The Bathysphere Victoria

The following pages were discovered rolled within an otherwise-empty champagne bottle, found floating off the coast of Norway by a bather in August of 1939.

Journal of Professor Duncan Clements, being the true account of the descent of the Bathysphere Victoria into the North Sea.

15th June, 1932
The day has dawned bright, no less so than my own eagerness to be underway…at last, after months of calculations and preparations, my beautiful bathysphere shall fulfill her duties and sink into the blue fathoms in search of knowledge! Should any more delays arise, I am sure my buttons should pop in fury; even the admittedly necessary last-minute precautions of reinforcing the outer shell have proven taxing in the extreme, and I am quite sure the various engineers and metalworkers involved are as close to the point of hair-pulling as I am myself.
I write this entry, though, in the highest of spirits, bound east upon the freighting vessel Champion not more than two days from port in Scarborough. After the recent earthquake centered deep undersea a sounding vessel reported a heretofore absent dropoff of the sea floor in this area, to a further extent than their sounding-chains could plumb…a perfect opportunity for a glimpse into a void none have known, and coinciding flawlessly with my own scheduled departure!
I find myself returning again and again to the hold, admiring the precise curves and solid English construction of the Bathysphere Victoria…as beautiful as the sleek and untarnished finish of the thick shell is, it seems to me that it is as eager as I to slip beneath the dark and churning surface to the calm thick depths of the sea.

16 June, 3:08am
Uneasy dreams last night…I write this by lamplight, the time is just after 3 o’clock and the sweat still chills my brow. Even now the images fade, but a dark and formless threat seemed to overwhelm me completely…I had hoped the deliberation of writing would calm my nerves, aided by a finger of whiskey which I luckily managed to smuggle aboard in my instrument case…these sailors drink nothing but rum, and rotten sickly-sweet stuff it is! I shall return to bed shortly; I can ill afford to be less than alert later this day.

16 June, 11:10am
I had hoped to have the attention of all hands for a brief ceremony and Christening of the Victoria and had even brought along a fine bottle of champagne for the occasion…however, the savages seem to view this as any other cargo on any given day! Their ignorance knows no bounds…I eventually grew weary of shouting orders at them and have climbed inside the bathysphere, bolting and sealing the door behind me with three twists of the heavy iron wheel as I await my descent. An ignominious sendoff, but back in the more learned circles of England I am sure they await word of my voyage with bated breath…perhaps I shall save this bottle to celebrate my return; I can almost see their faces now!
Now I must desist my **illegible** as I feel the sphere rocking to and fro, being lifted by counterbalanced arms to hover above the waves for a brief moment…soaring gracefully aloft in one element before sinking into another, a pebble in the **illegible smudge** CONFOUNDED OAFS **illegible**

16 June, 3:48pm
My descent proceeds apace. The initial breaking of the waves was more violent than anticipated…and if I speak truth, I suspect some of the crewmen on that blasted vessel may have dropped me the last few feet on purpose. Their apologies came through on the rubber communication tube quite clearly but I had no interest in responding; also, my stomach had already been weakened by the incessant rolling of the ship in the rough seas and I feared vocalizing would expedite the escape of my luncheon. It is unclear just why they hold such animosity towards me; putting aside my own pride I attempted this past evening to engage a small group of the salts in a few rounds of Five-Suit Bridge, for which I was more than happy to provide details regarding rules, stratagems, opening gambits, and so on…far superior to their ragtag games of Flipjack or Dirty Mary, but they seemed unenthused to give attention to more than a cursory hand or two.

Now, though, I have left those men and the world above and find myself eagerly rushing between the eight viewports spaced evenly about the circumference of my vessel, staring through the thick fused quartz windows out to the dark seas surrounding me…the sodium lights cleverly attached to the shell have already come aglow and by their orangeish illumination I have a visible distance of perhaps twenty or twenty five meters. Already, however, I can perceive that distance decreasing as the waters grow deeper and the light of the surface is left far above. I am currently at around one hundred twenty five meters according to my gauges, in an area known to have a depth of approximately four hundred meters…deep enough to crumple the hull of a standard sub-marine, and deep enough for the light of the sun to be dampened to blackness. But for the glow of my submersible’s lanterns I would be quite unable to discern any details of the world around me…and by my beard it is details I am in search of! Professor Banks is of the opinion that all that can be found under the surface of the sea HAS been found, with naught left over but desolate stretches of lifeless seafloor and minute variations in species already captured, dissected, and catalogued. Preposterous!

