“20000 Leagues Under the Sea” Part1 Ch17

Question 1: Captain Nemo says: “Yes, the ocean has indeed circulation, and to promote it, the Creator has caused things to multiply in it — caloric, salt, and animalculae.”  What other references to god and religion are made in “20000 Leagues Under the Sea”?

Part 1 Chapter 7:

The time is past for Jonahs to take refuge in whales’ bellies!

There has been an incident like Jonahs in modern times, but without the happy ending.  According to pg 134 of “The Whale” by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Philippe Diolé translated from the French by J.F. Bernard Copyright 1972, published in 1987 by Arrowood Press:

It has actually happened that a man who fell into the sea was swallowed by a whale.  And, like Jonah, he was not chewed or ground up.  He did not, however, emerge alive after three days.  His chest was crushed, and by the time his body was recovered, the whale’s gastric juices had begun to work on the corpse.  This modern-day-Jonah story was recorded by the man who performed the autopsy on both the man and the whale, Dr. Egerton Y. Davis of Boston, in the 1947 issue of Natural History magazine.  Shortly afterward, Dr. Davis, his scientific curiousity piqued, found a man who was willing to play Jonah experimentally.  The man crawled, feet first, into the mouth of a sixty-five foot (dead) sperm whale.  The throat, however, was so narrow that he was able to get through it only with difficulty.  According to Davis, a man would be dead before reaching the whale’s stomach.  And as for spending three days alive in a whale, that would be absolutely impossible.

Part 1 Chapter 10:

No man could demand from him an account of his actions, God, if he believed in one – his conscience, if he had one, – were the sole judges to whom he was answerable.

Part 1 Chapter 10:

My flocks, like those of Neptune’s old shepherds, graze fearlessly in the immense prairies of the ocean.  I have a vast property there, which I cultivate myself, and which is always sown by the hand of the Creator of all things.”

Part 1 Chapter 10:

The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence.  It is nothing but love and emotion, it is the ‘Living Infinite,’ one of your poets has said.

Part I Chapter 17:

One saw, while crossing, that the sea displays the most wonderful sights.  They were in endless variety.  The scene changed continually, and we were called upon not only to contemplate the works of the Creator in the midst of the liquid element, but to penetrate the awful mysteries of the ocean.

Part 2, Chapter 4:

“As you spoke a while ago of the passage of the Israelites, and of the catastrophe to the Egyptians, I will ask whether you have met with traces under the water of this great historical fact?”

see http://users.netconnect.com.au/~leedas/redsea.html for details about modern divers finding evidence of chariots and bodies near Nuweiba, a large beach in the Gulf of Aqaba.

Part 2, Chapter 5:

The Nautilus penetrated into the Straits of Jubal, which leads to the Gulf of Suez.  I distinctly saw a high mountain, towering between the two gulfs of Ras-Mohammed.  It was Mount Horeb, that Sinai at the top of which Moses saw God face to face.

Question 2: Living organisms have individual cells that specialize and form together into tissues that perform specific functions.  Tissues are organized into organs that perform certain tasks.  These organs, likewise, are parts of a whole, a living organism, e.g. the human body.  Can living organisms themselves be viewed as cells of a broader organism, i.e. a super-organism?  Can the ocean itself be viewed as a living organism, and its ocean currents comparable to a blood circulatory system?

(see the book “Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid” by Douglas Hofstadter, especially the chapter “Ant Fugue” for a good discussion of hierarchial structures.)

Question 3: What is the significance of the cod fish?

Answer 3: The cod fish’s scientific name is “Gadus morhua” of the family of Gadidae.  This olive-green to brown bodied, silver bellied fish with 3 dorsal and 2 anal fins and a snout lives in depths of 60-600 feet on the Continental shelves of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  It lives in self-contained populations linked by hundreds of miles long migrations of its larger members.

During the day, cod gather into dense shoals that last till sunset.  Cod eat other fish and bottom dwelling invertebrates.  They become sexually mature when they reach a length of 2-3 feet which occurs around 4-5 years of age.  Females lay millions of small eggs, 20 of which can be layed side by side to fill an inch.  Hatching only 10-20 days after fertilization, they develop from larvae only a quarter of an inch into young cod 6 inches long after one year.  The following year they double in size and can grow up to 6 feet long and 211 pounds in weight.

Cod fishing was been very successful in the Atlantic Ocean.  The rich supplies off of Newfoundland were called “silver mines” back in the 16th Century.  Salted cod has been a valued food since colonial times and was the first commercial export from Massachussetts.  Since colonial times the fish has been used for more than just meat.   Glue can be made from its skin.  Isinglass, a preparation of pure gelatin, is obtainable from its swimbladder. A high-grade oil can be extracted from its liver.  This cod liver oil has since proven effective in the treatment of the disease known as rickets.

