collage of bones, insects, a volcano, a dinosaur, and a skull

Journey to the Center of the Earth

by Jules Verne

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What gadgets were used in Journey to the Center of the Earth?

Quick answer:

Two pieces of gear the explorers take on their journey in Journey to the Center of the Earth include Ruhmkorff's coil, an early version of a flashlight, and a centigrade thermometer for measuring temperatures.

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Jules Verne is nothing if not methodical in his listing of the equipment and supplies for the expedition. In addition to the mineralogical articles (mentioned during the build up to the journey, and presumably regulation stuff for sedimentary analysis) and medical kit, the party carries “numerous packages.”

There are some standard pieces for rock climbing and spelunking:



Stakes (rebar)

Hatchet, hammer, your general blunt instruments

A ladder, rope and pitons

The more specialized instruments are as follows:

An Engel’s centigrade thermometer

A manometer (to detect atmospheric pressure at levels above sea level; an ordinary barometer wouldn’t do below the earth’s surface)

A chronometer (set to the Hamburg meridian)

Note: There’s one chronometer listed. The outline of tools may be general instead of specific; at one point in the narration, Axel and the Professor apparently each have their own chronometer, helping them track each other.

Two compasses

A “night glass”

And the Ruhmkorff’s apparatus, essentially a 19th century flashlight.

There are also firearms, which give the somewhat hesitant Axel pause. Will they be needing weapons?

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What are two pieces of gear they took for the journey in Journey to the Center of the Earth?

Axel outlines in detail the various gear the travelers will take with them to the center of the earth, dividing it into categories: instruments to take measurements and guide the journey; arms (guns); tools, such as ropes and crowbars; provisions (food: Axel notes with alarm they bring no water under the assumption it will be found below the earth), and medical supplies. Axel doesn't fail to mention the tobacco his uncle carries with him, a pollutant that would be forbidden today.

Two pieces of gear Axel spends some time describing include Ruhmkorff's coil. This is an electrical mechanism that will shed light, allowing the explorers to see as they travel to the center of the earth. Ruhmkorff's coil consists of copper wire, insulated with silk, surrounded by another insulated coil. The wires generate a current from a voltaic battery which will produce a continuous white light. The coils will be carried in a leather bag with a shoulder strap. This would have been state-of-the-art technology in the nineteenth century, an early version of a flashlight that we would today take for granted.

The explorers also take with them a centigrade thermometer. This instrument can measure up to 150 degrees. Axel notes that if the temperature gets that high, they will be "cooked." On the other hand, it is not enough to measure the exact temperature "of springs or metal in a state of fusion."

Axel shows the forethought that goes into the gear choices but also introduces enough anxiety about the suppliesor lack thereofto create some tension in the reader's mind.

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