The Battle Of The Elements

: A Journey To The Centre Of The Earth

Friday, August 21st. This morning the magnificent geyser had wholly

disappeared. The wind had freshened up, and we were fast leaving the

neighborhood of Henry's Island. Even the roaring sound of the mighty

column was lost to the ear.

The weather, if, under the circumstances, we may use such an expression,

is about to change very suddenly. The atmosphere is being gradually

loaded with vapors, which carry w
th them the electricity formed by the

constant evaporation of the saline waters; the clouds are slowly but

sensibly falling towards the sea, and are assuming a dark-olive texture;

the electric rays can scarcely pierce through the opaque curtain which

has fallen like a drop scene before this wondrous theater, on the stage

of which another and terrible drama is soon to be enacted. This time it

is no fight of animals; it is the fearful battle of the elements.

I feel that I am very peculiarly influenced, as all creatures are on

land when a deluge is about to take place.

The cumuli, a perfectly oval kind of cloud, piled upon the south,

presented a most awful and sinister appearance, with the pitiless aspect

often seen before a storm. The air is extremely heavy; the sea is

comparatively calm.

In the distance, the clouds have assumed the appearance of enormous

balls of cotton, or rather pods, piled one above the other in

picturesque confusion. By degrees, they appear to swell out, break, and

gain in number what they lose in grandeur; their heaviness is so great

that they are unable to lift themselves from the horizon; but under the

influence of the upper currents of air, they are gradually broken up,

become much darker, and then present the appearance of one single layer

of a formidable character; now and then a lighter cloud, still lit up

from above, rebounds upon this grey carpet, and is lost in the opaque


There can be no doubt that the entire atmosphere is saturated with

electric fluid; I am myself wholly impregnated; my hairs literally stand

on end as if under the influence of a galvanic battery. If one of my

companions ventured to touch me, I think he would receive rather a

violent and unpleasant shock.

About ten o'clock in the morning, the symptoms of the storm became more

thorough and decisive; the wind appeared to soften down as if to take

breath for a renewed attack; the vast funereal pall above us looked like

a huge bag like the cave of AEolus, in which the storm was collecting

its forces for the attack.

I tried all I could not to believe in the menacing signs of the sky, and

yet I could not avoid saying, as it were involuntarily:

"I believe we are going to have bad weather."

The Professor made me no answer. He was in a horrible, in a detestable

humor to see the ocean stretching interminably before his eyes. On

hearing my words he simply shrugged his shoulders.

"We shall have a tremendous storm," I said again, pointing to the

horizon. "These clouds are falling lower and lower upon the sea, as if

to crush it."

A great silence prevailed. The wind wholly ceased. Nature assumed a dead

calm, and ceased to breathe. Upon the mast, where I noticed a sort of

slight ignis fatuus, the sail hangs in loose heavy folds. The raft is

motionless in the midst of a dark heavy sea without undulation, without

motion. It is as still as glass. But as we are making no progress, what

is the use of keeping up the sail, which may be the cause of our

perdition if the tempest should suddenly strike us without warning.

"Let us lower the sail," I said, "it is only an act of common prudence."

"No no," cried my uncle, in an exasperated tone, "a hundred times, no.

Let the wind strike us and do its worst, let the storm sweep us away

where it will only let me see the glimmer of some coast of some rocky

cliffs, even if they dash our raft into a thousand pieces. No! keep up

the sail no matter what happens."

These words were scarcely uttered when the southern horizon underwent a

sudden and violent change. The long accumulated vapors were resolved

into water, and the air required to fill up the void produced became a

wild and raging tempest.

It came from the most distant corners of the mighty cavern. It raged

from every point of the compass. It roared; it yelled; it shrieked with

glee as of demons let loose. The darkness increased and became indeed

darkness visible.

The raft rose and fell with the storm, and bounded over the waves. My

uncle was cast headlong upon the deck. I with great difficulty dragged

myself towards him. He was holding on with might and main to the end of

a cable, and appeared to gaze with pleasure and delight at the spectacle

of the unchained elements.

Hans never moved a muscle. His long hair driven hither and thither by

the tempest and scattered wildly over his motionless face, gave him a

most extraordinary appearance for every single hair was illuminated by

little sparkling sprigs.

His countenance presents the extraordinary appearance of an antediluvian

man, a true contemporary of the Megatherium.

Still the mast holds good against the storm. The sail spreads out and

fills like a soap bubble about to burst. The raft rushes on at a pace

impossible to estimate, but still less swiftly than the body of water

displaced beneath it, the rapidity of which may be seen by the lines

which fly right and left in the wake.

"The sail, the sail!" I cried, making a trumpet of my hands, and then

endeavoring to lower it.

"Let it alone!" said my uncle, more exasperated than ever.

"Nej," said Hans, gently shaking his head.

Nevertheless, the rain formed a roaring cataract before this horizon of

which we were in search, and to which we were rushing like madmen.

But before this wilderness of waters reached us, the mighty veil of

cloud was torn in twain; the sea began to foam wildly; and the

electricity, produced by some vast and extraordinary chemical action in

the upper layer of cloud, is brought into play. To the fearful claps of

thunder are added dazzling flashes of lightning, such as I had never

seen. The flashes crossed one another, hurled from every side; while the

thunder came pealing like an echo. The mass of vapor becomes

incandescent; the hailstones which strike the metal of our boots and our

weapons are actually luminous; the waves as they rise appear to be

fire-eating monsters, beneath which seethes an intense fire, their

crests surmounted by combs of flame.

