The Nautilus plans, by de Neuville

The Nautilus' Interior


Ron Miller suggests that Jules Verne had a plan of the Nautilus that he used to keep his narrative consistent.  Perhaps he even provided it to his illustrators for reference and perhaps the detail of a de Neuville woodcut, above,  represents Verne's own plan.  In any case, the narrative is consistent as to room size and placement.  Let's use the text to take a tour of the Nautilus.

Although it is not the first room Aronnax and his party saw, I will start with the salon because its size and placement are key to understanding the submarine's interior.

Salon, à pans coupés 

How did Verne visualize the salon?  The chapter "Le Nautilus" (combined with "A Man of the Seas" in Lewis's translation) portrays a huge room.  I've changed the translation to the original metric dimensions and restored a detail pertinent to the discussion: 

    A ce moment le capitaine Nemo ouvrit tune porte qui faisait face à celle par laquelle j'étais entré dans la bibliothèque, et je passai dans un salon immense et splendidement éclairé.
    C'était un vaste quadrilatère, à pans coupés, long de dix mètres, large de six, haut de cinq. Un plafond lumineux, décoré de légères arabesques, distribuait un jour clair et doux sur toutes les merveilles entassées dans ce musée. Car, c'était réellement un musée dans lequel une main intelligente et prodigue avait réuni tous les trésors de la nature et de l'art, avec ce pêle-mêle artiste qui distingue un atelier de peintre.
    At that moment Captain Nemo opened a door which stood opposite to that by which I had entered the library, and I passed into an immense drawing-room splendidly lighted.
    It was a vast, four-sided room with canted corners, ten meters long, six wide, and five high. A luminous ceiling, decorated with light arabesques, shed a soft clear light over all the marvels accumulated in this museum. For it was in fact a museum, in which an intelligent and prodigal hand had gathered all the treasures of nature and art, with the artistic confusion which distinguishes a painter's studio.

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

A key phrase in the passage, "à pans coupés", is not translated by Lewis, nor by Mickel.  Ron Miller, who translates it "with canted walls" questioned my "with canted corners" above.  I wanted to emphasize the corners and based it on this Random House College Dictionary definition of cant: an oblique surface, as one formed by cutting off the corner of a cube.   Walter Miller and Frederick Walter use the similar "with corners canted".  Butcher uses "cut off at the corners".  In his unpublished monograph, Sylvain St-Pierre describes the expression as unusual in modern French and translates it in context as "with parts of the walls cut".  Ralf Tauchmann informs me the phrase may be unusual in everyday speech, but it is common in technical usage to designate the face made by "broken angles", for example, "cut-off corner" in glass cutting, "hipped gable" in roofs, "canted corner" in furniture.  He finds "canted corners" consistent, although one normally views the corner from the outside, whereas the "pan coupé" designates the whole "corner wall".  

There is another passage later in the same chapter that might shed light on the phrase (I have again augmented and clarified the Lewis translation): 

    Je suivis le capitaine Nemo, qui, par une des portes percées à chaque pan coupé du salon, me fit rentrer dans les coursives du navire. Il me conduisit vers l'avant, et là je trouvai, non pas une cabine, mais une chambre élégante, avec lit, toilette et divers autres meubles.       I followed Captain Nemo who, by one of the doors opening from each canted panel of the drawing-room, returned to the ship's corridors. He conducted me towards the bow, and there I found, not a cabin, but an elegant room, with a bed, dressing-table, and several other pieces of excellent furniture.

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

Lewis again ignores the phrase but most of the other translators use language similar to the first reference.  This passage indicates that at least the forward vertical corners of the salon are cut as shownClick for some thoughts on the salon size and shape in Riou's wood cut, below.  Of all the rooms of the  Nautilus, the salon is perhaps the most important to the narrative.  Its size has a mathematical relationship with the hull and analysis indicates other corners need canting as well.  Click the link to examine the relationship and consider the problem of the salon.


Verne had a definite opinion about how the interior looked, as Arthur B. Evans reports in "The Illustrators of Jules Verne's Voyages Extraordinaires" in SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES, XXV:2 (July 1998): 241-70.  Evans quotes a letter from Verne to his publisher: 

I have received the drawings from Riou. I have several suggestions to make which I'll mention to him by return mail. I think he needs to make the people much smaller and the rooms much larger. And he needs to add much more detail...

