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Home -> Jules Verne -> A Journey to the Center of the Earth -> Chapter 43

A Journey to the Center of the Earth - Chapter 43

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



Yes: our compass was no longer a guide; the needle flew from pole to
pole with a kind of frenzied impulse; it ran round the dial, and spun
hither and thither as if it were giddy or intoxicated.

I knew quite well that according to the best received theories the
mineral covering of the globe is never at absolute rest; the changes
brought about by the chemical decomposition of its component parts,
the agitation caused by great liquid torrents, and the magnetic
currents, are continually tending to disturb it--even when living
beings upon its surface may fancy that all is quiet below. A
phenomenon of this kind would not have greatly alarmed me, or at any
rate it would not have given rise to dreadful apprehensions.

But other facts, other circumstances, of a peculiar nature, came to
reveal to me by degrees the true state of the case. There came
incessant and continuous explosions. I could only compare them to the
loud rattle of along train of chariots driven at full speed over the
stones, or a roar of unintermitting thunder.

Then the disordered compass, thrown out of gear by the electric
currents, confirmed me in a growing conviction. The mineral crust of
the globe threatened to burst up, the granite foundations to come
together with a crash, the fissure through which we were helplessly
driven would be filled up, the void would be full of crushed
fragments of rock, and we poor wretched mortals were to be buried and
annihilated in this dreadful consummation.

"My uncle," I cried, "we are lost now, utterly lost!"

"What are you in a fright about now?" was the calm rejoinder. "What
is the matter with you?"

"The matter? Look at those quaking walls! look at those shivering
rocks. Don't you feel the burning heat? Don't you see how the water
boils and bubbles? Are you blind to the dense vapours and steam
growing thicker and denser every minute? See this agitated compass
needle. It is an earthquake that is threatening us."

My undaunted uncle calmly shook his head.

"Do you think," said he, "an earthquake is coming?"

"I do."

"Well, I think you are mistaken."

"What! don't you recognise the symptoms?"

"Of an earthquake? no! I am looking out for something better."

"What can you mean? Explain?"

"It is an eruption, Axel."

"An eruption! Do you mean to affirm that we are running up the shaft
of a volcano?"

"I believe we are," said the indomitable Professor with an air of
perfect self-possession; "and it is the best thing that could
possibly happen to us under our circumstances."

The best thing! Was my uncle stark mad? What did the man mean? and
what was the use of saying facetious things at a time like this?

"What!" I shouted. "Are we being taken up in an eruption? Our fate
has flung us here among burning lavas, molten rocks, boiling waters,
and all kinds of volcanic matter; we are going to be pitched out,
expelled, tossed up, vomited, spit out high into the air, along with
fragments of rock, showers of ashes and scoria, in the midst of a
towering rush of smoke and flames; and it is the best thing that
could happen to us!"

"Yes," replied the Professor, eyeing me over his spectacles, "I don't
see any other way of reaching the surface of the earth."

I pass rapidly over the thousand ideas which passed through my mind.
My uncle was right, undoubtedly right; and never had he seemed to me
more daring and more confirmed in his notions than at this moment
when he was calmly contemplating the chances of being shot out of a

In the meantime up we went; the night passed away in continual
ascent; the din and uproar around us became more and more
intensified; I was stifled and stunned; I thought my last hour was
approaching; and yet imagination is such a strong thing that even in
this supreme hour I was occupied with strange and almost childish
speculations. But I was the victim, not the master, of my own

It was very evident that we were being hurried upward upon the crest
of a wave of eruption; beneath our raft were boiling waters, and
under these the more sluggish lava was working its way up in a heated
mass, together with shoals of fragments of rock which, when they
arrived at the crater, would be dispersed in all directions high and
low. We were imprisoned in the shaft or chimney of some volcano.
There was no room to doubt of that.

But this time, instead of Snaefell, an extinct volcano, we were inside
one in full activity. I wondered, therefore, where could this
mountain be, and in what part of the world we were to be shot out.

I made no doubt but that it would be in some northern region. Before
its disorders set in, the needle had never deviated from that
direction. From Cape Saknussemm we had been carried due north for
hundreds of leagues. Were we under Iceland again? Were we destined to
be thrown up out of Hecla, or by which of the seven other fiery
craters in that island? Within a radius of five hundred leagues to
the west I remembered under this parallel of latitude only the
imperfectly known volcanoes of the north-east coast of America. To
the east there was only one in the 80th degree of north latitude, the
Esk in Jan Mayen Island, not far from Spitzbergen! Certainly there
was no lack of craters, and there were some capacious enough to throw
out a whole army! But I wanted to know which of them was to serve us
for an exit from the inner world.

