CHAPTER 10: The Underwater Coalfields
THE NEXT DAY, February 20, I overslept. I was so exhausted
from the night before, I didn't get up until eleven o'clock. I
dressed quickly. I hurried to find out the Nautilus's heading.
The instruments indicated that it was running southward at a speed
of twenty miles per hour and a depth of 100 meters.
Conseil entered. I described our nocturnal excursion to him,
and since the panels were open, he could still catch a glimpse
of this submerged continent.
In fact, the Nautilus was skimming only ten meters over the soil of
these Atlantis plains. The ship scudded along like an air balloon borne
by the wind over some prairie on land; but it would be more accurate
to say that we sat in the lounge as if we were riding in a coach
on an express train. As for the foregrounds passing before our eyes,
they were fantastically carved rocks, forests of trees that had
crossed over from the vegetable kingdom into the mineral kingdom,
their motionless silhouettes sprawling beneath the waves.
There also were stony masses buried beneath carpets of axidia
and sea anemone, bristling with long, vertical water plants,
then strangely contoured blocks of lava that testified to all the fury
of those plutonic developments.
While this bizarre scenery was glittering under our electric beams,
I told Conseil the story of the Atlanteans, who had inspired
the old French scientist Jean Bailly to write so many entertaining--
albeit utterly fictitious--pages.* I told the lad about the wars
of these heroic people. I discussed the question of Atlantis
with the fervor of a man who no longer had any doubts. But Conseil
was so distracted he barely heard me, and his lack of interest
in any commentary on this historical topic was soon explained.
*Bailly believed that Atlantis was located at the North Pole! Ed.
In essence, numerous fish had caught his eye, and when fish pass by,
Conseil vanishes into his world of classifying and leaves real
life behind. In which case I could only tag along and resume
our ichthyological research.