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About the Author
Jules Verne (1828 - 1905) was the first author to popularize the literary genre of science fiction. Laying a careful scientific foundation for his fantastic adventure stories, he forecast with remarkable accuracy many scientific achievements of the 20th century. He anticipated flights into outer space, submarines, helicopters, air conditioning, guided missiles, and motion pictures long before they were developed. Sidney Kravitz is a retired scientist and engineer who has published many articles in mathematics and engineering magazines throughout the world. He spent fourteen years translating The Mysterious Island. William Butcher is Senior Lecturer in English at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, author of Verne's Journey to the Center of the Self: Space and Time in the "Voyages Extraordinaires" (1990), and translator of Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne (translation, introduction and critical edition, 1992), Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (1995), and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (1998).
Date of Birth:February 8, 1828
Date of Death:March 24, 1905
Place of Birth:Nantes, France
Place of Death:Amiens, France
Education:Nantes lycée and law studies in Paris
Read an Excerpt
"Are we rising again?"
"No! On the contrary! We're going down!"
"Worse than that, Mr. Cyrus! We're falling!"
"For God's sake, throw out the ballast!"
"There! The last sack is empty!"
"Is the balloon going up now?"
"I hear the splashing of waves!"
"The sea is under the basket!"
"It can't be more than five hundred feet below us!"
Then a powerful, booming voice cut through the air:
"Throw everything overboard! ... Everything! We are in God's hands!" Those were the words that resounded in the sky over the vast watery desert of the Pacific about four o'clock in the evening of March 23, 1865.
No one can forget the terrible northeast storm that erupted during the equinox of that year. The barometer fell to 710 millimeters. It was a storm that lasted from March 18 to 26 with no letup. It ravaged America, Europe, and Asia over a broad zone of 1800 miles along a line intersecting the equator, from the 35th north parallel to the 40th south parallel. Towns were knocked flat, forests uprooted, and shores devastated by tidal waves. Weather bureaus counted hundreds of ships beached along the coast. Entire territories were leveled by the waterspouts which pulverized everything in their path. Several thousand people were crushed on land or swallowed up by the sea. Such were the marks of fury this horrific storm left in its wake. It surpassed the disasters which had so frightfully ravaged Havana and Guadeloupe, one on October 25, 1810 and the other on July 26, 1825.
At this very moment when so many catastrophes were occurring on land and sea, a drama no less gripping was taking place in the stormy skies.
A balloon, carried like a ball at the top of a waterspout, was traveling through space with a velocity of 90 miles per hour,* turning around as if it had been seized by an aerial whirlpool.
A basket swung back and forth below the balloon with five passengers inside, barely visible in the thick fog.
Where did this plaything of the terrible storm come from? From which point on the earth's surface did it arise? Evidently it could not have lifted off during the storm which had already lasted for five days, the first symptoms having been felt on the 18th. In the last 24 hours alone, the balloon had traveled more than 2000 miles.
The passengers had no way of knowing where they were because there were no points of reference. It was a curious fact that they had not suffered from the storm's violence. They were carried along, spinning round and round, without having any sense of this rotation or of their horizontal movement. Their eyes could not pierce the thick fog. Everything was obscured. They could not even say if it was day or night. No reflection of light, no noise, no bellowing of the ocean could reach them so long as they remained at higher altitudes. Their rapid descent alone alerted them to the dangers they faced.
Relieved of heavy objects such as munitions, arms, and provisions, the balloon now rose to a height of 4500 feet. Realizing that the dangers from above were less formidable than those from below, the passengers did not hesitate to throw overboard even the most useful objects as they tried to lose no more of this gas, the soul of their apparatus, which kept them above the abyss.
Night passed with anxieties that would have killed weaker people. From the beginning of March 24, the storm seemed to moderate. At dawn, the clouds rose higher in the sky, and after several hours, the waterspout broke up. The wind, no longer a hurricane, changed to a brisk breeze. It was still what sailors would call "a three-reef breeze," but it was nevertheless an improvement.
About eleven o'clock, the atmosphere became noticeably clearer and the air exuded a damp clarity that is seen and even felt after the passage of such strong weather disturbances. It did not appear that the storm had gone farther westward but had simply died out on its own, perhaps dispersed into electric strata after the breakup of itswaterspout, as sometimes occurs with the typhoons of the Indian Ocean.
But it was again evident that the balloon was slowly but constantly falling. It was deflating little by little, and its envelope was elongating and distending, changing from a spherical shape to an oval.