16 June, 5:18pm
My descent was abruptly halted with a jerk, giving my instruments and writing-cases a jostle…however, the vibration dampening in the walls of this magnificent vehicle has performed admirably and no damage, no real damage, can be reported. I write this having just received word via the communications tube from the filthy bunglers at the surface, saying there was a snarl in the steel descent cables which they are now attempting to clear. For now, I hover at a depth of two hundred sixty meters…the waters outside my conveyance are dark and foreboding, but I have had my first visitor: a fine specimen of dogfish, Centroselachus Crepidater, whose shining flukes and velvety elongated snout I glimpsed through the window as it lazily drifted by. I anticipate some delay before my descent begins anew, and thus I have set to laying out my repast for the evening…I have several days’ worth of rations along with ample water, and thus far the oxygen in my craft remains fresh. Using a palm-frond fan to circulate the air over the pans of soda lime and calcium chloride, excess co2 is kept from accumulating, as well as preventing condensation on the inner skin of the sphere for practical as well as comfort reasons. Quite satisfactory, although the taste of hardtack, soda biscuits, and salted pork will surely grow old…perhaps as soon as the end of this meal! As I chew I muse upon my expedition; I am often wont to allow my mind to wander at mealtime, and lacking a companion with whom to converse I can only jot down my notions to myself, by means of this journal. Is it fame I seek, putting life at risk (a calculated risk, certainly…I am by no means jumping headlong into battle with some fearsome foe armed with powder and shot, but exploration necessarily carries with it the risk of injury or death by its very nature)? No, I am certain fame and riches hold no sway over me…it is the thrill of research that sets my eyes a-gleam, the expansion of knowledge among the greatest and most forward-moving minds of the age among whose august company I find myself. It is as if those gentlemen back in London are here with me now, watching with anticipation as I push the boundaries of geology and the natural sciences. If only I had a pipe to relax, and perhaps a glass of scotch…but I doubt clouds of tobacco-smoke would be welcome in my cozy undersea laboratory!

17 June, 8:06am
I was awakened by a squawk from the speaking-tube, informing me that the shipboard engineers had finally managed in the night to clear the snarl in the line…after I confirmed readiness my slow lowering resumed thereafter. It is quite a thing, traveling slowly and steadily downward through endless night….now that all light from the surface has been removed my descent would be imperceptible if not for inertia and a gentle rocking (and, of course, my instrument panel); the dark and chilling waters outside my windows reveal no landmarks by which to judge movement. My gauges show me to be in excess of three hundred fifty meters; the bottom of the sea should soon be visible for my landing place…as will, with a little luck and with the aid of numerous calculations, the anomaly itself! The aim is to make rest within sight of the precipice and thus to observe not only the sea floor and environs but also any changes made by this new geological feature. As I see it, the only real danger lies in coming to rest too far from the crevice…however, the precise coordinates of the sounding-ship have been utilized and….ah! The lone and level sands of the sea floor rise up to meet my bathysphere…I must inform the crew above to slow my descent to a crawl.
And thus, have I reached my destination! The landing of my sphere on the soft seabed has disturbed the ground, obscuring my view with clouds of grayish silt flowing past my windows; I shall have to rest for some time as things settle before taking stock of my position.

