Rainsford has a conversation with Whitney about the island, hears a gunshot, and then falls off the yacht.
Rainsford and Whitney are hunters on a yacht in the Caribbean Sea. They discuss the spooky reputation of the island they are passing by.
"The old charts call it `Ship-Trap Island,"' Whitney replied." A suggestive name, isn't it? Sailors have a curious dread of the place. I don't know why. Some superstition--"
"Can't see it," remarked Rainsford, trying to peer through the dank tropical night that was palpable as it pressed its thick warm blackness in upon the yacht.
They conversation soon turns to hunting, and whether or not animals have real feelings. After this conversation, Rainsford gets pensive. He goes out on the deck to smoke, saying he is not sleepy, and watches the water.
Rainsford gets curious when he hears a gunshot on the island.
An abrupt sound startled him. Off to the right he heard it, and his ears, expert in such matters, could not be mistaken. Again he heard the sound, and again. Somewhere, off in the blackness, someone had fired a gun three times.
This is actually foreshadowing. At this time, Rainsford has no idea what is happening on this island. He does not know that there is a crazy man hunting human beings there. He just hears a gunshot and gets curious. However, it is the gunshot that makes him fall overboard.
Rainsford is a skilled hunter, and a survivalist. He is able to swim ashore, and even though it is difficult, he survives the trip to the island. He has no idea that the swim was the easiest part! Once he is there, he finds a bullet cartridge that is way too small to hunt an animal large enough to have made the thrashing in the underbrush. Rainsford is confused, and curious. Things are definitely strange on this island.