20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
by Jules Verne
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Part 2 Chapter 12 Summary
Sperm Whales and Baleen Whales
- Aronnax is puzzled; the Nautilus just keeps going south. No way Ned's going to escape anytime soon.
- Ned's mind is back on taking over the sub. The harpooner asks Aronnax how many people he thinks are actually on the Nautilus.
- Ten is all you'd need to run the Nautilus, Aronnax replies. Ned seems pleased by his answer.
- Aronnax knows Ned is thinking of doing something drastic.
- He suggests there may be more, what with the Nautilus being a sanctuary for outcasts like Nemo.
- Aronnax tries to figure out a more accurate number by calculating the amount of air in the Nautilus and, taking into account how often it surfaces, how much is used. He guesses up to 625 men could live on board, and though there's no way that many do live there…
- There are too many men, Conseil says, for the three of them to overpower.
- So Aronnax tells Ned to quit his whining. Besides, he says, they can't go south forever. Eventually they'll hit the polar ice cap and turn back.
- Frustrated, Ned leaves.
- Conseil reminds Aronnax that Ned isn't so interested in seeing the sights. He's not a scientist, after all.
- The same day, something happens to cheer Ned right up: the Nautilus comes upon a bunch of whales.
- Aronnax and company watch them from the platform. These are Antarctic whales, whales that Ned has never gotten to hunt. He starts getting stoked just thinking about spearing a couple. He stamps his foot like a crazy, whale-hunting bull. He starts telling fish tales about fish tails. (Get it? Well, all of our jokes can't be winners...)
- Conseil tells Ned to go ask Nemo for permission to hunt. But Nemo's not down with hunting the whales; he thinks it would be senseless killing.
- Ned's disappointed. Still, Aronnax has to agree with Nemo. "The barbaric and unthinking relentlessness of the hunters," he writes, "will one day make the last whale disappear from the ocean" (2.12.97).
- Nemo turns to Aronnax. He points off into the distance, toward some black shapes moving in the water. They're sperm whales, he says, and they're coming for the Antarctic whales.
- Ned wants to have at the predators with his harpoon, but Nemo tells him to hold off. He says the Nautilus and its "steel ram" can take care of the sperm whales.
- So the Nautilus dives and gets to work. Ned watches like a little kid as the Nautilus kicks sperm whale butt and spills a ton of blood. The predators are gone before you know it, and the corpses of dead whales float at the surface. (The face-off between the Nautilus and the sperm whales isn't quite as cool as this shark vs. croc grudge match, but still. It's pretty awesome.)
- Ned loved watching this undersea show, but he can't shake his disappointment. He likens Nemo's slaughter of the sperm whales to butcher's work.
- This gets Nemo steamed. He was merely taking care of some "evil animals," he says; the Nautilus is not a "butcher's knife" (2.12.119-120).
- But Nemo wasn't able to save all of the Antarctic whales. A mother and her child lie dead next to the Nautilus. The sub pulls up close and a couple of crewmen suck the milk from the mother.
- Apparently, it's pretty delicious stuff. (No talk of whale milk mustaches though.)
- Aronnax notices that, from that day on, Ned's opinion of Nemo declines rapidly.
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