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Home -> Jules Verne -> A Journey to the Center of the Earth -> Chapter 18

A Journey to the Center of the Earth - Chapter 18

1. Preface

2. Chapter 1

3. Chapter 2

4. Chapter 3

5. Chapter 4

6. Chapter 5

7. Chapter 6

8. Chapter 7

9. Chapter 8

10. Chapter 9

11. Chapter 10

12. Chapter 11

13. Chapter 12

14. Chapter 13

15. Chapter 14

16. Chapter 15

17. Chapter 16

18. Chapter 17

19. Chapter 18

20. Chapter 19

21. Chapter 20

22. Chapter 21

23. Chapter 22

24. Chapter 23

25. Chapter 24

26. Chapter 25

27. Chapter 26

28. Chapter 27

29. Chapter 28

30. Chapter 29

31. Chapter 30

32. Chapter 31

33. Chapter 32

34. Chapter 33

35. Chapter 34

36. Chapter 35

37. Chapter 36

38. Chapter 37

39. Chapter 38

40. Chapter 39

41. Chapter 40

42. Chapter 41

43. Chapter 42

44. Chapter 43

45. Chapter 44

46. Chapter 45



At eight in the morning a ray of daylight came to wake us up. The
thousand shining surfaces of lava on the walls received it on its
passage, and scattered it like a shower of sparks.

There was light enough to distinguish surrounding objects.

"Well, Axel, what do you say to it?" cried my uncle, rubbing his
hands. "Did you ever spend a quieter night in our little house at
Konigsberg? No noise of cart wheels, no cries of basket women, no
boatmen shouting!"

"No doubt it is very quiet at the bottom of this well, but there is
something alarming in the quietness itself."

"Now come!" my uncle cried; "if you are frightened already, what will
you be by and by? We have not gone a single inch yet into the bowels
of the earth."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that we have only reached the level of the island. long
vertical tube, which terminates at the mouth of the crater, has its
lower end only at the level of the sea."

"Are you sure of that?"

"Quite sure. Consult the barometer."

In fact, the mercury, which had risen in the instrument as fast as we
descended, had stopped at twenty-nine inches.

"You see," said the Professor, "we have now only the pressure of our
atmosphere, and I shall be glad when the aneroid takes the place of
the barometer."

And in truth this instrument would become useless as soon as the
weight of the atmosphere should exceed the pressure ascertained at
the level of the sea.

"But," I said, "is there not reason to fear that this ever-increasing
pressure will become at last very painful to bear?"

"No; we shall descend at a slow rate, and our lungs will become
inured to a denser atmosphere. Aeronauts find the want of air as they
rise to high elevations, but we shall perhaps have too much: of the
two, this is what I should prefer. Don't let us lose a moment. Where
is the bundle we sent down before us?"

I then remembered that we had searched for it in vain the evening
before. My uncle questioned Hans, who, after having examined
attentively with the eye of a huntsman, replied:


"Up there."

And so it was. The bundle had been caught by a projection a hundred
feet above us. Immediately the Icelander climbed up like a cat, and
in a few minutes the package was in our possession.

"Now," said my uncle, "let us breakfast; but we must lay in a good
stock, for we don't know how long we may have to go on."

The biscuit and extract of meat were washed down with a draught of
water mingled with a little gin.

Breakfast over, my uncle drew from his pocket a small notebook,
intended for scientific observations. He consulted his instruments,
and recorded:

"Monday, July 1.

"Chronometer, 8.17 a.m.; barometer, 297 in.; thermometer, 6 deg. (43
deg. F.). Direction, E.S.E."

This last observation applied to the dark gallery, and was indicated
by the compass.

"Now, Axel," cried the Professor with enthusiasm, "now we are really
going into the interior of the earth. At this precise moment the
journey commences."

So saying, my uncle took in one hand Ruhmkorff's apparatus, which was
hanging from his neck; and with the other he formed an electric
communication with the coil in the lantern, and a sufficiently bright
light dispersed the darkness of the passage.

Hans carried the other apparatus, which was also put into action.
This ingenious application of electricity would enable us to go on
for a long time by creating an artificial light even in the midst of
the most inflammable gases.

"Now, march!" cried my uncle.

Each shouldered his package. Hans drove before him the load of cords
and clothes; and, myself walking last, we entered the gallery.

At the moment of becoming engulfed in this dark gallery, I raised my
head, and saw for the last time through the length of that vast tube
the sky of Iceland, which I was never to behold again.

