Before Conrad reached Kinshasa in early August 1890, he learned that the Florida, which he had expected to command, had run aground leaving Stanley Pool. The steamer had been salvaged and brought back to Kinshasa by 23 July. Conrad has worked this detail into the novel as part of what Cedric Watts calls a ‘covert plot’ (see following bookmark).
Conrad was given a post on another steamer, the Roi des Belges (captained by a 24-year-old Dane named Ludvig Rasmus Koch), so he could learn the river before taking command of a steamer of his own. Aboard the Roi des Belges, Koch became sick, and Conrad took temporary command of the steamer on the return journey from Stanley Falls. This would be the only time Conrad captained a Congo steamboat, despite his later claim.