20000 Leagues Under the Sea

Title – 20000 Leagues Under the Sea
Author – Jules Verne
Genre – Classic Literature, Science Fiction

A truly classical novel! Set in the mid 19th century this compilation by Jules Verne introduces the readers to an amazing new way of life below the sea. The word ‘leagues’ in the title denotes the distance that that the protagonists of this novel travel under the sea. The novel is a celebration of courage, loyalty, friendship and sheer brilliance of the mind. Following a chase of a mysterious sea monster Professor Pierre Aronnoax, a French doctor and scientist, his Flemish assistant, brilliant and loyal Conseil and master harpooner and Canadian national Ned Land, accidentally find themselves on board the Nautilus an amazing submarine, a mobile home in the oceans, a window to Gods creations beneath the surface of the land and created with the sole purpose of roaming the oceans.

Manned by the mysterious and brilliant scientist and engineer, Captain Nemo, they travel the seas starting at the Pacific Ocean stopping at the South Pole – a place where no man had gone before at that time and continue their journey to the North again. Their underwater adventures take them through the Red seas where Captain Nemo takes the professor on a tour of the lost city of Atlantis. A legendary city, once the toast of many a poet, philosopher and author, the professor is awed to discover that the city really did exist and is currently buried under the sea thanks to the volcano eruptions that destroyed the city in a day. I particularly found the conversation between Captain Nemo and the professor about the antiques and proof that one could find lodged in the sand if an excavation was carried out at the estuary at the end of the Red sea. Per Captain Nemo’s opinion, one would probably find proof regarding the Pharaoh and his way of life as that was the same spot where on the beckoning of Moses the sea closed upon the Pharaoh and his army, as they chased the Israelis who sought to escape his tyranny.

Another interesting tit bit was the fact about the “remora” or sucker fish that attach themselves to the base of traveling ships and sometimes cause the entire vessel to come to a standstill. Found abundantly in the Mediterranean sea, the fish have said to have found their own place in history when an entire school of them brought to a halt the ships of Marc Anthony causing victory to the troops of Augustus CaesarThere are also accounts of the Nautilus floating through the Ganges river during which our protagonists have a vision of floating corpses, hunting on the water jungles of Crespo, fighting nasty killer sharks , exploring the forests of New Guinea and coming face to face with the papuan savages, oyster hunting in the Sri Lankan waters complete with glimpsing at an Oyster with a pear the size of a coconut.
The book also has some humor content every now and then as seen in the dialogues when Conseil captures a beautiful and magnificent drunk cockatoo drunk on the nectar from the fruits of a cashew nut tree. These are often coupled with comments from Ned Land about missing land, normal people and food and his enthusiastic search for normal food at every occasion to satisfy his gourmet cravings and never giving up plotting an escape from the Nautilus.

The mystery of the origins of Captain Nemo and his purpose for living under the sea is kept indiscreet throughout the book. One understands that his companions and himself are victims of the various political oppressions of the time. Having lost their homes and hearths, they choose to avoid the rest of the world and literally go “down under” to fight their battles against the oppressors and their nations. This includes destroying trade ships that travel across the seas and funding national wars by using the treasures collected from the oceans. The brilliant, dynamic and commanding demeanor that makes the captain is elucidated throughout the novel. Though portrayed as cold and emotionless, the man that he was before he became Captain Nemo peeks every now and then.

The novel ends with a very dramatic and edge of the seat battle with a giant squid, loosing another man from the Nautilus to the sea which sends the captain into a mode of depression. Our 3 prisoners finally plot their escape which coincides with a whirlpool entwining the Nautilus. The professor, Conseil and Ned land on the shores of Norway but the fate of the Nautilus, its inmates and its captain is left as a mystery. Did they survive? Did the Nautilus get caught in the whirlpool by accident or was it steered there on purpose by the captain? We will never know the answers to these questions but the memories of the ocean and its wonders from the imaginative mind of Jules Verne will definitely be etched in the minds of the readers for a long time,
The novel would be a delight to ichthyologists, marine biologists and physicists. For someone like me it was a journey through a new and an amazing world – a world where I walked on the sea floors, a world that was lighted by thousands of jelly fish during my strolls, a world where sharks and whales swam past me, and a world that I can visit anytime I choose to.
Verdict – Buy, add to your collection, read and pass on the wonders to the next generation!
Finished – 15-Jan-09
Rating – *****


  1. Have never been drawn to Jules Verne kind of book… may be I’d try now. I’m reading David Baldacci… should be doing a review… so how many books have you read this year? At this rate, I think you’ll complete 20 in 4 or 5 months. No?

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