Jan 19, 2016
Even after all these nearly 150 years since the first publication of “20,000 Leagues Under The Seas”, there are still many different concepts of how the Nautilus was imagined to be designed. And those individual creations can vary widely and wildly. This is because there are so many undefined details and descriptions left out of the text. M. Verne left a lot of room for future interpretations. So many items and issues were left to the readers imagination. Since, at the time, there were no hard and factual descriptions, technical drawings, schematics or specifications, an infinite variety of concepts can be created. And have been. Mine is only one of many.
But from all the comparisons I have made between so many versions of Nautilus designs, I may have included some, if not many, aspects of design not included in any other attempt. Also, other than a very few versions depicted in three dimensions, and even fewer of those done in any detail, I seem to have one of the very few concepts applying design details to Elevation, Plan and Section perspectives, giving views from all aspects. Other than the excellent Jean-Pierre Bouvet hand drawings, my computer graphics renderings now seem to be quite unique.
At all times and in all cases, while making even the smallest modifications to the design, I tried to apply every possible essence of practicality. When some issue is not mentioned in the Verne text, or only minimally described, I used every effort to apply practical principals, the technology of the 1860’s and 1870’s time period, and the essence of Vern’s narrative to resolve them.
My work may not be the intensely detailed creation of J-P’s, but as a space planner and workplace environment designer, I like the clean look and simplicity that my effort presents. I also think the practical usage should be plainly obvious to the viewer.
Where possible, I did include elements from the original de Neuville / Riou woodcut illustrations, though few. Some elements within these drawings I found to be relative, either to the Vern descriptions or reflecting the art or technology of the times.
These are the methods and principals I used at all times on every aspect of the ships design. I also kept very detailed notes on every minute aspect of the project.
One example of a design element needing attention, is the function and placement of the two aft hatches I included and, with them, an additional recessed platform. No whimsy there. This result is based on the needs of the boat itself, the crew, and the logistics of their work and function. I also read and re-read many times, every entry where these hatches could be applicable, per references in the narrative.
I believe Jules Verne, like any artist, took his share of ‘artistic license’ with 20k. There are many aspects of the story that cause conflict, one part with another, such that these element become less believable and difficult to illustrate.
Although Verne described the Salon, Library and Dining Room to contain objects of presumed wealth, such as drapes, rugs, chairs and sofas, other than the Salon, I feel that Nemo would have kept the majority of the vessel Spartan.
Ch 9: Aronnax; “a Dining Room decorated and furnished in austere (serious/sober/severe) good taste”. In addition, forward of the Center Staircase, whatever luxuries Nemo retained were on display only in those three locations. Except in his cabin where he had portraits of his heroes. That speaks greatly about his feelings for such things. But Verne did describe Nemo’s cabin as “severe, almost monastic air”, iron bedstead, worktable, washstand and subdued lighting. No luxuries, just barest necessities. Aft of the Central Staircase, I get the impression of a minimalist approach. The initial cell occupied by the three captives has also been suggested as a compartment used by the crew. This space was bare to the metal walls and floor. This is the working part of the boat and I believe would have had this very look and feel of austerity and simplicity. I believe that if this man did not supply his own cabin with a WC, it would not have been included in any other cabin and restricted to its own, like the bathing room.
Another example I can speak to is the amount of food and the size of the catches his crew brought on-board from the hauls obtained from the trailing nets. From the descriptions in the text, there was no where near sufficient space allocated on-board to store all these voluminous amounts of fish. In just one instance, a catch was over 1,000 pounds.
In addition, credit must be given to the fact that no such vessel remotely like the Nautilus existed at the time, 1869. Verne had no difficulties writing about all the endless types of fish witnessed on the journey since there were many, many volumes of information and data in libraries and scientific institutions. But for the submarine, there were no speculative drawings, art work, plans or information on such a creation, never mind technical drawings or schematics. So, just as in “The Earth to the Moon”, M. Verne could speculate all he wished on how the Moon would look, the creatures that lived in it, and be very far from actual fact. No one had seen the Moon up close any more than they had envisioned a vehicle such as the Nautilus.
I think Verne could easily go off on tangents with flowery prose describing the interior of the craft since no reader, of that time at least, would be able to imagine otherwise or compare it to anything then in existence. At the time, and for many years after publication, no artistic visualizations were created directly related to the this amazing submarine. The original de Neuville / Riou drawings were not seen until the second publication in 1871. And these were highly artistic, not intended to be accurate technical drawings. In fact, when compared to the text, most were quite far removed from Vern’s descriptions.
I think it should be clarified that the degree of detail I applied in my presentation was never intended to be to the extreme level of such as the Jean-Pierre Bouvet’s version. But I wanted to include sufficient details so the viewer would understand the usage and arrangement of the spaces. I felt that just allocating the space wasn’t sufficient to explain or demonstrate to the viewer how all the ‘stuff’ went in it. However, I am not attempting to include every pipe or every wire. I think that would make the depictions too cluttered and too confusing for the viewer.