"Un vaste quadrilatère à pans coupés." - Riou's salon
Riou's drawing of the salon, pictured here, shows doors at the end set at an angle, and an angled cornice joining the walls and ceiling. These "pans coupés" could address the hull taper in part.  The drawing appears to show a narrowing of the room.  This may only be normal perspective, but notice the size of the stool by the organ relative to the figures in the foreground.

We know Verne wanted a large impressive room, possibly, as William Butcher suggests, modeled on a room in a castle he had visited in Scotland.  Did he worry about the details of fitting this large room in the hull?  Did he look at his nominal eight meter diameter, do a little math or a little drawing and find that a room with the nice round dimensions of five by six meters fit? 

The catalog on this site features the Nautilus as envisioned by a great number of people.  Many of these folk have considered the interior as well as exterior views.  Let's examine and compare some of these and maybe get some insight into Verne's view of the submarine's layout.

The illustrations here are my copies, based on the originals, redrawn, regularized, and often simplified for this discussion.  Please note that scaling and other errors are very likely my own in the conversion process.  Original dimensions generally match the figures given in Verne's text.  All plans are the same scale and presented here on a meter-square grid, an idea copied from St-Pierre.  My own first layout is seen on this page, for reference.


Gagneux's Nautilus - elevation
Jean Gagneux's plan follows Verne's text closely.  Gagneux places all the important rooms on the main deck, with narrow spaces on the sides.  His annotation is too small to read on my copies and these may be the auxiliary reservoirs he discusses in his observations. They also may be "les coursives situées en abord".  The hatches shown on the upper deck in the elevation drawing may provide access to these "inboard passages".  I'll have more to say about these passages later.  Gagneux's drawings do have a two-dimensional error.  Because of the circular cross-section, the forward cabins must be raised to have flat decks.
Gagneux's Nautilus - plan
Notice that the forward part of the salon follows Riou's drawing, pictured above.  All of these layouts follow Riou in this way.


Arnold's Nautilus - elevation
Leo Arnold's layout is similar to Gagneux's, although he has moved the crew quarters to the upper galleries deck.  He identifies the cell where Aronnax and his companions were confined when first brought aboard as the crew's mess, a very practical use for this large room.  (In his written observations, Gagneux includes the cell as part of the crew’s living space.)  Arnold cants the aft corners of the salon as well as the the forward end.
Arnold's Nautilus - main deck plan
Arnold's Nautilus - upper deck plan

Arnold maximizes the available space by changing the cross-section from circular to a squarer shape.  The narrower top of the salon extends into the upper galleries but the lower portion occupies the full width of the hull. 

Arnold's Nautilus - section


Miller's Nautilus - elevation
Ron Miller shows the side passages more clearly in his plan, although at the cost of a much narrower salon.  Notice how he raises the forward cabins to fit the tapered hull.  Like the Arnold, he places the diving room and airlock in the engine area.  He has a separate crew's mess and "cell".   Miller's salon is like Riou's but reverses the direction from the others.
Miller's Nautilus - plan
Ron Miller's Nautilus - Copyright Ron Miller
Ron Miller has updated his cutaway view, pictured above, with my wheelhouse suggestion and extended the concept to the lantern as well.  (The Eyewitness Classics edition, illustrated by Paul Wright, includes a very nice, color interior view that is pretty much a line-for-line copy of Ron’s original drawing.  Even better is Ron's own color Extraordinary Voyages poster, available in two sizes at cafépress.)  

Ron Miller's 20x16 poster



St-Pierre's Nautilus - elevation
Sylvain St-Pierre has drawn many versions of the Nautilus during careful reading and interpretation of the French text.  This is version 3.  Although it shows the wheelhouse far forward, like Arnold's, a later detail drawing places this superstructure above the library to address the spindle shape.  St-Pierre's main deck plan graphically shows the limited floor space due to the hull curvature.  Like Miller's, it has direct access from Nemo's cabin to Aronnax's, the configuration supported by the narrative in several places.  St-Pierre places many of the aft rooms on the upper deck, perhaps a consequence of his raising the inboard corridor to pass above the salon window.  This location opens space on the main deck for the diving room and airlock, the approach I took in my first design.

