How does the story suggest that optimism helps to endure “the direst stress”?
“The very title of the story “We’re not Afraid to Die.........” suggests that hope sustains life. The narrator, his wife Mary and children Sue and Jonathan set sail from England. They were trying to repeat the incredible feat of Captain James Cook. Wavewalker had been professionally built and tested in the roughest weather. However, the gigantic waves that started thrashing Wavewalker from January 2, proved disastrous. The boat was capsizing. The narrator accepted his approaching death. But strong optimism saved them. Speed was slowed. Storm jib was dropped. Mooring ropes were tied across the stern. Life-jackets and oilskins were donned. The narrator’s ribs cracked and his mouth was filled with blood and broken teeth. Larry and Herb were pumping water out like madmen. Sue’s head had swollen alarmingly. But hope helped them to “endure the direst stress”. Even Jon was not afraid. He went on “we aren’t afraid of dying if we can all be together”.
At last, their optimism helped them to survive. The island lle Amsterdam was sighted. Jon was ready to hug his father. For Jon he was “the best daddy in the whole world and the best captain”. The next morning all the 28 inhabitants of lle Amsterdam cheered them and helped them ashore.
List the steps taken by the captain:
(i) to protect the ship when rough weather began.
(ii) to check the flooding of the water in the ship.
1. (i) On their second day out of Cape Town, they began to encounter strong gales. For the next few weeks they blew continuously and furiously. The size of the waves was alarming. They rose up to 15 metres, as high as their main mast. The captain took certain urgent steps to protect the boat. He decided to slow down the speed of the boat. Storm jib was dropped. Heavy mooring ropes were looped across the stern. They went through their life-raft drill. Lifelines were attached. They put on oilskins and their life jackets. But all these precautions proved inadequate. The roar of high waves increased to a thunder. Then a loud explosion shook the deck.
(ii) A torrent of green and white water broke over the ship. The captain’s head smashed into the wheel. He was aware of sinking below the waves. Suddenly, his head popped out of water. Wavewalker was near capsizing. Her masts had fallen flat. He didn’t leave the wheel. His wife Mary came running. She cried that the decks were smashed and full of water. Larry and Herb were pumping water out like madmen. The whole starboard bulged inward. The captain found a hammer, screws and canvas. He struggled to make repairs. He was successful in spreading canvas over the gaping holes. Most of the water was now deflected over the sides. Another electric pump was connected to the out-pipe. Fortunately, it worked. The water level was now quite under control.
What difference did you notice between the reaction of the adults and the children when faced with danger?
The way in which the adults and the children reacted when faced with danger was quite on the expected lines. The narrator himself was the captain of the boat. He took all precautions to encounter the gigantic waves. To slow down the boat, the storm jib was drawn. Oilskins and life jackets were put on. Larry and Herb were pumping water out like madmen. The narrator went to see the children in their cabin. He asked : “Are you all right ?” “Yes”, they answered. Sue had a big bump above her eyes. But the narrator had no time to ‘worry about bumped heads’. Mary’s reaction was also quite normal. “We’re sinking !” she screamed. That evening the narrator and Mary sat together holding their hands. Both of them felt that the end was very near.
The children reacted quite boldly. When the narrator went in to comfort the children, Jon asked, “Daddy, are we going to die ?” The narrator tried to assure them that they would succeed. Jon declared : “We aren’t afraid to die if we can all be together—you and Mummy, Sue and I”. The children were excited when the island was sighted. Jonathan wanted to hug his father. He called him “he best daddy in the whole world—and the best captain” They were naturally excited and elated in the end.
Describe the shifts in the narration of the events as indicated in the three sections of the text. Give a subtitle to each section.
'We are not Afraid to Die.........' is a first person account of an adventurous ordeal that a family experiences during the voyage. There are three sections of the text. The narration of events matches the mood of the voyage. The first section describes how the voyage began with great hope and fanfare in July 1976. They were attempting to ‘duplicate the round-the-world voyage made 200 years earlier by Captain James Cook. Wavewalker had been professionally built. It was thoroughly tested in the roughest weather. They sailed down to Cape Town. The trouble started only when they left Cape Town. On January 2, the waves were gigantic. The narration of the events mirrors the hectic efforts of the captain and the crew to protect Wavewalker.
The second section : 'Search for an Island' describes their struggle for survival for the last 15 hours. On January 4, they ate their first meal in almost two days. But the respite was short lived. This also captures the highly emotional response of the children. Jon declared : 'We aren’t afraid of dying if we can all be together—you and Mummy, Sue and I.'
In the last section, Cheerful Landing the narration shifts back to the relaxed style. The captain was sure to reach lle Amsterdam. Jon gave the good news. The island was in front of them. All the 28 inhabitants were there to cheer and help them ashore.
Describe the mental condition of the voyagers on 4 and 5 January.
On January 4, the voyagers got some respite. After 36 hours of continuous pumping they could pump much of the water out. Water was still coming in. The pumpers were to keep pace with the water. They could not set any sail on the main mast. So they hoisted the storm jib. Mary found some beef and biscuits. They ate their first meal in almost two days. But their respite was short lived. At 4 pm the wind was back to 40 knots. The waves were rising higher.
By the dawn on January 5, the situation was again hopeless. The narrator went in to comfort the children. Jon asked if they were ‘going to die’. The narrator assured him that they would succeed. His son replied that they were not afraid of dying if they could “all be together”. The captain used an improvised sea anchor. It was made of heavy nylon rope and 22 barrels of paraffin. Those were critical moments. Mary and the narrator sat together holding their hands. They both felt that the end was very near. But Wavewalker rode out (of) the storm and the wind eased by the morning of January 6.