CHAPTER 14: The Black Current
"Here we are," the captain said.
I made my way to the central companionway, which led to the platform.
I climbed its metal steps, passed through the open hatches,
and arrived topside on the Nautilus.
The platform emerged only eighty centimeters above the waves.
The Nautilus's bow and stern boasted that spindle-shaped outline
that had caused the ship to be compared appropriately to a long cigar.
I noted the slight overlap of its sheet-iron plates, which resembled
the scales covering the bodies of our big land reptiles. So I had
a perfectly natural explanation for why, despite the best spyglasses,
this boat had always been mistaken for a marine animal.
Near the middle of the platform, the skiff was half set in the
ship's hull, making a slight bulge. Fore and aft stood two cupolas
of moderate height, their sides slanting and partly inset with heavy
biconvex glass, one reserved for the helmsman steering the Nautilus,
the other for the brilliance of the powerful electric beacon
lighting his way.
The sea was magnificent, the skies clear. This long aquatic
vehicle could barely feel the broad undulations of the ocean.
A mild breeze out of the east rippled the surface of the water.
Free of all mist, the horizon was ideal for taking sights.
There was nothing to be seen. Not a reef, not an islet.
No more Abraham Lincoln. A deserted immenseness.
Raising his sextant, Captain Nemo took the altitude of the sun,
which would give him his latitude. He waited for a few minutes
until the orb touched the rim of the horizon. While he was taking
his sights, he didn't move a muscle, and the instrument couldn't
have been steadier in hands made out of marble.
"Noon," he said. "Professor, whenever you're ready. . . ."
I took one last look at the sea, a little yellowish near the landing
places of Japan, and I went below again to the main lounge.
There the captain fixed his position and used a chronometer
to calculate his longitude, which he double-checked against his
previous observations of hour angles. Then he told me: