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Moby Dick; or The Whale by Herman Melville

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adroop (like canted yards of anchored fleets); and her suburban
avenues of house-walls lying over upon each other, as a tossed pack
of cards;--it is not these things alone which make tearless Lima, the
strangest, saddest city thou can'st see. For Lima has taken the
white veil; and there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her
woe. Old as Pizarro, this whiteness keeps her ruins for ever new;
admits not the cheerful greenness of complete decay; spreads over her
broken ramparts the rigid pallor of an apoplexy that fixes its own

I know that, to the common apprehension, this phenomenon of whiteness
is not confessed to be the prime agent in exaggerating the terror of
objects otherwise terrible; nor to the unimaginative mind is there
aught of terror in those appearances whose awfulness to another mind
almost solely consists in this one phenomenon, especially when
exhibited under any form at all approaching to muteness or
universality. What I mean by these two statements may perhaps be
respectively elucidated by the following examples.

First: The mariner, when drawing nigh the coasts of foreign lands, if
by night he hear the roar of breakers, starts to vigilance, and feels
just enough of trepidation to sharpen all his faculties; but under
precisely similar circumstances, let him be called from his hammock
to view his ship sailing through a midnight sea of milky
whiteness--as if from encircling headlands shoals of combed white
bears were swimming round him, then he feels a silent, superstitious
dread; the shrouded phantom of the whitened waters is horrible to him
as a real ghost; in vain the lead assures him he is still off
soundings; heart and helm they both go down; he never rests till blue
water is under him again. Yet where is the mariner who will tell
thee, "Sir, it was not so much the fear of striking hidden rocks, as
the fear of that hideous whiteness that so stirred me?"

Second: To the native Indian of Peru, the continual sight of the
snowhowdahed Andes conveys naught of dread, except, perhaps, in the
mere fancying of the eternal frosted desolateness reigning at such
vast altitudes, and the natural conceit of what a fearfulness it
would be to lose oneself in such inhuman solitudes. Much the same is
it with the backwoodsman of the West, who with comparative
indifference views an unbounded prairie sheeted with driven snow, no
shadow of tree or twig to break the fixed trance of whiteness. Not
so the sailor, beholding the scenery of the Antarctic seas; where at
times, by some infernal trick of legerdemain in the powers of frost
and air, he, shivering and half shipwrecked, instead of rainbows
speaking hope and solace to his misery, views what seems a boundless
churchyard grinning upon him with its lean ice monuments and
splintered crosses.

But thou sayest, methinks that white-lead chapter about whiteness is
but a white flag hung out from a craven soul; thou surrenderest to a
hypo, Ishmael.

Tell me, why this strong young colt, foaled in some peaceful valley
of Vermont, far removed from all beasts of prey--why is it that upon
the sunniest day, if you but shake a fresh buffalo robe behind him,
so that he cannot even see it, but only smells its wild animal
muskiness--why will he start, snort, and with bursting eyes paw the
ground in phrensies of affright? There is no remembrance in him of
any gorings of wild creatures in his green northern home, so that the
strange muskiness he smells cannot recall to him anything associated
with the experience of former perils; for what knows he, this New
England colt, of the black bisons of distant Oregon?

No; but here thou beholdest even in a dumb brute, the instinct of the
knowledge of the demonism in the world. Though thousands of miles
from Oregon, still when he smells that savage musk, the rending,
goring bison herds are as present as to the deserted wild foal of the
prairies, which this instant they may be trampling into dust.

Thus, then, the muffled rollings of a milky sea; the bleak rustlings
of the festooned frosts of mountains; the desolate shiftings of the
windrowed snows of prairies; all these, to Ishmael, are as the
shaking of that buffalo robe to the frightened colt!

Though neither knows where lie the nameless things of which the
mystic sign gives forth such hints; yet with me, as with the colt,
somewhere those things must exist. Though in many of its aspects
this visible world seems formed in love, the invisible spheres were
formed in fright.

But not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness, and
learned why it appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange
and far more portentous--why, as we have seen, it is at once the most
meaning symbol of spiritual things, nay, the very veil of the
Christian's Deity; and yet should be as it is, the intensifying agent
in things the most appalling to mankind.

Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids
and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with
the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the
milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a
colour as the visible absence of colour; and at the same time the
concrete of all colours; is it for these reasons that there is such a
dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows--a
colourless, all-colour of atheism from which we shrink? And when we
consider that other theory of the natural philosophers, that all
other earthly hues--every stately or lovely emblazoning--the sweet
tinges of sunset skies and woods; yea, and the gilded velvets of
butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of young girls; all these are
but subtile deceits, not actually inherent in substances, but only
laid on from without; so that all deified Nature absolutely paints
like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the
charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that
the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great
principle of light, for ever remains white or colourless in itself,
and if operating without medium upon matter, would touch all objects,
even tulips and roses, with its own blank tinge--pondering all this,
the palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful
travellers in Lapland, who refuse to wear coloured and colouring
glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind
at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around
him. And of all these things the Albino whale was the symbol.
Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?



"HIST! Did you hear that noise, Cabaco?

