As the story progresses, it becomes clear that the oiler is a physically strong man. When the waves intensify and the shore is still far away, it is the oiler who is able to redirect the open boat:
This oiler, by a series of quick miracles, and fast and steady oarsmanship, turned the boat in the middle of the surf and took her safely to sea again.
There are several facts that become evident in this section: the oiler is quick, skilled, and steady.
We learn that the correspondent is dependable. When he and the oiler decide to take turns rowing, the correspondent never fails to rouse from his exhausted sleep to trade places with the oiler:
As soon as the correspondent touched the cold comfortable sea-water in the bottom of the boat, and had huddled close to the cook's life-belt he was deep in sleep, despite the fact that his teeth played all the popular airs. This sleep was so good to him that it was but a moment before he heard a voice call his name in a tone that demonstrated the last stages of exhaustion. "Will you spell me?"
Because he is a journalist, the correspondent is also quite observant of his surroundings. He notices the "gray color of dawn" and the way the "pink and gold light shone upon the waters." Later, he observes the tall wind tower and considers how it symbolizes man's struggle with nature. The correspondent is reflective and introspective in ways that are not reflected in the other characters.
The cook proves optimistic. He is the voice reassuring the group that someone is going to "come out after" them. He is an encourager to the oiler, placing his arm around the oiler's shoulders as they sleep. He is obedient to the captain, and following his orders to "turn over on [his] back ... and use the oar" while in the cold the water saves the cook's life. In fact, he is the first one to reach shore and be dragged to safety.
The captain places the needs of his small crew before himself. When he is about to be rescued, the captain signals that the other men be taken out of the water first. The captain is also a quick thinker, as is demonstrated by his speedy advice when he recognizes that the cook is struggling in the water. He conveys a sense of authority that the other men readily follow and responds to uncertainty with a steady and calm demeanor.