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In Chapter twelve of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the adventurers encounter a Darkness, and after some deliberation decide to row through it. The following description of the timeline is given:

How long this voyage into the darkness lasted, nobody knew.

Yet just a couple of pages later, when they have been frightened into reversing course, we have the following exchange between Caspian and Drinian:

"Drinian," he said in a very low voice. "How long did we take rowing in? — I mean rowing to where we picked up the stranger."

"Five minutes, perhaps," whispered Drinian. "Why?"

"Because we've been more than that already trying to get out."

Here it seems that Drinian did indeed know how long the voyage into the darkness lasted, at least approximately, and Caspian (as indicated by his asking the question) seems to have also known it with enough approximation to suspect that they had already exceeded that amount of time on the way out.

How are we to reconcile these two passages?

Is "no one" meant to be imprecise, and actually mean that just most of them didn't know?

Is Caspian's and Drinian's knowledge not counted since they didn't know it with exact precision?

Did the author simply make a mistake?

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My interpretation is that "nobody knew" was a figure of speech.

They might have had a time-keeping instrument on board, but we can discard that possibility as an interpretation because of Drinian's "perhaps". That suggests he's guessing based on his own perception of time passing; if he'd checked an instrument, he might have given an approximation but not an expression of uncertainty.

So it seems that, as you say, both Drinian and Caspian are able to judge the amount of time that's passed, at least to some degree of approximation. It's unlikely that they're the only ones, as some of the sailors are much older and more experienced than either: travelling at sea, where often everything around the ship looks the same, would surely hone one's ability to judge the passing of time.

Then the only workable interpretation is that "nobody knew" is either an error or a figure of speech. It could be taken as an author's mistake, an inconsistency in the text, but "nobody knows" is a common enough phrase that I'd rather interpret it as just a way of saying that it was hard to judge the passing of time in the blackness. It could also be written specifically from Lucy's point of view, or Edmund's - the narrative of the novel often does this, switching from an omniscient third-person narrator to a specific viewpoint character even if only for a sentence or two.

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