In developing the novella, Melville drew almost exclusively on the memoir of the real Captain Amasa Delano, whom Melville depicts as the main protagonist and focal character. Delano recounts how in 1805, his vessel Perseverance encountered the Spanish Tryal (not to be confused with the 17th-century British Tryall), a ship whose slaves had overthrown the Spanish sailors. The narrative of events in the novel closely follows the actual event.
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