The Dark Canoe

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When young Nathan sails with his older brothers in search of a lost treasure ship, he is expected to do exactly as they tell him. But when one of his brothers mysteriously dies and the other declares he is Captain Ahab straight out of Moby Dick, Nathan worries about what orders he might have to carry out.

Then a mysterious object appears in the bay that seems to have floated out of the very pages...

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The Dark Canoe

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When young Nathan sails with his older brothers in search of a lost treasure ship, he is expected to do exactly as they tell him. But when one of his brothers mysteriously dies and the other declares he is Captain Ahab straight out of Moby Dick, Nathan worries about what orders he might have to carry out.

Then a mysterious object appears in the bay that seems to have floated out of the very pages of Moby Dick. Something very strange is happening at sea, but how. . . and why?

"Figures and events from Moby Dick are given eerie, shadowy counterparts ... So quietly, so persuasively is this accomplished that when Ishmael's ocean-going coffin drifts out of Melville's seas in O'Dell's, it carries no shock for either Nathan or the reader."
- Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402213342
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 144
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 970L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott O’Dell (1898–1989), one of the most respected authors of historical fiction, received the Newbery Medal, three Newbery Honor Medals, and the Hans Christian Andersen Author Medal, the highest international recognition for a body of work by an author of books for young readers. Some of his many books include The Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Road to Damietta, Sing Down the Moon, and The Black Pearl.
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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter One:

It came floating up to us at dusk without a sound, on the running tide, through more than five fathoms of murky water, out of the heart of Magdalena Bay.

There was no breeze on that day in September. No leaf turned among the mangroves. Not a fish leaped nor a wing stirred anywhere. And to the north of where our ship lay anchored, the salt marshes glittered as if they were on fire.

Yet there were two men in our crew who said they had sailed into ports where the sun was so hot that the waters steamed and boiled. Jim Blanton said that he knew a place where the sun never set, but shone night and day. And Judd, the carpenter, swore with a hand clasped to his heart that once in the Strait of Madagascar he had cooked his supper on the iron fluke of a ship's anchor. I still think that the sun at Magdalena Bay in Baja California is the hottest sun in the world.

Even now when night was close upon us the heat lingered on. The ship and the surrounding bay, the marshes and the mangrove forests, the near islands and the far coasts, all were lost in a leaden haze. Your eyes could not be trusted. What seemed to be one thing turned out to be another. But I was certain of what I saw there below me. It was the drifting form, the arms clasped tight against the body and the face bent downward, of our dead captain, my brother Jeremy.

It is not strange that he was the first I thought of, nor that I felt so certain. Since the night seven days before when he had disappeared from the ship, I had thought of little else. Few liked him, I must confess, for Jeremy Clegg was a hard master. There were some who hated him for his arrogance, and some who envied his good fortune. But to me he had always been a blond-haired, smiling god.

No, not strange that I felt so certain of what I saw floating there in the murky water. Yet as I stood at the rail staring down, what I took to be the body of my brother slowly turned with the tide and nosed against the ship. Peering into the darkness, I now felt that it was much too large to be a human body.

Throughout the day, while we were out searching for the wreck of the Amy Foster, a school of hammerheads had followed us and we had shot three of them. But as the object slowly turned again with the changing tide and lay there, half in and half out of the water, I saw that it was not the carcass of one of these marauding sharks. At this season of the year when the chubascos blow up from the south, they are said to drive before them the trunks of hardwood trees from the jungles of Mexico. The object that gently nudged the side of the ship was of a different size and color from a wind-driven tree.

La Perla Reef runs east and west at the entrance to Magdalena Bay. All the month of August and now in September, we had searched every spur of it, every cleft and cave, for the sunken hulk of the Amy Foster. Islets are scattered nearby and the waters around them we had searched also, without success. So the object that I stood staring at had not come from La Perla. Whatever it was, it had floated in from somewhere else, perhaps from the open sea.

I leaned far over the rail. By now the last of the light was gone. All I could make out in the gathered darkness was the outline of something that might be an abandoned boat lying bottom up, one of the canoes that voyaging Indians used on the seas hereabouts. Yet it was too small for a canoe, being not more than seven feet long and half as wide, I judged.

