TWT logo

Together We Teach
Reading Room

Take time to read.
Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.

  | Home | Reading Room 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea



20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
by Jules Verne

< BACK    NEXT >





This terrible spectacle was the forerunner of the series of maritime

catastrophes that the Nautilus was destined to meet with in its route.

As long as it went through more frequented waters, we often saw

the hulls of shipwrecked vessels that were rotting in the depths,

and deeper down cannons, bullets, anchors, chains, and a thousand

other iron materials eaten up by rust. However, on the 11th of

December we sighted the Pomotou Islands, the old "dangerous group"

of Bougainville, that extend over a space of 500 leagues at

E.S.E. to W.N.W., from the Island Ducie to that of Lazareff.

This group covers an area of 370 square leagues, and it is formed

of sixty groups of islands, among which the Gambier group is remarkable,

over which France exercises sway. These are coral islands,

slowly raised, but continuous, created by the daily work of polypi.

Then this new island will be joined later on to the neighboring groups,

and a fifth continent will stretch from New Zealand and New Caledonia,

and from thence to the Marquesas.

One day, when I was suggesting this theory to Captain Nemo,

he replied coldly:

"The earth does not want new continents, but new men."

{5 paragraphs have been stripped from this edition}

On 15th of December, we left to the east the bewitching group

of the Societies and the graceful Tahiti, queen of the Pacific.

I saw in the morning, some miles to the windward, the elevated

summits of the island. These waters furnished our table

with excellent fish, mackerel, bonitos, and some varieties

of a sea-serpent.

On the 25th of December the Nautilus sailed into the midst of the

New Hebrides, discovered by Quiros in 1606, and that Bougainville

explored in 1768, and to which Cook gave its present name in 1773.

This group is composed principally of nine large islands, that form

a band of 120 leagues N.N.S. to S.S.W., between 15@ and 2@ S. lat.,

and 164@ and 168@ long. We passed tolerably near to the Island of Aurou,

that at noon looked like a mass of green woods, surmounted by a peak

of great height.

That day being Christmas Day, Ned Land seemed to regret sorely

the non-celebration of "Christmas," the family fete of which

Protestants are so fond. I had not seen Captain Nemo for a week,

when, on the morning of the 27th, he came into the large drawing- room,

always seeming as if he had seen you five minutes before.

I was busily tracing the route of the Nautilus on the planisphere.

The Captain came up to me, put his finger on one spot on the chart,

and said this single word.


The effect was magical! It was the name of the islands on which La

Perouse had been lost! I rose suddenly.

"The Nautilus has brought us to Vanikoro?" I asked.

"Yes, Professor," said the Captain.

"And I can visit the celebrated islands where the Boussole

and the Astrolabe struck?"

"If you like, Professor."

"When shall we be there?"

"We are there now."

Followed by Captain Nemo, I went up on to the platform,

and greedily scanned the horizon.

To the N.E. two volcanic islands emerged of unequal size,

surrounded by a coral reef that measured forty miles in circumference.

We were close to Vanikoro, really the one to which Dumont d'Urville

gave the name of Isle de la Recherche, and exactly facing the little

harbour of Vanou, situated in 16@ 4' S. lat., and 164@ 32' E. long.

The earth seemed covered with verdure from the shore to the summits

in the interior, that were crowned by Mount Kapogo, 476 feet high.

The Nautilus, having passed the outer belt of rocks by a narrow strait,

found itself among breakers where the sea was from thirty to forty

fathoms deep. Under the verdant shade of some mangroves I perceived

some savages, who appeared greatly surprised at our approach.

In the long black body, moving between wind and water, did they not see

some formidable cetacean that they regarded with suspicion?

Just then Captain Nemo asked me what I knew about the wreck of La Perouse.

"Only what everyone knows, Captain," I replied.

"And could you tell me what everyone knows about it?"

he inquired, ironically.


I related to him all that the last works of Dumont d'Urville had made known--

works from which the following is a brief account.

