Phillip and Henrik watch the excitement at the docks of Curacao after the German attack on the Dutch islands at the beginning of Chapter 1.
On the night of February 1942, German submarines attack the Lago oil refinery on Aruba, the island just west of Curacao in the Caribbean. When Phillip awakens the next morning, there is "much excitement in the city" of Willemstad, on the island of Curacao. Unafraid, but terribly interested and curious, Phillip wants very much to go down to Punda, the business district, and to Fort Amsterdam, from where he could look out over the water and possibly see an enemy U-boat. His mother, however, orders him to stay "near home". Phillip nods his assent, but cannot understand why his mother thinks he will be in danger if he ventures out to where the action is; he cannot "imagine that a shell from an enemy submarine would pick (him) out from all the buildings, or hit (him) if (he is) standing on the famous pontoon bridge or among the ships way back in the Schottegat or along St. Anna Bay". Later in the day, while his mother is busy, Phillip sneaks out down to the old fort with his friend Henrik van Boven, who, like Phillip, is eleven. At the fort, they see "real soldiers with rifles and...machine guns", and are chased away by men with binoculars. The two boys then go down to the famous Queen Emma pontoon bridge, from which the view is not as good as from the fort. They join a small crowd of curious people there, "just looking". Strangely, they see no ships moving in the channel, and notice that the men who work on the dock are are not "laughing and shouting the way they usually (do)". Eventually, the onlookers are ordered to leave the area by an army officer. "Suddenly frightened", Phillip and Henrick run home (Chapter 1).
Phillip gets bitten by a moray eel at the end of Chapter 17.
Timothy has died, and Phillip has been able to survive on the cay alone for ten days when he decides "to do something Timothy has told (him) never to do". Phillip is tired of eating the same thing everyday, and decides to catch some langosta. Taking a sharp stick, he dives down into the fishing hole, hoping to find a lobster in the deep water. At the bottom of the fishing hole, he finds an opening and sticks his hand into it. Something grabs his hand, and "the pain (is) severe...whatever (has his) wrist (has) the strength of Timothy's arms". Phillip jerks hard and kicks to the surface with the "thing" still attached to his wrist. The "thing" lets go as Phillip breaks the water; Phillip is left "bleeding, but not badly...but the teeth (have) sunk in deep". Phillip knows that his attacker was not a fish because of the shape of its body, and later concludes that it had been "a large moray eel" (Chapter 17).