• March 8, 2006 at 3:12 am #1867
    Ceara MacKenna

    “If I chose to separate myself from you, I should have no interest in seeing you again; I could place you upon the deck of this vessel which has served you as a refuge, I could sink beneath the waters, and forget that you had ever existed. Would not that be my right?”

    “It might be the right of a savage,” I answered, “but not that of a civilised man.”

    “Professor,” replied the commander, quickly, “I am not what you call a civilised man!?

    This was said plainly. A flash of anger and disdain kindled in the eyes of the Unknown, and I had a glimpse of a terrible past in the life of this man. Not only had he put himself beyond the pale of human laws but he had made himself independent of them, free in the strictest acceptation of the word, quite beyond their reach! Who then would dare to pursue him at the bottom of the sea, when, on its surface, he defied all attempts made against him?

    What vessel could resist the shock of his submarine monitor? What cuirass, however thick, could withstand the blows of his spur? No man could demand from him an account of his actions; God, if he believed in one, his conscience, if he had one; were the sole judges to whom he was answerable.

    These reflections crossed my mind rapidly, whilst the stranger personage was silent, absorbed, and as if wrapped up in himself. I regarded him with fear mingled with interest, as, doubtless, Oedipus regarded the Sphinx.

    Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne, 1870

    Dec. 6, 1868, Kiel, Germany.

    Call it the year of the boat. At least in Kiel, Germany.

    The Austro-Prussian war had ended. Not that it was much of a fight. The two powers had practically been joined at the hip but grudges were held and bitterness was the result.

    Hardly anyone died. At least compared to some wars. Americans? They knew how to fight a war. Big guns. Explosions. The family was really raking in the dough. Confederate Silver. And loads of it.

    Germans? Not so much into the major explosive weapons.

    It?s quite something to be in the family business, to creak open a crate of long barrels and smile that pretty smile as they?re handing over precious gems. We didn?t take much in terms of cash these days. We never did.

    Gems never died in value.

    There was talk the Prussians had connections in Africa. Some kind of diamond mine down there. I didn?t ask. I didn?t care. Not really. My father?s brother, ?Crazy Ben the Eunic? we called him lived in South Africa. Was a grand hunter, he was.

    Kiel was never a significant city, though it was nearly 1,000 years old. By the 18th Century it had become the ship builder?s capital. The Dutch controlled the city, for reasons I won?t ever understand, because it was clearly within the confines of not-yet unified Germany.

    In 1838, ship building giant Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft founded its operations within the city. That made it a strategic center. It also meant the family had to befriend the company. That was my job. I was 25 when I made my first visit to the city.

    ?Have you seen the unterseeboot?? company salesman Frederick Hemler approached me as I stared at the grand Nikolaikirche, a 14th Century Catholic church devoted to St. Nicholas.

    Today was the Feast of St. Nicholas and nearly the entire town was shoved inside the church. I wasn?t Catholic, but I still felt a need to pay respect.

    ?No, Frederick, I?m not even familiar with that word,? I spoke fluent German. You couldn?t even tell I had an accent anymore. I?d spent too long here.

    The family butler had started training me in the language when I was younger. For whatever reason, he knew it. And I decided I wanted to learn it too. When I was older, I was the perfect fit to make contact with the Prussians?before they started their war campaign across Europe.

    With my blue eyes and black hair, narrow jaw and my often-tired expression, people sometimes even confused me for being German. I was just one of them. It felt good to fit in.

    ?Unterseeboot? goes under the waves,? he made a weird hand signal as he demonstrated. The hand was parallel with the ground and then dipped suddenly.

    ?How?? I blinked at the man. I knew boats. I had always captained the damn boats. It was part of my job. The dockhands respected me. The men knew me. But the concept of traveling under the water didn?t make sense to me.

    It sounded like some science fiction dime novel. I shook my head at him. ?Impossible.?

    ?No!? He insisted.

    As a kid, Hemler said his father worked on some kind of submersible with a former German calvary man named Wilhelm Bauer. Bauer was sick of the Austrian blockade on Kiel and wanted to figure out a way to attack the ships secretly.

    At about 26-feet long, the ship could contain a small crew of people, Hemler said. He developed some kind of propeller to make the ship run ? a simple design where two men turned large tread wheels that were attached to this strange kind of propeller through a number of gears.

    There was some ballast tank under the deck with valves that could be emptied or opened by hand pumps. The ballast was the main way the ship could sink. The propeller allowed it to move.

    The port had been the home to this new kind of ship, though it hadn?t done a whole lot to advertise this fact.

    ?He called it the Brandtaucher,? he explains to me. ?It sunk ? With Bauer on board.?

    It made sense. Some dazzling creation had been invented and the port kept raps on it because the damn inventor died. And the boat sunk.

    ?We?re going to go see it though??

    ?We? What? How? You said it sunk.?

    ?The Spaniard Narc?s Monturiol made a new one? with a ? combustible engine,? he struggled with those last words.

    I didn?t even understand what he was talking about either but tried not to show my ignorance.

    ?The Ictineo. And we seized it? The man was bad with money.? He grins. ?There is one more seat??

    A wicked smile crossed my mouth. It was good to be a favored son, ?Just call me Captain Nemo. Let?s go.?

    March 8, 2006 at 3:25 am #2435

    Great stuff CPT Nemo! lol

    March 8, 2006 at 6:20 am #2436

    LOL I agree with Sophie. Do we get to call him Nemo now? Put a picture of a clown fish up there…oh, right, Cap'n Nemo…

    March 9, 2006 at 8:11 pm #2437

    Ha, fun post! Keep 'em coming!

    April 18, 2006 at 3:36 am #2438
    Doug Davis


    haha. Crazy Steve. Cool post man.

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