La Perouse, and his second, Captain de Langle, were sent

by Louis XVI, in 1785, on a voyage of circumnavigation.

They embarked in the corvettes Boussole and the Astrolabe,

neither of which were again heard of. In 1791, the French

Government, justly uneasy as to the fate of these two sloops,

manned two large merchantmen, the Recherche and the Esperance,

which left Brest the 28th of September under the command

of Bruni d'Entrecasteaux.

Two months after, they learned from Bowen, commander of the Albemarle,

that the debris of shipwrecked vessels had been seen on the coasts

of New Georgia. But D'Entrecasteaux, ignoring this communication--

rather uncertain, besides--directed his course towards the Admiralty Islands,

mentioned in a report of Captain Hunter's as being the place where La

Perouse was wrecked.

They sought in vain. The Esperance and the Recherche passed before Vanikoro

without stopping there, and, in fact, this voyage was most disastrous,

as it cost D'Entrecasteaux his life, and those of two of his lieutenants,

besides several of his crew.

Captain Dillon, a shrewd old Pacific sailor, was the first to find

unmistakable traces of the wrecks. On the 15th of May, 1824, his vessel,

the St. Patrick, passed close to Tikopia, one of the New Hebrides.

There a Lascar came alongside in a canoe, sold him the handle of a sword

in silver that bore the print of characters engraved on the hilt.

The Lascar pretended that six years before, during a stay at Vanikoro,

he had seen two Europeans that belonged to some vessels that had run

aground on the reefs some years ago.

Dillon guessed that he meant La Perouse, whose disappearance had

troubled the whole world. He tried to get on to Vanikoro, where,

according to the Lascar, he would find numerous debris of the wreck,

but winds and tides prevented him.

Dillon returned to Calcutta. There he interested the Asiatic Society

and the Indian Company in his discovery. A vessel, to which was given

the name of the Recherche, was put at his disposal, and he set out,

23rd January, 1827, accompanied by a French agent.

The Recherche, after touching at several points in the Pacific,

cast anchor before Vanikoro, 7th July, 1827, in that same harbour

of Vanou where the Nautilus was at this time.

There it collected numerous relics of the wreck--

iron utensils, anchors, pulley-strops, swivel-guns, an 18 lb.

shot, fragments of astronomical instruments, a piece of crown work,

and a bronze clock, bearing this inscription--"Bazin m'a fait,"

the mark of the foundry of the arsenal at Brest about 1785.

There could be no further doubt.

Dillon, having made all inquiries, stayed in the unlucky place till October.

Then he quitted Vanikoro, and directed his course towards New Zealand;

put into Calcutta, 7th April, 1828, and returned to France, where he was

warmly welcomed by Charles X.

But at the same time, without knowing Dillon's movements,

Dumont d'Urville had already set out to find the scene of the wreck.

And they had learned from a whaler that some medals and a cross of St. Louis

had been found in the hands of some savages of Louisiade and New Caledonia.

Dumont d'Urville, commander of the Astrolabe, had then sailed,

and two months after Dillon had left Vanikoro he put into Hobart Town.

There he learned the results of Dillon's inquiries, and found that a certain

James Hobbs, second lieutenant of the Union of Calcutta, after landing

on an island situated 8@ 18' S. lat., and 156@ 30' E. long., had seen

some iron bars and red stuffs used by the natives of these parts.

Dumont d'Urville, much perplexed, and not knowing how to credit the reports

of low-class journals, decided to follow Dillon's track.

On the 10th of February, 1828, the Astrolabe appeared off Tikopia,

and took as guide and interpreter a deserter found on the island;

made his way to Vanikoro, sighted it on the 12th inst., lay among

the reefs until the 14th, and not until the 20th did he cast anchor

within the barrier in the harbour of Vanou.

On the 23rd, several officers went round the island and brought

back some unimportant trifles. The natives, adopting a system

of denials and evasions, refused to take them to the unlucky place.

This ambiguous conduct led them to believe that the natives had

ill-treated the castaways, and indeed they seemed to fear that Dumont

d'Urville had come to avenge La Perouse and his unfortunate crew.

