Professor Lidenbrock, a polymathic teacher at the prestigious Johanneum College in Hamburg, purchases a copy of the Heimskringla (a record of Icelandic kings) at a secondhand bookstore. In this copy, he finds an encrypted runic manuscript and deciphers the cryptogram, which proves to be the work of a celebrated (fictitious) alchemist, Arne Saknussem. The decrypted text claims that the center of the earth might be reached by means of one of the several craters of the extinct volcano Snaefell in Iceland.
Lidenbrock suggests to his nephew Axel that they should mount an expedition to follow in Saknussem’s footsteps and journey to the center of the earth. Axel is initially horrified, but he is persuaded to risk the enterprise by a girl named Graüben, whose affection he craves and who judges that it will make a hero of him. Axel and his uncle then set sail for Reykjavik, eager to get there by the first of July, when the angle of the sun’s rays will indicate the correct crater.
After conferring with local scholars, Lidenbrock hires a taciturn guide, Hans Bjelke, and assembles an extensive collection of scientific instruments. The members of the party then make their way to Snaefell, where a sign specified by Saknussem’s manuscript informs them into which crater they must descend. As they do so, they make various geological observations, but the expedition seems doomed to failure when they run out of water. They are saved when they...
(The entire section is 472 words.)