Adopting an idea originated by a correspondent, St-Pierre has provided the crew their own version of the salon by placing two smaller view ports in their area. Although perhaps unlikely in the very class-conscious Victorian era, this is a legitimate improvement since Aronnax never describes this area.

St-Pierre's Nautilus - main deck plan
St-Pierre's Nautilus - upper deck plan
The section at right shows how the corridor just barely fits around the salon.  Note above that the library as well as the salon extend into the upper deck, perhaps a necessity to accommodate the 12,000 volumes.

St-Pierre's Nautilus - section



In 1982 Jean-Pierre Bouvet created a set of detailed drawings of the Nautilus.  I include his layout here to illustrate both the similarity and diversity of approaches possible within the constraints of Jules Verne's text.
Bouvet's Nautilus - elevation
Bouvet's Nautilus - main deck plan
Designed to encompass Nemo's 50 cm keel, Bouvet's double hull is thicker than the others but he still shows room for upper and lower passages along the side of the hull.  Look for Bouvet's beautiful drawings elsewhere on these pages. 

Bouvet's Nautilus - cross-section through library

A Side Note:
les coursives situées en abord


This phase, which appears only once as opposed to the more pervasive coursives, is translated variously as:
gangway (Bonner)
gangways situated along the sides of the ship (Butcher)
corridors arranged for easy transit (W. Miller and Walter)
passage (R. Miller)
waist (Lewis)
inboard-located gangways (St-Pierre)

In the novel, Captain Nemo takes Professor Aronnax on a tour of the Nautilus.  You can take a tour of my unfinished spindle-hulled Nautilus interior here.  The tour commentary includes further discussion about interpreting Jules Verne's text.  Aronnax's tour is discussed below.

Click to take the tour

Aronnax's Tour of the Nautilus

Captain Nemo gives Professor Aronnax a tour of the Nautilus, soon after his party is brought aboard.  Let's review that tour and augment it to better understand the layout of the boat.  (This review is inspired by Sylvain St-Pierre's similar evaluation written while he was reading the novel and corresponding with a friend.)

Before we begin, lets review some terms that appear often in the translation (definitions from   "Gangway" is a nautical term defined as "a passage along either side of a ship’s deck, particularly that part of the spar deck on each side of the booms, from the quarterdeck to the forecastle, more properly termed the 'waist' ".  "Waist" is also defined as "the middle part of the deck of a ship between the forecastle and the quarterdeck".  A "gangway" is also used to enter a ship.  "Inboard" and "outboard" are also nautical terms usually meaning within and outside the hull respectively.  "Inboard" may also mean toward the interior of a ship from the hull and "outboard" the opposite, toward the hull from the interior.

The French coursives appears frequently in Verne's  text.  Lewis often uses "gangways" and "waist", but sometimes "stairs" to translate this.

Let's begin our tour, concentrating on the movement from room to room.  In an "Unknown Species of Whale" Aronnax describes how the castaways are discovered and forced aboard the Nautilus.  He continues in the next chapter, "Mobilis in Mobili" (as elsewhere on these pages, the English is Lewis's translation, occasionally corrected, clarified, or augmented with missing passages):

A peine l'étroit panneau fut-il refermé sur moi, qu'une obscurité profonde m'enveloppa. Mes yeux, imprégnés de la lumière extérieure, ne purent rien percevoir. Je sentis mes pieds nus se cramponner aux échelons d'une échelle de fer. ... Au bas de l'échelle, une porte s'ouvrit et se referma immédiatement sur nous avec un retentissement sonore. Hardly had the narrow panel closed upon me, when I was enveloped in darkness. My eyes, dazzled with the outer light, could distinguish nothing. I felt my naked feet cling to the rungs of an iron ladder. ... At the bottom of the ladder, a door opened, and shut after us immediately with a bang.

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

Panneau, translated as panel by Lewis, is often used for hatch or hatch cover.  We see that the cell, probably the crew's mess, soon measured as 20 feet by 10 with a ceiling higher than Ned Land can reach, is located at the bottom of the ladder from the deck hatch.  (The French text gives the dimensions in feet, perhaps because the captives are pacing them off.) 

