20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

  • Category: Science
  • Words: 1322
  • Grade: 100
After decoding a scrap of paper he found in an old book, Professor Hardwigg decides to take a journey. A "Journey to the Center of the Earth" that the paper says is possible. Brushing aside the concerns of his nephew Harry about the temperature of the earth's interior, the professor makes Harry come with him on the journey. They gather the needed supplies and depart two days later for Mt. Sneffels in Iceland, the point through which they can gain access to the core of the earth.

With the Icelander Hans as their guide, the party undertakes the rugged journey up to the mountain, stopping to rest along the way at the homes of Icelanders. Through these people, they learn much about the culture. Once they reach the mountain, the three descend into the crater and after several days figure out which of three shafts is the one through which they can make their journey. Aided by Hans' s knowledge of how to use ropes, they travel downward more than a mile during the first day. The Professor explains that they are now at sea level and he real journey is just beginning.

At the bottom of the shaft, they come upon four crossed paths that they can follow and the Professor quickly chooses one. After several days of trekking in search of water, they must retrace their steps because the path dead-ends. Finally returning to the place of the four crossed paths, Harry collapses and thinks they will return to the surface. Although the Professor shows concern for Harry, he asks for one more day to find water before they abandon the journey. They select a different route and soon discover water. Days later they find a well-like shaft through which they descend to twenty-one miles below the surface of the earth. Continuing to descend rapidly, Harry goes ahead of the others and soon finds himself alone. In desperation he retraces his steps but becomes hopelessly lost. It is only after much suffering four days later that Harry is reunited with his uncle.

As Harry is recovering he hears the sound of waves and thinks he sees light. In act, the three have arrived at what they name the Central Sea, a vast underground body of water. At this point, scientific wonders appear regularly. Exploring the area around the sea, the travelers find what looks like a forest but are actually forty-foot mushrooms. The Professor explains to the astounded Harry how it is possible for plants to live beneath the earth. They continue their exploration of the area, finding bones of mastodons and other evidence of plant and animal life.

The Professor decides that they must cross the ocean to continue their descent even further into the earth. Lashing together wood mineralized by the sea to create a raft, the clever Hans rigs up a rudder. Once underway they are surprised by how quickly the raft moves. Harry has been given the job of keeping a good record of his observations. He drops a hook and soon a fish is caught, an ancient species long extinct in the world above. Harry daydreams about huge animals and plants, visualizing the evolution of the earth and its inhabitants.

The Professor becomes impatient because the sea is so much larger than he expected, and they are no longer descending. Trying to learn the depth of the sea, the Professor attaches a crowbar to a cord and throws it overboard. The cord runs out at two hundred fathoms, and the retrieved crowbar bears marks look like teeth bites. Days later two huge monsters surface, battle, and almost swamp the raft. Continuing on, the three spot what they think is another giant monster, but discover it is an island with a boiling water geyser. Harry suggests that there must be an internal heat source, but the Professor refuses to hear anything that refutes his own theory.

The next morning a storm strikes with fury and rages on for several days. The explorers tie themselves and their gear to the raft to avoid being tossed into the sea. A fireball jumps onto the raft, destroys the mast and sail, and threatens them with its electric power. The raft is eventually cast up on a rocky shore in the midst of the storm and Hans carries Harry to safety. As the storm dies down they find to their dismay that they have been carried back to the same shores from which they left. The Professor is enraged and insists on repeating the sea part of their journey. Exploring this area which is farther along the coast than their starting point, the Professor and Harry find enormous shells as long as fifteen feet and encounter a huge field of bones. Harry thinks the bones might contain the whole history of animal life.

The Professor is delighted when they find a human skull. Harry shares

his understanding of the importance of his uncle's find by describing what was

happening in the world of paleontology or the science of fossil life. He discusses

he views in Europe at that time that man's origins were even more ancient than been previously believed. Then the two find more and more skeletons and

wonder if these humans always lived beneath the earth or had ever lived on it. Continuing their explorations, they come across a beautiful forest of ferns and

pines lacking color. They spot gigantic animals such as elephants and in the distance see a twelve-foot tall human being! Afraid of confrontation, they leave

the area with many questions about man's origins. As they retrace their steps to

the beach and the raft, Harry spots a rusted dagger which the Professor believes is from the sixteenth-century.

He thinks it was probably used to carve an inscription on the rocks, and they find the initials "A. S." carved beside the entrance to a dark and gloomy tunnel. With evidence that Arne Saknussem, the supposed author of the codes found in the book has traveled this way, they enter the passage only to discover that it is blocked by solid granite. The three decide to blast their way into the tunnel. They set the charge and retreat to the raft. The explosion opens a chasm that appears to be swallowing the Central Sea. They are thrown down on the raft and swept along with the rushing waters. Harry estimates their speed to be at least one hundred miles an hour as they are drawn deeper into the blackness of the center of the earth. Their fall is stopped by what appears to be a waterspout.

As Harry half dreams, he thinks the raft has landed and he is in a small cave. A crocodile-shark monster and huge ape come towards him, stop when they see each other, and engage in fierce battle. As the survivor comes towards Harry, he wakes and realizes he is still on the raft but that it is now ascending as the waters are pushed up a narrow shaft. Harry is consumed by hunger, but the rising temperature in the shaft becomes his main concern, and the party soon discovers that the liquid beneath the raft is boiling hot. The Professor explains that an eruption is about to take place, and they are on top of the lava flow hurtling towards the earth's surface.

Harry awakes to find Hans supporting him on a mountainside. While making their way down, they learn from a young shepherd that they are on the island of Stromboli in Italy. They have reached the surface of the earth! Once back in Germany, the three are treated like heroes and the Professor's achievements are recognized. This was a great story that dove deep into another parallel of the unknown, the unthinkable. What really lurks in the center of the earth?
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