My eyes are dazzled, blinded by the intensity of light, my ears are

deafened by the awful roar of the elements. I am compelled to hold onto

the mast, which bends like a reed beneath the violence of the storm, to

which none ever before seen by mariners bore any resemblance.

* * * * *

Here my traveling notes become very incomplete, loose and vague. I have

only been able to make out one or two fugitive observations, jotted down

in a mere mechanical way. But even their brevity, even their obscurity,

show the emotions which overcame me.

* * * * *

Sunday, August 23rd. Where have we got to? In what region are we

wandering? We are still carried forward with inconceivable rapidity.

The night has been fearful, something not to be described. The storm

shows no signs of cessation. We exist in the midst of an uproar which

has no name. The detonations as of artillery are incessant. Our ears

literally bleed. We are unable to exchange a word, or hear each other


The lightning never ceases to flash for a single instant. I can see the

zigzags after a rapid dart strike the arched roof of this mightiest of

mighty vaults. If it were to give way and fall upon us! Other lightnings

plunge their forked streaks in every direction, and take the form of

globes of fire, which explode like bombshells over a beleaguered city.

The general crash and roar do not apparently increase; it has already

gone far beyond what human ear can appreciate. If all the powder

magazines in the world were to explode together, it would be impossible

for us to hear worse noise.

There is a constant emission of light from the storm clouds; the

electric matter is incessantly released; evidently the gaseous

principles of the air are out of order; innumerable columns of water

rush up like waterspouts, and fall back upon the surface of the ocean in


Whither are we going? My uncle still lies at full length upon the raft,

without speaking without taking any note of time.

The heat increases. I look at the thermometer, to my surprise it

indicates The exact figure is here rubbed out in my manuscript.

Monday, August 24th. This terrible storm will never end. Why should not

this state of the atmosphere, so dense and murky, once modified, again

remain definitive?

We are utterly broken and harassed by fatigue. Hans remains just as

usual. The raft runs to the southeast invariably. We have now already

run two hundred leagues from the newly discovered island.

About twelve o'clock the storm became worse than ever. We are obliged

now to fasten every bit of cargo tightly on the deck of the raft, or

everything would be swept away. We make ourselves fast, too, each man

lashing the other. The waves drive over us, so that several times we are

actually under water.

We had been under the painful necessity of abstaining from speech for

three days and three nights. We opened our mouths, we moved our lips,

but no sound came. Even when we placed our mouths to each other's ears

it was the same.

The wind carried the voice away.

My uncle once contrived to get his head close to mine after several

almost vain endeavors. He appeared to my nearly exhausted senses to

articulate some word. I had a notion, more from intuition than anything

else, that he said to me, "We are lost."

I took out my notebook, from which under the most desperate

circumstances I never parted, and wrote a few words as legibly as I


"Take in sail."

With a deep sigh he nodded his head and acquiesced.

His head had scarcely time to fall back in the position from which he

had momentarily raised it than a disk or ball of fire appeared on the

very edge of the raft our devoted, our doomed craft. The mast and sail

are carried away bodily, and I see them swept away to a prodigious

height like a kite.

We were frozen, actually shivered with terror. The ball of fire, half

white, half azure-colored, about the size of a ten-inch bombshell, moved

along, turning with prodigious rapidity to leeward of the storm. It ran

about here, there, and everywhere, it clambered up one of the bulwarks

of the raft, it leaped upon the sack of provisions, and then finally

descended lightly, fell like a football and landed on our powder barrel.

Horrible situation. An explosion of course was now inevitable.

By heaven's mercy, it was not so.

The dazzling disk moved on one side, it approached Hans, who looked at

it with singular fixity; then it approached my uncle, who cast himself

on his knees to avoid it; it came towards me, as I stood pale and

shuddering in the dazzling light and heat; it pirouetted round my feet,

which I endeavored to withdraw.

An odor of nitrous gas filled the whole air; it penetrated to the

throat, to the lungs. I felt ready to choke.

Why is it that I cannot withdraw my feet? Are they riveted to the

flooring of the raft?


The fall of the electric globe has turned all the iron on board into

loadstones the instruments, the tools, the arms are clanging together

with awful and horrible noise; the nails of my heavy boots adhere

closely to the plate of iron incrustated in the wood. I cannot withdraw

my foot.

It is the old story again of the mountain of adamant.

At last, by a violent and almost superhuman effort, I tear it away just

as the ball which is still executing its gyratory motions is about to

run round it and drag me with it if

Oh, what intense stupendous light! The globe of fire bursts we are

enveloped in cascades of living fire, which flood the space around with

luminous matter.

Then all went out and darkness once more fell upon the deep! I had just

time to see my uncle once more cast apparently senseless on the flooring

of the raft, Hans at the helm, "spitting fire" under the influence of

the electricity which seemed to have gone through him.

Whither are we going, I ask? and echo answers, Whither?


Tuesday, August 25th. I have just come out of a long fainting fit. The

awful and hideous storm still continues; the lightning has increased in

vividness, and pours out its fiery wrath like a brood of serpents let

loose in the atmosphere.

Are we still upon the sea? Yes, and being carried along with incredible


We have passed under England, under the Channel, under France, probably

under the whole extent of Europe.

* * * * *

Another awful clamor in the distance. This time it is certain that the

sea is breaking upon the rocks at no great distance. Then