It was the middle-watch; a fair moonlight; the seamen were standing
in a cordon, extending from one of the fresh-water butts in the
waist, to the scuttle-butt near the taffrail. In this manner, they
passed the buckets to fill the scuttle-butt. Standing, for the most
part, on the hallowed precincts of the quarter-deck, they were
careful not to speak or rustle their feet. From hand to hand, the
buckets went in the deepest silence, only broken by the occasional
flap of a sail, and the steady hum of the unceasingly advancing keel.

It was in the midst of this repose, that Archy, one of the cordon,
whose post was near the after-hatches, whispered to his neighbor, a
Cholo, the words above.

"Hist! did you hear that noise, Cabaco?"

"Take the bucket, will ye, Archy? what noise d'ye mean?"

"There it is again--under the hatches--don't you hear it--a cough--it
sounded like a cough."

"Cough be damned! Pass along that return bucket."

"There again--there it is!--it sounds like two or three sleepers
turning over, now!"

"Caramba! have done, shipmate, will ye? It's the three soaked
biscuits ye eat for supper turning over inside of ye--nothing else.
Look to the bucket!"

"Say what ye will, shipmate; I've sharp ears."

"Aye, you are the chap, ain't ye, that heard the hum of the old
Quakeress's knitting-needles fifty miles at sea from Nantucket;
you're the chap."

"Grin away; we'll see what turns up. Hark ye, Cabaco, there is
somebody down in the after-hold that has not yet been seen on deck;
and I suspect our old Mogul knows something of it too. I heard Stubb
tell Flask, one morning watch, that there was something of that sort
in the wind."

"Tish! the bucket!"


The Chart.

Had you followed Captain Ahab down into his cabin after the squall
that took place on the night succeeding that wild ratification of his
purpose with his crew, you would have seen him go to a locker in the
transom, and bringing out a large wrinkled roll of yellowish sea
charts, spread them before him on his screwed-down table. Then
seating himself before it, you would have seen him intently study the
various lines and shadings which there met his eye; and with slow but
steady pencil trace additional courses over spaces that before were
blank. At intervals, he would refer to piles of old log-books beside
him, wherein were set down the seasons and places in which, on
various former voyages of various ships, sperm whales had been
captured or seen.

While thus employed, the heavy pewter lamp suspended in chains over
his head, continually rocked with the motion of the ship, and for
ever threw shifting gleams and shadows of lines upon his wrinkled
brow, till it almost seemed that while he himself was marking out
lines and courses on the wrinkled charts, some invisible pencil was
also tracing lines and courses upon the deeply marked chart of his

But it was not this night in particular that, in the solitude of his
cabin, Ahab thus pondered over his charts. Almost every night they
were brought out; almost every night some pencil marks were effaced,
and others were substituted. For with the charts of all four oceans
before him, Ahab was threading a maze of currents and eddies, with a
view to the more certain accomplishment of that monomaniac thought of
his soul.

Now, to any one not fully acquainted with the ways of the leviathans,
it might seem an absurdly hopeless task thus to seek out one solitary
creature in the unhooped oceans of this planet. But not so did it
seem to Ahab, who knew the sets of all tides and currents; and
thereby calculating the driftings of the sperm whale's food; and,
also, calling to mind the regular, ascertained seasons for hunting
him in particular latitudes; could arrive at reasonable surmises,
almost approaching to certainties, concerning the timeliest day to be
upon this or that ground in search of his prey.

So assured, indeed, is the fact concerning the periodicalness of the
sperm whale's resorting to given waters, that many hunters believe
that, could he be closely observed and studied throughout the world;
were the logs for one voyage of the entire whale fleet carefully
collated, then the migrations of the sperm whale would be found to
correspond in invariability to those of the herring-shoals or the
flights of swallows. On this hint, attempts have been made to
construct elaborate migratory charts of the sperm whale.*

*Since the above was written, the statement is happily borne out by
an official circular, issued by Lieutenant Maury, of the National
Observatory, Washington, April 16th, 1851. By that circular, it
appears that precisely such a chart is in course of completion; and
portions of it are presented in the circular. "This chart divides
the ocean into districts of five degrees of latitude by five degrees
of longitude; perpendicularly through each of which districts are
twelve columns for the twelve months; and horizontally through each
of which districts are three lines; one to show the number of days
that have been spent in each month in every district, and the two
others to show the number of days in which whales, sperm or right,
have been seen."

Besides, when making a passage from one feeding-ground to another,
the sperm whales, guided by some infallible instinct--say, rather,
secret intelligence from the Deity--mostly swim in VEINS, as they are
called; continuing their way along a given ocean-line with such
undeviating exactitude, that no ship ever sailed her course, by any
chart, with one tithe of such marvellous precision. Though, in these
cases, the direction taken by any one whale be straight as a
surveyor's parallel, and though the line of advance be strictly
confined to its own unavoidable, straight wake, yet the arbitrary
VEIN in which at these times he is said to swim, generally embraces
some few miles in width (more or less, as the vein is presumed to
expand or contract); but never exceeds the visual sweep from the
whale-ship's mast-heads, when circumspectly gliding along this magic
zone. The sum is, that at particular seasons within that breadth and
along that path, migrating whales may with great confidence be looked

And hence not only at substantiated times, upon well known separate
feeding-grounds, could Ahab hope to encounter his prey; but in
crossing the widest expanses of water between those grounds he could,
by his art, so place and time himself on his way, as even then not to
be wholly without prospect of a meeting.

