“20000 Leagues Under the Sea” Part1 Ch10

Question 1: How did the china, porcelain and glass in the dining room of the Nautilus remain intact whenever it rammed other ships? Were they stowed in the equivalent of modern bubble wrap during such encounters?

see http://www.sealedair.com/corp/faq.html for information about the invention of modern bubble wrap.

(see also Part2 Ch15 — when the Nautilus hits an iceberg by accident)

Speaking of his breakfast with Captain Nemo, Professor Aronnax said:






“The breakfast consisted of a certain number of dishes, the contents of which were furnished by the sea alone; and I was ignorant of the nature and mode of preparation of some of them. I acknowledged that they were good, but they had a peculiar flavour, which I easily became accustomed to. These different aliments appeared to me to be rich in phosphorus, and I thought they must have a marine origin.”

Question 2: What food does the ocean provide for man?

Answer: Jacques Cousteau provides description of some of the food the ocean provides in Volume 17 “Riches of the Sea” of his “The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau” series, The Dansbury Press, Copyright 1975:

pg 56: There is no such thing as a Japanese seafood restaurant — every table, humble and high alike, is graced with food from the sea each day. Japanese eat whale and sea urchin, octopus, and eel. Altogether, they eat nine marine mammals, sixty-three species of sea fish, eight kinds of shellfish, three varieties of clams, and two of shrimp.

pg 57: One of the finest entrées that the sea provides is the fish Hawaiians call mahi-mahi, the dolphinfish. Available in gourmet markets, it is often scorned by buyers who confuse it with the sea mammal called by the same name. Baked on a hibachi or in the oven with a seasoned sauce, mahi-mahi is a succulent and flavorful seafood served with rice.

pg 57: A Caribbean diner’s delight is a creature that lives in the familiar conch shell, called lambi. A giant snail with projecting bright yellow eyes, its flesh is tough and rubbery. Once it has been marinated, the meat is pounded with a wooden mallet. “He beat him like a lambi” is an island expression that attests to the violence with which lambi must be attacked if it is to be made edible

pg 57: Sea urchins are gobbled up like candy in the Caribbean and Mediterranean and in Japan and Chile. Even though great numbers of the animals liver off the coasts of the United States, consumption of the prickly creatures is not common. A U.S. government bulletin on the subject suggests that the hostess who seeks novelties should serve “the orange segments of the gonads like tangerines, arranged as a seafood cocktail with lemon juice.” Caribbean housewives serve urchin reproductive organs in this way but prefer them sautéed in butter and blended with onions. Maybe the most unconventional treat from the sea is the violet, a bitter, iodine-filled ascidian that Mediterranean gourmets cut open and gobble down after seasoning it with a squeeze of lemon.

pg 57: Algae may seem like food suitable only for snails that keep the sides of aquariums clean, but many recipes for the use of large algae are found in foreign cookbooks. Sea lettuce, Ulva, can be added to salads or chopped and cooked with zucchini and tomato sauce. A sticky candy is made from bladder kelp. Japanese cooks weave entire meals from the several varieties of kelp they eat. There may be more to eating kelp and sea cucumbers than a dietary treat: a relationship has been made between the fish diet of Orientals and a low incidence of heart disease. Overweight Westeners who shun the sea creatures for a diet of meat and potatoes may gain better health as well as adding spice to their life from eating foods from the sea.

pg. 93: Much has been made of the fact that ocean ecosystems, rich in plant life, support great populations of fish and other animals. This is, of course, a fact. It is also true that the closer to plants in the pyramid of life man seeks for his source of food, the more food will be available to him. So why do we not harvest great quantities of plants from ocean fields as we do from those on land? Primarily because the majority of the ocean’s plants are one-celled. At the present stage of technology, it is not economically possible for our machines to imitate the baleen whale and filter tons of water to extract microscopic organisms. Even if far-ranging filtering pumps were devised, most of the ocean harvest could not serve as human food. The majority of plants in the “algae soup” are encapsulated by indigestible coverings of cellulose, silica (the main ingredient of glass), or calcareous plates. The only sea plants that are of use as food to man are those that grow in fixed locations — seaweeds. It may be difficult to imagine that the evil-smelling kelp that washes up on the shore could be of much use beyond supporting colonies of flies, but, properly processed, these large algae serve as important sources of food, fertilizer, and chemicals.

Question 3:How is sea food different than land food? Are there nutritional differences between them? Are there nutritional differences between fish harvested from fish farms as opposed to those obtained from the ocean?


“Captain Nemo,” said I to my host, who had just thrown himself on one of the divans, “this is a library which would do honour to more than one of the continental palaces, and I am absolutely astounded when I consider that it can follow you to the bottom of the seas.”

“Where could one find greater solitude or silence, Professor?” replied Captain Nemo.

Question 4: Do you have a place real or imagined that serves as your place of solitude and reflection?

There were 12,000 some books in Nemo’s library.






Question 5: How many books are in your local library?

Captain Nemo offers Professor Aronnax a cigar. Nemo describes its procurement as follows:






“this tobacco comes neither from Havana nor from the East. It is a kind of seaweed, rich in nicotine, with which the sea provides me, but somewhat sparingly.”

Question 6: How long have cigars from Havana been prized? Is there really seaweed rich in nicotine?

