The night, moon­less and densely clouded, had settled around us with pitchy dark­ness. One could not see a hand held before the eyes. Rain came down in tor­rents. Repeatedly it drowned the rid­ing light, until I aban­doned the attempt of relight­ing it. Only the bin­nacle lamp was burn­ing, throw­ing its faint rays on the cock­pit coam­ing, on a hand that was grop­ing for a sheet rope or a shin­ing black oil­skin coat.

And then the tem­pest broke loose. Crackling light­ning bore down from out of the green­ish-brown pois­on­ous-look­ing clouds, that crowded low above the phos­phor­es­cent masthead. In ever quick­er suc­ces­sion it swished down into the sea to right and left, some of the flashes in the imme­di­ate vicin­ity of the quiv­er­ing boat, while the incess­ant roar of thun­der, deaf­en­ing the ear, shat­ter­ing the nerves, soun­ded like hell let loose, like the infernal gun­fire of a mil­lion gigant­ic demons at war.

The wind kept veer­ing round from one dir­ec­tion to the other, blow­ing some­times with hur­ricane force. I stood at the tiller tensely watch­ing and run­ning before the gale in order to save the rigging.

Then there would be a lull, inter­vals between the bursts of lightning—intervals of utter darkness.

I could see abso­lutely noth­ing. My only object was to keep the wind well aft and watch out that she did not jibe. Whatever I did, I must not jibe!

Gradually I could dis­cern the green­ish glow of those phos­phor­es­cent spar ends, until new flashes of light­ning would make every detail dis­tinctly vis­ible in a ghastly bright light. I can still see that weird intens­i­fied pic­ture of the deck asplash with the down­pour, which came in hiss­ing gushes, of the shiny black rig­ging and of the strain­ing grey can­vas, stream­ing with driv­ing rain.

Then the hor­rible out­burst would recon­tin­ue, fiercer, appar­ently, and more fiendish than ever. At times the whole sky would be a dense cob­web of light­ning, flood­ing every crack and corner with an abom­in­able bright­ness, and then again, in the black­ness that fol­lowed, we would be rush­ing through wide streaks of dully glow­ing water which stood out sharply, without sur­round­ings, without back­ground, like a flood of lumin­ous milk in an empty space. What it was, I can­not tell. Perhaps the phos­phor­es­cence caused by bil­lions of micro­scop­ic beings, isol­ated by meet­ing currents—perhaps only one more amongst many weird elec­tric phe­nom­ena, which added to the indes­crib­able hor­ror of this night. More than once I almost expec­ted the whole uni­verse to explode.

According to my cal­cu­la­tions, we should be close to Cocos Island. What if we ran into a reef? That would bring the end, extinc­tion. But what could I do? I had no will and no power but to obey the ele­ments, rush onward, some­where, anywhere…

To oppose them would be fatal.

How utterly futile, how­ever, it is to attempt to describe what one can­not even under­stand. What are the words? What are the epi­thets? Empty, surely, and without force or mean­ing com­pared to the hor­rors of that night, a night which gave me a more vivid and ter­ri­fy­ing pic­ture of inferno than my ima­gin­a­tion could ever have cre­ated. It was like a weird pre­lude to the Day of Judgement. And when, at last, morn­ing broke, when the weath­er cleared up and the sun showed his face between retreat­ing clouds, my relief was unbounded.

Never has that mighty life-giver been greeted with great­er satisfaction.