Jules Verne: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas

CHAPTER 12: Everything through Electricity (continued)

I followed Captain Nemo down gangways located for easy transit, and I arrived amidships. There I found a sort of shaft heading upward between two watertight bulkheads. An iron ladder, clamped to the wall, led to the shaft's upper end. I asked the captain what this ladder was for.

"It goes to the skiff," he replied.

"What! You have a skiff?" I replied in some astonishment.

"Surely. An excellent longboat, light and unsinkable, which is used for excursions and fishing trips."

"But when you want to set out, don't you have to return to the surface of the sea?"

"By no means. The skiff is attached to the topside of the Nautilus's hull and is set in a cavity expressly designed to receive it. It's completely decked over, absolutely watertight, and held solidly in place by bolts. This ladder leads to a manhole cut into the Nautilus's hull and corresponding to a comparable hole cut into the side of the skiff. I insert myself through this double opening into the longboat. My crew close up the hole belonging to the Nautilus; I close up the one belonging to the skiff, simply by screwing it into place. I undo the bolts holding the skiff to the submersible, and the longboat rises with prodigious speed to the surface of the sea. I then open the deck paneling, carefully closed until that point; I up mast and hoist sail--or I take out my oars--and I go for a spin."

"But how do you return to the ship?"

"I don't, Professor Aronnax; the Nautilus returns to me."

"At your command?"

"At my command. An electric wire connects me to the ship. I fire off a telegram, and that's that."

"Right," I said, tipsy from all these wonders, "nothing to it!"

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