CHAPTER 23: "Aegri Somnia"
After our position fix, the Nautilus's latitude bearings were modulated
to the southwest. Our prow pointed to the Indian Ocean. Where would
Captain Nemo's fancies take us? Would he head up to the shores
of Asia? Would he pull nearer to the beaches of Europe? Unlikely choices
for a man who avoided populated areas! So would he go down south?
Would he double the Cape of Good Hope, then Cape Horn, and push
on to the Antarctic pole? Finally, would he return to the seas
of the Pacific, where his Nautilus could navigate freely and easily?
Time would tell.
After cruising along the Cartier, Hibernia, Seringapatam, and Scott reefs,
the solid element's last exertions against the liquid element,
we were beyond all sight of shore by January 14. The Nautilus
slowed down in an odd manner, and very unpredictable in its ways,
it sometimes swam in the midst of the waters, sometimes drifted
on their surface.
During this phase of our voyage, Captain Nemo conducted interesting
experiments on the different temperatures in various strata of the sea.
Under ordinary conditions, such readings are obtained using
some pretty complicated instruments whose findings are dubious
to say the least, whether they're thermometric sounding lines,
whose glass often shatters under the water's pressure, or those devices
based on the varying resistance of metals to electric currents.
The results so obtained can't be adequately double-checked. By contrast,
Captain Nemo would seek the sea's temperature by going himself
into its depths, and when he placed his thermometer in contact
with the various layers of liquid, he found the sought-for degree
immediately and with certainty.
And so, by loading up its ballast tanks, or by sinking obliquely
with its slanting fins, the Nautilus successively reached
depths of 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, 7,000, 9,000, and 10,000 meters,
and the ultimate conclusion from these experiments was that,
in all latitudes, the sea had a permanent temperature of 4.5 degrees
centigrade at a depth of 1,000 meters.
I watched these experiments with the most intense fascination.
Captain Nemo brought a real passion to them. I often wondered
why he took these observations. Were they for the benefit
of his fellow man? It was unlikely, because sooner or later
his work would perish with him in some unknown sea!
Unless he intended the results of his experiments for me.
But that meant this strange voyage of mine would come to an end,
and no such end was in sight.