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...
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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 calmly that he is.
They continue to rise for several more hours. Axel tries to imagine where in the world they might be now and where they might surface. The shaft widens, and they begin to see light from fires near the surface. Lidenbrock points out that there is no more water beneath them, only lava.
Soon, the raft stops, only to be thrust upward again. The pattern of movement has changed and become violent, and they now struggle to hold on. In the chaos of heat and fire, Axel loses consciousness.
Axel opens his eyes to discover that he is lying on the slope of a mountain. Hans and his uncle are with him, and they all appear to be safe. Axel asks if they are in Iceland, but Hans asserts that they are not. Looking around them, it is difficult to determine exactly where they are, but Lidenbrock believes that they are in Asia, perhaps near India.
They begin to hike down the mountain; within a couple of hours, they encounter fruit trees and a spring of fresh water. They eat, drink, and rest. Suddenly, Axel notices a young boy dressed in rags, who seems fearful of them. Hans catches him as he tries to escape. After asking questions in several languages, they are able to determine that they are on the island of Stromboli, in the Mediterranean Sea. They determine that they have travelled over three thousand miles from their starting point in Iceland.
The three men make their way to a port town. Hans asks for his weekly wage, which Lidenbrock gives him with gratitude. Hans makes a subtle but unusual display of emotions, touching Lidenbrock’s and Axel’s hands with his fingertips and smiling.
The men are relieved to be saved and are treated like shipwreck victims by the islanders. Within a few days, they are on a ship and heading back toward Germany. Martha and Grauben are overjoyed to see Lidenbrock and Axel again. Grauben calls Axel a hero and proclaims that he will never need to leave her again.
Martha, it turns out, has told people about their journey, but no one could believe that they went to the center of the earth. However, as Hans is with them—as well as a few items from their journey—opinions change.
The professor begins to lecture about their journey, and their city of Hamburg holds a banquet in their honor. After some time, Hans leaves to return to Iceland; Axel, appreciative of all Hans did to save their lives, promises himself that he will one day see Hans again. Axel and the professor move forward into their lives, greatly satisfied and uplifted by the success of their journey.