Captain Nemo introduces himself in "The Man of the Seas" and soon we learn a little more about the boat's layout:

    Je suivis le capitaine Nemo, et dès que j'eus franchi la porte, je pris une sorte de couloir électriquement éclairé, semblable aux coursives d'un navire. Après un parcours d'une dizaine de mètres, une seconde porte s'ouvrit devant moi.
    J'entrai alors dans une salle à manger ….
    I followed Captain Nemo; and as soon as I had passed through the door, I found myself in a kind of passage lighted by electricity, similar to the waist of a ship. After we had proceeded a dozen yards [about ten meters], a second door opened before me.
    I then entered a dining-room,….

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

There seems to be nothing of interest between the cell and the dining room and they are apparently on the same level.  Nemo and Aronnax enjoy breakfast and conversation and the tour resumes (this is a new chapter, "Le Nautilus", in the French text):
   Le capitaine Nemo se leva. Je le suivis. Une double porte, ménagée à l'arrière de la salle, s'ouvrit, et j'entrai dans une chambre de dimension égale à celle que je venais de quitter.
   C'était une bibliothèque. …
    Captain Nemo rose. I followed him. A double door, contrived at the back of the dining-room, opened, and I entered a room equal in dimensions to that which I had just quitted.
    It was a library. …

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

The "double door" is usually interpreted as side-by-side doors, but St-Pierre places them face-to-face. The distinction may be important to the arrangement of the rooms. Lewis uses "dimension" in the plural while the French appears to be singular. Later Aronnax gives the dining room and library the same length. Both show high ceilings in the original woodcuts, but a narrower dining room might facilitate the layout amidships. 

The library is followed by the salon as we have already seen and then the forward corridor with Aronnax's cabin.  Here we pick up the narrative:

   « Votre chambre est contiguë à la mienne, me dit-il, en ouvrant une porte, et la mienne donne sur le salon que nous venons de quitter. »
    J'entrai dans la chambre du capitaine. Elle avait un aspect sévère, presque cénobitique. Une couchette de fer, une table de travail, quelques meubles de toilette. Le tout éclairé par un demi-jour. Rien de confortable. Le strict nécessaire, seulement.
    "Your room adjoins mine," said he, opening a door, "and mine opens into the drawing-room that we have just quitted."
    I entered the Captain's room: it had a severe, almost a monkish aspect. A small iron bedstead, a table, some articles for the toilet; the whole lighted by a skylight. No comforts, the strictest necessaries only.

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

At this point, my initial interpretation was that both forward cabins open onto this corridor.  Nemo opens the door to Aronnax’s cabin but the two merely look in and don’t enter.  They then enter Nemo’s cabin through the other door on the passageway.  Three later passages in the narrative belie my interpretation.  Two, associated with the attempts to escape the Nautilus using the dinghy are similar.  In "Vigo Bay" Aronnax is in his cabin, nervously awaiting the appointed hour for the escape:
   A neuf heures moins quelques minutes, je collai mon oreille près de la porte du capitaine. Nul bruit. Je quittai ma chambre, et je revins au salon qui était plongé dans une demi-obscurité, mais désert.     At a few minutes to nine, I put my ear to the Captain's door. No noise. I left my room and returned to the saloon, which was half in obscurity, but deserted.

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

This situation recurs in "The Last Words of Captain Nemo" when again:
   J'écoutai à la porte de sa chambre. J'entendis un bruit de pas. Le capitaine Nemo était là.

… je m'étendis sur mon lit…

    I listened at the door of his room. I heard steps. Captain Nemo was there.

I stretched myself on my bed …

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

It is almost possible to imagine the professor going out into the passage and listen at the door their, but this interpretation is difficult to justify, since the narrative so often indicates his movement and specific actions.  The third passage, in "The Gulf Stream" clinches the issue:
   Je rentrai dans ma chambre. De là, j'entendis marcher dans celle du capitaine Nemo. Il ne fallait pas laisser échapper cette occasion de le rencontrer. Je frappai à sa porte.     I went to my room. From thence I meant to go to Captain Nemo's. It would not do to let this opportunity of meeting him slip. I knocked at the door.

