The Porpoise was a British man-of-war that in 1767 suffered an outbreak of typhoid fever, to which many of the crew succumbed, including the captain. When the Porpoise hails the Artemis, its newest captain, Thomas Leonard, requests the assistance of a surgeon. Claire offers her help, but the Porpoise parts company with the Artemis abruptly, separating Claire from Jamie.
The Porpoise is a three-masted man-o-war with seventy-four guns. She has a puffed-lipped fish as a figurehead.
Events of the NovelsEdit
On February 3, 1767, the Porpoise encounters the Artemis on the open sea and fires a warning shot before boarding the ship. The Porpoise draws alongside and a very young, tired and disheveled man climbs on board. He turns out to be the acting captain, Thomas Leonard, forced into the position after all the senior crew died of sickness. Half his crew are ill and thirty men have died. Thomas Leonard is desperately seeking a ship's surgeon.
He explains the symptoms to Claire and she thinks the illness is typhoid fever. Jamie does not want Claire to go aboard, but Claire explains that when she became a physician, she swore an oath to help whomever needs medical help. Jamie reluctantly accepts her obligation and wants to accompany her, but she says he cannot as typhoid is very infectious and while she has been vaccinated against it, he has not.
Once on board the Porpoise, Claire confirms her diagnosis of typhoid and gives instructions on handling the situation. Claire knows that Jamie will be eager to get them all away from the Porpoise, but Captain Leonard begs her to stay for a while and help get things sorted. Claire signals to Jamie that she will be on the Porpoise for two more hours.
Claire starts the process of moving the sick men to the deck and goes down to the galley to talk to the cook about food hygiene when the Porpoise starts to move. With dismay Claire realizes that they are sailing and she rushes upstairs to confront the captain. Captain Leonard is embarrassed but unapologetic, seeing no other way out of his predicament and no way of safely reaching Jamaica without Claire's help. He says he has promised Jamie that he will provide Claire with accommodation in Jamaica until the Artemis arrives.
Having no other choice in the matter, Claire gets to work battling the disease. While she is talking to Captain Leonard, one of the crewmen, Tompkins, tries to speak with the captain, saying that he recognized the red haired man on board the Artemis. Claire's ears prick up, but Captain Leonard sends the man off to tell the mate, saying he doesn't have time to deal with it.
Captain Leonard leaves Claire to talk to the purser, Mr. Overholt, about what sort of food is on board that would be suitable for the sick men. Overholt tells Claire that there is a small supply of special food which is for the use of their important passenger – the new governor of Jamaica, Lord John Grey.
Claire gains the assistance of a young midshipman called Elias Pound. Her priorities are to establish a quarantine to try and prevent the spread of the disease, and to try to find its source. Claire suspects the outbreak probably originated with the food handlers.
Claire slowly makes progress with halting the number of new infections but has not yet managed to find the source of the outbreak. She has additional problems with crew members stealing her supply of pure alcohol and killing themselves by drinking it. Claire goes to see Captain Leonard to discuss these issues and enters his cabin to find him asleep at his desk and looking very young. Turning to leave, she knocks over some books and the Captain wakes up. Startled, he begins to call Claire 'Mrs. Fraser', but catches himself and quickly changes it to 'Mrs. Malcolm'. Claire doesn't notice at first and asks him for more alcohol and fresh air in the sick bay. A bell rings, summoning Captain Leonard to take a navigation reading, and he apologizes that he must leave. Just before he does, Claire asks him how old he is. He replies that he is 19 years old and leaves the room, asking Claire to wait.
Alone, Claire glances at the Captain's logbook and the name 'Fraser' catches her eye. She reads the entry and finds that Tompkins has told Leonard that Jamie is a criminal called James Fraser, and also known as 'Jamie Roy' and 'Alexander Malcolm'. The captain has written that although he will not turn back to arrest Jamie, he may be able to arrest him on Jamaica. Claire immediately wonders how Tompkins knows so much about Jamie, and who else knows it?
A couple of days later, Tompkins injures his leg and is brought to Claire. Claire immediately recognizes him as the man that Young Ian thought he had killed in Jamie's printshop, as he is one-eyed, with the scars of a bad burn down one side of his face, and wears his hair in a pigtail. With Tompkins unable to walk and at her mercy, Claire seizes the opportunity to extract information from him by holding a bone saw to his injured leg and commanding him to talk. Having learned what she could from Tompkins, Claire jumps overboard and drifts to the shore of Hispaniola.
Meanwhile, the Artemis has been in hot pursuit, urged on by Jamie. Catching up to the crippled man-of-war at one port of call, the Artemis hides out of sight, white Jamie crosses a spit of land and boards the Porpoise, unseen, to search for Claire.
His search proves unfruitful – as Claire had already left the ship – and results in him being discovered and imprisoned. He hears the horrifying news that Claire is dead, lost overboard, when he is noticed by Annekje Johansen who liberates him, pointing him to the sea and saying Claire isn't dead, and Jamie leaves the ship. Leonard prioritizes delivering the new governor to Kingston, and does not pursue the Frasers. When the Artemis makes port at Kingston Harbor, they see the Porpoise at anchor.
A group of rebellious slaves of the Yallahs River swarm aboard the ship Bruja, taking it for their escape. Succeeding in reaching the open sea, they are spotted and pursued by the Porpoise, on watch for any such attempt.
Unskilled in navigation and seamanship, the slaves manage to reach Hispaniola, but – panicked by the Porpoise pursuing them – they run the Bruja aground. The man-of-war fires its guns on the wreck and its fugitives; fleeing slaves disappear into the jungle, while others are blown to bloody fragments on the sand.
The melee takes place some distance from the Frasers' rendezvous, but they cannot escape unseen. Their only hope is to run for it, and with luck the Porpoise will be delayed sufficiently by its engagement. However, with the Bruja destroyed, the man-of-war seeks other prey.
Fleeing before a rising wind, the smaller boat is more agile and manages to stay ahead of the Porpoise for some time. But they cannot outrun the man-of-war, especially with the increased winds filling the larger ship's sails.
More than bad weather is in store; the greenish sky and howling wind portend a Caribbean hurricane. In the maelstrom, the Porpoise is swamped; losing her topmast, she heels over and is dragged down, with the loss of all hands – including her captain.
- Porpoise is a fully aquatic marine mammal that is sometimes referred to as a mereswine, which are small toothed whales that are very closely related to oceanic dolphins.