child made no answer.
"Very well," said my uncle. "I infer that we are not in Germany."
He put the same question in English.
We got no forwarder. I was a good deal puzzled.
"Is the child dumb?" cried the Professor, who, proud of his knowledge
of many languages, now tried French: "_Comment appellet-on cette
montagne, mon enfant?_"
"Now let us try Italian," said my uncle; and he said:
"_Dove noi siamo?_"
"Yes, where are we?" I impatiently repeated.
But there was no answer still.
"Will you speak when you are told?" exclaimed my uncle, shaking the
urchin by the ears. "_Come si noma questa isola?_"
"STROMBOLI," replied the little herdboy, slipping out of Hans' hands,
and scudding into the plain across the olive trees.
We were hardly thinking of that. Stromboli! What an effect this
unexpected name produced upon my mind! We were in the midst of the
Mediterranean Sea, on an island of the �olian archipelago, in the
ancient Strongyle, where �olus kept the winds and the storms chained
up, to be let loose at his will. And those distant blue mountains in
the east were the mountains of Calabria. And that threatening volcano
far away in the south was the fierce Etna.
"Stromboli, Stromboli!" I repeated.
My uncle kept time to my exclamations with hands and feet, as well as
with words. We seemed to be chanting in chorus!
What a journey we had accomplished! How marvellous! Having entered by
one volcano, we had issued out of another more than two thousand
miles from Sn�fell and from that barren, far-away Iceland! The
strange chances of our expedition had carried us into the heart of
the fairest region in the world. We had exchanged the bleak regions
of perpetual snow and of impenetrable barriers of ice for those of
brightness and 'the rich hues of all glorious things.' We had left
over our heads the murky sky and cold fogs of the frigid zone to
revel under the azure sky of Italy!
After our delicious repast of fruits and cold, clear water we set off
again to reach the port of Stromboli. It would not have been wise to
tell how we came there. The superstitious Italians would have set us
down for fire-devils vomited out of hell; so we presented ourselves
in the humble guise of shipwrecked mariners. It was not so glorious,
but it was safer.
On my way I could hear my uncle murmuring: "But the compass! that
compass! It pointed due north. How are we to explain that fact?"
"My opinion is," I replied disdainfully, "that it is best not to
explain it. That is the easiest way to shelve the difficulty."
"Indeed, sir! The occupant of a professorial chair at the Johann�um
unable to explain the reason of a cosmical phenomenon! Why, it would
be simply disgraceful!"
And as he spoke, my uncle, half undressed, in rags, a perfect
scarecrow, with his leathern belt around him, settling his spectacles
upon his nose and looking learned and imposing, was himself again,
the terrible German professor of mineralogy.
One hour after we had left the grove of olives, we arrived at the
little port of San Vicenzo, where Hans claimed his thirteen week's
wages, which was counted out to him with a hearty shaking of hands
At that moment, if he did not share our natural emotion, at least his
countenance expanded in a manner very unusual with him, and while
with the ends of his fingers he lightly pressed our hands, I believe
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
Such is the conclusion of a history which I cannot expect everybody
to believe, for some people will believe nothing against the
testimony of their own experience. However, I am indifferent to their
incredulity, and they may believe as much or as little as they please.
The Stromboliotes received us kindly as shipwrecked mariners. They
gave us food and clothing. After waiting forty-eight hours, on the 31
st of August, a small craft took us to Messina, where a few days'
rest completely removed the effect of our fatigues.
On Friday, September the 4th, we embarked on the steamer Volturno,
employed by the French Messageries Imperiales, and in three days more
we were at Marseilles, having no care on our minds except that
abominable deceitful compass, which we had mislaid somewhere and
could not now examine; but its inexplicable behaviour exercised my
mind fearfully. On the 9th of September, in the evening, we arrived
I cannot describe to you the astonishment of Martha or the joy of
"Now you are a hero, Axel," said to me my blushing _fianc�e,_ my
betrothed, "you will not leave me again!"
I looked tenderly upon her, and she smiled through her tears.