About noon, the balloon hovered no more than 2000 feet above the sea. It contained 50,000 cubic feet of gas and, thanks to this capacity, it had been able to remain in the air for a long time. The passengers now threw overboard the last objects that still weighed them down, several provisions they had kept, everything, even the small knick-knacks in their pockets. Helping each other, they hoisted themselves onto the ring where the ropes were attached, all the while searching for solid ground below.
It was obvious that the passengers could not keep the balloon aloft much longer. Too much gas had escaped.
They were going to die!
There was no continent, not even an island, beneath them — no place to land, no firm surface they could touch down on. There was only an immense ocean whose waves still churned with incomparable violence. It was an ocean without visible limits, even though they could see over a radius of forty miles from their height. It was a liquid plain, battered by the storm without mercy. No land in sight, not even a ship.
They had to keep the balloon, at any price, from dropping into the waves. But, despite their best efforts, the balloon kept falling, sometimes rapidly, while being carried along by the wind from northeast to southwest.
It was a terrible situation for these unfortunate men. They were no longer masters of the balloon. Their efforts had no effect. The envelope of the balloon was stretching more and more. The gas continued to escape, and they could do nothing to keep it in. Their descent was now visibly accelerating and, at one o'clock in the afternoon, the balloon was no more than 600 feet above the ocean.
By throwing out everything in the basket, the passengers were able to keep it in the air for several more hours, but the inevitable catastrophe could not be avoided. If land did not appear before nightfall, the passengers, their basket, and the balloon would no doubt disappear beneath the waves.
They now executed the only maneuver still left to them. These were energetic men who knew how to look death square in the face. Not a single murmur escaped their lips. They would struggle to the last second and do everything they could to delay their fall. The basket was only a wicker box, not intended for floating, and there was no possibility of keeping it afloat on the surface of the sea.
At two o'clock the balloon was scarcely 400 feet above the waves.
At this moment, the voice of a man whose heart knew no fear was heard. Other voices, no less energetic, answered.
"Has everything been thrown out?"
"No! We still have ten thousand francs in gold!"
A weighty sack fell at once into the sea.
"Is the balloon rising now?"
"A little, but it won't be long before it falls again!"
"Is there anything left to throw out?"
"Yes! ... the basket!"
"Let's hang on to the ropes and drop the basket into the sea!"
It was the only way to make the balloon lighter. The cords which connected the basket to the ring were slashed, and the balloon rose to 2000 feet. The five passengers hoisted themselves onto the ropes above the ring and, holding on to the balloon's rigging, they looked down at the abyss below them. The aerostatic sensitivity of balloons is well known and throwing out the lightest objects suffices to induce an immediate vertical rise. The apparatus, floating in the air, behaves like a highly accurate set of scales. When a weight is removed, its displacement is significant and instantaneous. So it was on this occasion.
But after maintaining its equilibrium for an instant at a higher altitude, the balloon soon began to fall again. The gas was escaping through a tear that was impossible to repair.
The passengers had done all that they could do. No human means could save them now. They could no longer count on any help, save from God.
At four o'clock, the balloon was no more than 500 feet above the water.
A bark was heard. A dog accompanying the passengers hung on to the rigging near his master.
"Top has seen something!" shouted one of the passengers.
Then suddenly a strong voice shouted out:
The balloon, which the wind had been carrying toward the southwest, had covered hundreds of miles since dawn, and a rather elevated land mass had appeared on the horizon in that direction.
But the land was still more than 30 miles windward. More than a full hour was needed to reach it, assuming they did not deviate from their path. One hour! Wouldn't the balloon have lost all its gas before then?
This was the crucial question. The passengers could distinctly see this point of land that they had to reach at all costs. They did not know what it was, island or continent, because they were unaware of exactly where the storm had driven them. But they knew that they had to reach this land, inhabited or not, hospitable or not.
At four o'clock, it was obvious that the balloon could no longer stay aloft. It grazed the surface of the sea. Several times already the crests of enormous waves licked the bottom of the ropes making it still heavier. Like a bird with a wounded wing, the balloon could barely remain airborne.
A half hour later, land was only a mile away. But the balloon, now exhausted, flabby, distended, and creased with large wrinkles, had no more gas except in its uppermost canopy. The passengers, holding on to the rigging, were just too heavy for it. And soon, as it half immersed itself into the sea, they began to be battered by strong waves. The casing of the balloon made an air pocket which the wind pushed like a vessel. Perhaps they could reach the coast in this manner?
