Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
The Red Sea
DURING THE DAY of January 29, the island of Ceylon disappeared below the horizon,
and at a speed of twenty miles per hour, the Nautilus glided into the labyrinthine channels
that separate the Maldive and Laccadive Islands. It likewise hugged Kiltan Island, a shore
of madreporic origin discovered by Vasco da Gama in 1499 and one of nineteen chief
islands in the island group of the Laccadives, located between latitude 10 degrees and 14
degrees 30' north, and between longitude 50 degrees 72' and 69 degrees east.
By then we had fared 16,220 miles, or 7,500 leagues, from our starting point in the seas
The next day, January 30, when the Nautilus rose to the surface of the ocean, there was
no more land in sight. Setting its course to the north-northwest, the ship headed toward
the Gulf of Oman, carved out between Arabia and the Indian peninsula and providing
access to the Persian Gulf.
This was obviously a blind alley with no possible outlet. So where was Captain Nemo
taking us? I was unable to say. Which didn't satisfy the Canadian, who that day asked me
where we were going.
"We're going, Mr. Ned, where the captain's fancy takes us."
"His fancy," the Canadian replied, "won't take us very far. The Persian Gulf has no outlet,
and if we enter those waters, it won't be long before we return in our tracks."
"All right, we'll return, Mr. Land, and after the Persian Gulf, if the Nautilus wants to visit
the Red Sea, the Strait of Bab el Mandeb is still there to let us in!"
"I don't have to tell you, sir," Ned Land replied, "that the Red Sea is just as landlocked as
the gulf, since the Isthmus of Suez hasn't been cut all the way through yet; and even if it
was, a boat as secretive as ours wouldn't risk a canal intersected with locks. So the Red
Sea won't be our way back to Europe either."
"But I didn't say we'd return to Europe."
"What do you figure, then?"
"I figure that after visiting these unusual waterways of Arabia and Egypt, the Nautilus
will go back down to the Indian Ocean, perhaps through Mozambique Channel, perhaps
off the Mascarene Islands, and then make for the Cape of Good Hope."
"And once we're at the Cape of Good Hope?" the Canadian asked with typical