However, on the 26th, appeased by some presents, and understanding that they

had no reprisals to fear, they led M. Jacquireot to the scene of the wreck.

There, in three or four fathoms of water, between the reefs

of Pacou and Vanou, lay anchors, cannons, pigs of lead and iron,

embedded in the limy concretions. The large boat and the whaler

belonging to the Astrolabe were sent to this place, and, not without

some difficulty, their crews hauled up an anchor weighing 1,800

lbs., a brass gun, some pigs of iron, and two copper swivel- guns.

Dumont d'Urville, questioning the natives, learned too that La Perouse,

after losing both his vessels on the reefs of this island,

had constructed a smaller boat, only to be lost a second time.

Where, no one knew.

But the French Government, fearing that Dumont d'Urville was

not acquainted with Dillon's movements, had sent the sloop

Bayonnaise, commanded by Legoarant de Tromelin, to Vanikoro,

which had been stationed on the west coast of America.

The Bayonnaise cast her anchor before Vanikoro some months

after the departure of the Astrolabe, but found no new document;

but stated that the savages had respected the monument to La Perouse.

That is the substance of what I told Captain Nemo.

"So," he said, "no one knows now where the third vessel perished

that was constructed by the castaways on the island of Vanikoro?"

"No one knows."

Captain Nemo said nothing, but signed to me to follow him into

the large saloon. The Nautilus sank several yards below the waves,

and the panels were opened.

I hastened to the aperture, and under the crustations of coral,

covered with fungi, I recognised certain debris that the drags had

not been able to tear up--iron stirrups, anchors, cannons, bullets,

capstan fittings, the stem of a ship, all objects clearly proving

the wreck of some vessel, and now carpeted with living flowers.

While I was looking on this desolate scene, Captain Nemo said,

in a sad voice:

{this above para was edited}

"Commander La Perouse set out 7th December, 1785, with his vessels

La Boussole and the Astrolabe. He first cast anchor at Botany Bay,

visited the Friendly Isles, New Caledonia, then directed his course

towards Santa Cruz, and put into Namouka, one of the Hapai group.

Then his vessels struck on the unknown reefs of Vanikoro.

The Boussole, which went first, ran aground on the southerly coast.

The Astrolabe went to its help, and ran aground too. The first vessel

was destroyed almost immediately. The second, stranded under the wind,

resisted some days. The natives made the castaways welcome.

They installed themselves in the island, and constructed a smaller boat

with the debris of the two large ones. Some sailors stayed willingly

at Vanikoro; the others, weak and ill, set out with La Perouse.

They directed their course towards the Solomon Islands, and there perished,

with everything, on the westerly coast of the chief island of the group,

between Capes Deception and Satisfaction."

"How do you know that?"

"By this, that I found on the spot where was the last wreck."

Captain Nemo showed me a tin-plate box, stamped with the French arms,

and corroded by the salt water. He opened it, and I saw a bundle of papers,

yellow but still readable.

They were the instructions of the naval minister to Commander La Perouse,

annotated in the margin in Louis XVI's handwriting.

"Ah! it is a fine death for a sailor!" said Captain Nemo, at last.

"A coral tomb makes a quiet grave; and I trust that I and my comrades

will find no other."



Top of Page

< BACK    NEXT >

  | Home | Reading Room 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea




Why not spread the word about Together We Teach?
Simply copy & paste our home page link below into your emails... 

Want the Together We Teach link to place on your website?
Copy & paste either home page link on your webpage...
Together We Teach 




Use these free website tools below for a more powerful experience at Together We Teach!

****Google™ search****

For a more specific search, try using quotation marks around phrases (ex. "You are what you read")


*** Google Translate™ translation service ***

 Translate text:


  Translate a web page:

****What's the Definition?****
(Simply insert the word you want to lookup)

 Search:   for   

S D Glass Enterprises

Privacy Policy

Warner Robins, GA, USA