17 June, 11:15am
Perhaps I have been too hard on the crew above; with guidance and instruction they have accomplished a noteworthy feat, akin to tossing a blindfolded bulls-eye with each hand in darts. My descent has placed me precisely as intended; from my north-east facing viewport (and, indeed, from several others as well) I am provided an enviable view of the crag that has opened in the sea floor, at a distance of a mere 7 meters or so! The crevice itself is…difficult to look at for long; the inky blackness of the precipitous drop yawning into the dark distance of the sea itself confounds the eye, which tends to slide away from that impressive void until it reaches the lip of the thing where the sea-floor begins. Little thrives at this depth, though some croppings of coral dot the desolation here and there…there is one such bloom perched untenably on the lip; its erstwhile home disturbed by the shudderings of the earth’s plates but remaining balanced as if on tiptoe, clinging doggedly and unwilling to make that last incomprehensible drop. With the excitement of my journey downward over, it’s time to settle in to my new ‘home’ and begin my research. I have already spied a number of coral species which were not known to exist at nearly this depth! Additionally, I observed some twenty minutes ago a large Northern Right Whale, exceedingly rare in these waters, approaching from my south and drifting ponderously northward…however, when the great beast approached the sea above the newly formed canyon it appeared unwilling to proceed; like a horse faced with a fence it is unwilling to jump, it veered sharply laterally and sped off with powerful sweeps of its thick tail. Curious.

18 June, 9:08am
Incredible news to report…mark this day well, which will go down as the discovery of an entirely new species! My hand trembles to write this but I have seen no less than four of these animals crawling up over the lip from the darkness below! Approximately 60 centimeters in length with a gray-green carapace (as near as I can tell in the gloom), possessed of 6 spindly legs, each perhaps half the length of its body…a large and ancient form of crustacean somewhat reminiscent of a lobster but with a tail I’ve observed to be more prehensile in flexibility, with one such creature twisting its hindquarters entirely underneath its body to grasp and shift a stone. The tail ends in a stout claw or pincer, mirrored by another on the anterior, as well, where the mouthparts might be….oh, for a closer look or perhaps even a captured live specimen! For now I’ll have to satisfy myself with observation and illustration as I note these creatures’ taxonomy and behaviour. I’m uncertain how I’ll classify these creatures…perhaps Nephropidae Clements? I will think on it over supper…Professor Banks will choke on his pipestem!

19 June, 10:08 am
I woke this morning (noted as such only by my wristwatch; outside it is forever midnight) and rushed to the viewports filled with the thrill of discovery, finding a fascinating sight awaiting my eyes…dozens of these new creatures have emerged from the crevice, and the range of size now seems to vary from 40 centimeters to perhaps 80…some of the larger specimens have approached close enough to my craft to enable a more accurate measurement of scale. One point of note, a particularly large animal approached first, disappearing from sight as it, I would assume, explored the base of my vessel as an unfamiliar obstacle in its search for food. I then observed it scurrying back to the general group, after which all of the creatures seemed to no longer have any reticence in drawing close; almost as if there was some manner of intelligence and communication among them, absurd as it sounds among such simple and unevolved beings!

19 June, 7:20 pm
The creatures outside now have no apparent hesitation about approaching my sphere, and a light skittering audible through the shell tells me a few of the beastly things have gone so far as to climb on and around it, their ambulations sounding like the tapping of scores of mischievous children at play! There seems to be no end to their numbers, either; I would estimate several dozen more have appeared since last I wrote, a small throng, although they are constantly scurrying over the edge back down into the gloom as well…some are quite physically distinctive with patterns of speckling on their carapaces or trails of some briny weed caught in the joints between chitinous plates, so I know there have been newcomers and not merely a recycling of the same individuals. As exciting as this discovery remains, I cannot deny, in the privacy of my own journal, at least, that these creatures have begun to cause me no small amount of discomfort, from the awful frenzy in which they scurry about to the way they seem to sit and…stare at the windows from whence I myself gaze.

20 June, 3:40am
Awakened from slumber by a noise…thumping and scraping on the roof of the sphere, along with the now-incessant skittering taps of the creatures traversing the hull. Attempted to raise the Champion on the communication tube, with no response…most likely whoever stationed asleep. Note to self, consult ship logs on return and find who was meant to be standing by. Loud solid series of thumps in quick succession, another more muffled thump. Has not repeated to my ear for appx fifteen minutes now. Sleep beckons again…will return to surface later today, tomorrow at the latest.

