CHAPTER 23: "Aegri Somnia"
*Latin: "troubled dreams." Ed.
THE FOLLOWING DAY, January 10, the Nautilus resumed its travels
in midwater but at a remarkable speed that I estimated to be at
least thirty-five miles per hour. The propeller was going so fast
I could neither follow nor count its revolutions.
I thought about how this marvelous electric force not only
gave motion, heat, and light to the Nautilus but even protected it
against outside attack, transforming it into a sacred ark no profane
hand could touch without being blasted; my wonderment was boundless,
and it went from the submersible itself to the engineer who
had created it.
We were traveling due west and on January 11 we doubled Cape Wessel,
located in longitude 135 degrees and latitude 10 degrees north,
the western tip of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Reefs were still
numerous but more widely scattered and were fixed on the chart
with the greatest accuracy. The Nautilus easily avoided
the Money breakers to port and the Victoria reefs to starboard,
positioned at longitude 130 degrees on the tenth parallel,
which we went along rigorously.
On January 13, arriving in the Timor Sea, Captain Nemo raised
the island of that name at longitude 122 degrees. This island,
whose surface area measures 1,625 square leagues, is governed by rajahs.
These aristocrats deem themselves the sons of crocodiles, in other words,
descendants with the most exalted origins to which a human
being can lay claim. Accordingly, their scaly ancestors infest
the island's rivers and are the subjects of special veneration.
They are sheltered, nurtured, flattered, pampered, and offered
a ritual diet of nubile maidens; and woe to the foreigner who lifts
a finger against these sacred saurians.
But the Nautilus wanted nothing to do with these nasty animals.
Timor Island was visible for barely an instant at noon while the chief
officer determined his position. I also caught only a glimpse
of little Roti Island, part of this same group, whose women have a
well-established reputation for beauty in the Malaysian marketplace.