When they were only 1000 feet away, four men simultaneously cried out. The balloon, which seemed as though it would never rise again, made an unexpected bound after being struck by a large wave. As if it had lost another of its weights, it suddenly rose to a height of 1500 feet. It was swept up into a wind pocket which, instead of bringing it directly to the coast, forced it to move in an almost parallel direction. Finally, two minutes later, it approached the coast obliquely, then dropped down on the shore out of reach of the waves.
The passengers, helping one another, managed to untangle themselves from the balloon's rigging. The balloon, now relieved of their weight, lurched upward into the wind. And, like a wounded bird that revives for a moment, it soon disappeared into the sky.
The basket had contained five passengers and a dog, but only four were dropped onto the shore.
The missing passenger had evidently been swept away by the wave that struck the deflated balloon, an event that allowed the lightened balloon to rise one last time and, a few moments later, to finally reach land.
The four castaways — we will call them by this name — had scarcely set foot on shore when, thinking of the one who was missing, they began to shout:
"Perhaps he's trying to swim. Let's save him! Let's save him!"CHAPTER 2
Those whom the storm had thrown onto this coast were neither professional nor even amateur aeronauts. They were prisoners of war, whose audacity had induced them to escape under these extraordinary circumstances. A hundred times they should have perished! A hundred times their torn balloon should have fallen into the abyss! But Heaven had reserved a strange destiny for them. On March 24, after having fled Richmond which was under siege by the troops of General Ulysses Grant, they found themselves 7000 miles from the capitol of Virginia, the principal stronghold of the rebels during the dreadful Civil War. Their aerial journey had lasted five days.
These are the curious circumstances which led to the prisoners' escape:
That same year, in the month of February 1865, during one of those bold maneuvers by which General Grant tried unsuccessfully to capture Richmond, some of his officers fell into enemy hands and were interned within the city. One of the most distinguished of those taken was a Union staff officer named Cyrus Smith.
Cyrus Smith, a native of Massachusetts, was an engineer and a scientist of the first rank. During the war, the Union government entrusted him with the management of the railroads which were strategically important at that time. A true Northerner, he was lean, rawboned, and about 45 years of age. His close-cut hair was already beginning to show streaks of gray, and his thick moustache as well. He had one of those handsome "numismatic" heads that seemed made to be stamped on medallions, with fiery eyes, a thin-lipped mouth, and the physiognomy of an experienced military scientist. He was one of those engineers who want to begin by handling the hammer and pick, like those generals who wish to begin as simple soldiers. In addition to his inventive genius, he also possessed unmatched manual dexterity, and his muscles were remarkably well developed. Truly a man of action as well as a man of thought, he moved effortlessly with a vitality and steadfast persistence that defied all misfortune. Very educated, practical, and resourceful, he had a superb temperament, always remaining master of himself whatever the circumstances. He had in large measure those three characteristics whose combination defines human energy: activity of mind and body, boldness of desire, and power of will. His motto could have been that of William of Orange of the 17th Century: "I have no need of hope to take action, nor of success to persevere."
Cyrus Smith was also courage personified. He had been in all the battles of the Civil War. After serving under Ulysses Grant with the volunteers of Illinois, he fought at Paducah, at Belmont, at Pittsburgh Landing, at the siege of Corinth, at Port Gibson, at Black River, at Chattanooga, at Wilderness, and on the Potomac, everywhere and valiantly, a soldier worthy of the general who said "I never count my dead!" And, a hundred times, Cyrus Smith should have been among those not counted by the fierce Grant. But in all those combats, although he never spared himself, fortune always favored him, until the moment when he was wounded and captured on the Richmond battlefield.
On that same day, another important personage fell into Southern hands. It was none other than the honorable Gideon Spilett, "reporter" for the New York Herald, who had been assigned to follow the fortunes of this war among the armies of the North.
Gideon Spilett was of that race of astonishing British or American reporters, such as Stanley and others, who stop at nothing in order to obtain exact information and to transmit it to their newspaper as soon as possible. The newspapers of the Union, such as the New York Herald, are very influential and their reporters are highly respected. Gideon Spilett belonged in the first rank of these reporters.
A man of great merit, energetic, prompt and ready for anything, full of ideas, having traveled the entire world, soldier and artist, rash in council, resolute in action, acknowledging neither pain nor fatigue nor danger when gathering news for himself first and then for his newspaper, a true hero of the curious, the unpublishable, the unknown, and the impossible, he was one of those intrepid observers who writes as bullets fly, always in the line of fire, for whom peril is good fortune.
