An electric wire connects me to the ship. I fire off a telegram, and that's that."
"Right," I said, tipsy from all these wonders, "nothing to it!"
After passing the well of the companionway that led to the platform, I saw a cabin 2 meters long in which Conseil and Ned Land, enraptured with their meal, were busy devouring it to the last crumb. Then a door opened into the galley, 3 meters long and located between the vessel's huge storage lockers.
There, even more powerful and obedient than gas, electricity did most of the cooking. Arriving under the stoves, wires transmitted to platinum griddles a heat that was distributed and sustained with perfect consistency. It also heated a distilling mechanism that, via evaporation, supplied excellent drinking water. Next to this galley was a bathroom, conveniently laid out, with faucets supplying hot or cold water at will.
After the galley came the crew's quarters, 5 meters long. But the door was closed and I couldn't see its accommodations, which might have told me the number of men it took to operate the Nautilus.
At the far end stood a fourth watertight bulkhead, separating the crew's quarters from the engine room. A door opened, and I stood in the compartment where Captain Nemo, indisputably a world-class engineer, had set up his locomotive equipment.
Brightly lit, the engine room measured at least 20 meters in length. It was divided, by function, into two parts: the first contained the cells for generating electricity, the second that mechanism transmitting movement to the propeller.
Right off, I detected an odor permeating the compartment that was sui generis.* Captain Nemo noticed the negative impression it made on me.
*Latin: "in a class by itself." Ed.
"That," he told me, "is a gaseous discharge caused by our use of sodium, but it's only a mild inconvenience. In any event, every morning we sanitize the ship by ventilating it in the open air."
Meanwhile I examined the Nautilus's engine with a fascination easy to imagine.
"You observe," Captain Nemo told me, "that I use Bunsen cells, not Ruhmkorff cells. The latter would be ineffectual. One uses fewer Bunsen cells, but they're big and strong, and experience has proven their superiority. The electricity generated here makes its way to the stern, where electromagnets of huge size activate a special system of levers and gears that transmit movement to the propeller's shaft. The latter has a diameter of 6 meters, a pitch of 7.5 meters, and can do up to 120 revolutions per minute."
"And that gives you?"
"A speed of fifty miles per hour."
There lay a mystery, but I didn't insist on exploring it. How could electricity work with such power? Where did this nearly unlimited energy originate? Was it in the extraordinary voltage obtained from some new kind of induction coil? Could its transmission have been immeasurably increased by some unknown system of levers?** This was the point I couldn't grasp.
**Author's Note: And sure enough, there's now talk of such a discovery, in which a new set of levers generates considerable power. Did its inventor meet up with Captain Nemo?
"Captain Nemo," I said, "I'll vouch for the results and not try to explain them. I've seen the Nautilus at work out in front of the Abraham Lincoln, and I know where I stand on its speed. But it isn't enough just to move, we have to see where we're going! We must be able to steer right or left, up or down! How do you reach the lower depths, where you meet an increasing resistance that's assessed in hundreds of atmospheres? How do you rise back to the surface of the ocean? Finally, how do you keep your ship at whatever level suits you? Am I indiscreet in asking you all these things?"
"Not at all, professor," the captain answered me after a slight hesitation, "since you'll never leave this underwater boat. Come into the lounge. It's actually our work room, and there you'll learn the full story about the Nautilus!"
A MOMENT LATER we were seated on a couch in the lounge, cigars between our lips.