CHAPTER 4: The Red Sea
DURING THE DAY of January 29, the island of Ceylon disappeared
below the horizon, and at a speed of twenty miles per hour,
the Nautilus glided into the labyrinthine channels that separate
the Maldive and Laccadive Islands. It likewise hugged Kiltan Island,
a shore of madreporic origin discovered by Vasco da Gama in 1499 and
one of nineteen chief islands in the island group of the Laccadives,
located between latitude 10 degrees and 14 degrees 30' north, and between
longitude 50 degrees 72' and 69 degrees east.
By then we had fared 16,220 miles, or 7,500 leagues, from our starting
point in the seas of Japan.
The next day, January 30, when the Nautilus rose to the surface
of the ocean, there was no more land in sight. Setting its course
to the north-northwest, the ship headed toward the Gulf of Oman,
carved out between Arabia and the Indian peninsula and providing
access to the Persian Gulf.
This was obviously a blind alley with no possible outlet.
So where was Captain Nemo taking us? I was unable to say.
Which didn't satisfy the Canadian, who that day asked me where
we were going.
"We're going, Mr. Ned, where the captain's fancy takes us."
"His fancy," the Canadian replied, "won't take us very far.
The Persian Gulf has no outlet, and if we enter those waters,
it won't be long before we return in our tracks."
"All right, we'll return, Mr. Land, and after the Persian Gulf,
if the Nautilus wants to visit the Red Sea, the Strait of Bab el
Mandeb is still there to let us in!"
"I don't have to tell you, sir," Ned Land replied, "that the Red Sea
is just as landlocked as the gulf, since the Isthmus of Suez hasn't
been cut all the way through yet; and even if it was, a boat
as secretive as ours wouldn't risk a canal intersected with locks.
So the Red Sea won't be our way back to Europe either."
"But I didn't say we'd return to Europe."