The spring flow stops for a few days after the earthquake, then starts again. There is little damage to the island. Karana's canoe, and the others stored in the cove, however, have been destroyed. Knowing that gathering enough wood to make a new canoe will take a long time, Karana searches for wreckage from the old canoes. She finds the remains of one of her canoes, and brings the planks back to her house. Collecting planks from old canoes around the island, she soon has enough to build a new one. By late spring she is ready to seal her boat with pitch.
Heading toward the beach to work on her canoe, Karana looks at the sky. The northern horizon is clear, but there seems to be a storm gathering to the east. Under the dark clouds, Karana sees a ship. The ship does not look like it belongs to either the Aleuts or the white men, and Karana wonders what strange visitors have come to her island. The boat approaches and sends a canoe in to the shore. Soon a man has found Karana's canoes on the beach and the fire she ad left there to heat her pitch. She hears the man calling out, not to the other man that has come with him to the beach, nor to the men on the ship, and Karana knows he is calling to her. She goes back to her house and dresses, then heads to the shore with Rontu-Aru. When she arrives at the beach, however, the men are not there, and their boat is already pulling away from the island. Karana calls to the ship, but they do not see her. She watches the ship until it disappears.
Two springs later, the ship returns. Karana spends a sleepless night in her house, and prepares to leave her island the next day. She bathes and put on her otter cape and cormorant skirt, her black stone necklace and her earrings. She makes the sign of her tribe on her face with blue clay, then the sign that means she is unmarried, just as Ulape had done years before. She goes back to her house and makes food for herself and Rontu-Aru. Rontu-Aru eats all of it while Karana thinks of the family she has not seen for so long.
Later that morning, the white men come to Karana's house. Though the language they speak sounds funny to her, Karana is still happy to hear a human voice. Karana and the white men communicate using signs, and Karana goes with them to their camp on the beach. There, the white men make her a dress from two pairs of their blue trousers, and although Karana does not like the dress, she wears it. The men have come to hunt otter, but the otter are nowhere to be found. Apparently, there are still some otter alive that remember the Aleuts. Karana inquires about the ship that had taken her people many years before, but it is not until much later that she finds out that it had sunk soon after it reached its destination. There had been no other boat to come back for Karana.
They sail on the tenth day after the white men land, and Karana watches her island disappear into the distance. The last thing she sees of her island is the headland where she lived. She sits with Rontu-Aru and two birds she has brought with her on the boat, and thinks of the happy days she spent on Ghalas-at. Dolphins swim before the ship as it sails away.
The island of the blue dolphins is Karana's home and she loves it, but the need for human contact and companionship eventually influences her to leave. When the white men come to the island in chapter twenty-eight, Karana thinks of her ancestors and all of the happy days she spent on the island before she decides to leave. Though she thinks for only a moment, her hesitation is significant. It implies that if Karana leaves Ghalas-at, she will be leaving something behind that she will not get back, even when she meets her people across the sea. This is the feeling of "home" that Karana first felt when she returned from her failed attempt to cross the sea. The island of the blue dolphins not only contains many familiar sights and sounds, but also her culture's entire heritage. If she leaves Ghalas-at, she is also leaving her people. Her desire for human companionship wins over these other motives to stay, and this illustrates the ultimate inadequacy of all of the types of non-human companionship Karana has found on the island. As Karana says when she meets the white men for the first time, "there is no sound like [the human voice] in all the world."
When the time comes for Karana to leave the island, she makes the transition from her own leisurely and personally subjective sense of time to that in which the rest of the world lives. The return of the white men jars her understanding of where she has been and where she is going. Before, when she was alone on the island she had always known what she needed t do, now, as she leaves for a world inhabited by people, she is confused. "I could not think what I would do when I went across the sea," she says. Just so, we realize how much time Karana has spent on Ghalas-at. The years had melded one into the other for Karana and the reader, but Karana has now grown from a girl to a woman. She thinks of this and smiles as she makes the sign on her face that means she is unmarried.
When Karana marks her face to signify that she is not yet married, she remembers her sister Ulape doing the same thing many years before. Then, Karana had watched her sibling with amusement; now she watches herself with similar amusement. Making the mark on her face, however, reveals Karana's hope for her life across the sea. She has the chance for a new life there, to see her people again and maybe to build the family she has always wanted.
The hope that Karana feels on leaving the Ghalas-at is expressed as a general tone at the very end of Island of the Blue Dolphins. As Karana sails away from the island, dolphins come and swim with her ship. Remember from chapter ten that dolphins are "animals of good omen," that they gave Karana the spirit to make it home after her unsuccessful attempt to leave Ghalas-at. Before, they lead her home, and when she reached her island she realized just how happy she was there.