He too had been in all the battles, on the front lines, revolver in one hand, notebook in the other. Grapeshot did not make him tremble. He did not burden the telegraph wires incessantly, like those who speak when they have nothing to say; but each of his notes, short, candid and clear, brought light to bear on an important point. Further, he did not lack a certain sense of humor. It was he who, after the affair of Black River, wishing at any price to keep his place at the window of the telegraph office in order to announce to his newspaper the result of the battle, telegraphed the first chapters of the Bible for two hours. It cost the New York Herald $2000, but the New York Herald was the first to publish.
Gideon Spilett was tall, forty years old, and light red side whiskers framed his face. His eyes were calm, quick, and rapid in their movements, the eyes of a man accustomed to taking in rapidly all the details of a scene. Of solid frame, he was tempered in all climates like a bar of steel in ice water.
For ten years, Gideon Spilett had been an official reporter for the New York Herald which he enriched with his articles and his drawings because he was as skilled with the pencil as with the pen. When he was captured, he was in the act of describing and sketching the battle and the last words written in his notebook were these: "A Southerner is taking aim at me and ..." The shot missed its mark and, following his usual luck, Gideon Spilett came out of the affair without a scratch.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Mysterious Island"
Copyright © 2001 William Butcher.
Excerpted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I - Dropped from the Clouds
Part II - Abandoned
Part III - The Secret of the Island
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book captures your attention from the very beginning never releasing until the final mystery is revealed. This epic classic begins its journey when five Civil War American prisoners are cast onto a far away deserted island in the South Pacific, with nothing but the clothes on their backs and their ingenuity to rely on for survival. With a mystery that eludes even the sharpest of sleuths slowly unraveling throughout every chapter, while Jules' amazing vocabulary places you right in the middle of a story line that is exploding with page turning content. This masterpiece leaves Robinson Cruose, the Swiss Family Robinson, and any other survival stories in the dust. With an intriguing and mind boggling mystery that eludes the reader throughout the entire story. It is truly a wonderful adventure to escape to, that I recommend to every reader waiting for a tale that captures one's mind. Anonymous
as this was done by scanning, the book has many misspellings, and weird page breaks. but the kicker, is that the last few pages are missing!
There are too many formatting errors in this version to make it worth reading. Then to top it off, the end of the book is cut off several paragraphs sort of the men...... but I don't want to spoil it. Pay a buck or two for a properly formatted book.
Well this nook has alot of adventure in it. The story has much to offer in way of adventure, the strugle to survive keeps you going and on the edge of your seat one of vernes better stories in my opinion i would recomens this book as a great adventure for those who like exciting dramatic adventures to keep you occupied this book was alotod fun to read the onlt down part is therevare parys where the writer goes off telling his political views on things but other than that its a great read.
A very enjoyable book. Part adventure, part survival guide. You have to understand there is a lot of detail on how to survive on an island, maybe more than some people would like to read about. But there was enough action too, especially involving the pirates. Warning! There are no giant chickens, giant crabs, giant bees, or woman castaways found in the movie. This was a great adventure book.
Somehow I approach a Jules Verne novel expecting to journey through great mystery and adventure on land, on sea, perhaps on the moon. And Mysterious Island does indeed have a tale to tell, although the story is quite thin and the conversational styles annoyingly outdated. Verne spends so much time describing how the castaways survive on the island that the novel reads more like a survivalist guide than a work of intriguing fiction. I found myself skimming through yet another overly detailed description of how they farmed, how they made tools, how they extracted metal, so eager was I to get back to the story, which in the end was simply not enough to keep me going.
I just finished reading this book. I would say the only thing this book has going against it is its length. It takes commitment to read this book. I could have done without the whole 1st part as nothing exciting happens really (except the crash landing onto the island itself). But then it gradually picked up after Part 1. I am a huge Jules Verne fan, and I do beleive this book could have been as popular as his other famed novels had it not been for its length. The ending is gripping and very suspensful, but when I read the last words, I was utterly satisfied. Thank you Mr. Verne, for sharing your wonderful talents with the world.
Intelligent, educational--you'll learn more about the natural sciences than you ever wanted to know--and adventurous. The colonists' consistent good fortune--even without Captain Nemo--and Verne's inexplicable confusion of dates are minor distractions. You have to stick with it--some of the novel can be boring--but you'll be a better human being after reading it. So savor the experience--there aren't writers like Verne anymore!!
Being of some elderly years and having time now to read that which was overlooked in my youth, I find these classics a most enjoyable way to pass the time and add to my reading accomplishments.