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

There can be no doubt that this door to Nemo’s cabin in Aronnax’s room and there is probably not a second door opening on the forward passage.

While we are on this tangent, a word about Lewis's skylight:  most translations give this phrase as describing the lighting in the cabin as some variant of "dimly lit".

Aronnax and Nemo spend some time in Nemo's cabin discussing instruments and power and then in "All by Electricity" the tour resumes:

   -- Nous n'avons pas fini, monsieur Aronnax, dit le capitaine Nemo en se levant, et si vous voulez me suivre, nous visiterons l'arrière du Nautilus. »
    En effet, je connaissais déjà toute la partie antérieure de ce bateau sous-marin, dont voici la division exacte, en allant du centre à l'éperon : la salle à manger de cinq mètres, séparée de la bibliothèque par une cloison étanche, c'est-à-dire ne pouvant être pénétrée par l'eau, la bibliothèque de cinq mètres, le grand salon de dix mètres, séparé de la chambre du capitaine par une seconde cloison étanche, ladite chambre du capitaine de cinq mètres, la mienne de deux mètres cinquante, et enfin un réservoir d'air de sept mètres cinquante, qui s'étendait jusqu'à l'étrave. Total, trente-cinq mètres de longueur. Les cloisons étanches étaient percées de portes qui se fermaient hermétiquement au moyen d'obturateurs en caoutchouc, et elles assuraient toute sécurité à bord du Nautilus, au cas où une voie d'eau se fût déclarée.
    Je suivis le capitaine Nemo, à travers les coursives situées en abord, et j'arrivai au centre du navire. Là, se trouvait une sorte de puits qui s'ouvrait entre deux cloisons étanches. Une échelle de fer, cramponnée à la paroi, conduisait à son extrémité supérieure. Je demandai au capitaine à quel usage servait cette échelle.
    "We have not finished, M. Aronnax," said Captain Nemo, rising. "If you will allow me, we will examine the stern of the Nautilus."
    Really, I knew already the anterior part of this submarine boat, of which this is the exact division, starting from the ship's head: the dining-room, five yards long, separated from the library by a water-tight partition; the library, five yards long; the large drawing-room, ten yards long, separated from the Captain's room by a second water-tight partition; the said room, five yards in length; mine, two and a half yards; and, lastly a reservoir of air, seven and a half yards, that extended to the bows. Total length thirty five yards, or one hundred and five feet. The partitions had doors that were shut hermetically by means of india-rubber instruments, and they ensured the safety of the Nautilus in case of a leak.
    I followed Captain Nemo through the waist, and arrived at the centre of the boat. There was a sort of well that opened between two partitions. An iron ladder, fastened with an iron hook to the partition, led to the upper end. I asked the Captain what the ladder was used for.

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

The French cloisons étanches are watertight bulkheads.  Lewis is not consistent in his translation.  The boat well is described in the French text as "between two watertight bulkheads" although this seems to disagree with the designation of a fourth partition, rather than fifth, below. 

It seems the pair have not retraced their steps through the salon, library, and dining room, but have taken "les coursives situées en abord", translated here as "waist", and have not returned to the corridor with the cell, but to another.  There are other ways to interpret this, but for now bear with me.  Let's continue:

   Après avoir dépassé la cage de l'escalier qui aboutissait à la plate-forme, je vis une cabine longue de deux mètres, dans laquelle Conseil et Ned Land, enchantés de leur repas, s'occupaient à le dévorer à belles dents. Puis, une porte s'ouvrit sur la cuisine longue de trois mètres, située entre les vastes cambuses du bord. 

… Auprès de cette cuisine s'ouvrait une salle de bains, confortablement disposée, et dont les robinets fournissaient l'eau froide ou l'eau chaude, à volonté.
   A la cuisine succédait le poste de l'équipage, long de cinq mètres. …

   Au fond s'élevait une quatrième cloison étanche qui séparait ce poste de la chambre des machines. Une porte s'ouvrit, et je me trouvai dans ce compartiment où le capitaine Nemo —ingénieur de premier ordre, à coup sûr,—avait disposé ses appareils de locomotion.

