The underwater wonders revealed | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 19, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 19, 2016

CLASSICS CORNER

The underwater wonders revealed

Author: Jules Verne

It was more than 15O years from now that Captain Nemo travelled across the seven seas in his submarine named Nautilus when no one could think of an underwater ship in his wildest dream. Well, of course, Nemo is not real, nor is his submarine Nautilus. Nemo is the central character of the book “20000 Leagues under The Sea” written by Jules Verne, which was first published in 1870. It is a classic science fiction which blends adventure with the consequence of writer's advanced scientific predictions and imagination. Captain Nemo is such a creation that in him, his author will live forever in the minds of the readers.

“20000 Leagues under The Sea” is unlike other science fictions as it does not tell the tales of aliens or creatures from outer planets, rather it narrates an exhilarating underwater adventure of a scientist known as Captain Nemo. Because of its style of narrative, sequence, order and exciting theme, this book is considered a classic adventure fiction. The illustrative description by Jules Verne throughout the whole composition can take the readers under the oceans and indeed, stimulate them with the pleasure of discovering the unknown and unseen world there.  

The story goes like this. In 1866, an “enormous black thing” or a huge inexplicable phenomenon or a monster which is twofold from a narwhale is seen wandering in the oceans of Australia, Europe and America and create an uproar all over the world. It used to split wooden ships into two with its saw like teeth mounted on its back. Two large green eyes used to strike terror in the hearts of the sailors in the mist-filled waters. Sailors who have seen it thought it to be a monster like a Kraken or an ancient narwhale but one year later when it encounters several ships, it no longer remains a mystery. It was discovered that the unknown monster is actually a man-made vessel never seen before. Hence, the whole world, especially ship owners and traders, are agitated about the monster and on their behest the U.S government decides to capture it. On the order of U.S President Andrew Johnson a very fast warship is outfitted with every known weapon and an expert of undersea life, professor of natural history at Paris museum, Monsieur Pierre Aronnax  joins the expedition in order to search for the metal monster. Together with his loyal servant Conseil, they get aboard the warship Abraham Lincoln. Professor Aronnax is also the narrator of the entire adventure as the story is told in first person. 

Abraham Lincoln starts the journey and by nightfall it enters the dark waters of the Atlantic. Meanwhile, professor and his mate meet and become friends with the best harpooner of the world, Nedland who does not believe that the monster would be a narwhale in accordance with his long experience. However, after searching for two months, warship Abraham Lincoln is attacked by the monster. After a brief battle, Ned, Aronnax and Conseil are taken captive by Captain Nemo. After two days of their captivity, they have the opportunity to meet the mysterious captain Nemo. He introduces them his submarine Nautilus. And the magical journey under the oceans begin. 

Nemo has forbidden captives to leave Nautilus. However, Aronnax is enthralled by the wonders and diversity of the underwater world. He has become a friend of Nemo who has given him the freedom to go everywhere inside the Nautilus but Ned wants to escape and he always searches for opportunities to do so. One day, they join Nemo in an underwater hunting trip by using his “Special Air Tanks”. They explore the lost wealth of a sunken ship beneath the pacific, go ashore to hunt, go for scuba diving, encounter cannibals in the shore, fight with the sharks, see Indian pearl divers beneath the ocean, the coral reef of Red sea, battle of Vigo bay, sunken continent of Atlantis and many more.

Verne's Captain Nemo is heroic and yet an abstract character full of mystery. He is at the same time a villain to others. Captain Nemo is a character who doesn't belong to any country or any ideology. He is the master of his own world with his breakthrough inventions. He has no ties with the land and lives with his books, music, pictures and sad memories. Nemo uses his Nautilus as a tool of revenge against the modern world and its wars that killed his family. He now fights his own war against the war mongering nations. 

Towards the end Nautilus itself is attacked by a giant squid and a warship from Nemo's own country. The consequence of the battle between Nautilus and this warship make the captain feel nostalgic and he drives Nautilus into a Maelstrom. The ship is almost broken apart. During this chaos, his guests escape from the submarine and manage to reach land. Thus the voyage ends which takes Nautilus 20000 leagues under the sea. The narrations along with the logical scientific explanations makes the story seem so real. 

Verne's scientific interpretation regarding Nautilus does not cross the thin line between reality and imagination although the story was written 30 years before an actual submarine was made, when steam engines were just being developed and people travelled by horses. His narration with accurate scientific details inspired scientist towards the invention of an actual submarine. Verne would have been pleased to know that U.S Navy named its first atomic submarine- U.S.S. Nautilus in his honour. He is conventionally regarded as the father of science fiction.

The reviewer is a student of Media & Communication, Independent University Bangladesh (IUB)

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