There was a circumstance which at first sight seemed to entangle his
delirious but still methodical scheme. But not so in the reality,
perhaps. Though the gregarious sperm whales have their regular
seasons for particular grounds, yet in general you cannot conclude
that the herds which haunted such and such a latitude or longitude
this year, say, will turn out to be identically the same with those
that were found there the preceding season; though there are peculiar
and unquestionable instances where the contrary of this has proved
true. In general, the same remark, only within a less wide limit,
applies to the solitaries and hermits among the matured, aged sperm
whales. So that though Moby Dick had in a former year been seen, for
example, on what is called the Seychelle ground in the Indian ocean,
or Volcano Bay on the Japanese Coast; yet it did not follow, that
were the Pequod to visit either of those spots at any subsequent
corresponding season, she would infallibly encounter him there. So,
too, with some other feeding grounds, where he had at times revealed
himself. But all these seemed only his casual stopping-places and
ocean-inns, so to speak, not his places of prolonged abode. And
where Ahab's chances of accomplishing his object have hitherto been
spoken of, allusion has only been made to whatever way-side,
antecedent, extra prospects were his, ere a particular set time or
place were attained, when all possibilities would become
probabilities, and, as Ahab fondly thought, every possibility the
next thing to a certainty. That particular set time and place were
conjoined in the one technical phrase--the Season-on-the-Line. For
there and then, for several consecutive years, Moby Dick had been
periodically descried, lingering in those waters for awhile, as the
sun, in its annual round, loiters for a predicted interval in any one
sign of the Zodiac. There it was, too, that most of the deadly
encounters with the white whale had taken place; there the waves were
storied with his deeds; there also was that tragic spot where the
monomaniac old man had found the awful motive to his vengeance. But
in the cautious comprehensiveness and unloitering vigilance with
which Ahab threw his brooding soul into this unfaltering hunt, he
would not permit himself to rest all his hopes upon the one crowning
fact above mentioned, however flattering it might be to those hopes;
nor in the sleeplessness of his vow could he so tranquillize his
unquiet heart as to postpone all intervening quest.

Now, the Pequod had sailed from Nantucket at the very beginning of
the Season-on-the-Line. No possible endeavor then could enable her
commander to make the great passage southwards, double Cape Horn, and
then running down sixty degrees of latitude arrive in the equatorial
Pacific in time to cruise there. Therefore, he must wait for the
next ensuing season. Yet the premature hour of the Pequod's sailing
had, perhaps, been correctly selected by Ahab, with a view to this
very complexion of things. Because, an interval of three hundred and
sixty-five days and nights was before him; an interval which, instead
of impatiently enduring ashore, he would spend in a miscellaneous
hunt; if by chance the White Whale, spending his vacation in seas far
remote from his periodical feeding-grounds, should turn up his
wrinkled brow off the Persian Gulf, or in the Bengal Bay, or China
Seas, or in any other waters haunted by his race. So that Monsoons,
Pampas, Nor'-Westers, Harmattans, Trades; any wind but the Levanter
and Simoon, might blow Moby Dick into the devious zig-zag
world-circle of the Pequod's circumnavigating wake.

But granting all this; yet, regarded discreetly and coolly, seems it
not but a mad idea, this; that in the broad boundless ocean, one
solitary whale, even if encountered, should be thought capable of
individual recognition from his hunter, even as a white-bearded Mufti
in the thronged thoroughfares of Constantinople? Yes. For the
peculiar snow-white brow of Moby Dick, and his snow-white hump, could
not but be unmistakable. And have I not tallied the whale, Ahab
would mutter to himself, as after poring over his charts till long
after midnight he would throw himself back in reveries--tallied him,
and shall he escape? His broad fins are bored, and scalloped out
like a lost sheep's ear! And here, his mad mind would run on in a
breathless race; till a weariness and faintness of pondering came
over him; and in the open air of the deck he would seek to recover
his strength. Ah, God! what trances of torments does that man endure
who is consumed with one unachieved revengeful desire. He sleeps
with clenched hands; and wakes with his own bloody nails in his

Often, when forced from his hammock by exhausting and intolerably
vivid dreams of the night, which, resuming his own intense thoughts
through the day, carried them on amid a clashing of phrensies, and
whirled them round and round and round in his blazing brain, till
the very throbbing of his life-spot became insufferable anguish; and
when, as was sometimes the case, these spiritual throes in him heaved
his being up from its base, and a chasm seemed opening in him, from
which forked flames and lightnings shot up, and accursed fiends
beckoned him to leap down among them; when this hell in himself
yawned beneath him, a wild cry would be heard through the ship; and
with glaring eyes Ahab would burst from his state room, as though
escaping from a bed that was on fire. Yet these, perhaps, instead of
being the unsuppressable symptoms of some latent weakness, or fright
at his own resolve, were but the plainest tokens of its intensity.
For, at such times, crazy Ahab, the scheming, unappeasedly steadfast
hunter of the white whale; this Ahab that had gone to his hammock,
was not the agent that so caused him to burst from it in horror
again. The latter was the eternal, living principle or soul in him;
and in sleep, being for the time dissociated from the characterizing
mind, which at other times employed it for its outer vehicle or
agent, it spontaneously sought escape from the scorching contiguity
of the frantic thing, of which, for the time, it was no longer an
integral. But as the mind does not exist unless leagued with the
soul, therefore it must have been that, in Ahab's case, yielding up
all his thoughts and fancies to his one supreme purpose; that
purpose, by its own sheer inveteracy of will, forced itself against
gods and devils into a kind of self-assumed, independent being of its
own. Nay, could grimly live and burn, while the common vitality to
which it was conjoined, fled horror-stricken from the unbidden and
unfathered birth. Therefore, the tormented spirit that glared out of
bodily eyes, when what seemed Ahab rushed from his room, was for the
time but a vacated thing, a formless somnambulistic being, a ray of
living light, to be sure, but without an object to colour, and
therefore a blankness in itself. God help thee, old man, thy
thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he whose intense
thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon that heart
for ever; that vulture the very creature he creates.