    After having passed by the cage of the staircase that led to the platform, I saw a cabin six feet long, in which Conseil and Ned Land, enchanted with their repast, were devouring it with avidity. Then a door opened into a kitchen nine feet long, situated between the large store-rooms. 

… Near this kitchen was a bathroom comfortably furnished, with hot and cold water taps.
    Next to the kitchen was the berth-room of the vessel, sixteen feet long. …

    At the end was a fourth partition that separated this office from the engine-room. A door opened, and I found myself in the compartment where Captain Nemo—certainly an engineer of a very high order—had arranged his locomotive machinery.

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

If we consider that the captain and Aronnax have taken a different return route aft, several layout possibilities present themselves at this point:
  • They have returned to the same place they began the tour, that is, the corridor outside the cell.
This may be the most likely possibility, but to me Aronnax’s observations indicate otherwise. He seems to be describing everything and his first words on leaving the cell indicate a well-lit, empty corridor.
  • They are in approximately the same location but on a different deck or level.
After my preceding statement, this may be contradictory, but… There is no mention of stairs or a ladder during the transit via the inboard passage, but a passage that bypasses the salon almost certainly must incline over the large windows.  St-Pierre has taken this approach for his layout.
  • They are on the same level, but in a different corridor.
This makes most sense if the corridors are outboard with the various cabins located between them.  However, the ladders to the boat and the platform should be approximately amidships.  The corridor outside the cell has a ladder to the platform and the corridor they have returned to has the ladder to the boat, placing both inboard.

Although the above concludes Aronnax's introductory tour of the Nautilus, he's not seen the entire boat.  In "The Arabian Tunnel" Aronnax is on deck with the captain:

   -- Non, monsieur. Aussi j'ai pour habitude de me tenir dans la cage du timonier pour diriger moi-même la manoeuvre. Et maintenant, si vous voulez descendre, monsieur Aronnax, le Nautilus va s'enfoncer sous les flots, et il ne reviendra à leur surface qu'après avoir franchi l'Arabian-Tunnel. »
    Je suivis le capitaine Nemo. Le panneau se ferma, les réservoirs d'eau s'emplirent, et l'appareil s'immergea d'une dizaine de mètres.
    Au moment où me disposais à regagner ma chambre, le capitaine m'arrêta.
    « Monsieur le professeur, me dit-il, vous plairait-il de m'accompagner dans la cage du pilote ?
    -- Je n'osais vous le demander, répondis-je.
    -- Venez donc. Vous verrez ainsi tout ce que l'on peut voir de cette navigation à la fois sous-terrestre et sous-marine. »
    Le capitaine Nemo me conduisit vers l'escalier central. A mi-rampe, il ouvrit une porte, suivit les coursives supérieures et arriva dans la cage du pilote ...
    "No, sir; for that reason I am accustomed to go into the steersman's cage and myself direct our course. And now, if you will go down, M. Aronnax, the Nautilus is going under the waves, and will not return to the surface until we have passed through the Arabian Tunnel."
    I followed Captain Nemo. The hatch was closed, the tanks filled, and the apparatus submerged to about ten meters depth.
    As I was about to return to my room, the captain stopped me.
    "Professor", he said, "Would you like to join me in the pilot's cage?"
    "I did not dare to ask", I answered.
    "Then come. You will see all that one can see of this simultaneous subterranean and submarine passage."

    Captain Nemo led me towards the central staircase; half way down he opened a door, traversed the upper deck, and arrived  in the pilot's cage ...

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

It's not clear in the text where the pair are when Nemo invites him to the wheelhouse.  Since they return to the staircase, they have not been standing at the top, so "halfway down" might be better translated "halfway up".  Perhaps they went to the salon from the deck.  It is outfitted with a full set of instruments so it may be from here that Nemo gave the order to submerge.  The following passage from the "The Black River", describing the Nautilus surfacing, supports this interpretation.  Among the instruments in the salon is a pressure gauge to measure depth. 
   Le capitaine pressa trois fois un timbre électrique. Les pompes commencèrent à chasser l'eau des réservoirs ; l'aiguille du manomètre marqua par les différentes pressions le mouvement ascensionnel du Nautilus, puis elle s'arrêta.     The Captain pressed an electric bell three times. The pumps began to drive the water from the tanks; the needle of the manometer marked by different pressures the ascent of the Nautilus, then it stopped.

