CHAPTER 17: An Underwater Forest
WE HAD FINALLY arrived on the outskirts of this forest,
surely one of the finest in Captain Nemo's immense domains.
He regarded it as his own and had laid the same claim to it that,
in the first days of the world, the first men had to their forests
on land. Besides, who else could dispute his ownership of this
underwater property? What other, bolder pioneer would come,
ax in hand, to clear away its dark underbrush?
This forest was made up of big treelike plants, and when we
entered beneath their huge arches, my eyes were instantly struck
by the unique arrangement of their branches--an arrangement that I
had never before encountered.
None of the weeds carpeting the seafloor, none of the branches bristling
from the shrubbery, crept, or leaned, or stretched on a horizontal plane.
They all rose right up toward the surface of the ocean.
Every filament or ribbon, no matter how thin, stood ramrod straight.
Fucus plants and creepers were growing in stiff perpendicular lines,
governed by the density of the element that generated them.
After I parted them with my hands, these otherwise motionless
plants would shoot right back to their original positions.
It was the regime of verticality.
I soon grew accustomed to this bizarre arrangement, likewise to
the comparative darkness surrounding us. The seafloor in this forest
was strewn with sharp chunks of stone that were hard to avoid.
Here the range of underwater flora seemed pretty comprehensive to me,
as well as more abundant than it might have been in the arctic
or tropical zones, where such exhibits are less common.
But for a few minutes I kept accidentally confusing the two kingdoms,
mistaking zoophytes for water plants, animals for vegetables.
And who hasn't made the same blunder? Flora and fauna are so closely
associated in the underwater world!