Study Guide

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Part 1 Chapter 7

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Part 1 Chapter 7

An Unknown Species of Whale

  • While underwater, Aronnax remains weirdly coherent for a man that's just been thrown from the side of the ship by a mysterious glowing whale-beast.
  • By the time he gets back to the surface, the Abraham Lincoln has already moved off into the darkness. He screams. Nobody answers. His wet clothes begin to weigh him down, and he starts to sink.
  • All of a sudden, he is pulled up to the surface. Conseil is back to save the day.
  • It seems Conseil, devoted as ever, decided to jump in after his master. Thanks, bro.
  • Conseil tells Aronnax that they're on their own. The frigate's rudder and propeller has been disabled by the narwhale and it won't be coming to the rescue them anytime soon.
  • Aronnax starts wailing and flailing, but Conseil remains as calm as ever. He cuts their clothes off—you know, so they won't weigh them down, that's all—and they figure out how to stay afloat while conserving as much energy as possible. Their only hope is the frigate's boats.
  • After three hours of treading water, Aronnax begins to tire, and, once again, Conseil comes to the rescue.
  • Soon, dawn breaks. The new light reveals that they're all alone; there are no boats in sight. Now even Conseil is yelling for help. Off in the distance, the two hear a faint buzzing.
  • Conseil yells again, and this time, he hears what is most definitely a voice.
  • Conseil, on the verge of sinking, makes one last attempt at yelling. He sees something above the waves and finds the energy to keep pulling Aronnax.
  • Just as Aronnax is about to sink—really, definitely sink, for real this time, no more crying wolf or crying at all for him, in fact—he hits something hard. And feels himself being pulled up. He opens his eyes and sees Conseil.
  • Conseil seems unsurprised.
  • Now, Aronnax sees another face. It's Ned, similarly calm.
  • Apparently, he's been standing on a "floating island" since being thrown from the ship—a floating island that might just be that "giant narwhal" everyone was talking about (1.7.57). Oh geez.
  • Remember how Ned's harpoon bounced off the thing, leaving it unharmed? Well, that whole experience led him to conclude that the "narwhal" was covered in steel plating.
  • Aronnax kicks the "island," and though he considers that, maybe it's a giant reptile of some kind, he has to admit that it's made of steel. He's blown away. His narwhal is man-made.
  • Aronnax is full of questions, but Ned doesn't have many answers. He's been on top of the thing for three hours and it hasn't moved an inch.
  • Aronnax assumes that the mechanical beast must have an engine and a crew to operate it. He assumes, then, that they're safe.
  • Just then, the thing begins to move. He and his companions take hold of it.
  • They all realize that it's curtains for them if the thing decides to dive, so Aronnax looks for an opening of some kind.
  • They're left on top of the thing for hours. Aronnax loses track of time, but he swears he can hear a strange melody coming from within the vessel.
  • At daybreak, the vessel begins to sink. Ned stamps on it furiously, and curses the "pirates" inside.
  • Without warning, a hatch is opened, a man appears, cries out, then disappears. Moments later, eight men grab Aronnax, Ned, and Conseil, and bring them down into the enigmatic vessel.

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