CHAPTER 12: Sperm Whales and Baleen Whales
DURING THE NIGHT of March 13-14, the Nautilus resumed its
southward heading. Once it was abreast of Cape Horn, I thought it
would strike west of the cape, make for Pacific seas, and complete
its tour of the world. It did nothing of the sort and kept moving
toward the southernmost regions. So where was it bound? The pole?
That was insanity. I was beginning to think that the captain's
recklessness more than justified Ned Land's worst fears.
For a good while the Canadian had said nothing more to me about
his escape plans. He had become less sociable, almost sullen.
I could see how heavily this protracted imprisonment was weighing on him.
I could feel the anger building in him. Whenever he encountered
the captain, his eyes would flicker with dark fire, and I was
in constant dread that his natural vehemence would cause him
to do something rash.
That day, March 14, he and Conseil managed to find me in my stateroom.
I asked them the purpose of their visit.
"To put a simple question to you, sir," the Canadian answered me.
"Go on, Ned."
"How many men do you think are on board the Nautilus?"
"I'm unable to say, my friend."
"It seems to me," Ned Land went on, "that it wouldn't take much
of a crew to run a ship like this one."
"Correct," I replied. "Under existing conditions some ten men
at the most should be enough to operate it."
"All right," the Canadian said, "then why should there be any
more than that?"
"Why?" I answered.
I stared at Ned Land, whose motives were easy to guess.
"Because," I said, "if I can trust my hunches, if I truly understand
the captain's way of life, his Nautilus isn't simply a ship.
It's meant to be a refuge for people like its commander, people who
have severed all ties with the shore."