At the beginning of the short story, Whitney tells Rainsford that nearby is an ominous place referred to as Ship-Trap island. Unfortunately, Rainsford cannot see the island from the yacht because of the darkness that engulfs the ship. Rainsford mentions the night is like "moist black velvet" and tells Whitney he cannot see four yards in front of him. The moonless Caribbean night and the extremely dark atmosphere establishes the ominous, threatening mood of the story. Whitney proceeds to tell Rainsford that the island nearby has a bad reputation and says the sailors have been jumpy all day. Whitney describes the island as a "God-forsaken place" and tells Rainsford that he believes that evil is a tangible thing that he can feel. After Whitney goes below deck, Rainsford ends up hearing the sound of a gunshot coming from the island and accidentally falls overboard. Rainsford then swims to the island, where he is introduced to the maniacal General Zaroff.