Study Guide

Island of the Blue Dolphins Chapter 20

By Scott O'Dell

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Chapter 20

  • Karana gathers more abalones and dries them for the winter. She hangs up strings holding a bunch of shells, to keep the gulls away from them. She also dries little fish for winter light. (Fish oil burns.)
  • After gathering food in the morning, Karana and Rontu go exploring. They go to Tall Rock, where Karana kills ten cormorant birds to make a new skirt.
  • They also go to Black Cave on the south coast of the island. Karana sees a hawk flying into the cave and decides to follow it.
  • Paddling inside the cave, Karana and Rontu discover a shelf with 24 strange figures with glittering eyes.  Creepy.
  • In the middle of the group is a skeleton with a flute in its mouth. Karana realizes she's stumbled upon her ancestors.
  • A little creeped out, Karana tries to paddle out of the cave, but the tide has come in and the opening is now not wide enough. She has to wait for the tide to go out again.
  • Karana and Rontu stay in the cave as night falls. The waves washing against the walls sound like the music of a flute.
  • When morning comes, Karana paddles straight out of the cave and names it "Black Cave." She says that they'll "never in all our days go there again" (20.17).
  • Karana stashes the canoe and heads home. When she gets to the top of the cliff, though, she spots a ship. The Aleuts haven't been back for two summers. Could it be them? The ship is coming from the north, which happens to be the direction of the Aleuts.
  • Karana packs up her belongings at home and then heads back to the headland to see if the ship has come any closer. The ship is much closer now and she can see two red sails.
  • Knowing they won't come on shore during the night, Karana packs up all of her things and brings them in two trips to her safe cave. She brushes away her footprints to make it look like no one has lived on the island for a while.
  • As the sun comes up, Karana sees the Aleuts landing on shore. She sees a girl Aleut by a fire on the shore cooking something.
  • Arriving at the cave, Karana eventually convinces Rontu to come inside. She seals the door with rocks and then sleeps all day.

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