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"The writing is clicking away in my head and piling up, and unless I get it on paper somehow it's going to create uncomfortable pressure in my skull."
- Isaac Asimov

  The wondrous submarine of Captain Nemo; the instrument of his escape from humanity and his revenge upon it.  

A mysterious sea creature is attacking ships; sent to investigate, the American navy finds that it is no animal but a mechanical device - a submarine. Rammed by this undersea craft, M. Arronnax, his servant Conseil and harpooner Ned Land fall into the sea and are taken aboard the Nautilus.

"Sir," said Captain Nemo, showing me the instruments hanging on the walls of his room, "here are the contrivances required for the navigation of the Nautilus. Here, as in the drawing-room, I have them always under my eyes, and they indicate my position and exact direction in the middle of the ocean. Some are known to you, such as the thermometer, which gives the internal temperature of the Nautilus; the barometer, which indicates the weight of the air and foretells the changes of the weather; the hygrometer, which marks the dryness of the atmosphere; the storm-glass, the contents of which, by decomposing, announce the approach of tempests; the compass, which guides my course; the sextant, which shows the latitude by the altitude of the sun; chronometers, by which I calculate the longitude; and glasses for day and night, which I use to examine the points of the horizon, when the Nautilus rises to the surface of the waves."
"There is a powerful agent, obedient, rapid, easy, which conforms to every use, and reigns supreme on board my vessel. Everything is done by means of it. It lights, warms it, and is the soul of my mechanical apparatus. This agent is electricity.''
"Electricity?'' I cried in surprise.
"Yes, sir.''
"Nevertheless, Captain, you possess an extreme rapidity of movement, which does not agree well with the power of electricity. Until now, its dynamic force has remained under restraint, and has only been able to produce a small amount of power.''
"Professor,'' said Captain Nemo, "my electricity is not everybody's and that is all I wish to say about it... I point out only this: I owe all to the ocean; it produces electricity, and electricity gives heat, light, motion, and, in a word, life to the Nautilus."

"But not the air you breathe?"
"Oh! I could manufacture the air necessary for my consumption, but it is useless, because I go up to the surface of the water when I please. However, if electricity does not furnish me with air to breathe, it works at least the powerful pumps that are stored in spacious reservoirs, and which enable me to prolong at need, and as long as I will, my stay in the depths of the sea. It gives a uniform and unintermittent light, which the sun does not. Now look at this clock; it is electrical, and goes with a regularity that defies the best chronometers. I have divided it into twenty-four hours, like the Italian clocks, because for me there is neither night nor day, sun nor moon, but only that factitious light that I take with me to the bottom of the sea. Look! just now, it is ten o'clock in the morning."
"Another application of electricity. This dial hanging in front of us indicates the speed of the Nautilus. An electric thread puts it in communication with the screw, and the needle indicates the real speed. Look! now we are spinning along with a uniform speed of fifteen miles an hour."
"It is marvelous! And I see, Captain, you were right to make use of this agent that takes the place of wind, water, and steam..."
Really, I knew already the anterior part of this submarine boat, of which this is the exact division, starting from the ship's head: the dining-room, five yards long, separated from the library by a water-tight partition; the library, five yards long; the large drawing-room, ten yards long, separated from the Captain's room by a second water-tight partition; the said room, five yards in length; mine, two and a half yards; and, lastly a reservoir of air, seven and a half yards, that extended to the bows. Total length thirty five yards, or one hundred and five feet. The partitions had doors that were shut hermetically by means of india-rubber instruments, and they ensured the safety of the Nautilus in case of a leak.

From 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne.
Published by Various in 1875
Additional resources -

Although Jules Verne certainly stimulated the imaginations of millions with his depiction of the Nautilus, the first scientific references to a submarine vessel date to the 16th century. William Bourne (1580) wrote:

"It is possible to make a Ship or Boate that may goe under the water unto the bottome, and so to come up again at your pleasure. [If] Any magnitude of body that is in the water . . . having alwaies but one weight, may be made bigger or lesser, then it Shall swimme when you would, and sinke when you list . . . ."

Suppose you had a fully enclosed boat that just floats; it floats because it displaces its weight in water. Decrease the size of the vessel enough, and it will sink; once underwater, you increase its size again (he devised leather expanding joints to accomplish this) and it will again rise to the surface. See the very interesting Timeline of submarine development for more information. A group of honors physics students put their Building a Submarine project on the Internet - lots of pictures and description. See also History of the Submarine for more references.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  More Ideas and Technology by Jules Verne
  Tech news articles related to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  Tech news articles related to works by Jules Verne

Nautilus-related news articles:
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  - Volitan Solar 'Sail' Yacht
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