Great read. Akin to Robinson Curosoe! DMB
Thoroughly enjoyed the good adventure!
The adventure novel written by Jules Verne depicting the survival techniques employed by ordinary men who beat back nature and held themselves in semblances of civilization reminiscent of a world they had lost. However climatic and enticing, this page-turner¿s plot was woefully boring unlike many of Verne¿s other books. The exploits of Cyrus Harding and the other men on Lincoln Island were sheer, unadulterated adventure yet achievable by any other men placed on the same island with naught but companions. That was perhaps the underlying intrigue of the book to me as I have spent many an hour contemplating the means I would need to accomplish to survive in the wilderness. Ultimately, I was dismayed by the lack of wit and mental acuity that Verne often imparts to her other characters. I found the verbal bantering and conversations dull and lacking in even the most simple of intellect. If I was to survive among such fellows whose chief concerns where often superfluous goods like tobacco, I would almost undoubtedly go insane just for sheer want of solitude. Perhaps that is where Harding succeeded and I would not.Perhaps the most disappointing part of the book was the end. Not wishing to discourage those who are yet reading from finishing rather warning them of impending disappoint. I thought there was some higher purpose to the almost magical happenings of the Mysterious Island, yet the climax¿s lack of substance enraged me to the point that I was ready to fly in balloon to my own island intent in providing a better explanation of the mysteries of the island than Verne¿s advertising campaign that filled the last pages of a disappointing work of literature.
Mr. Verne did a wonderous job with this adventure (given some slight date discrepancies between this book and "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea")! Dealing with a party of 5 lead by first-class engineer Captain Harding (english translation), they make a hasty escape from their fate as American Civil War POW's to the siege in 1865 upon Richmond, Virginia, in a balloon, which soon finds itself lost and in a tempest. The 5 come to find themselves marooned on an island in the South Pacific. Awesomeness ensues. The highly inventive engineer soon sets his party to work upon making the desolate island somewhat technologically evolved. This inventiveness manifests itself in various machine makings and the such, and along with the strange happenings on the island and the soon to be found-out Captain Nemo, well, this makes this book quite unforgettable and a delightful read!
in 1865 5 men and a dog attempt a desparate escape during the american civil war by balloon. they become stranded on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific. Their incredible resourcefulness, ingenuity and teamwork help them to colonize what they later rename as Lincoln Island. Verne can be tedious in his description of the engineering and metallurgic techinques but they are interesting all the same. Ending was quite far fetched and disappointing.
Jules Verne is a god! If I can be a writer, I want to be like him. No one else. I've read five of his books and they all blew me away.The Mysterious Island is the ultimate Jules Verne's masterpiece. It tells about five castaways in an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, driven by a storm after they fled from the then raging Civil War in the US (1860s). For survival, they learn to be farmers, hunters, masons, sailors, potters, chemists, physicists, and various of professions you could imagine.Yes, this might sounds like Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Doyle's The Lost World and other similar stories, but Verne's description is more....complete, adventurous, imaginative, rich with interesting details (hell, he can even make the process of making pottery and iron tools sounds rather fascinating). Plus, Verne's books are classic science fictions with amazing grand visions. Yeah yeah, there's that HG Wells guy, but he's nothing compared with Verne, believe me.The ending (which explains why the island is mysterious) is superb and kinda shocking to me. If you're an avid Jules Verne's reader, you'll know what I mean. Hint: character cross-over.
I'm reading this one to my seven year old daughter at bedtime; it's great for her, and for me as well, as when I was young I read this book again and again. It's still my favorite Verne.
This book starts out with Verne's usual endearing absurdity (the men have crashlanded after stealing a hot air balloon to escape the American Civil War), but quickly becomes pretty boring. It took me a long time to plow through this, mostly because the plot moves so slowly. The mystery of the island is pretty disappointing, although I did like the final scene very much.
Imagine "Lost" written by a much better author.
Some very cool ideas, an incredible optimism about what intelligent people could accomplish.
It did not have an ending or maybe a chapter was missing
#420 MLG QUIKSKOPE FAZE ALSO SMOKE WEED EVERYDAY
It would be greatly appreciated if Barnes and Noble would indicate the actual print size. My son was very excited to get this and other books he ordered. The book just came in. The print size is a little over a millimeter for lower case letters. Book goes back right away. Dear publishers, reading such small print has very negative impact on the vision health. It especially affects children . So, please, add a few more pages and make the book readable.