Answer: See the books:

“Cuban Cigar Tobacco: Why Cuban Cigars Are the World’s Best”
by Eumelio Espino Marrero, TFH Publications (August 1996)

“Habanos: The Story of the Havana Cigar”
by Nancy Stout, Rizzoli International Publications (October 15, 1997)

In the amazon.com review of this second book it mentions how long cigars from Havana have been well esteemed:

Throughout the history of the cigar, the habano has been unequivocally considerd the pinnacle of smoking pleasure. This unparalleled quality of the Havana cigar has bound the idea of Cuba with its most coveted export, and has held the imaginations of aficionados around the world for 500 years.

Answer: Seaweed containing nicotine might only be a future experiment in genetic engineering. However seaweed has been found to be beneficial against the ill effects of nicotine as the following article mentions:


As Captain Nemo showed Professor Aronnax his collection of art he remarked:






“These are my last souvenirs of that world which is dead to me. In my eyes, your modern artists are already old; they have two or three thousand years of existence; I confound them in my own mind. Masters have no age.”

Question 7: What makes some artists’ works seem timeless? Can any artist truly be timeless or is it always tied in some way to the age of its creation? Does this statement imply that Captain Nemo is older than he appears to be?

Question 8: How large is a pigeon’s egg? Are there pearls larger than a pigeon’s egg?


Answer: According to Brian Cassie at eNature.com:

There are so many kinds of pigeons and doves in the world, of all sizes, that their eggs vary greatly in size. A largish pigeon may have an egg about 2″ long and 1 1/4″ in diameter, while a smaller species can have an egg 1″ x 2/3″ or smaller.

Brian Cassie

(quoted from http://www.enature.com/expert/expert_show_question.asp?questionID=3947)


 Question 9: Professor Aronnax was given a comfortable room to live in on board the Nautilus while the Captain lived in a small room containing no real comforts. Was this to keep him focused on his duties as captain?


Question 10: What shells did Captain Nemo have in his collection?

Question 11: What is “the great fucus of the North Sea” and can one use it like sugar to sweeten food?

Answer 11: It could be “Rhodomenia palmata” used by Icelanders according to Vol. II Natural History of the “English Cyclopedia” by Charles Knight (copyright 1867 published by Bradbury, Evans & Co., Broadway, New York):

as an article of diet under the name of Sugar-Fucus

Likewise in the Vol. V January to July, 1855 edition of Putnam’s Monthly magazine (published by Dix & Edwards, 10 Park Place, London: Sampson Low, Son & Co.) it mentions on page 6:

Take these fuci out of their briny element, and they present you with forms as whimsical as luxuriant. They are, in truth, nothing more than shapeless masses of jelly, covered with a leathery surface, and mostly dividing into irregular branches, which occasionally end in scanty bunches of real leaves.  The first stem is thin and dry; it dies soon, but the plant continues to grow, apparently without limit.  A few are eatable.  Off Ireland grows the Carraghen-moss, with gracefully shaped and curled leaves, which physicians prescribe for pectoral diseases.  Another kind of sea-fucus furnishes the swallows of the Indian Sea with material for their world-famous edible nests.  The sugar-fucus of the Northern Sea is broad as the hand, thin as a line, but miles long; well prepared, it gives the so-called Marma-sugar.

According to pg20 of “Seashore” by Steve Parker (copyright 1989 Dorling Kindersley Limited London, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. New York):

The sugar kelp is a big brown seaweed of the low-water level and below. Its crinkly frond and wavy edges are distinctive, as is the sweet taste of the white powder that forms on its drying surface. It is eaten as a delicacy in the Far East.

Question 12: 

The sea does not belong to despots.  Upon its surface men can still exercise unjust laws, fight, tear one another to pieces, and be carried away with terrestrial horrors.  But at thirty feet below its level, their reign ceases, their influence is quenched, and their power disappears.  Ah! sir, live – live in the bosom of the waters!  There only is independence! There I recognize no masters!  There I am free!

How do all governments exercise unrighteous dominion over men to a greater or lesser extent?  

Answer 12:

Thomas Paine spoke to this in his “Common Sense”, mentioning how earthly governments and kingdoms often pretend to usurp god’s throne in holding men accountable to them instead of their maker.  Earthly governments often shackle men under the falsehood that the state is their master instead of them mastering themselves as children of God.  Jules Verne uses Captain Nemo to paint a similar picture of the unrighteous dominions of governments being in some ways as cruel as uncivilized savages.

Question 13: Did more people live off the land in Jules Verne’s day?  What independence does it give one to be able to do so?  Was it harder to live off the land in Europe, e.g. France where there was no real frontier like in America? Was Jules Verne implying that the ocean could be like America’s frontier, for people to settle and escape the restrictions of firmly entrenched customs, land-holdings, governments, and borders of the Old World?

Question 14: Can one make a preserve of anemone that is delicious like fruit?

Answer 14: Perhaps one could make a preserve of anemone.  Two varieties of anemone are eaten in France: oplet and beadlet. The following excerpt from the sea anemone definition in the online Food Dictionary at the website:


describes how the anemone is used by the French as food:

 The body cavity is cut into pieces and usually either batter-fried or used in soups.

Likewise the website:


provides the following excerpt of how the French prepare the beadlet variety of sea anemone for human consumption: 


Description: A variety of sea anemone eaten in France as tomate de mer. They are usually brown to green, but can be red. The tentacles are removed and they are then turned inside out for cleaning. The walls of the body cavity are cut into pieces, dipped in batter and fried or used in soups.


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