Comprehension Exercise – 38

Comprehension Exercise – 38

Creative Writing – 97

Comprehension exercise for faster learning of English


Lord Byron’s grandfather was having a bad day. Scurvy had taken down his crew on the HMS Dolphin, forcing them into their hammocks where they swayed in the sticky heat of the tropics as their ship listed slowly across the Pacific.

Eager to control the South Atlantic, the British Navy had tasked Admiral Byron with settling an island off the South American coast where ships could resupply, and then finding an alternative route to the East Indies. By the time he finally returned to England, he had set a record for circumnavigating the globe in less than two years; claimed the western Falkland Islands for the Crown; and nearly started a war between Great Britain and Spain in the process.

But after rounding the tip of South America, the explorer confronted the world’s largest body of water: the endless Pacific Ocean. After a month of empty blue horizon, a tiny island appeared. Byron noted the date (Friday 7 June 1765), and joyously described the island’s “beautiful appearance – surrounded by a beach of the finest white sand – and covered with tall trees, which… formed the most delightful groves”.

The naval officer watched as his crew crawled onto the deck, “gazing at this little paradise” that was green with abundant young coconuts whose vitamin-rich meat and milk could heal their bleeding gums. Alas, Byron quickly ascertained that it was impossible to land. “I could not forbear standing close round the island with the ship,” he wrote in his daily log. With the high surf and a shallow coral shoreline that dropped starkly into the bottomless blue, there was no safe anchorage.

Then there were the natives, noted Byron, who showed up on the beach brandishing 5m-long spears. The islanders set massive signal fires to warn a neighbouring island of the impromptu invaders. “The natives ran along the shore abreast of the ship, shouting and dancing,” Byron recalled, waving their long spears as a warning.

“They would kill us… if we ventured to go on shore,” wrote Byron, who attempted one more landing in a longboat before giving up. “[They] set up one of the most hideous yells I had ever heard, pointing at the same time to their spears, and poising in their hands large stones which they took up from the beach.” The British made a go at frantic diplomacy by throwing old bread at the islanders, who refused to touch the stale food but instead waded into the water and tried to swamp the longboat.

Byron backed off and instead set sail towards the larger neighbouring island, but he again failed to anchor along the ringed coral atoll. Meanwhile, natives armed with spears and clubs followed the longboat in the surf, using “threatening gestures to prevent their landing”. Byron only convinced the islanders to back off when he shot a 9lb cannonball over their heads. Less than 20 hours after arriving, Byron sailed away, marking his frustration onto a new map of the world by naming these atolls the ‘Islands of Disappointment’. The map was published following his round-the-world journey, and the moniker has stuck ever since.


1. Why did Admiral Byron undertake the voyage?
2. What problem his crew faced during the course of the sea journey?
3. Why was Admiral Byron so excited on seeing an island?
4. What dangers he faced trying to land in the islands?
5. Describe how the natives try to deter Admiral Byron from trying to land?
6. Describe the sea route of Admiral Byron.
7. Why did the Admiral name the islands as ‘Disappointment Islands?


1. The British Navy had wanted to lord over the South Atlantic sea. The job of undertaking an expedition fell on Admiral Byron. He was told to establish a beach head somewhere close to the South American continent’s coast. This place could serve as the re-stocking station for voyagers later. The goal was to discover a sea route to the East Indies.

2. The absence of fresh fruits and vegetables caused scurvy among the crew. They developed bleeding gums, and a general feeling of helplessness.

3. Admiral Byron saw some coconut trees. He understood that his crew could land there and eat the tender coconuts. The tender flesh and the water within the coconuts could provide his crew the badly-needed replenishment of vitamins needed to cure their scurvy.

4. Admiral Byron found that the coastline was not suitable for landing as it had high waves, and the water was rather deep. Apart from this, the island had ferocious-looking tribesmen who exhibited fearsome belligerence towards his ship. They had long spears, and their yells were very frightening.

5. The natives blandished their 5-meter-long spears, and howled loudly. They ran along the beach to scare the crew away. They even lighted a fire to alert the natives of the nearby island.

6. Admiral Byron had to navigate around the southern tip of the South American continent to enter the South Pacific ocean, and then reach the East Indies.

7. Admiral Byron had desperately wanted to land in the island, so that his scurvy-stricken crew could eat the coconuts, but his hopes were miserably dashed. So, he named the place ‘Disappointment Islands.’

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