(information from “Encyclopedia of Fish” by Maurice and Robert Burton, Copyright 1970, BPC Publishing Ltd, pgs 56-57)

Question 4: What are tunnies?

Answer 4: The tunny or bluefin tuna of the Atlantic whose scientific name is “Thunnus thynnus” can grow up to 14 feet long and weigh up to 1800 lbs.  It is only the smaller tuna however that congregate into shoals of similiarly sized tuna fish.  The tunas migration patterns are often dependent upon the migration patterns of its prey as well as seasonal variations in water temperature. 

Tuna swim almost continuously at speeds up to 50 mph with their mouths slightly open in order to supply themselves with enough oxygen via water movement across their gills.

Tuna spawn in May and June off Florida and the Bahamas.  They spawn in June and July off the southwest corner of Spain and in the Mediterranean.  They can already weigh 10 pounds after their first year.

(information from “Encyclopedia of Fish” by Maurice and Robert Burton, Copyright 1970, BPC Publishing Ltd, pgs 242-243)

Question 5: Is the temperature of the ocean roughly 4.25 degrees Celsius for all Latitudes at a given ocean depth?

Question 6: Is there a Hawaiian volcano named “Mouna-Rea”?  Is it 5000 yards above sea level?  How far above sea level is Salt Lake City?

Answer 6: Perhaps this is synonymous for “Mauna Kea”, which is very close in height to the mountain Mauna Loa. 

According to the website:


Mauna Kea is about 4205 meters above sea level which equates to 4598 yards above sea level. 

According to the website:


the tallest point in Salt Lake City, Grandview Peak is 2870 meters above sea level which equates to 3139 yards above sea level.

Question 7: What are the Marquesas group of islands?  Do they still belong to France?

Answer 7: According to the website:


The stunning Marquesas Islands were originally named “Te Henua Enata” (Land of Men) by the native Polynesian people.

First discovered by the Spanish in 1595, they were later made famous by Captain James Cook, then immortalized by novelist Herman Melville, and by the painter Paul Gauguin,

Local population once exceeded 80,000, but fell dramatically because of diseases (like smallpox) introduced by uninvited visitors.

Located about 930 miles northeast of Tahiti the Marquesas includes 12 islands (2 are small rock islands), and of that total, only 6 are inhabited.

Shrouded in an almost constant cloud cover, all are wild, rugged and lush, and considered to be among the most beautiful islands on the planet.

These islands were in-the-news when Nuku Hiva served as the site of the popular TV show, Survivor.

This site also provides information on French ownership of these islands:

Marquesas Islands,
an island group within French Polynesia,
an overseas territory of France,
originally claimed in 1843

It is interesting to note the reference to Hermann Melville who according to wikipedia wrote the book ”
Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life” about his experiences as a beach comber on the island of Nuka Hiva.  Hermann Melville wrote “Moby Dick”, perhaps his most recognized work.  The first chapter of “20000 Leagues Under the Sea” uses the term “Moby Dick”.  The Bantam Classic version of “20000 Leagues Under the Sea”, Copyright 1962 has an introduction by Ray Bradbury that does a wonderful job comparing and contrasting the books “Moby Dick” and “20000 Leagues Under the Sea”.  He compares and contrasts the authors, the main characters and the philosophies of these two works.  In “20000 Leagues Under the Sea” Bradbury found a hopeful philosophy that embraces the vigor of technology and hope in mankinds better nature.  Diametrical to this stands “Moby Dick” that instead of placing an “N” , short for “Nemo” (Latin for Nobody)  on a black flag, places a capital “J” short for “Jedermann” (German for Everyone) on a black flag.

Question 8: What are gobies?

Answer 8: The Gobiidae family of fish commonly called gobies are the pygmies of the fish world, most being less than 3 inches long and many being not much over an inch long.  They eat small invertebrates and dead flesh.  They predominantly live in the ocean but many also enter brackish estuaries.  They prefer having safe retreats and often live on the bottom, whether on rocky shorelines, in sand and mud, among branching corals, or in rocky crevices where nets can’t reach them. 

Gobies are colorful, flat-headed, short snouted fishes.  They have 2 dorsal fins, pectoral fins, and their pelvic fins are joined at their outer edge to form a sucker.  Their large eyes are mounted high and close together.

During the breeding season male Gobies fight over breeding grounds.

Some tide pool dwelling species have a good enough memory of the topography seen at high tide, that they can safely hop between tide pools at low tide.

(information from “Encyclopedia of Fish” by Maurice and Robert Burton, Copyright 1970, BPC Publishing Ltd, pgs 88-89)

Question 9: If the bottom of the oceans were leveled what would the resulting depth be?  Was Captain Nemo correct in estimating the mean depth of the Pacific at 4000 yards?


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