CHAPTER 18: Four Thousand Leagues Under the Pacific
BY THE NEXT MORNING, November 18, I was fully recovered from my
exhaustion of the day before, and I climbed onto the platform just
as the Nautilus's chief officer was pronouncing his daily phrase.
It then occurred to me that these words either referred to the state
of the sea, or that they meant: "There's nothing in sight."
And in truth, the ocean was deserted. Not a sail on the horizon.
The tips of Crespo Island had disappeared during the night.
The sea, absorbing every color of the prism except its blue rays,
reflected the latter in every direction and sported a wonderful
indigo tint. The undulating waves regularly took on the appearance
of watered silk with wide stripes.
I was marveling at this magnificent ocean view when
Captain Nemo appeared. He didn't seem to notice my presence and began
a series of astronomical observations. Then, his operations finished,
he went and leaned his elbows on the beacon housing, his eyes
straying over the surface of the ocean.
Meanwhile some twenty of the Nautilus's sailors--all energetic,
well-built fellows--climbed onto the platform. They had come
to pull up the nets left in our wake during the night.
These seamen obviously belonged to different nationalities, although
indications of European physical traits could be seen in them all.
If I'm not mistaken, I recognized some Irishmen, some Frenchmen,
a few Slavs, and a native of either Greece or Crete. Even so,
these men were frugal of speech and used among themselves
only that bizarre dialect whose origin I couldn't even guess.
So I had to give up any notions of questioning them.
The nets were hauled on board. They were a breed of trawl resembling
those used off the Normandy coast, huge pouches held half open
by a floating pole and a chain laced through the lower meshes.
Trailing in this way from these iron glove makers, the resulting
receptacles scoured the ocean floor and collected every marine exhibit
in their path. That day they gathered up some unusual specimens
from these fish-filled waterways: anglerfish whose comical movements
qualify them for the epithet "clowns," black Commerson anglers equipped
with their antennas, undulating triggerfish encircled by little
red bands, bloated puffers whose venom is extremely insidious,
some olive-hued lampreys, snipefish covered with silver scales,
cutlass fish whose electrocuting power equals that of the electric eel
and the electric ray, scaly featherbacks with brown crosswise bands,
greenish codfish, several varieties of goby, etc.; finally, some fish
of larger proportions: a one-meter jack with a prominent head,
several fine bonito from the genus Scomber decked out in the colors
blue and silver, and three magnificent tuna whose high speeds
couldn't save them from our trawl.