Chapter 25




CHAPTER XXV.

DE PROFUNDIS

I therefore awoke next day relieved from the preoccupation of animmediate start. Although we were in the very deepest of knowndepths, there was something not unpleasant about it. And, besides, wewere beginning to get accustomed to this troglodyte [l] life. I nolonger thought of sun, moon, and stars, trees, houses, and towns, norof any of those terrestrial superfluities which are necessaries ofmen who live upon the earth's surface. Being fossils, we looked uponall those things as mere jokes.

The grotto was an immense apartment. Along its granite floor ran ourfaithful stream. At this distance from its spring the water wasscarcely tepid, and we drank of it with pleasure.

After breakfast the Professor gave a few hours to the arrangement ofhis daily notes.

"First," said he, "I will make a calculation to ascertain our exactposition. I hope, after our return, to draw a map of our journey,which will be in reality a vertical section of the globe, containingthe track of our expedition."

"That will be curious, uncle; but are your observations sufficientlyaccurate to enable you to do this correctly?"

"Yes; I have everywhere observed the angles and the inclines. I amsure there is no error. Let us see where we are now. Take yourcompass, and note the direction."

I looked, and replied carefully:

[1] tpwgln, a hole; dnw, to creep into. The name of an Ethiopiantribe who lived in caves and holes. ??????, a hole, and ???, to creepinto.

"South-east by east."

"Well," answered the Professor, after a rapid calculation, "I inferthat we have gone eighty-five leagues since we started.!

"Therefore we are under mid-Atlantic?"

"To be sure we are."

"And perhaps at this very moment there is a storm above, and shipsover our heads are being rudely tossed by the tempest."

"Quite probable."

"And whales are lashing the roof of our prison with their tails?"

"It may be, Axel, but they won't shake us here. But let us go back toour calculation. Here we are eighty-five leagues south-east ofSnæfell, and I reckon that we are at a depth of sixteen leagues."

"Sixteen leagues?" I cried.

"No doubt."

"Why, this is the very limit assigned by science to the thickness ofthe crust of the earth."

"I don't deny it."

"And here, according to the law of increasing temperature, thereought to be a heat of 2,732° Fahr.!"

"So there should, my lad."

"And all this solid granite ought to be running in fusion."

"You see that it is not so, and that, as so often happens, facts cometo overthrow theories."

"I am obliged to agree; but, after all, it is surprising."

"What does the thermometer say?"

"Twenty-seven, six tenths (82° Fahr.)."

"Therefore the savants are wrong by 2,705°, and the proportionalincrease is a mistake. Therefore Humphry Davy was right, and I am notwrong in following him. What do you say now?"

"Nothing."

In truth, I had a good deal to say. I gave way in no respect toDavy's theory. I still held to the central heat, although I did notfeel its effects. I preferred to admit in truth, that this chimney ofan extinct volcano, lined with lavas, which are non-conductors ofheat, did not suffer the heat to pass through its walls.

But without stopping to look up new arguments I simply took up oursituation such as it was.

"Well, admitting all your calculations to be quite correct, you mustallow me to draw one rigid result therefrom."

"What is it. Speak freely.!

"At the latitude of Iceland, where we now are, the radius of theearth, the distance from the centre to the surface is about 1,583leagues; let us say in round numbers 1,600 leagues, or 4,800 miles.Out of 1,600 leagues we have gone twelve!"

"So you say."

"And these twelve at a cost of 85 leagues diagonally?"

"Exactly so."

"In twenty days?"

"Yes."

"Now, sixteen leagues are the hundredth part of the earth's radius.At this rate we shall be two thousand days, or nearly five years anda half, in getting to the centre."

No answer was vouchsafed to this rational conclusion. "Withoutreckoning, too, that if a vertical depth of sixteen leagues can beattained only by a diagonal descent of eighty-four, it follows thatwe must go eight thousand miles in a south-easterly direction; sothat we shall emerge from some point in the earth's circumferenceinstead of getting to the centre!"

"Confusion to all your figures, and all your hypotheses besides,"shouted my uncle in a sudden rage. "What is the basis of them all?How do you know that this passage does not run straight to ourdestination? Besides, there is a precedent. What one man has done,another may do."

"I hope so; but, still, I may be permitted -"

"You shall have my leave to hold your tongue, Axel, but not to talkin that irrational way."

I could see the awful Professor bursting through my uncle's skin, andI took timely warning.

"Now look at your aneroid. What does that say?"

"It says we are under considerable pressure."

"Very good; so you see that by going gradually down, and gettingaccustomed to the density of the atmosphere, we don't suffer at all."

"Nothing, except a little pain in the ears."

"That's nothing, and you may get rid of even that by quick breathingwhenever you feel the pain."

"Exactly so," I said, determined not to say a word that might crossmy uncle's prejudices. "There is even positive pleasure in living inthis dense atmosphere. Have you observed how intense sound is downhere?"

"No doubt it is. A deaf man would soon learn to hear perfectly."

"But won't this density augment?"

"Yes; according to a rather obscure law. It is well known that theweight of bodies diminishes as fast as we descend. You know that itis at the surface of the globe that weight is most sensibly felt, andthat at the centre there is no weight at all."

"I am aware of that; but, tell me, will not air at last acquire thedensity of water?"

"Of course, under a pressure of seven hundred and ten atmospheres."

"And how, lower down still?"

"Lower down the density will still increase."

"But how shall we go down then."

"Why, we must fill our pockets with stones."

"Well, indeed, my worthy uncle, you are never at a loss for ananswer."

I dared venture no farther into the region of probabilities, for Imight presently have stumbled upon an impossibility, which would havebrought the Professor on the scene when he was not wanted.

Still, it was evident that the air, under a pressure which mightreach that of thousands of atmospheres, would at last reach the solidstate, and then, even if our bodies could resist the strain, weshould be stopped, and no reasonings would be able to get us on anyfarther.

But I did not advance this argument. My uncle would have met it withhis inevitable Saknussemm, a precedent which possessed no weight withme; for even if the journey of the learned Icelander were reallyattested, there was one very simple answer, that in the sixteenthcentury there was neither barometer or aneroid and thereforeSaknussemm could not tell how far he had gone.

But I kept this objection to myself, and waited the course of events.

The rest of the day was passed in calculations and in conversations.I remained a steadfast adherent of the opinions of ProfessorLiedenbrock, and I envied the stolid indifference of Hans, who,without going into causes and effects, went on with his eyes shutwherever his destiny guided him.




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