Towards morning the ascending movement became accelerated. If the
heat increased, instead of diminishing, as we approached nearer to
the surface of the globe, this effect was due to local causes alone,
and those volcanic. The manner of our locomotion left no doubt in my
mind. An enormous force, a force of hundreds of atmospheres,
generated by the extreme pressure of confined vapours, was driving us
irresistibly forward. But to what numberless dangers it exposed us!

Soon lurid lights began to penetrate the vertical gallery which
widened as we went up. Right and left I could see deep channels, like
huge tunnels, out of which escaped dense volumes of smoke; tongues of
fire lapped the walls, which crackled and sputtered under the intense

"See, see, my uncle!" I cried.

"Well, those are only sulphureous flames and vapours, which one must
expect to see in an eruption. They are quite natural."

"But suppose they should wrap us round."

"But they won't wrap us round."

"But we shall be stifled."

"We shall, not be stifled at all. The gallery is widening, and if it
becomes necessary, we shall abandon the raft, and creep into a

"But the water--the rising water?"

"There is no more water, Axel; only a lava paste, which is bearing us
up on its surface to the top of the crater."

The liquid column had indeed disappeared, to give place to dense and
still boiling eruptive matter of all kinds. The temperature was
becoming unbearable. A thermometer exposed to this atmosphere would
have marked 150 deg. The perspiration streamed from my body. But for
the rapidity of our ascent we should have been suffocated.

But the Professor gave up his idea of abandoning the raft, and it was
well he did. However roughly joined together, those planks afforded
us a firmer support than we could have found anywhere else.

About eight in the morning a new incident occurred. The upward
movement ceased. The raft lay motionless.

"What is this?" I asked, shaken by this sudden stoppage as if by a

"It is a halt," replied my uncle.

"Is the eruption checked?" I asked.

"I hope not."

I rose, and tried to look around me. Perhaps the raft itself, stopped
in its course by a projection, was staying the volcanic torrent. If
this were the case we should have to release it as soon as possible.

But it was not so. The blast of ashes, scorix, and rubbish had ceased
to rise.

"Has the eruption stopped?" I cried.

"Ah!" said my uncle between his clenched teeth, "you are afraid. But
don't alarm yourself--this lull cannot last long. It has lasted now
five minutes, and in a short time we shall resume our journey to the
mouth of the crater."

As he spoke, the Professor continued to consult his chronometer, and
he was again right in his prognostications. The raft was soon hurried
and driven forward with a rapid but irregular movement, which lasted
about ten minutes, and then stopped again.

"Very good," said my uncle; "in ten minutes more we shall be off
again, for our present business lies with an intermittent volcano. It
gives us time now and then to take breath."

This was perfectly true. When the ten minutes were over we started
off again with renewed and increased speed. We were obliged to lay
fast hold of the planks of the raft, not to be thrown off. Then again
the paroxysm was over.

I have since reflected upon this singular phenomenon without being
able to explain it. At any rate it was clear that we were not in the
main shaft of the volcano, but in a lateral gallery where there were
felt recurrent tunes of reaction.

How often this operation was repeated I cannot say. All I know is,
that at each fresh impulse we were hurled forward with a greatly
increased force, and we seemed as if we were mere projectiles. During
the short halts we were stifled with the heat; whilst we were being
projected forward the hot air almost stopped my breath. I thought for
a moment how delightful it would be to find myself carried suddenly
into the arctic regions, with a cold 30 deg. below the freezing point.
My overheated brain conjured up visions of white plains of cool snow,
where I might roll and allay my feverish heat. Little by little my
brain, weakened by so many constantly repeated shocks, seemed to be
giving way altogether. But for the strong arm of Hans I should more
than once have had my head broken against the granite roof of our
burning dungeon.

I have therefore no exact recollection of what took place during the
following hours. I have a confused impression left of continuous
explosions, loud detonations, a general shaking of the rocks all
around us, and of a spinning movement with which our raft was once
whirled helplessly round. It rocked upon the lava torrent, amidst a
dense fall of ashes. Snorting flames darted their fiery tongues at
us. There were wild, fierce puffs of stormy wind from below,
resembling the blasts of vast iron furnaces blowing all at one time;
and I caught a glimpse of the figure of Hans lighted up by the fire;
and all the feeling I had left was just what I imagine must be the
feeling of an unhappy criminal doomed to be blown away alive from the
mouth of a cannon, just before the trigger is pulled, and the flying
limbs and rags of flesh and skin fill the quivering air and spatter
the blood-stained ground.

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