20 June, 8:40am
Still unable to raise the Champion on the tube…another blasted mechanical delay I can stomach, but being unable to communicate with anyone besides this congregation of fiends is unsettling to say the least. They don’t even listen well and just scurry off or, more loathesomely, clamber up over my viewports giving a brief glimpse at their armored underplating before they claw their way up out of sight. No indication of what the sounds last night may have been. Of note, though, there are numbers beyond counting of these creatures with more boiling up from the crevice at every moment…I can scarcely see the sea floor now, and am tempted to hang papers over the windows to avoid looking at them. Certainly it is that, and not to prevent THEM from observing ME, despite a chilling attentiveness they seem to have at times. My hope is that the Champion shall either fix communications or, failing that, adhere to the original schedule to begin my ascent later this afternoon.

20 June, 8:40am
More inexplicable behavior to relate…I had been nearly beside myself with nerves at the sound of the creatures clattering on the roof of my sphere, and it took a few moments before I noticed it had abruptly ceased. Removing the sheet of notebook paper I had adhered over the nearest window I looked outside to see hundreds if not thousands of the creatures, sitting as still as corpses and arranged facing inward in concentric rings with my vessel as the epicenter…each ‘ring’ had perhaps a meter of bare sea floor before the next, and these rings emanated out to the limits of my vision. How much farther, I do not care to speculate. I have replaced the paper over the window, and can only sit and await my escape from this wretched swarm.

20 June, 11:18am
While sitting idly, I noted a shift in the sphere…at last, the slack is being taken up by the blessed winches above and I can leave these cursed bugs behind!

20 June, 11:40am
The bathysphere has shifted and rocked several more times as the cables from the Champion slowly tighten above, though I do remain firmly on the sea-bed. I have had to stopper several bottles and case my instruments, as the Victoria has rotated forward somewhat due to its ball-like shape.

20 June, 2:10pm
I sit on what was my desk when the floor of the craft lie beneath rather than behind me, staring directly out of a quartz viewport but….I cannot accept what I see. No, no, no, no. Bugs, a multitude of them, move in concert towards my craft over the obstacles in their path. Over the ten yards or so of rubber communication hose, now dangling truncated and gently waving as if in lazy greeting, beckoning the creatures onward. And onward they come, over the hose….and over the thickly-braided steel descent lines, nipped raggedly through by some impossibly strong pincer, a coil of lines which I now realize had clattered to rest on my roof last night and which now have toppled to the seafloor as the Victoria shifts and slides.

20 June, 5:18pm
They. are. ROLLING. me. Slowly, but inexorably towards that dark enormity, that yawning gulf. Even now my sphere grinds toward that sickening destination…what slow and glacial movement now, but at that crux what acceleration shall come! I have but four windows whose views are not now obscured by either the grinding sandy silt below or by a writhing undulating mass of beings, their minds singular in purpose and in malice as they scurry around to my aft, a dense orgy of bodies burrowing down and propelling me forward. My own demise is inevitable, I recognized as much as soon as I spied my severed lifelines, but my thoughts now turn towards the surface…what havoc should this endless army wreak if they are to reach land or…God help me! May some have climbed the lines before detaching my doomed sarcophagus, and even now crawl upward towards the warmth and light of the sun?

20 June, 6:38pm
This shall be my final entry. Of my eight viewing windows, seven are filled with blackness…though cracks of orangish light filter through occasionally as the thick festoon of bugs briefly parts in entropy and then darkness as they overlap once more. The remaining window shows the sodium glow of my craft in a gradation towards utter darkness, to the abyss beyond the lip of the cleft less than a meter before me. I shall not wait for that mighty plunge, to descend forever into the dark. The champagne has already been imbibed over the last hour, a fitting celebration of my expedition…the preceding pages of my notes already rolled and stuffed inside the bottle, to be followed by this page and then the cork. I have unbolted the door, and it awaits only three turns of the heavy iron wheel to let the ocean in and, with some impossible luck of physics perhaps, just perhaps, to let the bottle out, to float to the surface, to warn the world of what comes forth. The beings without are knocking at the door with a thousand horrid toes…it is past time I let them in.