“20000 Leagues Under the Sea” Part1 Ch02

Question 1: Did the Museum of the Faculty of Medicine in Paris really exist? Did it possess the two and one quarter yard long narwhal ivory tusk that was fifteen inches in diameter at the base? Does ivory have the hardness of steel?

Question 2: Why did Jules Verne paint Nebraska as a disagreeable territory in the U.S.? Was Nebraska a state yet in 1867?

Question 3: What were the various theories to explain the mysterious cause of so many of the recent accidents at sea?  Why did Professor Aronnax reject some and retain others?

Answer 3: Since the mysterious accidents often happened far apart in distance yet shortly apart in time, a common cause of such accidents couldn’t be something as static as a floating island or a partially submerged shipwreck.

The proposal that the cause of these accidents was  a submarine vessel, a war machine, was rejected on the grounds that the governments of the world had no intelligence information of such a machine having been built.  While such information might have evaded a few nations’ intelligence efforts, it was incomprehensible that it would remain undetected by all nations.

The hypothesis that Aronnax believed most likely was that of an enormously powerful marine animal, e.g. a giant narwhal.  Aronnax justified this claim by reasoning that the ocean depths were still largely unexplored and unknown and might very well contain such an animal.  Aronnax believed that the harsh high pressures at such depths might very well produce creatures whose natural armour would be stronger than the metal hulls of some ships of the period.

Question 3: In what newspaper did Professor Aronnax express his opinion on the hypotheses for the cause of the numerous unexplainable marine accidents that had recently proliferated?  Did this newspaper exist in 1867?  Does it exist today?  Has it always been a respected newspaper?

Question 4: Has the entire ocean bottom been mapped out?  Can sonar always provide a view of the contours of the ocean bottom?  Are there portions of the ocean not accessible via sonar?  What other methods could be used to map the ocean bottom in such areas? (e.g. seismological measurements – i.e. the velocity of various earthquake waves?)

Question 5: Does science disprove the supernatural or can we admit that not all can be explained by science?

Question 6: What political power do insurance companies wield?  What political powers do politicians threaten to wield over us when they propose replacing private insurance with public insurance programs?

Question 7: What are Narwhals?

Answer 7: According to pg. 22 of “The Spirit of the Whale, Legend, History, Conservation” by Jane Billinghurst, (copyright 2000, published by Voyageur Press):

Narwhals are the Arctic whales known for their long, spiral tusks which, in the Middle Ages, were purported to be unicorn horns.  The tusk – usually found only on males – is acutally one of the narwhal’s two upper jaw teeth, which has elongated and grown externally.  Narwhal tusks usually grow in a counterclockwise direction; they can grow to be 10 feet (3m) long and weigh up to 12 pounds (5 kg). Because the tusk is hollow for most of its length, it is quite brittle.  The area where the tusk grows through the narwhal’s upper lip is usually infected with lice; the tip of the tusk is polished and smooth.  The male narwhal’s tusk is thought to be too brittle to be used in tusk-to-tusk combat and is more likely a secondary sexual characteristic used to advertise the narwhal’s fitness as a prospective mate.

Narwhals live mainly in the High Arctic.  Pods of ten to one hundred narwhals can be found in the Davis Strait, Baffin Bay, and in the Greenland Sea, feeding on squid, fish and crustaceans.  Mature narwhals are grayish with dark green, brown, or black smudges.  They often swim belly up and may lie motionless for several minutes, hence the name, which comes from the Scandinavian word nār meaning “corpse”.

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