The particular quote is from the chapter near the end, "A Hecatomb". You can find more of the related text on my page here, http://www.vernianera.com/Nautilus/Needle.html , but the context is explicit:
The speed of the Nautilus was accelerated. It was preparing to rush. The whole ship trembled. Suddenly I screamed. I felt the shock, but comparatively light. I felt the penetrating power of the steel spur. I heard rattlings and scrapings. But the Nautilus, carried along by its propelling power, passed through the mass of the vessel like a needle through sailcloth!
I've had discussions about elements of the novel with many people over the years. A recurring lesson is to remember is that this is fiction. Jules Verne based a lot of his writing on fact, but in the end the stories are from his imagination and he surely got some things wrong.
The hole punched in the Scotia's hull is described as two and a half meters below her waterline, but Nemo says he was traveling two meters below the surface when the collision occurred. This would place the Nautilus's center-line more than six meters deep. Ian Williams' design, illustrated here, addresses this problem by raising the ram to match the hole. The ram in this position also addresses a similar issue. During the trip to the South Pole, Aronnax describes the Nautilus using its ram as an icebreaker as it crosses the Antarctic ice shelf on the surface. Perhaps this could be done with a center-line ram but it seems to me the force would tend to drive the submarine beneath the ice.
Bob the Builder wrote:The metal cladding in ships of the era did not typically extend below the waterline (at least to my knowledge) making it a very viable method of downing a ship.
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