The Affidavit.

So far as what there may be of a narrative in this book; and, indeed,
as indirectly touching one or two very interesting and curious
particulars in the habits of sperm whales, the foregoing chapter, in
its earlier part, is as important a one as will be found in this
volume; but the leading matter of it requires to be still further and
more familiarly enlarged upon, in order to be adequately understood,
and moreover to take away any incredulity which a profound ignorance
of the entire subject may induce in some minds, as to the natural
verity of the main points of this affair.

I care not to perform this part of my task methodically; but shall be
content to produce the desired impression by separate citations of
items, practically or reliably known to me as a whaleman; and from
these citations, I take it--the conclusion aimed at will naturally
follow of itself.

First: I have personally known three instances where a whale, after
receiving a harpoon, has effected a complete escape; and, after an
interval (in one instance of three years), has been again struck by
the same hand, and slain; when the two irons, both marked by the same
private cypher, have been taken from the body. In the instance where
three years intervened between the flinging of the two harpoons; and
I think it may have been something more than that; the man who darted
them happening, in the interval, to go in a trading ship on a voyage
to Africa, went ashore there, joined a discovery party, and
penetrated far into the interior, where he travelled for a period of
nearly two years, often endangered by serpents, savages, tigers,
poisonous miasmas, with all the other common perils incident to
wandering in the heart of unknown regions. Meanwhile, the whale he
had struck must also have been on its travels; no doubt it had thrice
circumnavigated the globe, brushing with its flanks all the coasts of
Africa; but to no purpose. This man and this whale again came
together, and the one vanquished the other. I say I, myself, have
known three instances similar to this; that is in two of them I saw
the whales struck; and, upon the second attack, saw the two irons
with the respective marks cut in them, afterwards taken from the dead
fish. In the three-year instance, it so fell out that I was in the
boat both times, first and last, and the last time distinctly
recognised a peculiar sort of huge mole under the whale's eye, which
I had observed there three years previous. I say three years, but I
am pretty sure it was more than that. Here are three instances,
then, which I personally know the truth of; but I have heard of many
other instances from persons whose veracity in the matter there is no
good ground to impeach.

Secondly: It is well known in the Sperm Whale Fishery, however
ignorant the world ashore may be of it, that there have been several
memorable historical instances where a particular whale in the ocean
has been at distant times and places popularly cognisable. Why such
a whale became thus marked was not altogether and originally owing to
his bodily peculiarities as distinguished from other whales; for
however peculiar in that respect any chance whale may be, they soon
put an end to his peculiarities by killing him, and boiling him down
into a peculiarly valuable oil. No: the reason was this: that from
the fatal experiences of the fishery there hung a terrible prestige
of perilousness about such a whale as there did about Rinaldo
Rinaldini, insomuch that most fishermen were content to recognise him
by merely touching their tarpaulins when he would be discovered
lounging by them on the sea, without seeking to cultivate a more
intimate acquaintance. Like some poor devils ashore that happen to
know an irascible great man, they make distant unobtrusive
salutations to him in the street, lest if they pursued the
acquaintance further, they might receive a summary thump for their

But not only did each of these famous whales enjoy great individual
celebrity--Nay, you may call it an ocean-wide renown; not only was he
famous in life and now is immortal in forecastle stories after death,
but he was admitted into all the rights, privileges, and distinctions
of a name; had as much a name indeed as Cambyses or Caesar. Was it
not so, O Timor Tom! thou famed leviathan, scarred like an iceberg,
who so long did'st lurk in the Oriental straits of that name, whose
spout was oft seen from the palmy beach of Ombay? Was it not so, O
New Zealand Jack! thou terror of all cruisers that crossed their
wakes in the vicinity of the Tattoo Land? Was it not so, O Morquan!
King of Japan, whose lofty jet they say at times assumed the
semblance of a snow-white cross against the sky? Was it not so, O
Don Miguel! thou Chilian whale, marked like an old tortoise with
mystic hieroglyphics upon the back! In plain prose, here are four
whales as well known to the students of Cetacean History as Marius or
Sylla to the classic scholar.

But this is not all. New Zealand Tom and Don Miguel, after at
various times creating great havoc among the boats of different
vessels, were finally gone in quest of, systematically hunted out,
chased and killed by valiant whaling captains, who heaved up their
anchors with that express object as much in view, as in setting out
through the Narragansett Woods, Captain Butler of old had it in his
mind to capture that notorious murderous savage Annawon, the headmost
warrior of the Indian King Philip.

