Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
At Full Steam
AT THIS SHOUT the entire crew rushed toward the harpooner-- commander, officers,
sailors, cabin boys, down to engineers leaving their machinery and stokers neglecting
their furnaces. The order was given to stop, and the frigate merely coasted.
By then the darkness was profound, and as good as the Canadian's eyes were, I still
wondered how he could see--and what he had seen. My heart was pounding fit to burst.
But Ned Land was not mistaken, and we all spotted the object his hand was indicating.
Two cable lengths off the Abraham Lincoln's starboard quarter, the sea seemed to be lit
up from underneath. This was no mere phosphorescent phenomenon, that much was
unmistakable. Submerged some fathoms below the surface of the water, the monster gave
off that very intense but inexplicable glow that several captains had mentioned in their
reports. This magnificent radiance had to come from some force with a great illuminating
capacity. The edge of its light swept over the sea in an immense, highly elongated oval,
condensing at the center into a blazing core whose unbearable glow diminished by
"It's only a cluster of phosphorescent particles!" exclaimed one of the officers.
"No, sir," I answered with conviction. "Not even angel-wing clams or salps have ever
given off such a powerful light. That glow is basically electric in nature. Besides . . .
look, look! It's shifting! It's moving back and forth! It's darting at us!"
A universal shout went up from the frigate.
"Quiet!" Commander Farragut said. "Helm hard to leeward! Reverse engines!"
Sailors rushed to the helm, engineers to their machinery. Under reverse steam
immediately, the Abraham Lincoln beat to port, sweeping in a semicircle.
"Right your helm! Engines forward!" Commander Farragut called.
These orders were executed, and the frigate swiftly retreated from this core of light.
My mistake. It wanted to retreat, but the unearthly animal came at us with a speed double
We gasped. More stunned than afraid, we stood mute and motionless. The animal caught
up with us, played with us. It made a full circle around the frigate--then doing fourteen
knots--and wrapped us in sheets of electricity that were like luminous dust. Then it
retreated two or three miles, leaving a phosphorescent trail comparable to those swirls of