20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Excerpts
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
From Chapter 32
“Yes, Mr. Land. Its [the dugong’s] flesh is actual red meat, highly prized, and set aside throughout Malaysia for the tables of aristocrats. Accordingly, this excellent animal has been hunted so bloodthirstily that, like its manatee relatives, it has become more and more scarce.”
“In that case, captain,” Conseil said in all seriousness, “on the offchance that this creature might be the last of its line, wouldn’t it be advisable to spare its life, in the interests of science?”
“Maybe,” the Canadian answered, “it would be better to hunt it down, in the interests of mealtime.”
“Then proceed, Mr. Land,” Captain Nemo replied.
From Chapter 39
Oh!” he exclaimed. “It’s not just one whale, it’s ten, twenty, a whole gam! And I can’t do a thing! I’m tied hand and foot!”
“But Ned my friend,” Conseil said, “why not ask Captain Nemo for permission to hunt – ”
Before Conseil could finish his sentence, Ned Land scooted down the hatch and ran to look for the captain. A few moments later, the two of them reappeared on the platform.
Captain Nemo observed the herd of cetaceans cavorting on the waters a mile from the Nautilus.
“They’re southern right whales,” he said. “There goes the fortune of a whole whaling fleet.”
“Well, sir,” the Canadian asked, “couldn’t I hunt them, just so I don’t forget my old harpooning trade?”
“Hunt them? What for?” Captain Nemo replied. “Simply to destroy them? We have no use for whale oil on this ship.”
“But, sir,” the Canadian went on, “in the Red Sea you authorized us to chase a dugong!”
“There it was an issue of obtaining fresh meat for my crew. Here it would be killing for the sake of killing. I’m well aware that’s a privilege reserved for mankind, but I don’t allow such murderous pastimes. When your peers, Mr. Land, destroy decent, harmless creatures like the southern right whale or the bowhead whale, they commit a reprehensible offense. Thus they’ve already depopulated all of Baffin Bay, and they’ll wipe out a whole class of useful animals. So leave these poor cetaceans alone. They have quite enough natural enemies, such as sperm whales, swordfish, and sawfish, without you meddling with them.”
I’ll let the reader decide what faces the Canadian made during this lecture on hunting ethics. Furnishing such arguments to a professional harpooner was a waste of words. Ned Land stared at Captain Nemo and obviously missed his meaning. But the captain was right. Thanks to the mindless, barbaric bloodthirstiness of fishermen, the last baleen whale will someday disappear from the ocean.
Ned Land whistled “Yankee Doodle” between his teeth, stuffed his hands in his pockets, and turned his back on us.
Meanwhile Captain Nemo studied the herd of cetaceans, then addressed me:
“I was right to claim that baleen whales have enough natural enemies without counting man. These specimens will soon have to deal with mighty opponents. Eight miles to leeward, Professor Aronnax, can you see those blackish specks moving about?”
“Yes, captain,” I replied.
“Those are sperm whales, dreadful animals that I’ve sometimes encountered in herds of 200 or 300! As for them, they’re cruel, destructive beasts, and they deserve to be exterminated.”
The Canadian turned swiftly at these last words.
“Well, captain,” I said, “on behalf of the baleen whales, there’s still time – ”
“It’s pointless to run any risks, professor. The Nautilus will suffice to disperse these sperm whales. It’s armed with a steel spur quite equal to Mr. Land’s harpoon, I imagine.”
The Canadian didn’t even bother shrugging his shoulders. Attacking cetaceans with thrusts from a spur! Who ever heard of such malarkey!
“Wait and see, Professor Aronnax,” Captain Nemo said. “We’ll show you a style of hunting with which you aren’t yet familiar. We’ll take no pity on these ferocious cetaceans. They’re merely mouth and teeth!”