I do not know where I can find a better place than just here, to make
mention of one or two other things, which to me seem important, as in
printed form establishing in all respects the reasonableness of the
whole story of the White Whale, more especially the catastrophe. For
this is one of those disheartening instances where truth requires
full as much bolstering as error. So ignorant are most landsmen of
some of the plainest and most palpable wonders of the world, that
without some hints touching the plain facts, historical and
otherwise, of the fishery, they might scout at Moby Dick as a
monstrous fable, or still worse and more detestable, a hideous and
intolerable allegory.

First: Though most men have some vague flitting ideas of the general
perils of the grand fishery, yet they have nothing like a fixed,
vivid conception of those perils, and the frequency with which they
recur. One reason perhaps is, that not one in fifty of the actual
disasters and deaths by casualties in the fishery, ever finds a
public record at home, however transient and immediately forgotten
that record. Do you suppose that that poor fellow there, who this
moment perhaps caught by the whale-line off the coast of New Guinea,
is being carried down to the bottom of the sea by the sounding
leviathan--do you suppose that that poor fellow's name will appear in
the newspaper obituary you will read to-morrow at your breakfast?
No: because the mails are very irregular between here and New Guinea.
In fact, did you ever hear what might be called regular news direct
or indirect from New Guinea? Yet I tell you that upon one particular
voyage which I made to the Pacific, among many others we spoke thirty
different ships, every one of which had had a death by a whale, some
of them more than one, and three that had each lost a boat's crew.
For God's sake, be economical with your lamps and candles! not a
gallon you burn, but at least one drop of man's blood was spilled for

Secondly: People ashore have indeed some indefinite idea that a whale
is an enormous creature of enormous power; but I have ever found that
when narrating to them some specific example of this two-fold
enormousness, they have significantly complimented me upon my
facetiousness; when, I declare upon my soul, I had no more idea of
being facetious than Moses, when he wrote the history of the plagues
of Egypt.

But fortunately the special point I here seek can be established upon
testimony entirely independent of my own. That point is this: The
Sperm Whale is in some cases sufficiently powerful, knowing, and
judiciously malicious, as with direct aforethought to stave in,
utterly destroy, and sink a large ship; and what is more, the Sperm
Whale HAS done it.

First: In the year 1820 the ship Essex, Captain Pollard, of
Nantucket, was cruising in the Pacific Ocean. One day she saw
spouts, lowered her boats, and gave chase to a shoal of sperm whales.
Ere long, several of the whales were wounded; when, suddenly, a very
large whale escaping from the boats, issued from the shoal, and bore
directly down upon the ship. Dashing his forehead against her hull,
he so stove her in, that in less than "ten minutes" she settled down
and fell over. Not a surviving plank of her has been seen since.
After the severest exposure, part of the crew reached the land in
their boats. Being returned home at last, Captain Pollard once more
sailed for the Pacific in command of another ship, but the gods
shipwrecked him again upon unknown rocks and breakers; for the second
time his ship was utterly lost, and forthwith forswearing the sea, he
has never tempted it since. At this day Captain Pollard is a
resident of Nantucket. I have seen Owen Chace, who was chief mate of
the Essex at the time of the tragedy; I have read his plain and
faithful narrative; I have conversed with his son; and all this
within a few miles of the scene of the catastrophe.*

*The following are extracts from Chace's narrative: "Every fact
seemed to warrant me in concluding that it was anything but chance
which directed his operations; he made two several attacks upon the
ship, at a short interval between them, both of which, according to
their direction, were calculated to do us the most injury, by being
made ahead, and thereby combining the speed of the two objects for
the shock; to effect which, the exact manoeuvres which he made were
necessary. His aspect was most horrible, and such as indicated
resentment and fury. He came directly from the shoal which we had
just before entered, and in which we had struck three of his
companions, as if fired with revenge for their sufferings." Again:
"At all events, the whole circumstances taken together, all happening
before my own eyes, and producing, at the time, impressions in my
mind of decided, calculating mischief, on the part of the whale (many
of which impressions I cannot now recall), induce me to be satisfied
that I am correct in my opinion."

Here are his reflections some time after quitting the ship, during a
black night an open boat, when almost despairing of reaching any
hospitable shore. "The dark ocean and swelling waters were nothing;
the fears of being swallowed up by some dreadful tempest, or dashed
upon hidden rocks, with all the other ordinary subjects of fearful
contemplation, seemed scarcely entitled to a moment's thought; the
wholly engrossed my reflections, until day again made its

In another place--p. 45,--he speaks of "THE MYSTERIOUS AND MORTAL

Secondly: The ship Union, also of Nantucket, was in the year 1807
totally lost off the Azores by a similar onset, but the authentic
particulars of this catastrophe I have never chanced to encounter,
though from the whale hunters I have now and then heard casual
allusions to it.

