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Voyage Nine describes the voyage that brought Cudjo from his home village near the Xanga River in the Congo to the United States as a slave.
Cudjo was suspicious of the Arabian slave traders from the time they first came to the area, offering trade goods in exchange for items brought by the natives. Cudjo observes persons from neighboring villages being chained together by these traders, but the leaders of his own village do not want to hear his attempt to warn them. When they begin to realize what the traders are doing to some of the youth of the village and attempt to object, the traders decide to march all the villagers to the port of Luanda, where the slave ships came in.
The slave ship that collects Cudjo and the others who survive the march is the "Ariel" under Captain Matthew Turlock. He is conflicted about this involvement - he loves the large payout but hates what it has done to his ship. As his representative explains to the agent for the slave traders,
We came here in 1814 to refit the Ariel for slaving...for that one trip. Eighteen years later we're still slaving, telling ourselves this is the last trip...We have a great risk in this voyage, a great chance of profit.
Cudjo, one of the strongest and largest of the men on the ship, is chained, spread-eagled, in the lowest level of the ship, but he is still able to communicate with Akko - son of one of the village leaders in their home village, Luta - Cudjo's particular female friend from home, and Rutak - another large man with natural leadership skills.
Cudjo, Akko and Rutak become the leaders in the conspiracy to do the unthinkable - to take over the ship and sail it themselves.
When a storm at sea provides opportunity, the chained groups of prisoners, having broken the clasps clamping the chains to the bulkhead of the ship, succeed in fighting the sailors with chains for weapons. The sailors are decapitated, strangled, thrown into the sea, or thrown into the bowels of the ship. Captain Turlock is killed and his body thrown overboard, as are "the forty-eight slaves who had given their lives for freedom," including Akko and Luta.
Cudjo's attentions soon turn to his assignment as captain of the captured ship, drawing on his observations of the work and process of sailing the ship during the first days of the voyage when he had been kept on the upper deck. Cudjo succeeds in understanding the compass's relationship to the North Star, and uses these guides to determine the ship's course.
Eventually, the Ariel is intercepted and boarded by a French vessel whose crew are startled to discover a crew of black sailors who can't communicate with them and European sailors trapped below with a story of mutiny. When a British ship also arrives, it is decided that the Ariel will be given to the French Navy while the slaves were turned over to Britain.
Some of the recaptured slaves were hanged for their roles in the leadership of the mutiny. Cudjo, in recognition of his "major role in saving the ship," along with the majority of the survivors, was sent to Havana, Cuba for sale as slaves.
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