The narrator awakes in a cabin aboard the ship, being treated by a somewhat young man with blond hair and a drooping lower lip that gives him a “slobbering articulation” and a slight lisp. The man explains that they are aboard a small trading ship called the Ipecacuanha, helmed by a fool named Davis. Somewhere above, the narrator can hear what sounds like snarling dogs and the gruff voice of a man mixed together. The man tending him becomes enraged by the noise and storms out of the cabin, yelling at somebody outside before returning.
The young man’s initial depiction is of someone who is reasonably intelligent yet rather pitiable. Prendick points out that the young man is offering medical treatment after his week spent starving at sea, but also goes out of his way to call attention to the young man’s drooping lip, which gives him a rather undignified appearance prevents him from speaking clearly.
The narrator tells the young man that his name is Edward Prendick and that, looking for some adventure, he had left his comfortable domestic life to become a natural historian. The man tending him is intrigued by this, as he himself studied as a biologist in England a decade ago. The man implies that as a youth, he had made some grave error, but gives no details. The man leaves to find Prendick some food.
The young man’s background as a biologist furthers his depiction as a man of reasonable intelligence, despite the impression he gives off. His implication that he is no longer welcome in society, however, fits his general appearance and lack of decorum.
Prendick spends the next day eating, sleeping, and chatting with the man, whose name, he discovers, is Montgomery. Montgomery reveals that the ship is on its way to Hawaii. However, it will be dropping Montgomery off on a nameless island that he seems reticent to give any description of.
Montgomery’s reluctance to give any useful information sets up the mysterious tone that the book will maintain through its first half. Prendick is an unreliable narrator, and the reader is kept in the dark just as he is until details are slowly unveiled.