Let’s give Connell credit. Long before Jaws, he was able to make water really spooky. He sets the tone of the story while they are still on the boat. It’s a dark and eerie mood out on that still ocean. Now, because sailors “have a curious dread of the island,” we pick up that they must know something we don’t—a second sense maybe—or is it just silly superstition?
Either way, their fear establishes an atmosphere of dread. One even says “This place has an evil name among seafaring men, sir” (1.21). Connell ramps up the tone once our hero is on the island. It’s a place of straight-up Gothic terror, complete with a haunted house and mysterious shrieking.