The lava, in the last eruption of 1229, had forced a passage through
this tunnel. It still lined the walls with a thick and glistening
coat. The electric light was here intensified a hundredfold by

The only difficulty in proceeding lay in not sliding too fast down an
incline of about forty-five degrees; happily certain asperities and a
few blisterings here and there formed steps, and we descended,
letting our baggage slip before us from the end of a long rope.

But that which formed steps under our feet became stalactites
overhead. The lava, which was porous in many places, had formed a
surface covered with small rounded blisters; crystals of opaque
quartz, set with limpid tears of glass, and hanging like clustered
chandeliers from the vaulted roof, seemed as it were to kindle and
form a sudden illumination as we passed on our way. It seemed as if
the genii of the depths were lighting up their palace to receive
their terrestrial guests.

"It is magnificent!" I cried spontaneously. "My uncle, what a sight!
Don't you admire those blending hues of lava, passing from reddish
brown to bright yellow by imperceptible shades? And these crystals
are just like globes of light."

"Ali, you think so, do you, Axel, my boy? Well, you will see greater
splendours than these, I hope. Now let us march: march!"

He had better have said slide, for we did nothing but drop down the
steep inclines. It was the facifs DESCENSUS AVERNI of Virgil. The
compass, which I consulted frequently, gave our direction as
southeast with inflexible steadiness. This lava stream deviated
neither to the right nor to the left.

Yet there was no sensible increase of temperature. This justified
Davy's theory, and more than once I consulted the thermometer with
surprise. Two hours after our departure it only marked 10 deg. (50 deg.
Fahr.), an increase of only 4 deg. This gave reason for believing that
our descent was more horizontal than vertical. As for the exact depth
reached, it was very easy to ascertain that; the Professor measured
accurately the angles of deviation and inclination on the road, but
he kept the results to himself.

About eight in the evening he signalled to stop. Hans sat down at
once. The lamps were hung upon a projection in the lava; we were in a
sort of cavern where there was plenty of air. Certain puffs of air
reached us. What atmospheric disturbance was the cause of them? I
could not answer that question at the moment. Hunger and fatigue made
me incapable of reasoning. A descent of seven hours consecutively is
not made without considerable expenditure of strength. I was
exhausted. The order to 'halt' therefore gave me pleasure. Hans laid
our provisions upon a block of lava, and we ate with a good appetite.
But one thing troubled me, our supply of water was half consumed. My
uncle reckoned upon a fresh supply from subterranean sources, but
hitherto we had met with none. I could not help drawing his attention
to this circumstance.

"Are you surprised at this want of springs?" he said.

"More than that, I am anxious about it; we have only water enough for
five days."

"Don't be uneasy, Axel, we shall find more than we want."


"When we have left this bed of lava behind us. How could springs
break through such walls as these?"

"But perhaps this passage runs to a very great depth. It seems to me
that we have made no great progress vertically."

"Why do you suppose that?"

"Because if we had gone deep into the crust of earth, we should have
encountered greater heat."

"According to your system," said my uncle. "But what does the
thermometer say?"

"Hardly fifteen degrees (59 deg. Fahr), nine degrees only since our

"Well, what is your conclusion?"

"This is my conclusion. According to exact observations, the increase
of temperature in the interior of the globe advances at the rate of
one degree (1-4/5 deg. Fahr.) for every hundred feet. But certain local
conditions may modify this rate. Thus at Yakoutsk in Siberia the
increase of a degree is ascertained to be reached every 36 feet. This
difference depends upon the heat-conducting power of the rocks.
Moreover, in the neighbourhood of an extinct volcano, through gneiss,
it has been observed that the increase of a degree is only attained
at every 125 feet. Let us therefore assume this last hypothesis as
the most suitable to our situation, and calculate."

"Well, do calculate, my boy."

"Nothing is easier," said I, putting down figures in my note book.
"Nine times a hundred and twenty-five feet gives a depth of eleven
hundred and twenty-five feet."

"Very accurate indeed."


"By my observation we are at 10,000 feet below the level of the sea."

"Is that possible?"

"Yes, or figures are of no use."

The Professor's calculations were quite correct. We had already
attained a depth of six thousand feet beyond that hitherto reached by
the foot of man, such as the mines of Kitz Bahl in Tyrol, and those
of Wuttembourg in Bohemia.

The temperature, which ought to have been 81 deg. (178 deg. Fahr.) was
scarcely 15 deg. (59 deg. Fahr.). Here was cause for reflection.

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