As agreed upon, the three men gather their strength and begin down the alternate tunnel. Despite the urgency and their weakness, Axel notes that the geological features are markedly different, indicating that they are likely now heading in the right direction. However, by the end of the day, they have still not found any water. The professor presses on, but Axel, too weak to continue, collapses. Crying out for help, Axel says that he is dying. His uncle reaches him and, exasperated, proclaims, “It is finished.” Axel loses consciousness.
When Axel’s eyes open, he sees his companions sleeping alongside him. Later, he is awakened by a noise and sees Hans slipping off into the darkness, heading deeper into the cave, although he does not know why, nor does he have the strength to follow.
Soon, Hans returns, awakens Lidenbrock, and reports that he has found water below. The trio stumbles down the corridor. However, while they can hear the water flowing behind a stone wall, they cannot reach it, which explains why Hans returned without any. Hans uses a pickax to break through the wall and release the water. A blast of steam comes out of the hole: the water is boiling. The professor assures them it will cool quickly, which it does, and they drink. They debate whether to close the hole but decide the best plan is to let the water flow, thinking that it will follow them down the path and they will have more to drink as a result. They eat and drink happily before sleeping where they are for the night.
They awaken greatly refreshed and encouraged by the stream that now flows along the corridor from the hole they opened in the wall the day before. Having been saved from catastrophe, Axel is enthusiastic about continuing down the path. The group follows it for several more days, sometimes seeming to move horizontally, at other times descending sharply. Relying on constant measurements from their instruments, they are able to chart their progress and now realize that they are seventeen miles below ground and have covered over a hundred miles from the mountain where they started. They are, they calculate, under the sea. Soon, they reach a large grotto and decide that the next day will be a day of rest. Lidenbrock gives Hans his weekly pay, and they set camp.
The trio spends the next day resting in the chasm. The professor proclaims that he wishes to spend time recording all his calculations and notes so that he can one day make a map of their descent. Discussing the various readings from their instruments, Axel and the professor debate issues of science relating to their progress. Axel points out that, unless there is a drastic change of some sort in the trajectory of the corridor, it is likely that they will either need several years to reach the center of the earth or will in fact resurface somewhere else without ever having done so. The professor dismisses him angrily, insisting that they have the success of the previous adventurer from the sixteenth century to prove that it is possible. Axel reflects on Hans’s peaceful nature and how easy it is for him to carry on without worrying about uncertainty.
The men continue on their journey for several more days, encountering steeper descents and soon reaching a depth of seventy miles below the surface. One day, when Axel is leading the troop down the path, he becomes aware that he is alone; the other two are...
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no longer behind him. Axel reasons that by turning around and going back toward them, he will meet up with Hans and his uncle quickly. However, after fifteen minutes of walking back, he does not find them. Another fifteen minutes makes no difference, and he begins to worry. There is only one path that he is aware of; though it makes no sense, they are not there. He bends down to find the stream they had created and that has been following their route, only to find that the rock is dry and the stream is no longer there. Somehow, he has become lost.
Axel begins to panic. Calming himself as best he can, he reasons that he must have turned off on a different path back at the chasm where they began, while the water and his companions went another direction. He needs only to find his way back. He retraces his path as well as he can, only to find himself suddenly at a dead end. Worse still, he drops and breaks his lamp.
Now, realizing that he is truly lost, Axel’s panic returns, and he watches the last of his light flicker and go out. He cries out and begins wandering blindly in the dark. He does so in panic for hours until finally collapsing against a wall and losing consciousness.