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

To complete our tour let's return to the two escape attempts.  By this time Aronnax has been onboard the the Nautilus for months and is so familiar with its layout that his passage through the rooms and corridors should be automatic.  First, from "Vigo Bay", continuing the passage begun earlier:
   J'ouvris la porte communiquant avec la bibliothèque. Même clarté insuffisante, même solitude. J'allai me poster près de la porte qui donnait sur la cage de l'escalier central. J'attendis le signal de Ned Land.
   En ce moment, la porte du grand salon s'ouvrit, et le capitaine Nemo parut.

    I opened the door communicating with the library. The same insufficient light, the same solitude. I placed myself near the door leading to the central staircase, and there waited for Ned Land's signal.
   At this moment the door of the large saloon opened, and Captain Nemo appeared.

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

This passage indicates that the library and not the dining room leads to the corridor to the staircase.  The final attempt in "The Last Words of Captain Nemo" is the same:
Le capitaine Nemo avait quitté sa chambre. Il était dans ce salon que je devais traverser pour fuir.
    Je m'avançai en rampant à travers les coursives obscures du Nautilus, m'arrêtant à chaque pas pour comprimer les battements de mon coeur.
    J'arrivai à la porte angulaire du salon. Je l'ouvris doucement.
Je me traînai sur le tapis, évitant le moindre heurt dont le bruit eût pu trahir ma présence. Il me fallut cinq minutes pour gagner la porte du fond qui donnait sur la bibliothèque.
    Éperdu, je me précipitai dans la bibliothèque. Je montai l'escalier central, et, suivant la coursive supérieure, j'arrivai au canot. J'y pénétrai par l'ouverture qui avait déjà livré passage à mes deux compagnons.
Captain Nemo had left his room. He was in the saloon, which I must cross to fly.
    I crept along the dark passageways of the Nautilus, stopping at each step to check the beating of my heart. I reached the door of the saloon, and opened it gently.
    I crept along the carpet, avoiding the slightest sound which might betray my presence. I was at least five minutes reaching the door, at the opposite side, opening into the library.
    In desperation, I rushed through the library, mounted the central staircase, and, following the upper passage, reached the boat. I crept through the opening, which had already admitted my two companions.

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

This passage provides another clue.  Aronnax takes the stairs to the upper passage (Lewis translates this "flight") and follows it to the boat.  Notice that he must cross the salon to escape.

Here's one last passage from "A Hecatomb" showing the library leading to the staircase.  Aronnax and his companions are in the salon:

   Ned Land était résolu, Conseil calme, moi nerveux, me contenant à peine.
    Nous passâmes dans la bibliothèque. Au moment où je poussais la porte qui s'ouvrait sur la cage de l'escalier central, j'entendis le panneau supérieur se fermer brusquement.
    Le Canadien s'élança sur les marches, mais je l'arrêtai.
    Ned Land was resolute, Conseil calm, myself so nervous that I knew not how to contain myself. We all passed into the library; but the moment I pushed the door opening on to the central staircase, I heard the upper panel close sharply. The Canadian rushed on to the stairs, but I stopped him.

Original text from Zvi Har'El's Virtual Library

These passages are consistent in describing a door from the library to the staircase.  It is possible this is a third door in the library, at a cost to the shelf space needed for 12,000 volumes.  Or could the "double door" to the dining room be two doors separated by a corridor? 

I think this tour raises a few questions about the Nautilus.  Here are a few:

  • How is the central section of the boat set up?  We see from the several layouts presented here that many interpretations are possible.
  • Where are the inboard, or outboard, passages?  Sylvain feels strongly that they start forward of the salon.  There is evidence for this and against it.
  • How does the library connect with the central staircase?
  • Is there more than one way to reach the platform?  There are various references to ladders and to stairs, although central staircase is prevalent.  Perhaps we should consider that "ladder" is the nautical term for stair?

I won't attempt any more definitive answers here and will leave the questions for you to ponder.  My initial Nautilus design involved less study and addressed these items one way.  I think the next one will do it differently.  

What do you think? Please e-mail me.

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14 Jan 16
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