Dear readers, tonight with us is a submarine‘s captain – the son of the most famous captain the Victorian-era has ever seen. He’s here to talk to us about exploring shipwrecks, aiding the oppressed, and supporting freedom fighters, abnd about the fragile international balance of power.

Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I was the son of a wealthy Polish count, and my life certainly had its advantages.  I received a rigorous and thorough education in Warsaw, both at schools and from Papa.  My family traveled across Europe and hosted many social functions at home.  But despite our wealth, Papa always showed concern for the less fortunate.  He never let me and my sister forget how blessed we were, and he was a champion of the downtrodden.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Papa was an engineer, and he actually made some of my toys himself.  I loved spending time with him.  My favourite moments were when he and I created simple toy boats out of wood, paper, and paint.  In general, I just enjoyed being together as a family, whatever we did.  I thought our happy life would never end—until the rebellion started and the Russians destroyed us.

What do you do now?

I am captain of the NAUTILUS, the magnificent submarine Papa built and sailed in for many years.  My crew and I explore the oceans to further man’s scientific knowledge of them.  We also gather wealth from sunken treasure ships of old and use it to help finance independence movements around the world.  The oppressed find allies in us.  Some of my activities draw (unwanted) attention from the nations, particularly Britain and America.  We are no threat to them, so they should let us be.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

In the last couple of years, we have been significantly involved in a certain island nation’s fight for independence.  We made a bit of military history in the process, I might add.  After that, circumstances forced us to take on the task of confronting a dangerous man in an even more dangerous ship who was trying to bring a mighty nation to its knees.  If a powerful country can be so threatened, what hope would the poor and defenseless have against such an adversary?

What did you first think when you set foot on the Nautilus?

My whole life had led up to that moment, in a way.  It was somewhat akin to being on hallowed ground.   The ship was Papa’s monumental achievement as well as his resting place.  Of course, it needed massive restoration to be serviceable again.  But it felt like…home.  And it has been, more so than any other place I’ve lived since Poland.

What was the scariest thing in your adventures?

Probably that time we were fired upon by an American warship and accused of things we absolutely did not do.  I don’t think I’ve ever been as scared and bewildered as I was when shells were crashing around the NAUTILUS.  Would the next one hit and do incalculable damage?

What is the worst thing about being the captain?

The feeling that I am always on duty.  Although I have my own cabin—and the NAUTILUS contains a beautiful salon and a library—sometimes I just do not feel like I can be alone.  At any moment, something could arise that requires my attention, and in such an environment relaxation is difficult.

What is the best thing about it?

Being in command of a wonderful vessel and crew.  I have full faith in the submarine, because I see how lovingly and carefully Papa designed and built her.  My crew have come so far along as sailors and self-taught scientists since I rescued them from a dead-end life in prison.  I am proud of both! 

Tell us a little about your friends.

Collectively, we have wonderful friends in the residents of Tuala Island, especially their king.  If the sea is our home, Tuala is home-away-from-home.  Individually, my officers are my friends.  Our ship’s doctor, Bertrand, is a childhood friend from France.  Brian, my first officer, is a Canadian who was seeking more out of life.  My second officer, William, is American, and he was the first to join my admittedly wild plan to salvage the NAUTILUS and resume Papa’s voyages.  They have been loyal, devoted companions who also care for me in a personal way that transcends our captain/officer relationships.

Any romantic involvement?

I did fall in love with a beautiful Tualan girl named Lanani, and we have a daughter.  They presently live in England.  Much to my regret, I have not seen them in years due to the nature of my work.  But all that is a bit of a story in itself….  

Whom (or what) do you really hate?

Empires.  Nations that oppress their own people or threaten neighboring countries.  Slave traders.  Tyranny.  All these I will oppose.  My homeland knows too well what it is like to live under the boot of another nation.

What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?

Being a captain who is almost always on duty as I mentioned above, I don’t usually drink, but I have had an occasional brandy.  In addition to gold and silver, we also retrieved a number of unspoiled bottles of wine and liqueurs from some of the treasure shipwrecks we visited.  My favourite colour would have to be blue, the colour of the ocean.  As for those rare occasions when I can relax, I love to look at the sea and the creatures in it from the viewing ports in the NAUTILUS’ salon.  The deep is always peaceful and soothing to watch.

What does the future hold for you?

Hopefully some more explorations, if the world will leave us alone.  The oceans are too vast to see everything in one lifetime.  I am also working on the third volume of my memoirs.  But when my seafaring days are over, I would like to retire someplace close to the sea.  The Scottish coast looks inviting….

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

I am not a good swimmer.  I command a marvelous submarine and have been diving on a number of occasions as captain, yet I cannot swim well.  Please keep that in confidence, as I would never hear the end of it from my crew if they found out.

Lewis Crow is a life-long naval enthusiast and researcher who has been thrilled since childhood by stories true and fictional about ships and the crews who manned them.  An avid model builder and adult LEGO fan, he lives in Texas with his family.

You can find Phileas Nemo on the pages of The Lone Captain (sequel to The Nautilus Legacy).

Join us next week to meet a bookstore owner who’s knowledge of historical crimes is helping a murder investigation. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.