Thirdly: Some eighteen or twenty years ago Commodore J---, then
commanding an American sloop-of-war of the first class, happened to
be dining with a party of whaling captains, on board a Nantucket ship
in the harbor of Oahu, Sandwich Islands. Conversation turning upon
whales, the Commodore was pleased to be sceptical touching the
amazing strength ascribed to them by the professional gentlemen
present. He peremptorily denied for example, that any whale could so
smite his stout sloop-of-war as to cause her to leak so much as a
thimbleful. Very good; but there is more coming. Some weeks after,
the Commodore set sail in this impregnable craft for Valparaiso. But
he was stopped on the way by a portly sperm whale, that begged a few
moments' confidential business with him. That business consisted in
fetching the Commodore's craft such a thwack, that with all his pumps
going he made straight for the nearest port to heave down and repair.
I am not superstitious, but I consider the Commodore's interview
with that whale as providential. Was not Saul of Tarsus converted
from unbelief by a similar fright? I tell you, the sperm whale will
stand no nonsense.

I will now refer you to Langsdorff's Voyages for a little
circumstance in point, peculiarly interesting to the writer hereof.
Langsdorff, you must know by the way, was attached to the Russian
Admiral Krusenstern's famous Discovery Expedition in the beginning of
the present century. Captain Langsdorff thus begins his seventeenth

"By the thirteenth of May our ship was ready to sail, and the next
day we were out in the open sea, on our way to Ochotsh. The weather
was very clear and fine, but so intolerably cold that we were obliged
to keep on our fur clothing. For some days we had very little wind;
it was not till the nineteenth that a brisk gale from the northwest
sprang up. An uncommon large whale, the body of which was larger
than the ship itself, lay almost at the surface of the water, but was
not perceived by any one on board till the moment when the ship,
which was in full sail, was almost upon him, so that it was
impossible to prevent its striking against him. We were thus placed
in the most imminent danger, as this gigantic creature, setting up
its back, raised the ship three feet at least out of the water. The
masts reeled, and the sails fell altogether, while we who were below
all sprang instantly upon the deck, concluding that we had struck
upon some rock; instead of this we saw the monster sailing off with
the utmost gravity and solemnity. Captain D'Wolf applied immediately
to the pumps to examine whether or not the vessel had received any
damage from the shock, but we found that very happily it had escaped
entirely uninjured."

Now, the Captain D'Wolf here alluded to as commanding the ship in
question, is a New Englander, who, after a long life of unusual
adventures as a sea-captain, this day resides in the village of
Dorchester near Boston. I have the honour of being a nephew of his.
I have particularly questioned him concerning this passage in
Langsdorff. He substantiates every word. The ship, however, was by
no means a large one: a Russian craft built on the Siberian coast,
and purchased by my uncle after bartering away the vessel in which he
sailed from home.

In that up and down manly book of old-fashioned adventure, so full,
too, of honest wonders--the voyage of Lionel Wafer, one of ancient
Dampier's old chums--I found a little matter set down so like that
just quoted from Langsdorff, that I cannot forbear inserting it here
for a corroborative example, if such be needed.

Lionel, it seems, was on his way to "John Ferdinando," as he calls
the modern Juan Fernandes. "In our way thither," he says, "about
four o'clock in the morning, when we were about one hundred and fifty
leagues from the Main of America, our ship felt a terrible shock,
which put our men in such consternation that they could hardly tell
where they were or what to think; but every one began to prepare for
death. And, indeed, the shock was so sudden and violent, that we
took it for granted the ship had struck against a rock; but when the
amazement was a little over, we cast the lead, and sounded, but found
no ground. .... The suddenness of the shock made the guns leap in
their carriages, and several of the men were shaken out of their
hammocks. Captain Davis, who lay with his head on a gun, was thrown
out of his cabin!" Lionel then goes on to impute the shock to an
earthquake, and seems to substantiate the imputation by stating that
a great earthquake, somewhere about that time, did actually do great
mischief along the Spanish land. But I should not much wonder if, in
the darkness of that early hour of the morning, the shock was after
all caused by an unseen whale vertically bumping the hull from

I might proceed with several more examples, one way or another known
to me, of the great power and malice at times of the sperm whale. In
more than one instance, he has been known, not only to chase the
assailing boats back to their ships, but to pursue the ship itself,
and long withstand all the lances hurled at him from its decks. The
English ship Pusie Hall can tell a story on that head; and, as for
his strength, let me say, that there have been examples where the
lines attached to a running sperm whale have, in a calm, been
transferred to the ship, and secured there; the whale towing her
great hull through the water, as a horse walks off with a cart.
Again, it is very often observed that, if the sperm whale, once
struck, is allowed time to rally, he then acts, not so often with
blind rage, as with wilful, deliberate designs of destruction to his
pursuers; nor is it without conveying some eloquent indication of his
character, that upon being attacked he will frequently open his
mouth, and retain it in that dread expansion for several consecutive
minutes. But I must be content with only one more and a concluding
illustration; a remarkable and most significant one, by which you
will not fail to see, that not only is the most marvellous event in
this book corroborated by plain facts of the present day, but that
these marvels (like all marvels) are mere repetitions of the ages; so
that for the millionth time we say amen with Solomon--Verily there is
nothing new under the sun.

In the sixth Christian century lived Procopius, a Christian
magistrate of Constantinople, in the days when Justinian was Emperor
and Belisarius general. As many know, he wrote the history of his
own times, a work every way of uncommon value. By the best
authorities, he has always been considered a most trustworthy and
unexaggerating historian, except in some one or two particulars, not
at all affecting the matter presently to be mentioned.

