Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
The Pros and Cons
DURING THE PERIOD in which these developments were occurring, I had returned
from a scientific undertaking organized to explore the Nebraska badlands in the United
States. In my capacity as Assistant Professor at the Paris Museum of Natural History, I
had been attached to this expedition by the French government. After spending six
months in Nebraska, I arrived in New York laden with valuable collections near the end
of March. My departure for France was set for early May. In the meantime, then, I was
busy classifying my mineralogical, botanical, and zoological treasures when that incident
took place with the Scotia.
I was perfectly abreast of this question, which was the big news of the day, and how
could I not have been? I had read and reread every American and European newspaper
without being any farther along. This mystery puzzled me. Finding it impossible to form
any views, I drifted from one extreme to the other. Something was out there, that much
was certain, and any doubting Thomas was invited to place his finger on the Scotia's
When I arrived in New York, the question was at the boiling point. The hypothesis of a
drifting islet or an elusive reef, put forward by people not quite in their right minds, was
completely eliminated. And indeed, unless this reef had an engine in its belly, how could
it move about with such prodigious speed?
Also discredited was the idea of a floating hull or some other enormous wreckage, and
again because of this speed of movement.
So only two possible solutions to the question were left, creating two very distinct groups
of supporters: on one side, those favoring a monster of colossal strength; on the other,
those favoring an "underwater boat" of tremendous motor power.
Now then, although the latter hypothesis was completely admissible, it couldn't stand up
to inquiries conducted in both the New World and the Old. That a private individual had
such a mechanism at his disposal was less than probable. Where and when had he built it,
and how could he have built it in secret?
Only some government could own such an engine of destruction, and in these disaster-
filled times, when men tax their ingenuity to build increasingly powerful aggressive
weapons, it was possible that, unknown to the rest of the world, some nation could have
been testing such a fearsome machine. The Chassepot rifle led to the torpedo, and the
torpedo has led to this underwater battering ram, which in turn will lead to the world
putting its foot down. At least I hope it will.
But this hypothesis of a war machine collapsed in the face of formal denials from the
various governments. Since the public interest was at stake and transoceanic travel was