Towards the end of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Nautilus first toys with, and then later completely destroys, a large steam warship from an unknown authority.

Is the identity of this ship's owner ever revealed? Perhaps in the original French, or in The Mysterious Island or other such later texts?

3 Answers 3


Nominally, this would be either British or Russian depending on how you want to review the works.

According to Wiki, the original vision of Captain Nemo was that of a Polish aristocrat whose family had been killed by Russian. As the final ship was supposedly from the nation that Nemo had fought against, that would have made it Russian. However, due to political alliances (at the time France was allied with Tsarist Russia) the enemy country was changed to Britain.


This theme was later carried on in the sequel "The Mysterious Island" in which on his death bed Captain Nemo reveals his true identity as an Indian Prince Dakkar, a son of a Raja. After participating in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Prince Dakkar escaped and commenced the building of the Nautilus with the new name of Captain Nemo. That would again make the country of origin for the mysterious ship British.


Note, in the movie adaptation "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" Nemo is depicted as of Indian heritage.

  • I may be incorrect, happens frequently enough, but Asker appears to have been inquiring as to the owner of the destroyed ship at the end, not Nemo or Nautilus themselves. Otherwise it seems like a good answer.
    – Solemnity
    Mar 10, 2013 at 4:43
  • 2
    Hi Solemnity. You are correct. Andrew is asking about the origin of ship that attacked the Nautilus at the end. Per the novel, this ship was supposed to be from the country against which Captain Nemo fought. Hence, per Wiki, the original intent by Verne was that it be Russia. But, it was changed by the French editor to be Great Britain because at the time France was aligned with Tsarist Russia. Though, there is always the possibility I am wrong as well :-)
    – beichst
    Mar 10, 2013 at 6:01
  • Captain Nemo claims that he's destroyed that frigate because it had attacked the Nautilus. I wonder if he'd have done the same if a ship of a different nationality had attacked him instead.
    – b_jonas
    Jul 21, 2014 at 10:05

Yes, The Mysterious Island (L’Île mystérieuse) says captain Nemo had rammed and sank an English frigate. Nemo tells this when he asks the engineer Cyrus Smith to make judgement on him. Quoting part 3 chapter 16:

En parlant ainsi, le capitaine faisait évidemment allusion à un grave incident dont les trois étrangers jetés à son bord avaient été témoins, incident que le professeur français avait nécessairement raconté dans son ouvrage et dont le retentissement devait avoir été terrible.

En effet, quelques jours avant la fuite du professeur et de ses deux compagnons, le Nautilus, poursuivi par une frégate dans le nord de l’Atlantique, s’était précipité comme un bélier sur cette frégate et l’avait coulée sans merci.

« C’était une frégate anglaise, monsieur, s’écria le capitaine Nemo, redevenu un instant le prince Dakkar, une frégate anglaise, vous entendez bien ! … »

The second paragraph above makes it clear that this refers to the same incident, a few hours before Professor Arronax and his two companions escape the Nautilus.


Jules Verne may have left the nationality of the warship attacking Nemo's Nautilus deliberately vague as a universal symbol for all nationalistic imperial powers. Nemo aided Cretans against the imperial Ottoman Turks also. Today, Captain Nemo might well attack American warships as well as all other warships.

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