Last Reviewed on March 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1151
Axel is astonished to be staring at carved letters made several hundred years before while holding the knife that etched them. All his doubt about the parchment and the journey is now erased for him. He and Lidenbrock decide to go back for Hans, whom they find packing up the last of the provisions on the repaired raft. They embark again, but this time, they sail along the shore to land near their new discovery. Axel and Lidenbrock are overjoyed with excitement. Lidenbrock seems certain now that the sea is not the center of the earth but a stop along the way, and he hopes that this new path will take them closer to their true destination.
The group locates the cave opening once more and proceeds inside. However, after a short distance, they come suddenly to a dead end. There is no path forward. After some time, they decide it must have been blocked by an earthquake or some shifting rock in the years that have passed since A.S. marked its location. They are determined, and they decide to bore into the rock with a pick and fill it with explosives. When the charge is ready, it is late, and they decide to light the explosives the next day.
The morning comes, and Axel asks for the honor of lighting the fuse. Hans and the professor wait for him on the raft. Axel lights the fuse and joins the others on the raft, which they push safely out to sea to watch from a distance. They wait.
When the explosion finally comes, chaos erupts. There is a rush of rocks and water, then darkness. Axel realizes that they are all still on the raft, but it is moving quickly. He figures out that the explosion must have opened a great chasm underneath them; the water is draining out of the lake, and they are being carried at top speed further into the earth. They continue to speed away for some time. Axel discovers that most of their provisions have been knocked into the water, and there is very little food left.
He does not have long to worry, however, for the raft, still moving, seems to suddenly go into a near-vertical fall. The raft stops falling, but they are unsure what they have hit. Water pours over them before they can breathe again. The three cling to the raft and wonder what is next.
Soon, silence replaces the roaring sound of water that had been around them for so many hours. Hans manages to relight the torch, and they see that they are in a narrow shaft into which the water of the lake has drained. The water is now rising, floating the raft upward. They realize that they are helpless. The professor calmly asserts that they may either die at any moment or be saved, depending on where the cavernous shaft leads. They discuss their situation and determine that the best thing they can do is maintain hope and keep up their strength, which means eating the last morsels of food that have not been washed overboard.
The professor begins to point out the different layers of rock as they pass and notes that they are heading toward the surface, although they do not know what awaits them. They notice that the air, the rock wall, and the water beneath them are all becoming very hot. Axel checks the compass, which he claims has “gone mad.”
The needle of the compass in Axel’s hand is jerking in every direction as they pass through the layers of the earth’s crust. Their surroundings appear more and more unstable, and they hear small explosions and see bits of the rock wall falling. Axel is in a panic, but again, Lidenbrock chides him. Axel fears it is an earthquake, but his uncle disagrees. He tells Axel that what he believes they are heading for—and what he hopes for—is a volcanic eruption. Axel protests, asking his uncle if he is serious about wanting to be thrown from the earth in a shower of lava and rock. He replies...
(The entire section contains 1151 words.)
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