Now, in this history of his, Procopius mentions that, during the term
of his prefecture at Constantinople, a great sea-monster was captured
in the neighboring Propontis, or Sea of Marmora, after having
destroyed vessels at intervals in those waters for a period of more
than fifty years. A fact thus set down in substantial history cannot
easily be gainsaid. Nor is there any reason it should be. Of what
precise species this sea-monster was, is not mentioned. But as he
destroyed ships, as well as for other reasons, he must have been a
whale; and I am strongly inclined to think a sperm whale. And I will
tell you why. For a long time I fancied that the sperm whale had
been always unknown in the Mediterranean and the deep waters
connecting with it. Even now I am certain that those seas are not,
and perhaps never can be, in the present constitution of things, a
place for his habitual gregarious resort. But further investigations
have recently proved to me, that in modern times there have been
isolated instances of the presence of the sperm whale in the
Mediterranean. I am told, on good authority, that on the Barbary
coast, a Commodore Davis of the British navy found the skeleton of a
sperm whale. Now, as a vessel of war readily passes through the
Dardanelles, hence a sperm whale could, by the same route, pass out
of the Mediterranean into the Propontis.

In the Propontis, as far as I can learn, none of that peculiar
substance called BRIT is to be found, the aliment of the right whale.
But I have every reason to believe that the food of the sperm
whale--squid or cuttle-fish--lurks at the bottom of that sea, because
large creatures, but by no means the largest of that sort, have been
found at its surface. If, then, you properly put these statements
together, and reason upon them a bit, you will clearly perceive that,
according to all human reasoning, Procopius's sea-monster, that for
half a century stove the ships of a Roman Emperor, must in all
probability have been a sperm whale.



Though, consumed with the hot fire of his purpose, Ahab in all his
thoughts and actions ever had in view the ultimate capture of Moby
Dick; though he seemed ready to sacrifice all mortal interests to
that one passion; nevertheless it may have been that he was by nature
and long habituation far too wedded to a fiery whaleman's ways,
altogether to abandon the collateral prosecution of the voyage. Or
at least if this were otherwise, there were not wanting other motives
much more influential with him. It would be refining too much,
perhaps, even considering his monomania, to hint that his
vindictiveness towards the White Whale might have possibly extended
itself in some degree to all sperm whales, and that the more monsters
he slew by so much the more he multiplied the chances that each
subsequently encountered whale would prove to be the hated one he
hunted. But if such an hypothesis be indeed exceptionable, there
were still additional considerations which, though not so strictly
according with the wildness of his ruling passion, yet were by no
means incapable of swaying him.

To accomplish his object Ahab must use tools; and of all tools used
in the shadow of the moon, men are most apt to get out of order. He
knew, for example, that however magnetic his ascendency in some
respects was over Starbuck, yet that ascendency did not cover the
complete spiritual man any more than mere corporeal superiority
involves intellectual mastership; for to the purely spiritual, the
intellectual but stand in a sort of corporeal relation. Starbuck's
body and Starbuck's coerced will were Ahab's, so long as Ahab kept
his magnet at Starbuck's brain; still he knew that for all this the
chief mate, in his soul, abhorred his captain's quest, and could he,
would joyfully disintegrate himself from it, or even frustrate it.
It might be that a long interval would elapse ere the White Whale was
seen. During that long interval Starbuck would ever be apt to fall
into open relapses of rebellion against his captain's leadership,
unless some ordinary, prudential, circumstantial influences were
brought to bear upon him. Not only that, but the subtle insanity of
Ahab respecting Moby Dick was noways more significantly manifested
than in his superlative sense and shrewdness in foreseeing that, for
the present, the hunt should in some way be stripped of that strange
imaginative impiousness which naturally invested it; that the full
terror of the voyage must be kept withdrawn into the obscure
background (for few men's courage is proof against protracted
meditation unrelieved by action); that when they stood their long
night watches, his officers and men must have some nearer things to
think of than Moby Dick. For however eagerly and impetuously the
savage crew had hailed the announcement of his quest; yet all sailors
of all sorts are more or less capricious and unreliable--they live in
the varying outer weather, and they inhale its fickleness--and when
retained for any object remote and blank in the pursuit, however
promissory of life and passion in the end, it is above all things
requisite that temporary interests and employments should intervene
and hold them healthily suspended for the final dash.

Nor was Ahab unmindful of another thing. In times of strong emotion
mankind disdain all base considerations; but such times are
evanescent. The permanent constitutional condition of the
manufactured man, thought Ahab, is sordidness. Granting that the
White Whale fully incites the hearts of this my savage crew, and
playing round their savageness even breeds a certain generous
knight-errantism in them, still, while for the love of it they give
chase to Moby Dick, they must also have food for their more common,
daily appetites. For even the high lifted and chivalric Crusaders of
old times were not content to traverse two thousand miles of land to
fight for their holy sepulchre, without committing burglaries,
picking pockets, and gaining other pious perquisites by the way. Had
they been strictly held to their one final and romantic object--that
final and romantic object, too many would have turned from in
disgust. I will not strip these men, thought Ahab, of all hopes of
cash--aye, cash. They may scorn cash now; but let some months go by,
and no perspective promise of it to them, and then this same
quiescent cash all at once mutinying in them, this same cash would
soon cashier Ahab.