My next thought gave me a start. As the mysterious object had floated into view, at the moment when I decided that it was neither a shark nor the trunk of a tree, I had noted a curious thing about it that I now remembered. Clearly, it had been shaped by human hands, and from wood or else it would not have floated.

I strained my eyes. Was the thing that lay there, hidden by the night, some sort of chest? In past days, so I had been told, Spanish galleons laden with silver and gold had sought refuge here in Magdalena, both from storms and English pirates. If it were a chest-and I began to think that it was-could it have come from one of those treasure ships?

There was something else to support this view. Three days after dropping anchor in Magdalena Bay, we were visited by a band of sea gypsies. They came gliding in at dawn, a dozen or more naked Indians lounging in three canoes. Their chief, who was a wizened little man the color of mud, made signs that he wished to barter. My brother Jeremy motioned him aboard and let down a ladder, but the chief scrambled like a monkey up the anchor chain.

My brother gave him a packet of ship's nails and a length of frayed rope. In return, taking them from his armpits, the chief held out two coins, bit them between his teeth, and dropped them into my brother's hand. They were bright pieces of gold, in shape more round than square, each showing three mountain summits, on one a crowing cock, on another a flame, and on the third a tower.

When asked if he had more coins of this nature, the chief shook his head, slid down the anchor chain, rummaged around in his canoe, and scrambled back, holding a piece of a red Spanish shawl. My brother gave him another length of frayed rope, whereupon he motioned for the rest of his followers to climb aboard the ship. This, my brother refused to allow, and the chief left in anger. As the three canoes glided away, the sea gypsies made threatening gestures at us.

Thinking of this encounter, which proved to me that Spanish galleons had been in Magdalena at some time and were probably raided by the Indians, I was more certain than ever that the object that had floated up was a treasure chest. At this moment, as I stood deep in thought, something brushed against my leg.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2014

    Cursed Cubit: Chapter 7

    The voice wasn't there in his dreams that night, but it showed images of all the Mixels, dy<_>ing and turning into black fog. Flain started to wonder how much longer he could take it before his sa<_>nity breaks.<p>Thankfully, he woken himself up. Flain glanced over at the black Cubit, now realizing that something is odd about it. He picked it up. After going to the other Mixels, Flain decided to go with Teslo and Seismo to where the Cragsters previously lived.<p>Seismo pushed a large boulder that was the door to Shuff's house. Everything in there was still intact, from Shuff's ceramic figure collection to the co<_>mputer. The flame on Flain's head burned brightly as he thought hard about the strange Cubit, which he had nicknamed the "Cursed Cubit". Though Flain had no idea about the Cursed Cubit's true nature, it seemed to have something to do with the Nixels' wanting to ki<_>ll off the Mixels and the dreams he had been having. He took out the Cursed Cubit to look at it. While Flain put the canned food and cr<_>ackers in the bag, he started to hear "Nix nix nix!" in the distance. Soon, Nixels started flooding the house. The three Mixels fought the Nixels, but they were outnumbered. Flain knew that two of the Mixels need to Mix. So did Seismo and Teslo. But the only Cubit they had with them was the Cursed Cubit, since nobody expected the Nixels to come back here. [Well, it's now or we di<_>e,] thought Flain as he and Seismo gripped the Cursed Cubit. They Mixed once before. They were also fighting the Nixels back then, though this time the Nixels didn't do anything to stop Flain and Seismo. Upon spinning the Cursed Cubit, the two were replaced with a Mix that had the upper part of Flain, and the lower body, legs, and the large feet of Seismo. The Flain/Seismo Mix stomped thier feet, resulting in a mini-earthquake that knocked away the Nixels. While Mix continued to fight the Nixels, Teslo helped by el<_>ectrocuting the Nixels with his el<_>ectrified tail. Soon, the Nixels were running away. Then Flain and Seismo reverted back to thier normal selves. Seismo and Teslo looked at Flain, and they had worried expressions on thier faces. "Flain?" Teslo said, concerned. Flain wanted to ask them what was wrong, but he couldn't say the words, for some reason. Instead, what came out of his mouth, in a different voice, was "Flain is under my control, now." The voice was the same one from his dreams.<p>((Dun dun duuuuuun! XD))

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