During the year 1866, ships of several nations spot a mysterious sea monster, which some suggest to be a giant narwhal. The United States government assembles an expedition in New York City to find and destroy the monster. Professor Pierre Aronnax, a French marine biologist and narrator of the story, receives a last-minute invitation to join the expedition. Canadian whaler and master harpoonist Ned Land and Aronnax's faithful servant Conseil are also brought aboard.
The expedition departs Brooklyn aboard the United States Navy frigate "Abraham Lincoln" and travels south around Cape Horn into the Pacific Ocean. The ship finds the monster after a long search and then attacks the beast, which damages the ship's rudder. The three protagonists are then hurled into the water and grasp hold of the "hide" of the creature, which they find, to their surprise, to be a submarine very far ahead of its era. They are quickly captured and brought inside the vessel, where they meet its enigmatic creator and commander, Captain Nemo.
This edition contains the original illustrations by Alphonse de Neuville and Édouard Riou.