Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
A New Proposition from Captain Nemo
ON JANUARY 28, in latitude 9 degrees 4' north, when the Nautilus returned at noon to
the surface of the sea, it lay in sight of land some eight miles to the west. Right off, I
observed a cluster of mountains about 2,000 feet high, whose shapes were very
whimsically sculpted. After our position fix, I reentered the lounge, and when our
bearings were reported on the chart, I saw that we were off the island of Ceylon, that
pearl dangling from the lower lobe of the Indian peninsula.
I went looking in the library for a book about this island, one of the most fertile in the
world. Sure enough, I found a volume entitled Ceylon and the Singhalese by H. C. Sirr,
Esq. Reentering the lounge, I first noted the bearings of Ceylon, on which antiquity
lavished so many different names. It was located between latitude 5 degrees 55' and 9
degrees 49' north, and between longitude 79 degrees 42' and 82 degrees 4' east of the
meridian of Greenwich; its length is 275 miles; its maximum width, 150 miles; its
circumference, 900 miles; its surface area, 24,448 square miles, in other words, a little
smaller than that of Ireland.
Just then Captain Nemo and his chief officer appeared.
The captain glanced at the chart. Then, turning to me:
"The island of Ceylon," he said, "is famous for its pearl fisheries. Would you be
interested, Professor Aronnax, in visiting one of those fisheries?"
"Fine. It's easily done. Only, when we see the fisheries, we'll see no fishermen. The
annual harvest hasn't yet begun. No matter. I'll give orders to make for the Gulf of
Mannar, and we'll arrive there late tonight."
The captain said a few words to his chief officer who went out immediately. Soon the
Nautilus reentered its liquid element, and the pressure gauge indicated that it was staying
at a depth of thirty feet.
With the chart under my eyes, I looked for the Gulf of Mannar. I found it by the 9th
parallel off the northwestern shores of Ceylon. It was formed by the long curve of little
Mannar Island. To reach it we had to go all the way up Ceylon's west coast.
"Professor," Captain Nemo then told me, "there are pearl fisheries in the Bay of Bengal,
the seas of the East Indies, the seas of China and Japan, plus those seas south of the
United States, the Gulf of Panama and the Gulf of California; but it's off Ceylon that such
fishing reaps its richest rewards. No doubt we'll be arriving a little early. Fishermen
gather in the Gulf of Mannar only during the month of March, and for thirty days some
300 boats concentrate on the lucrative harvest of these treasures from the sea. Each boat
is manned by ten oarsmen and ten fishermen. The latter divide into two groups, dive in