CHAPTER 16: Not Enough Air


Captain Nemo tells the men that there are two ways of dying in their present situation: being crushed; being asphyxiated. Food is not an issue because they have generous provisions. Nemo's strategy is to send his divers to cut through the iceberg at its least thick point. The men take turns helping cut through the ice. As they dug through, Aronnax notices the added danger of the once collapsing on them once the hole is dug through.

The captain decides to emit boiling water from the jets of the Nautilus to slow the freezing. The men begin to grow tired, suffering from oxygen deprivation. Suddenly, the Nautilus becomes free. The plan worked.

CHAPTER 17: From Cape Horn to the Amazon


The men rushed to the platform as soon as the Nautilus surfaced, breathing in deep gulps of air. Aronnax thanked the other tow men for saving him. When Land said he was simple arithmetic, that Aronnax's life was worth more than theirs, Aronnax said this was not true. The men returned to their talk of leaving, thinking of how they might escape.

The next few pages are filled with Aronnax's observations of fish and sea as the ship sails north. He spends his days studying and reading. One day Conseil, unknowingly, lifted a dangerous torpedo fish and became paralyzed for a few moments. That evening they ate the fish out of revenge.

CHAPTER 18: Squid


As the men sail far off the American coast they consider how they might leave the vessel. They are not sure that it is possible. Land suggests that Aronnax ask Nemo outright if he plans on freeing them. Aronnax thinks this is a bad idea. He has noticed a change in Nemo, who seems to be avoiding him. Nemo no longer visits Aronnax in the salon, nor does he explain the underwater adventure any longer. Aronnax does not think it is a good idea to ask Nemo about their freedom, because he is certain Nemo has no intentions of restoring it. Furthermore, he does not want to arouse any suspicion about their impending escape. Aronnax is also ready to return to the surface; he now feels he has enough information for a complete book and does not want this information to be buried with him.

One night the discussion turns to squid, as the men watch them through the observation windows. Land, in his typical fashion, does not believe in the existence of the giant squid because he has not ever dissected one. Suddenly, the vessel stops. Captain Nemo enters the salon and looks out the windows. He tells the men that a squid has gotten caught in the ship's propeller. They will surface and fight off the squid with axes since electric bullets can not kill them (they do not offer enough resistance to the bullet to allow an explosion to occur).

The men open the hatches of the ship and are attacked by the squid. As a sailor is carried away and suffocated by a squid, he calls out in French. Aronnax is shocked, since all he had ever heard them speak is the strange language that he does not understand. The men think they have almost freed the poor sailor when the squid releases a black liquid, temporarily blinding everyone. The squid carries the sailor away. Captain Nemo saves Ned Land from a similar fate. When the battle is over, Nemo looks at the sea in which the sailor is lost and cries.

CHAPTER 19: The Gulf Stream


For ten days the Nautilus sails at random, reflecting the sad mood of Nemo. As the ship travels north in the Gulf Stream, the men look for an opportunity for escape. They are only thirty miles off the American coast and consistently encounter steamers, which they are sure will pick them up upon escape. Unfortunately, the weather turns very bad--too bad to sail in a small boat. Ned Land tells Aronnax now that they were in his shores he would talk with the captain. He fears they will head to the North Pole and repeat the incident at the South Pole. Fearing Land would act rashly and ruin their chances, Aronnax offers to talk with the captain himself.

Aronnax goes to the captains room, obviously disturbing him. The captain asks for the same freedom he grants to Aronnax; the freedom to remain alone. Captain Nemo shows Aronnax the manuscript he is writing. He tells him it contains the secrets of his life and his discoveries in the sea. The plan is for the last man living on the ship to toss it into the waves, so the secrets will not die. Aronnax tells Nemo that he thinks his plan is crude, because he does not know that the manuscript will be found. He tells the captain that he and his companions will take the manuscript and keep it a secret in exchange for their freedom. Aronnax asks the captain if he ever plans on freeing them. The captain says that he who enters the Nautilus must remain there. When Aronnax complains that this is slavery, Nemo says he has never sworn them to an oath. Nemo then says he will not speak of this a second time. Upon hearing of Nemo's reaction, Ned Land says they must try to escape when they get to Long Island--whatever the weather.

A storm breaks the day they reach Long Island. The Nautilus remains above the water. Nemo stands on the platform defying the storm. As the terrifying hurricane continues at the surface, the Nautilus returns below the sea, where no sign of the hurricane is present.

CHAPTER 20: 47° 24'N, 17° 28'W


The ship continued heading north east. Then , after some time, and much to the surprise of the men, the ship began heading south--toward Europe. Aronnax and Land wondered if the Nautilus would dare to enter the English Channel. Captain Nemo appeared again, somber and distracted. One evening, the Nautilus sink to the sea's bottom yet again, next to a ship wreck. Captain Nemo told Aronnax the story of how the ship sunk bravely in battle. The ship was called the Vengeur.


At the South Pole, when it seems that death is imminent, Captain Nemo treats the idea nonchalantly. He seems more concerned that his project will fail--that the Nautilus is not as powerful as he believed-than the idea that he and the men might die.

Following this event, the need to escape becomes more pronounced. Even Aronnax, who until this point has thought how he might reason with the captain, is beginning to think action is necessary. Aronnax is changing and allowing himself to rely more on his experience with real life than with his ability to rationalize.

Once again, Nemo shows compassion when he is moved by the death of an innocent crewmember by the squid. It seems that Nemo does value human life to an extent and that his revenge is politically motivated.

Throughout this tale Nemo tells many stories. This technique is known as a frame story--telling a tale within a tale. Often, in this novel, the tale within the tale is used to preface an excursion (e.g. the story of Atlantis). However, in this section Nemo's tale of the sinking of the Vengeur is foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is when the author writes something that warns the reader of something similar to come later. In French vengeur means avenger--someone seeking revenge. The premise of Nemo's life on the Nautilus seems to be revenge. When he discusses how the Vengeur sunk heroically in battle, he is foreshadowing his own demise.

Cite this page:

Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Long Way Gone".