Leagues Ahead: 5 Things that Owe their Existence to Jules Verne

We celebrate the birthday of the father of science fiction with the real creations he inspired. | By NGT Staff  
electric submarine Jules Verne
In "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea", Captain Nemo was shuttled around the world in an electric submarine called Nautilus. This photo is for illustrative purposes only. Photo: Eric Lewis/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Growing up reading Jules Verne’s classic Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea and Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, it’s hard not to come away inspired by the author’s brilliant imagination. Not all of that inspiration has led to great art – there are some forgettable music and video games – but how many great minds have both an amusement park and a submarine in their honour?

Electric Submarine

One of the most iconic inventions in Jules Verne’s books is the Nautilus – an electric submarine that shuttles Captain Nemo around the world in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. A real-life Nautilus was Alvin, a three-person submarine circa 1964. National Geographic quoted Rosalind Williams, a historian of technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) saying that the Alvin, like the Nautilus, was fully powered by electricity, “which at that time had a kind of magical aura”.

Les Machines de L’Île

fun ride

This ride is modelled on the house pulled by a steam-powered elephant in Verne’s The Steam House. Photo: Esclarabunda/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Verne’s hometown of Nantes houses one of the most fantastical amusement parks in the world. Les Machines de L’Île (The Island of Machines) in inspired by Verne’s fertile imagination and Leonardo da Vinci’s radical ideas. You can take a ride on the giant three-level carousel based on Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea or hop on to the 48-tonne mechanical elephant that stomps its way across the length of the park. The pachyderm comes from Verne’s book The Steam House, where colonials travelled through India in a house pulled by a steam-powered elephant. The park’s accompanying supernatural machines include prehistoric insects that double up as rides.

Hotels

Jules Verne’s unique ideas and landscapes have given intrepid hoteliers much food for thought. Case in point: Berlin’s Propeller Island Lodge and the Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Florida. The former, which takes its name from Verne’s novel of the same name, has bizarre rooms, each with its own unique feature – beds shaped like coffins, rooms covered in mirrors from floor-to-ceiling and more. The Jules’ Undersea Lodge, as is evident from the name, lies beneath the waves, giving guests the chance to sleep with the fish. More than a little influenced by Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, the hotel says it is a tribute to the “human quest for exploration and adventure”.

Magazines

Yes, Jules Verne inspired the genre of science fiction, but his spirit of exploration and adventure has been the force behind magazines too. An image of Verne’s tomb in Amiens appeared on the index page of the early issues of Amazing Stories magazine, as well as on the cover of one of its issues. More recently, science magazine Nautilus, with its goal of decoding science for its readers, owes its title in part to Captain Nemo’s submarine from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.

An image of Verne’s tomb (left) appeared on the index page of the early issues of Amazing Stories magazine; This French restaurant (right) is located at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Photo: Photo: LepoSs/Flickr/Creative Commons (tomb), James Qualtrough/Flickr/Creative Commons (restaurant) (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

An image of Verne’s tomb (left) appeared on the index page of the early issues of Amazing Stories magazine; This French restaurant (right) is located at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Photos: LepoSs/Flickr/Creative Commons (tomb), James Qualtrough/Flickr/Creative Commons (restaurant) (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Le Jules Verne

Le Jules Verne is a French restaurant with a location Verne would approve of – at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Renowned chef Alain Ducasse takes patrons on a culinary adventure, prodding the boundaries of the craft with sea urchin, gold caviar, seaweed breadsticks and chestnut ice cream on the menu.

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