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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Unit Study: Part 2

"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" by Jules Verne makes a really good literature unit to combine with oceanography, marine biology, seamanship, the science fiction genre, etc. Part one of this unit study covers Part 1, Chapters 6 - 10 of the book.

As with many classics, there are several versions of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on the market. The edition that I am using for this unit was originally published by Classic Press, Inc. in 1968.

Suggested Vocabulary:
mobilis in mobili

If you would like to download a free copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, one of the best downloads that I’ve found is available from http://www.knowledgerush.com/books/2000010.html. Its a no frills, continuous copy of the book.

Online-Literature.com also has 20,000 Leagues as well as several over works by the author Jules Verne. And at http://www.selfknowledge.com/446au.htm there is a realaudio version of the book you can listen to!

Book Summary from http://www.people.virginia.edu/~mtp0f/flips/jules.html
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is about the adventures of Captain Nemo and his crew aboard the submarine, Nautilus. One day ships start sinking, particularly ones dealing with war. Survivors think it is a big whale. A harpoon ship goes out to kill it, but finds out that the whale is actually the Nautilus. The most interesting part of this book was probably the Nautilus itself. It is shaped to look like a fish, with a large metal fin on top used to ram and sink the ships. The camouflage of the boat being shaped like a whale works, up until the part where the Nautilus takes on a few passengers from one of the sinking ships. Another intriguing part of this book was Captain Nemo. He is the kind of character that you neither like nor dislike. I say this, because of some of Nemo’s actions. Captain Nemo hates war, and throughout the book, he uses his submarine to destroy all kinds of war related ships. You would like him for trying to put an end to war, but dislike his method (destroying ships and killing innocent lives).

Suggested Questions and Activities:

1. How long is a fathom? How did it gets it name?

2. As each new sea creature is mentioned, research it. Create a notebook or "log book" to keep you information in, including color sketches, maps of natural habitats, etc.

3. Continue adding character sketches for each new character as they appear in the story.

4. What does the term "heaving the log" mean? [Answer: it means trailing a device attached to a line that measures the ship's speed.]

5. What is quicksilver? How is it used? What affects, either good and/or bad, has it had on the environment?

6. In the beginning of chapter eight of part one, electric lights are spoken of; however, the lightbulb had not been invented yet at the time that 20,000 Leagues was written. What object could have been a prediction of the light bulb? [Answer: The "half globe, unpolished" that was on the ceiling.]

7. What is esperanto? [Answer: a "world language" though not widely used as of yet]

8. What is the motto on the dinner service? What does it mean? Why do you think it is appropriate? [Answer: mobilis in mobili; "moving in a moving thing"; since the submarine moves in a moving thing -- the ocean -- the motto is very apt.]

9. Learn about how oxygen is replenished in modern day submarines. How was it supposed to be replenished on Nemo's submarine? How was it renewed in the first submarines, such as the Monitor and the Merrimac?

10. Make a model submarine based on the descriptions in the chapters as you read them.

11. Study respiration by making model lungs (see directions below).

12. How does this section begin to shape Nemo's character? What do you think of the character of Nemo at this point? Why? Give specific answers.

13. What is a conchyliologist? [Answer: also known as a conchologist, it is a person who studies shellfish and their shells.]

14. Draw some pictures of coral, shellfish, and shells. If possible, begin a small shell collection, and display them.

How Do Your Lungs Work?

Have your kids ever asked how do you breathe? What are lungs? What do they look like and how do they work? Have you ever wondered this yourself? Here is a super simple, super easy project to explain this. Goes well with a study of anatomy, life science, and/or biology. How about studying diving and snorkeling? Just a good, all around activity.

One 1-liter or 1-quart clear plastic bottle*
One large balloon
One small balloon
Two rubber bands
One straw
Modeling clay


1. Cut off the bottom of the bottle. You can use a serrated knife, a utility knife, or scissors … what ever sharp instrument you use, please use standard safety rules.

2. Cut the neck off of the large balloon.

3. Stretch this balloon over the bottom of the bottle. Put a rubber band around it to hold it in place.

4. Insert the straw into the neck of the balloon.

5. Tie the balloon to the straw using the other rubber band.

6. Put the balloon end of the straw into the bottle so that the balloon is all the way into the bottle but does not touch the balloon over the bottom of the bottle.

7. Secure the straw in the bottle by using the modeling clay. Make sure the clay completely covers the mouth of the bottle, but does not crimp the straw.

8. Push on the rubber at the bottom of the bottle. What happens? Is this like breathing in or out?

9. Pull the rubber down. Which way would you be breathing now? What happens? The stretched balloon across the bottom of the bottle acts like a diaphragm. This is the flat muscle at the bottom of the chest cavity. This muscle forces air in and out of your lungs. Your lungs do not inflate or deflate by themselves … a muscle, your diaphragm, is pulling or pushing so that you can breathe.

*Vegetable oil bottles work well for this. So do drink bottles, the disposable kind, not the kind you re-use.

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