CHAPTER 13: The Ice Bank
Several times that day, the Nautilus repeated the same experiment and
always it bumped against this surface that formed a ceiling above it.
At certain moments the ship encountered ice at a depth of 900 meters,
denoting a thickness of 1,200 meters, of which 300 meters rose above
the level of the ocean. This height had tripled since the moment
the Nautilus had dived beneath the waves.
I meticulously noted these different depths, obtaining the underwater
profile of this upside-down mountain chain that stretched
beneath the sea.
By evening there was still no improvement in our situation.
The ice stayed between 400 and 500 meters deep. It was obviously
shrinking, but what a barrier still lay between us and the surface
of the ocean!
By then it was eight o'clock. The air inside the Nautilus should have
been renewed four hours earlier, following daily practice on board.
But I didn't suffer very much, although Captain Nemo hadn't yet
made demands on the supplementary oxygen in his air tanks.
That night my sleep was fitful. Hope and fear besieged me by turns.
I got up several times. The Nautilus continued groping.
Near three o'clock in the morning, I observed that we encountered
the Ice Bank's underbelly at a depth of only fifty meters.
So only 150 feet separated us from the surface of the water.
Little by little the Ice Bank was turning into an ice field again.
The mountains were changing back into plains.
My eyes didn't leave the pressure gauge. We kept rising on a diagonal,
going along this shiny surface that sparkled beneath our electric rays.
Above and below, the Ice Bank was subsiding in long gradients.
Mile after mile it was growing thinner.
Finally, at six o'clock in the morning on that memorable day of March 19,
the lounge door opened. Captain Nemo appeared.
"Open sea!" he told me.