20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
As the story begins in 1866, a mysterious sea monster, theorized by some to be a giant narwhal, is sighted by ships of several nations; an ocean liner is also damaged by the creature. The United States government finally assembles an expedition in New York City to track down and destroy the menace. Professor Pierre Aronnax, a noted French marine biologist and narrator of the story, who happens to be in New York at the time and is a recognized expert in his field, is issued a last-minute invitation to join the expedition, and he accepts. Canadian master harpoonist Ned Land and Aronnax's faithful assistant Conseil are also brought on board.
The expedition sets sail from Brooklyn aboard a naval ship called the Abraham Lincoln, which travels down around the tip of South America and into the Pacific Ocean. After much fruitless searching, the monster is found, and the ship charges into battle. During the fight, the ship's steering is damaged, and the three protagonists are thrown overboard. They find themselves stranded on the "hide" of the creature, only to discover to their surprise that it is a large metal construct. They are quickly captured and brought inside the vessel, where they meet its enigmatic creator and commander, Captain Nemo.
The rest of the story follows the adventures of the protagonists aboard the submarine, the Nautilus, which was built in secrecy and now roams the seas free of any land-based government. Captain Nemo's motivation is implied to be both a scientific thirst for knowledge and a desire for revenge on (and self-imposed exile from) civilization. Captain Nemo explains that the submarine is electrically powered, and equipped to carry out cutting-edge marine biology research; he also tells his new passengers that while he appreciates having an expert such as Aronnax with whom to converse, they can never leave because he is afraid they will betray his existence to the world. Aronnax is enthralled by the undersea vistas he is seeing, but Land constantly plots to escape.
Their travels take them to numerous points in the world's oceans, some of which were known to Jules Verne from real travelers' descriptions and guesses, while others are completely fictional. Thus, the travelers witness the real corals of the Red Sea, the wrecks of the battle of Vigo Bay, the Antarctic ice shelves, and the fictional submerged Atlantis. The travelers also don diving suits to go on undersea expeditions away from the ship, where they hunt sharks and other marine life with specially designed guns and have a funeral for a crew member who died when an accident occurred inside the Nautilus. When the Nautilus returns to the Atlantic Ocean, a "poulpe" (usually translated as a giant squid, although the French "poulpe" means "octopus") attacks the vessel and devours a crew member.
Throughout the story it is suggested that Captain Nemo exiled himself from the world after an encounter with his oppressive country somehow affected his family. Near the end of the book, the Nautilus is tracked and attacked by a mysterious ship from that nation. Nemo ignores Aronnax's pleas for amnesty for the boat and attacks. Nemo attacks the ship under the waterline, sending it to the bottom of the ocean with all crew aboard as Aronnax watches from the salon. Nemo bows before the pictures of his wife and children and is plunged into deep depression after this encounter, and "voluntarily or involuntarily" allows the submarine to wander into an encounter with the Moskenstraumen, more commonly known as the "Maelstrom", a whirlpool off the coast of Norway. This gives the three prisoners an opportunity to escape; they make it back to land alive, but the fate of Captain Nemo and his crew is not revealed.