Design a site like this with
Get started

Adapting 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea part III

Designing the Nautilus

Every one who adapts Jules Verne’s underwater adventure 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, has to design Nemo’s remarkable craft, the Nautilus.

Verne was very explicit about the design of Captain Nemo’s wonderful submersible, the Nautilus. He describes it as ‘a very long cylinder with conical ends. It noticeably takes the shape of a cigar.’

There are many notable versions, the most enduring being the 1954 Disney film version, though perhaps the most faithful to Verne’s vision is the 1916 version. (You can read my review here if you wish).

My initial drawing is above. The most notable aspect of the Nautilus is the spike at the bow with which it impales ships and sinks them. So I decided to keep this and elongate it to a ridiculous degree.

As for the rest of the submarine, I decided to dispense with Verne altogether, and base my design on a Second World War submarine. After all, to the eyes of someone in 18 67, the technology of 1943 is science fiction.

However as there were no self-propelled torpedoes in 1867, what were known as torpedoes were tethered underwater mines, I decided to not include them. After all, if Nemo had Second World War torpedoes he wouldn’t need a massive spike to ram ships with.

So the torpedo tubes in my version become airlock tubes by which the crew enter and exit the Nautilus.

And the dining room and bunk room of the four ‘guests’ of Nemo are based on the officer’s quarters.

1867 is a fascinating year as it the cusp of humanity’s transfer of dependence on whale oil to petroleum oil. Whaling is still a major industry, hence the presence of Nantucket harpooner Ned Land on board, and indeed, the US authorities believe the Nautilus is a sea monster of some sort.

However oil has been discovered in various places around the globe and what is to become the petroleum industry is only a decade or so from supplanting and decimating the whaling industry.

However, the genius Nemo has created what we recognise as laser rifles, so what if he has invented a nuclear engine to power the Nautilus. And what if the competing empires of the time pivot to nuclear energy as the prime source of energy rather than oil, and the oil age ends with the death of the whaling industry?

So my Nautilus is nuclear, and the implications of this I’m going to explore in sequels to Nemo’s Fury. However in Nemo’s Fury the technology the crew use, i.e. the levers and wheels, are still very much pre-nuclear.

And finally, here’s a glimpse of my Nautilus as seen from the seabed.


Love sci-fi? Check out our website, Nemo’s Fury

And please follow us here..

To keep up to date with with everything on board the Nautilus, please subscribe to the Nemo’s Fury newsletter! Just enter your email address below and we’ll do the rest!

  • Adapting 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea part IX. From sketch to illustration

    There’s not much to say about these – you’ll have to play the game if you want to know more – but I’m always fascinated by how artists turn their ideas into images and this is my very basic two step system. I draw a rough idea of the scene on the cheapest -usually lined…

  • Adapting 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea part VIII. Guns and robots

    There’s a great deal of fascinating technology in Jules Verne’s work, not only Nemo’s remarkable submarine itself, the Nautilus, but also the diving suits the crew use for underwater exploration and the weapons they use. The above image was inspired by my upbringing on industrial Teesside, my comprehensive school would task us with painting the…

Blog at