I have adhered to the descriptions in the model with some minor and one major exception. Following the text, the longboat, described as small and light, should be placed in the middle of the platform. During the fight with the dugong it easily held ten people -- six oarsmen, the coxswain, Ned Land yielding a harpoon, Conseil, and Aronnax. There was apparently sufficient room remaining for Nemo, who declined the invitation to come along. When Aronnax and company spend a little time on land, we learn that launching the boat is easily accomplished with just two people, although this may mean after it is removed from its well. There is no description of a hoist and I could not see manually lifting this large, if light, boat and carrying it across the deck. I decided to take a little liberty with the description and mount it on the side of the platform so it can be launched simply by unlatching it and pushing off, and retrieved in similar easy fashion. This results in some asymmetry that can be addressed with some handy storage compartments on the platform. The text mentions the fishing nets the Nautilus tows. The deck compartments might stow some of the fishing apparatus as well as the cover of the longboat.

The major discrepancy is with the withdrawal of the superstructure for combat. Aronnax describes members of the crew withdrawing the deck structures and railing into the hull to make it clean and smooth for ramming attacks. Removing the railing is easy and sensible, and providing a recess for the light is not a problem. I see difficulties with the wheelhouse. Firstly, this is the control center for the boat. Nemo mentions a mechanical link of cables between the wheel and the rudder and describes moving the diving planes by a system of levers. He does mention communications with the engine room, but traditionally engine rooms only provide power in response to signals from the pilot. Steering the boat and changing its dive angle should be controlled in the same place and this is the wheelhouse. Withdrawing this structure into the hull makes for an even more complicated linkage to move the control surfaces, not to mention additional considerations for watertightness. The salon windows are only for sightseeing and there is no periscope. It is the wheelhouse, described as having visibility in all directions, that provides the eyes of the Nautilus. It does not make sense to me that the use of these important windows would be lost when they are most needed -- when the Nautilus intends to ram a target. It might be possible to lower the house part way into the hull, leaving a small window for visibility, or as James Laing suggested there might be a "secondary piloting station in the bow". There is room for one. Anyway the mechanical problems just bothered me. Perhaps I will address it differently on some future model, but on this one the structure is fixed. Although Aronnax specifically mentions the lowering of the wheelhouse, for consistency with the text, I assert he is mistaken. He saw the light lowered and the railings removed, and seeing activity near the wheelhouse as he was ushered below, he assumed it too was lowered. For the model I have provided additional armor to protect the structure and it was the setting up of this protection that Aronnax saw.

There remains the need for an explanation of the party's initial encounter with the Nautilus. They clung to the platform apparently with completely withdrawn superstructure for some hours before getting the crew's attention by hammering on the plating. My explanation here is slightly more labored than that above. The armor on the wheelhouse obscures the window that overlooks the platform, so the pilot could neither see nor be seen. The castaways were highly fatigued and nighttime visibility was poor so they did not notice the wheelhouse structure. This is somewhat supported by Aronnax's initial impression that one could not mistake the submarine for a sea monster and his later, perhaps more considered, statement that the hull did resemble the body of a sea creature.

I have had some interesting correspondence concerning my design decisions and I welcome more.


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Updated 29 Sep 98. This page and its contents © Copyright 1998 Michael & Karen Crisafulli