Jules Verne Takes Us On A Wild Ride

verne-prophet-smithsonian

 

On June 30 (I am surprised with all of the nautical details that Verne is not better at the chronology of his book) Land impresses the crew and Aronnax when he harpoons two whales at the request of another ship. His prowess makes Aronnax believe that he will be successful in capturing the monster. The sailors remain drawn to the waters, driven by the lure of money. Aronnax says that he is not propelled by the chance of winning the two thousand dollars; he watches only out of his own curiosity. Ned Land, conversely, spends most of his time reading and sleeping in his cabin–this behavior outrages Aronnax.

Land believes the claims of those who have encountered the monster: it is invisible and unbelievably fast. He tells Aronnax that if they consider the monster’s past habits, it is very likely that he is far away from where there are–the sight of the last incident.

After three months of seeing no sign of the creature, the crew becomes discouraged and skeptical. They decide to return home. The captain asks for three more days. On the third day, Ned Land spots the creature.

In the water there was phosphorescence that had been described by many other people who encountered the creature. The monster continued to give off light. It was much faster than the ship and swam around it and under it. The captain, fearsome of risking his ship against an unidentifiable creature, decided not to attack it but to wait for morning.

Ned Land told the captain that the creature made the same sounds as whales, yet much louder. When the creature appeared again in the daylight, Aronnax was able to observe it more closely. The creature was black and 250 feet in length. The water shooting from the creature’s blowholes reached about 120 feet high.

At Land’s suggestion, the ship continued full steam ahead, hoping to get close enough for Land to harpoon it. Five hundred dollars was offered to the man who could shoot the beast. A three hundred mile chase ensued; the only shot to hit the creature bounced off, as though it was coated in an iron case.

The monster disappeared, then later reappeared. Ned Land was able to hit it with a harpoon causing two enormous columns of water to fall over the deck of the ship. The Abraham Lincoln rocked violently. Pierre Aronnax was thrown into the sea.

I did find myself, at this point becoming rather intrigued by Aronnax. He’s actually quite an aloof character but at the same time his excitement at seeing the creature is palpable.

Chapter challenge: chapters 7-10

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