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Chapter 2: We’re Not Afraid to Die.if We Can All Be Together
IN July 1976, my wife Mary, son Jonathan, 6, daughter Suzanne, 7, and I set sail from Plymouth, England, to duplicate the roundthe-world voyage made 200 years earlier by Captain James Cook. For the longest time, Mary and I — a 37-year-old businessman — had dreamt of sailing in the wake of the famous explorer, and for the past 16 years, we had spent all our leisure time honing our seafaring skills in British waters.
Our boat Wavewalker, a 23-metre, 30-ton wooden-hulled beauty, had been professionally built, and we had spent months fitting it out and testing it in the roughest weather we could find. The first leg of our planned three-year, 105,000-kilometre journey passed pleasantly as we sailed down the west coast of Africa to Cape Town. There, before heading east, we took on two crewmen — American Larry Vigil and Swiss Herb Seigler — to help us tackle one of the world’s roughest seas, the southern Indian Ocean.
On our second day out of Cape Town, we began to encounter strong gales. For the next few weeks, they blew continuously. Gales did not worry me; but the size of the waves was alarming — up to 15 meters, as high as our main mast. December 25 found us 3,500 kilometers east of Cape Town. Despite atrocious weather, we had a wonderful holiday complete with a Christmas tree.
New Year’s Day saw no improvement in the weather, but we reasoned that it had to change soon. And it did change — for the worse. At dawn on January 2, the waves were gigantic. We were sailing with only a small storm jib and were still making eight knots. As the ship rose to the top of each wave we could see endless enormous seas rolling towards us, and the screaming of the wind and spray was painful to the ears.
To slow the boat down, we dropped the storm jib and lashed a heavy mooring rope in a loop across the stern. Then we double-lashed everything, went through our life-raft drill, attached lifelines, donned oilskins and life jackets — and waited.
The first indication of impending disaster came at about 6 p.m., with an ominous silence. The wind dropped, and the sky immediately grew dark. Then came a growing roar, and an enormous cloud towered aft of the ship. With horror, I realized that it was not a cloud, but a wave like no other I had ever seen. It appeared perfectly vertical and almost twice the height of the other waves, with a frightful breaking crest.
The roar increased to thunder as the stern moved up the face of the wave, and for a moment I thought we might ride over it. But then a tremendous explosion shook the deck. A torrent of green and white water broke over the ship, my head smashed into the wheel and I was aware of flying overboard and sinking below the waves.
I accepted my approaching death, and as I was losing consciousness, I felt quite peaceful. Unexpectedly, my head popped out of the water. A few meters away, Wavewalker was near capsizing, her masts almost horizontal.
Then a wave hurled her upright, my lifeline jerked taut, I grabbed the guard rails and sailed through the air into Wavewalker’s main boom. Subsequent waves tossed me around the deck like a rag doll. My left ribs cracked; my mouth filled with blood and broken teeth. Somehow, I found the wheel, lined up the stern for the next wave and hung on.
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NCERT Solutions Class 11 English Chapter 2 We’re Not Afraid to Die.if We Can All Be Together
Understanding The Text
1. 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.
(i) To protect the ship when rough weather began, the captain planned to slow the ship down. The storm jib was dropped and the mooring rope which was heavy was lashed in a loop over the stem. Everything was double fastened and went through the life-raft drill.
(ii) Herb and Larry started to pump the water out. The canvas was stretched by the captain and the waterproof hatch covers were secured across the gaping holes. When the electric pump short circuited and two hand pumps blocked, he noticed another electric pump, started it by connecting it to an earth pipe.
2. Describe the mental condition of the voyagers on 4 and 5 January.
On 4 January, after pumping out water continuously for 36 hours, the voyagers felt relieved. They consumed their first meal in two days. Their break was short lived. On 5 January, they faced a dangerous situation. The fear of death appeared huge and they underwent great mental stress.
3. Describe the shifts in the narration of the events as indicated in the three sections of the text. Give a subtitle to each section.
The first section explains a peaceful journey from Plymouth in England to 3500 km east of Cape Town in Africa. The narrator is fully confident and relaxed. They faced huge waves as the weather deteriorated. To save themselves, they took precautionary measures and struggled with the disaster. The narration becomes grim, but exudes the confidence, fighting spirit and strong will power. The Wave walker rode out of the storm by 6 January morning and by evening they sighted the Ile Amsterdam Island. Now the narrator is relaxed. Relief, joy and confidence are apparent.
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