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Home -> Jules Verne -> A Journey to the Center of the Earth -> Chapter 19

A Journey to the Center of the Earth - Chapter 19

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



Next day, Tuesday, June 30, at 6 a.m., the descent began again.

We were still following the gallery of lava, a real natural
staircase, and as gently sloping as those inclined planes which in
some old houses are still found instead of flights of steps. And so
we went on until 12.17, the, precise moment when we overtook Hans,
who had stopped.

"Ah! here we are," exclaimed my uncle, "at the very end of the

I looked around me. We were standing at the intersection of two
roads, both dark and narrow. Which were we to take? This was a

Still my uncle refused to admit an appearance of hesitation, either
before me or the guide; he pointed out the Eastern tunnel, and we
were soon all three in it.

Besides there would have been interminable hesitation before this
choice of roads; for since there was no indication whatever to guide
our choice, we were obliged to trust to chance.

The slope of this gallery was scarcely perceptible, and its sections
very unequal. Sometimes we passed a series of arches succeeding each
other like the majestic arcades of a gothic cathedral. Here the
architects of the middle ages might have found studies for every form
of the sacred art which sprang from the development of the pointed
arch. A mile farther we had to bow or heads under corniced elliptic
arches in the romanesque style; and massive pillars standing out from
the wall bent under the spring of the vault that rested heavily upon
them. In other places this magnificence gave way to narrow channels
between low structures which looked like beaver's huts, and we had to
creep along through extremely narrow passages.

The heat was perfectly bearable. Involuntarily I began to think of
its heat when the lava thrown out by Snaefell was boiling and working
through this now silent road. I imagined the torrents of fire hurled
back at every angle in the gallery, and the accumulation of intensely
heated vapours in the midst of this confined channel.

I only hope, thought I, that this so-called extinct volcano won't
take a fancy in his old age to begin his sports again!

I abstained from communicating these fears to Professor Liedenbrock.
He would never have understood them at all. He had but one idea--
forward! He walked, he slid, he scrambled, he tumbled, with a
persistency which one could not but admire.

By six in the evening, after a not very fatiguing walk, we had gone
two leagues south, but scarcely a quarter of a mile down.

My uncle said it was time to go to sleep. We ate without talking, and
went to sleep without reflection.

Our arrangements for the night were very simple; a railway rug each,
into which we rolled ourselves, was our sole covering. We had neither
cold nor intrusive visits to fear. Travellers who penetrate into the
wilds of central Africa, and into the pathless forests of the New
World, are obliged to watch over each other by night. But we enjoyed
absolute safety and utter seclusion; no savages or wild beasts
infested these silent depths.

Next morning, we awoke fresh and in good spirits. The road was
resumed. As the day before, we followed the path of the lava. It was
impossible to tell what rocks we were passing: the tunnel, instead of
tending lower, approached more and more nearly to a horizontal
direction, I even fancied a slight rise. But about ten this upward
tendency became so evident, and therefore so fatiguing, that I was
obliged to slacken my pace.

"Well, Axel?" demanded the Professor impatiently.

"Well, I cannot stand it any longer," I replied.

"What! after three hours' walk over such easy ground."

"It may be easy, but it is tiring all the same."

"What, when we have nothing to do but keep going down!"

"Going up, if you please."

"Going up!" said my uncle, with a shrug.

"No doubt, for the last half-hour the inclines have gone the other
way, and at this rate we shall soon arrive upon the level soil of

The Professor nodded slowly and uneasily like a man that declines to
be convinced. I tried to resume the conversation. He answered not a
word, and gave the signal for a start. I saw that his silence was
nothing but ill-humour.

Still I had courageously shouldered my burden again, and was rapidly
following Hans, whom my uncle preceded. I was anxious not to be left
behind. My greatest care was not to lose sight of my companions. I
shuddered at the thought of being lost in the mazes of this vast
subterranean labyrinth.

Besides, if the ascending road did become steeper, I was comforted
with the thought that it was bringing us nearer to the surface. There
was hope in this. Every step confirmed me in it, and I was rejoicing
at the thought of meeting my little Grauben again.

By midday there was a change in the appearance of this wall of the
gallery. I noticed it by a diminution of the amount of light
reflected from the sides; solid rock was appearing in the place of
the lava coating. The mass was composed of inclined and sometimes
vertical strata. We were passing through rocks of the transition or
silurian [l] system.

"It is evident," I cried, "the marine deposits formed in the second
period, these shales, limestones, and sandstones. We are turning away
from the primary granite. We are just as if we were people of Hamburg
going to Lubeck by way of Hanover!"

I had better have kept my observations to myself. But my geological
instinct was stronger than my prudence, and uncle Liedenbrock heard
my exclamation.

"What's that you are saying?" he asked.

"See," I said, pointing to the varied series of sandstones and
limestones, and the first indication of slate.


"We are at the period when the first plants and animals appeared."

"Do you think so?"

"Look close, and examine."

I obliged the Professor to move his lamp over the walls of the
gallery. I expected some signs of astonishment; but he spoke not a
word, and went on.

Had he understood me or not? Did he refuse to admit, out of self-love
as an uncle and a philosopher, that he had mistaken his way when he
chose the eastern tunnel? or was he determined to examine this
passage to its farthest extremity? It was evident that we had left
the lava path, and that this road could not possibly lead to the
extinct furnace of Snaefell.

Yet I asked myself if I was not depending too much on this change in
the rock. Might I not myself be mistaken? Were we really crossing the
layers of rock which overlie the granite foundation?

[1]The name given by Sir Roderick Murchison to a vast series of
fossiliferous strata, which lies between the non-fossiliferous slaty
schists below and the old red sandstone above. The system is well
developed in the region of Shropshire, etc., once inhabited by the
Silures under Caractacus, or Caradoc. (Tr.)

If I am right, I thought, I must soon find some fossil remains of
primitive life; and then we must yield to evidence. I will look.

I had not gone a hundred paces before incontestable proofs presented
themselves. It could not be otherwise, for in the Silurian age the
seas contained at least fifteen hundred vegetable and animal species.
My feet, which had become accustomed to the indurated lava floor,
suddenly rested upon a dust composed of the DEBRIS of plants and
shells. In the walls were distinct impressions of fucoids and

Professor Liedenbrock could not be mistaken, I thought, and yet he
pushed on, with, I suppose, his eyes resolutely shut.

This was only invincible obstinacy. I could hold out no longer. I
picked up a perfectly formed shell, which had belonged to an animal
not unlike the woodlouse: then, joining my uncle, I said:

"Look at this!"

"Very well," said he quietly, "it is the shell of a crustacean, of an
extinct species called a trilobite. Nothing more."

"But don't you conclude--?"

"Just what you conclude yourself. Yes; I do, perfectly. We have left
the granite and the lava. It is possible that I may be mistaken. But
I cannot be sure of that until I have reached the very end of this

"You are right in doing this, my uncle, and I should quite approve of
your determination, if there were not a danger threatening us nearer
and nearer."

"What danger?"

"The want of water."

"Well, Axel, we will put ourselves upon rations."

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