A Journey to the Interior of the Earth HTML version

Vertical Descent
Now began our real journey. Hitherto our toil had overcome all difficulties, now
difficulties would spring up at every step.
I had not yet ventured to look down the bottomless pit into which I was about to take a
plunge The supreme hour had come. I might now either share in the enterprise or refuse
to move forward. But I was ashamed to recoil in the presence of the hunter. Hans
accepted the enterprise with such calmness, such indifference, such perfect disregard of
any possible danger that I blushed at the idea of being less brave than he. If I had been
alone I might have once more tried the effect of argument; but in the presence of the
guide I held my peace; my heart flew back to my sweet Virlandaise, and I approached the
central chimney.
I have already mentioned that it was a hundred feet in diameter, and three hundred feet
round. I bent over a projecting rock and gazed down. My hair stood on end with terror.
The bewildering feeling of vacuity laid hold upon me. I felt my centre of gravity shifting
its place, and giddiness mounting into my brain like drunkenness. There is nothing more
treacherous than this attraction down deep abysses. I was just about to drop down, when a
hand laid hold of me. It was that of Hans. I suppose I had not taken as many lessons on
gulf exploration as I ought to have done in the Frelsers Kirk at Copenhagen.
But, however short was my examination of this well, I had taken some account of its
conformation. Its almost perpendicular walls were bristling with innumerable projections
which would facilitate the descent. But if there was no want of steps, still there was no
rail. A rope fastened to the edge of the aperture might have helped us down. But how
were we to unfasten it, when arrived at the other end?
My uncle employed a very simple expedient to obviate this difficulty. He uncoiled a cord
of the thickness of a finger, and four hundred feet long; first he dropped half of it down,
then he passed it round a lava block that projected conveniently, and threw the other half
down the chimney. Each of us could then descend by holding with the hand both halves
of the rope, which would not be able to unroll itself from its hold; when two hundred feet
down, it would be easy to get possession of the whole of the rope by letting one end go
and pulling down by the other. Then the exercise would go on again AD INFINITUM.
"Now," said my uncle, after having completed these preparations, "now let us look to our
loads. I will divide them into three lots; each of us will strap one upon his back. I mean
only fragile articles."
Of course, we were not included under that head.
"Hans," said he, "will take charge of the tools and a portion of the provisions; you, Axel,
will take another third of the provisions, and the arms; and I will take the rest of the
provisions and the delicate instruments."