Riou's salon

The Problem of the Salon
à pans coupés

The salon cross-sectionThe narrative specifies the dimensions of the salon as five meter high and six wide, a rectangle that fits within the eight meter diameter hull with just nine centimeters of radius to spare.  This is not a coincidence.  Verne did not choose these dimensions by accident.  To me, this simple fact affects how we depict the Nautilus infrastructure and I will return to it often in this discussion.  The discussion compares three basic hull shapes: 
  • the smoothed hull of correct volume determined in the hull shape discussion, generally called the correct volume here, 
  • the Winans cigar shape, called the spindle here, 
  • and a cylinder with tapered ends, called some variation of my hull here.

Noting that Aronnax's description precisely positions the salon, let's fit it in each of the hulls, starting Top and side views in the spindle with the spindle.   Looking at top and side views it seems to almost fit, but these views are deceptive.  The  section views reveal that evenSection views in the spindle the aft end of the salon has clipped corners.  The walls at the forward end are completely outside the hull, and floor and ceiling nearly so,  requiring severe rounding or reduction of the dimensions (dotted lines).  Consider also the floor, which is reduced to a width of two meters at the forward end or must be sloped up to fit.   

Not surprisingly, the correct volume, being narrower, presents a worse fit.  Section views in the correct volume shapeThe aft end is heavily clipped and the forward end does not fit within the hull at all.  The narrative does mention angled corners in the salon.  Illustrators have often interpreted these as the corners where the walls meet.  Looking at the figures here it seems the corners where the walls meet the ceiling and floor are better candidates.  Sylvain St-Pierre suggests raising the salon to get the maximum or best floor area and rounding the upper corners to produce something like a cathedral ceiling.  This improves the aft end but is still highly problematic at the forward end.  Ron Miller narrows the salon toward the forward end to address the problem.

Section view in my hullI purposely chose the dimensions of my own original hull to accommodate the salon.  The forward taper begins at about the midpoint of the salon, minimizing the clipping required.  Moving this transition further forward would give the hull an unpleasant blunt appearance.


Click here to get MetaStreamWith the MetaStream plug-in you see two of many possible salons with corners cut to fit within the spindle hull.  Use the mouse pointer to rotate the room shape and view it from different angles.  The plug-in is set up to show the large end in the initial view.  The black rings show the hull diameter at each end of the room for reference.  Both versions retain the nominal 5 x 6 meters cross section at the larger end.  The nominal forward width is about four meters for both shapes. 
The version in red is centered within the hull and tapered forward to fit the hull.  The room narrows at the forward end to maintain a level floor.  The width at the this end could be increased somewhat but at the cost of less height in the vertical section of the walls.  The maximum ceiling height remains five meters over the length of the room, although the cant of the corners increases markedly toward the forward end.  The floor is only about two meters wide at this end, a result of keeping the floor level.
The blue salon version has been raised vertically within the hull to provide maximum floor area.  Although the upper corners are more drastically cut, the nominal dimensions are retained at the wide end.  The floor at the forward end is still restricted but is now well over three meters wide.  To fit in the hull, the ceiling is sloped slightly, dropping about 30 centimeters over the length of the room.  The upper corners show more cant than in the red version.
Since the 3D views have built-in perspective distortion, here are some isometric views.  These illustrations show side and top views, with the forward direction to the left.  The red salon at left is centered in the hull and hence the tapering is symmetrical.  The blue salon on the right, being offset vertically, is tapered more at the top.  The dotted line shows the floor taper.  The level ceiling of the red version and the sloped of the blue are clear in the drawings. 
Because of its larger floor area, the blue version seems a better choice.  The raised floor presents a small problem to the overall layout, possibly limiting volume available in the upper passages, but the offset of 40 centimeters is not prohibitive.  I do think the drastic taper of both versions makes it difficult to call the room six meters wide, since the average width is about five meters.  

A similar exercise within the correct-volume hull would give less satisfactory results.  The equivalent red shape cannot retain the nominal height at the large end with a level floor.  The equivalent blue version should probably be raised more than in the spindle, nearly 80 centimeters.  The width at the narrow end reduces to no more than three and a half meters and the height at that end with a ceiling almost completely rounded matches the width.

This page under construction, more to come...

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12 Mar 00. This page and its contents, except as noted,  © Copyright 1999, 2000 Michael & Karen Crisafulli