A Journey to the Interior of the Earth HTML version
A New Mare Internum
At first I could hardly see anything. My eyes, unaccustomed to the light, quickly closed.
When I was able to reopen them, I stood more stupefied even than surprised.
"The sea!" I cried.
"Yes," my uncle replied, "the Liedenbrock Sea; and I don't suppose any other discoverer
will ever dispute my claim to name it after myself as its first discoverer."
A vast sheet of water, the commencement of a lake or an ocean, spread far away beyond
the range of the eye, reminding me forcibly of that open sea which drew from
Xenophon's ten thousand Greeks, after their long retreat, the simultaneous cry, "Thalatta!
thalatta!" the sea! the sea! The deeply indented shore was lined with a breadth of fine
shining sand, softly lapped by the waves, and strewn with the small shells which had
been inhabited by the first of created beings. The waves broke on this shore with the
hollow echoing murmur peculiar to vast inclosed spaces. A light foam flew over the
waves before the breath of a moderate breeze, and some of the spray fell upon my face.
On this slightly inclining shore, about a hundred fathoms from the limit of the waves,
came down the foot of a huge wall of vast cliffs, which rose majestically to an enormous
height. Some of these, dividing the beach with their sharp spurs, formed capes and
promontories, worn away by the ceaseless action of the surf. Farther on the eye discerned
their massive outline sharply defined against the hazy distant horizon.
It was quite an ocean, with the irregular shores of earth, but desert and frightfully wild in
If my eyes were able to range afar over this great sea, it was because a peculiar light
brought to view every detail of it. It was not the light of the sun, with his dazzling shafts
of brightness and the splendour of his rays; nor was it the pale and uncertain shimmer of
the moonbeams, the dim reflection of a nobler body of light. No; the illuminating power
of this light, its trembling diffusiveness, its bright, clear whiteness, and its low
temperature, showed that it must be of electric origin. It was like an aurora borealis, a
continuous cosmical phenomenon, filling a cavern of sufficient extent to contain an
The vault that spanned the space above, the sky, if it could be called so, seemed
composed of vast plains of cloud, shifting and variable vapours, which by their
condensation must at certain times fall in torrents of rain. I should have thought that
under so powerful a pressure of the atmosphere there could be no evaporation; and yet,
under a law unknown to me, there were broad tracts of vapour suspended in the air. But
then 'the weather was fine.' The play of the electric light produced singular effects upon
the upper strata of cloud. Deep shadows reposed upon their lower wreaths; and often,
between two separated fields of cloud, there glided down a ray of unspeakable lustre. But
it was not solar light, and there was no heat. The general effect was sad, supremely