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20,000 Leagues Under the Seas - Vingt mille lieues sous les mers 海底歷險記

Updated: Apr 12




“The sea is only the embodiment of a

supernatural and wonderful existence.

It is nothing but love and emotion;

it is the ‘Living Infinite...”

Jules Verne



Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas: A World Tour Underwater (French: Vingt mille lieues sous les mers: Tour du monde sous-marin) is a classic science fiction adventure novel by French writer and "Father of Science Fiction" Jules Verne. It is one of the NPR Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books.

The title refers to the distance traveled under the various seas and not to any depth attained, since 20,000 leagues (80,000 km) is nearly twice the circumference of the Earth; the greatest depth reached in the novel is four leagues (16 kilometers or 52,493 feet, over three miles deeper than the ocean's actual maximum depth). This distinction becomes clearer when the book's French title is correctly translated: rendered literally, it should read "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas" (not "Sea"). The book employs metric leagues, which are four kilometers each.

The novel was originally serialized from March 1869 through June 1870 in Pierre-Jules Hetzel's fortnightly periodical, the Magasin d'éducation et de récréation. A deluxe octavo edition, published by Hetzel in November 1871, included 111 illustrations by Alphonse de Neuville and Édouard Riou. The book was widely acclaimed on its release and remains so; it is regarded as one of the premiere adventure novels and one of Verne's greatest works, along with Around the World in Eighty Days and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Its depiction of Captain Nemo's underwater ship, the Nautilus, is regarded as ahead of its time, since it accurately describes many features of today's submarines, which in the 1860s were comparatively primitive vessels.

A model of the French submarine Plongeur (launched in 1863) figured at the 1867 Exposition Universelle, where Jules Verne examined it and was inspired by it when penning his novel.

During the year 1866, ships of various nationalities sight a mysterious sea monster, which, it is later suggested, might be a gigantic narwhal. The U.S. government assembles an expedition in New York City to find and destroy the monster. Professor Pierre Aronnax, a French marine biologist and the story's narrator, is in town at the time and receives a last-minute invitation to join the expedition; he accepts. Canadian whaler and master harpooner Ned Land and Aronnax's faithful manservant Conseil are also among the participants.

The expedition leaves Brooklyn aboard the United States Navy frigate Abraham Lincoln, then travels south around Cape Horn into the Pacific Ocean. After a five-month search ending off Japan, the frigate locates and attacks the monster, which damages the ship's rudder. Aronnax and Land are hurled into the sea, and Conseil jumps into the water after them. They survive by climbing onto the "monster," which, they are startled to find, is a futuristic submarine. They wait on the deck of the vessel until morning, when they are captured, hauled inside, and introduced to the submarine's mysterious constructor and commander, Captain Nemo.

The rest of the novel describes the protagonists' adventures aboard the Nautilus, which was built in secrecy and now roams the seas beyond the reach of land-based governments. In self-imposed exile, Captain Nemo seems to have a dual motivation — a quest for scientific knowledge and a desire to escape terrestrial civilization. Nemo explains that his submarine is electrically powered and can conduct advanced marine research; he also tells his new passengers that his secret existence means he cannot let them leave — they must remain on board permanently. Professor Aronnax and Conseil are enthralled by the prospect of undersea exploration, but Ned Land increasingly hungers to escape.

They visit many ocean regions, some factual and others fictitious. The travelers view coral formations, sunken vessels from the battle of Vigo Bay, the Antarctic ice barrier, the Transatlantic telegraph cable, and the legendary underwater realm of Atlantis. They even travel to the South Pole and are trapped in an upheaval of an iceberg on the way back, caught in a narrow gallery of ice from which they are forced to dig themselves out. The passengers also don diving suits, hunt sharks and other marine fauna with air guns in the underwater forests of Crespo Island, and also attend an undersea funeral for a crew member who died during a mysterious collision experienced by the Nautilus. When the submarine returns to the Atlantic Ocean, a school of "poulpes" attacks the vessel and kills a crewman. (In French "poulpe" is a generic term for a cephalopod, such as a cuttlefish, octopus, etc. — the noun "devilfish" is a close English equivalent. Verne's text specifies that the monster in this case is "un calamar de dimensions colossales", "a squid of colossal dimensions", i.e, a giant squid.)

The novel's later pages suggest that Captain Nemo went into undersea exile after his homeland was conquered and his family slaughtered by a powerful imperialist nation. Following the episode of the devilfish, Nemo largely avoids Aronnax, who begins to side with Ned Land. Ultimately, the Nautilus is attacked by a warship from the mysterious nation that has caused Nemo such suffering. Carrying out his quest for revenge, Nemo — whom Aronnax dubs an "archangel of hatred" — rams the ship below her waterline and sends her to the bottom, much to the professor's horror. Afterward, Nemo kneels before a portrait of his deceased wife and children, then sinks into a deep depression.

Circumstances aboard the submarine change drastically: watches are no longer kept, and the vessel wanders about aimlessly. Ned becomes so reclusive that Conseil fears for the harpooner's life. One morning, however, Ned announces that they are in sight of land and have a chance to escape. Professor Aronnax is more than ready to leave Captain Nemo, who now horrifies him, yet he is still drawn to the man, fears that Nemo's very presence could weaken his resolve, and therefore avoids contact with the captain. Before their departure, however, the professor eavesdrops on Nemo and overhears him calling out in anguish, "O almighty God! Enough! Enough!" Aronnax immediately joins his companions, and they carry out their escape plans, but as they board the submarine's skiff, they realize that the Nautilus has seemingly blundered into the ocean's deadliest whirlpool, the Moskenstraumen, more commonly known as the "Maelstrom". Nevertheless they manage to escape and find refuge on an island off the coast of Norway. The submarine's ultimate fate, however, remains unknown.

Steampunk is a retrofuturistic subgenre of science fiction that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the Victorian era or the American "Wild West", where steam power remains in mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Steampunk most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retrofuturistic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them — distinguishing it from Neo-Victorianism — and is likewise rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. Such technologies may include fictional machines like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne.


Here, we have popular French-Venetian Masked costumer Isabelle Rombi in her rendition of the classic novel during the Venice Carnevale. I first met Isabelle in Venice in 2014 and we have remained good friends since. We meet at the Venice Carnevale every year and we like to take a stroll together around town, checking out the shops and of course taking gondola rides around town...This photo is done at the Acqua Alta Libreria - touted as one of the most beautiful bookstores around the world...

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