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"I had to keep guessing at the channel; I had to discern, mostly by inspiration, the signs of hidden banks; I watched for sunken stones; I was learning to clap my teeth smartly before my heart flew out, when I shaved by a fluke some infernal sly old snag that would have ripped the life out of the tin-pot steamboat and drowned all the pilgrims; I had to keep a lookout for the signs of dead wood we could cut up in the night for next day's steaming." (2.5)
Marlow lives in constant fear for the well-being of his steamboat, which is the pilgrims’ one means of survival. He learns a healthy respect and fear for this hostile and vengeful beast that is the wilderness.
"Not the faintest sound of any kind could be heard. You looked on amazed, and began to suspect yourself of being deaf – then the night came suddenly, and struck you blind as well. About three in the morning some large fish leaped, and the loud splash made me jump as though a gun had been fired. When the sun rose there was a white fog, very warm and clammy, and more blinding than the night. It did not shift or drive; it was just there, standing all around you like something solid." (2.13)
The interior deprives men of their senses and drives them slowly into madness. Here, the eerie stillness of the wilderness and the darkness of night render the men both deaf and blind. Any noise – even the mundane splashing of leaping fish – startles them and makes them fear immediately for their lives. When daylight comes, the fog still blinds them, seeming even more sinister than the night.
"Before it stopped running with a muffled rattle, a cry, a very loud cry, as of infinite desolation, soared slowly in the opaque air. It ceased. A complaining clamour, modulated in savage discords, filled our ears. The sheer unexpectedness of it made my hair stir under my cap. I don't know how it struck the others: to me it seemed as though the mist itself had screamed, so suddenly, and apparently from all sides at once, did this tumultuous and mournful uproar arise. It culminated in a hurried outbreak of almost intolerably excessive shrieking, which stopped short, leaving us stiffened in a variety of silly attitudes, and obstinately listening to the nearly as appalling and excessive silence. 'Good God! What is the meaning – ' stammered at my elbow one of the pilgrims - a little fat man, with sandy hair and red whiskers, who wore side-spring boots, and pink pyjamas tucked into his socks. Two others remained open-mouthed a while minute, then dashed into the little cabin, to rush out incontinently and stand darting scared glances, with Winchesters at 'ready' in their hands." (2.13)
The bloodcurdling cries of the native Africans, hiding somewhere in the underbrush on the riverbank, scare the men badly. Their fear is exacerbated by the former eerie silence and their inability to understand what is being communicated by the screeches. Though sensible Marlow does not panic, the pilgrims are either rendered speechless or run to grab their guns.