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20000 Leagues Under the Sea
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20000 Leagues Under the Sea

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PART ONE

CHAPTER I

A SHIFTING REEF

The year 1866 was signalised by a remarkable incident, a mysterious and puzzling phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten. Not to mention rumours which agitated the maritime population

and excited the public mind, even in the interior of continents, seafaring men were particularly excited. Merchants, common sailors, captains of vessels, skippers, both of Europe and America,

naval officers of all countries, and the Governments of several States on the two continents, were deeply interested in the matter.

For some time past vessels had been met by "an enormous thing," a long object, spindle-shaped, occasionally phosphorescent,

and infinitely larger and more rapid in its movements than a whale.

The facts relating to this apparition (entered in various log-books)

agreed in most respects as to the shape of the object or creature in question, the untiring rapidity of its movements, its surprising power of locomotion,

and the peculiar life with which it seemed endowed. If it was a whale, it surpassed in size all those hitherto classified in science.

Taking into consideration the mean of observations made at divers times-- rejecting the timid estimate of those who assigned to this object

a length of two hundred feet, equally with the exaggerated opinions which set it down as a mile in width and three in length--we might fairly conclude that this mysterious being surpassed greatly all dimensions admitted by the learned ones of the day, if it existed at all.

And that it DID exist was an undeniable fact; and, with that tendency

which disposes the human mind in favour of the marvellous, we can understand the excitement produced in the entire world by this supernatural apparition.

As to classing it in the list of fables, the idea was out of the question.

On the 20th of July, 1866, the steamer Governor Higginson,

of the Calcutta and Burnach Steam Navigation Company, had met this moving mass five miles off the east coast of Australia.

Captain Baker thought at first that he was in the presence of an unknown sandbank; he even prepared to determine its exact position when two columns of water, projected by the mysterious object,

 

226 Pages





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