How can I describe the extraordinary sensation produced by the return
of Professor Liedenbrock? Thanks to Martha's ineradicable tattling,
the news that the Professor had gone to discover a way to the centre
of the earth had spread over the whole civilised world. People
refused to believe it, and when they saw him they would not believe
him any the more. Still, the appearance of Hans, and sundry pieces of
intelligence derived from Iceland, tended to shake the confidence of
Then my uncle became a great man, and I was now the nephew of a great
man -which is not a privilege to be despised.
Hamburg gave a grand fete in our honour. A public audience was given
to the Professor at the Johann�um, at which he told all about our
expedition, with only one omission, the unexplained and inexplicable
behaviour of our compass. On the same day, with much state, he
deposited in the archives of the city the now famous document of
Saknussemm, and expressed his regret that circumstances over which he
had no control had prevented him from following to the very centre of
the earth the track of the learned Icelander. He was modest
notwithstanding his glory, and he was all the more famous for his
So much honour could not but excite envy. There were those who envied
him his fame; and as his theories, resting upon known facts, were in
opposition to the systems of science upon the question of the central
fire, he sustained with his pen and by his voice remarkable
discussions with the learned of every country.
For my part I cannot agree with his theory of gradual cooling: in
spite of what I have seen and felt, I believe, and always shall
believe, in the central heat. But I admit that certain circumstances
not yet sufficiently understood may tend to modify in places the
action of natural phenomena.
While these questions were being debated with great animation, my
uncle met with a real sorrow. Our faithful Hans, in spite of our
entreaties, had left Hamburg; the man to whom we owed all our success
and our lives too would not suffer us to reward him as we could have
wished. He was seized with the mal de pays, a complaint for which we
have not even a name in English.
"_Farval,_" said he one day; and with that simple word he left us and
sailed for Rejkiavik, which he reached in safety.
We were strongly attached to our brave eider-down hunter; though far
away in the remotest north, he will never be forgotten by those whose
lives he protected, and certainly I shall not fail to endeavour to
see him once more before I die.
To conclude, I have to add that this 'Journey into the Interior of
the Earth' created a wonderful sensation in the world. It was
translated into all civilised languages. The leading newspapers
extracted the most interesting passages, which were commented upon,
picked to pieces, discussed, attacked, and defended with equal
enthusiasm and determination, both by believers and sceptics. Rare
privilege! my uncle enjoyed during his lifetime the glory he had
deservedly won; and he may even boast the distinguished honour of an
offer from Mr. Barnum, to exhibit him on most advantageous terms in
all the principal cities in the United States!
But there was one 'dead fly' amidst all this glory and honour; one
fact, one incident, of the journey remained a mystery. Now to a man
eminent for his learning, an unexplained phenomenon is an unbearable
hardship. Well! it was yet reserved for my uncle to be completely
One day, while arranging a collection of minerals in his cabinet, I
noticed in a corner this unhappy compass, which we had long lost
sight of; I opened it, and began to watch it.
It had been in that corner for six months, little mindful of the
trouble it was giving.
Suddenly, to my intense astonishment, I noticed a strange fact, and I
uttered a cry of surprise.
"What is the matter?" my uncle asked.
"See, its poles are reversed!"
"Yes, they point the wrong way."
My uncle looked, he compared, and the house shook with his triumphant
leap of exultation.
A light broke in upon his spirit and mine.
"See there," he cried, as soon as he was able to speak. "After our
arrival at Cape Saknussemm the north pole of the needle of this
confounded compass began to point south instead of north."
"Here, then, is the explanation of our mistake. But what phenomenon
could have caused this reversal of the poles?"
"The reason is evident, uncle."
"Tell me, then, Axel."
"During the electric storm on the Liedenbrock sea, that ball of fire,
which magnetised all the iron on board, reversed the poles of our
"Aha! aha!" shouted the Professor with a loud laugh. "So it was just
an electric joke!"
From that day forth the Professor was the most glorious of savants,
and I was the happiest of men; for my pretty Virlandaise, resigning
her place as ward, took her position in the old house on the
K�nigstrasse in the double capacity of niece to my uncle and wife to
a certain happy youth. What is the need of adding that the
illustrious Otto Liedenbrock, corresponding member of all the
scientific, geographical, and mineralogical societies of all the
civilised world, was now her uncle and mine?