Airborn - Chapter 1: Ship's Eyes Summary & Analysis

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This section contains 1,017 words
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Chapter 1: Ship's Eyes Summary

"Airborn" by Kenneth Oppel is a story of possibilities. This work of fiction portrays what the world might have been like had the aircraft as we know it not been invented. Instead, airships of the day use a fuel called hydrium and resemble hot air balloons more closely than they do airplanes as we know them. The story centers around a cabin boy named Matt Cruse who works aboard the airship Aurora just as his father before him had. When his father is killed in a freak accident, Matt is given a job by the captain of the ship, enabling him to continue to support his mother and two sisters.

The sailing is smooth two nights out of Sydney. At first, Matt almost misses the hot air balloon in the sky above them, noticing it only because it blots out the stars behind it as it passes. He calls down to the Control Car and tells Captain Walken. With a spotlight on it, Matt clearly reads the name 'Endurance'. Mr. Torbay add that no flight plan was filed. The Captain tries to raise them but there is no answer. Knowing that they are going to try to pick up the balloon, Matt goes down to see if he can help. They get as close as they can without catching themselves in the rigging and pull the basket in with grappling hooks but the gondola itself is still thirty feet away. Captain Walken asks Matt if he can hook himself onto the davit and swing across, knowing he has no fear of heights. They swing him out and Matt starts pumping his legs like a child on a swing. Then flinging himself forward, he manages to grab the lip, and haul himself in. The braid of the flight lines is thick and when only two lines remain, the burner comes on setting fire to the balloon. Burning balloon material falls into the gondola and the metal framework of the burner shrieks with stress as the last line lets go. The crew of the Aurora reels them in while Matt puts out the fire and tends to the unconscious pilot. Matt's knees turn to jello as he tries to get out, and the Captain congratulates him on a job well done. He heads for his cabin, too tired to think and climbs into bed. As often is the case, once asleep Matt leaves his tired body and flies alongside his father. Later in the afternoon, he checks on the balloon pilot. Doc Halliday tells him things don't look good. He has pneumonia and likely had a heart seizure a couple of days earlier and his chances are slim. Matt sits with him and puts his hand over the old man's, feeling the heat of fever. His eyes open and he asks, "Did you see them?". They were beautiful, he insists and to make the man happy, Matt lies and says he saw them too. Kate would have loved them, the old man adds and sees the lie in Matt's face. An hour later, Molloy is dead.

Chapter 1: Ship's Eyes Analysis

It is September, and cool in the crow's nest. The crow's nest is parting the wind at about seventy-five miles per hour. Mr. Cruse is looking forward to the end of his shift. He can smell the fresh baked goods coming from the kitchen below, and can hardly wait for Mr. Riddihoff to climb the ladder for his watch. That all changes when he spots the hot air balloon traveling above them. He calls the Control Car beneath him and they try to raise the pilot of the craft to no avail. The Captain takes the Aurora up to investigate, knowing that they can't leave it drifting through the sky lanes the way that it is. As soon as his replacement shift arrives, Matt heads for the bay where he knew they would be attempting to bring the wicker basket aboard. Sleep could wait, as curiosity overwhelmed everything else. When First Officer Paul Rideau sees him, he at first tries to send him on his way, but when Matt claims he is only there to lend assistance if he can, Paul tells him to put a harness on, but to stay well back. Matt does as he is told while Paul tries again to make contact with the Endurance. Matt sees the pilot on the gondola floor, pointing it out as Captain Walken enters. Getting the basket aboard proves to be a little more difficult than anticipated, and when it becomes apparent that someone will have to be transferred over there on the davit and secure the basket, the men in the bay all hoped they wouldn't be called upon. Captain Walken looks Matt's way and announces what he already knows, having had Matt on his ship for two years now. He says that of all those in the bay, he knew for certain that Matt had no fear of heights. Matt agreed, trying to maintain a professional appearance, but jumping up and down in excitement inside. They strap him to the davit in a harness and after the Captain checks it, they send him out. In a daring rescue, he manages to get aboard, cut the flight lines, and comfort the pilot until they could be brought aboard Aurora. Doc Halliday takes over the care of the pilot, who is already so near death that he would not survive. When Matt goes to visit him, he regains consciousness just long enough to ask Matt if he had seen them as well. He insisted that Matt must have, speculating that they've likely always been there, but no one knew. When, to calm the man, Matt agreed he had seen them, the man did indeed relax a bit until commenting on their incredible beauty, he sees the deception on Matt's face. He lapses back into unconsciousness, and never wakes again. Matt goes to work his shift in the nest the next night thinking about what the man said, and wondering.

This section contains 1,017 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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