Nor was there wanting still another precautionary motive more related
to Ahab personally. Having impulsively, it is probable, and perhaps
somewhat prematurely revealed the prime but private purpose of the
Pequod's voyage, Ahab was now entirely conscious that, in so doing,
he had indirectly laid himself open to the unanswerable charge of
usurpation; and with perfect impunity, both moral and legal, his crew
if so disposed, and to that end competent, could refuse all further
obedience to him, and even violently wrest from him the command.
From even the barely hinted imputation of usurpation, and the
possible consequences of such a suppressed impression gaining ground,
Ahab must of course have been most anxious to protect himself. That
protection could only consist in his own predominating brain and
heart and hand, backed by a heedful, closely calculating attention to
every minute atmospheric influence which it was possible for his crew
to be subjected to.

For all these reasons then, and others perhaps too analytic to be
verbally developed here, Ahab plainly saw that he must still in a
good degree continue true to the natural, nominal purpose of the
Pequod's voyage; observe all customary usages; and not only that, but
force himself to evince all his well known passionate interest in the
general pursuit of his profession.

Be all this as it may, his voice was now often heard hailing the
three mast-heads and admonishing them to keep a bright look-out, and
not omit reporting even a porpoise. This vigilance was not long
without reward.


The Mat-Maker.

It was a cloudy, sultry afternoon; the seamen were lazily lounging
about the decks, or vacantly gazing over into the lead-coloured
waters. Queequeg and I were mildly employed weaving what is called a
sword-mat, for an additional lashing to our boat. So still and
subdued and yet somehow preluding was all the scene, and such an
incantation of reverie lurked in the air, that each silent sailor
seemed resolved into his own invisible self.

I was the attendant or page of Queequeg, while busy at the mat. As I
kept passing and repassing the filling or woof of marline between the
long yarns of the warp, using my own hand for the shuttle, and as
Queequeg, standing sideways, ever and anon slid his heavy oaken sword
between the threads, and idly looking off upon the water, carelessly
and unthinkingly drove home every yarn: I say so strange a
dreaminess did there then reign all over the ship and all over the
sea, only broken by the intermitting dull sound of the sword, that it
seemed as if this were the Loom of Time, and I myself were a shuttle
mechanically weaving and weaving away at the Fates. There lay the
fixed threads of the warp subject to but one single, ever returning,
unchanging vibration, and that vibration merely enough to admit of
the crosswise interblending of other threads with its own. This warp
seemed necessity; and here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own
shuttle and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads.
Meantime, Queequeg's impulsive, indifferent sword, sometimes hitting
the woof slantingly, or crookedly, or strongly, or weakly, as the
case might be; and by this difference in the concluding blow
producing a corresponding contrast in the final aspect of the
completed fabric; this savage's sword, thought I, which thus finally
shapes and fashions both warp and woof; this easy, indifferent sword
must be chance--aye, chance, free will, and necessity--nowise
incompatible--all interweavingly working together. The straight warp
of necessity, not to be swerved from its ultimate course--its every
alternating vibration, indeed, only tending to that; free will still
free to ply her shuttle between given threads; and chance, though
restrained in its play within the right lines of necessity, and
sideways in its motions directed by free will, though thus prescribed
to by both, chance by turns rules either, and has the last featuring
blow at events.

Thus we were weaving and weaving away when I started at a sound so
strange, long drawn, and musically wild and unearthly, that the ball
of free will dropped from my hand, and I stood gazing up at the
clouds whence that voice dropped like a wing. High aloft in the
cross-trees was that mad Gay-Header, Tashtego. His body was reaching
eagerly forward, his hand stretched out like a wand, and at brief
sudden intervals he continued his cries. To be sure the same sound
was that very moment perhaps being heard all over the seas, from
hundreds of whalemen's look-outs perched as high in the air; but from
few of those lungs could that accustomed old cry have derived such a
marvellous cadence as from Tashtego the Indian's.

As he stood hovering over you half suspended in air, so wildly and
eagerly peering towards the horizon, you would have thought him some
prophet or seer beholding the shadows of Fate, and by those wild
cries announcing their coming.

"There she blows! there! there! there! she blows! she blows!"


"On the lee-beam, about two miles off! a school of them!"

Instantly all was commotion.

The Sperm Whale blows as a clock ticks, with the same undeviating and
reliable uniformity. And thereby whalemen distinguish this fish from
other tribes of his genus.

"There go flukes!" was now the cry from Tashtego; and the whales

"Quick, steward!" cried Ahab. "Time! time!"

Dough-Boy hurried below, glanced at the watch, and reported the exact
minute to Ahab.

The ship was now kept away from the wind, and she went gently rolling
before it. Tashtego reporting that the whales had gone down heading
to leeward, we confidently looked to see them again directly in
advance of our bows. For that singular craft at times evinced by the
Sperm Whale when, sounding with his head in one direction, he
nevertheless, while concealed beneath the surface, mills round, and
swiftly swims off in the opposite quarter--this deceitfulness of his
could not now be in action; for there was no reason to suppose that
the fish seen by Tashtego had been in any way alarmed, or indeed knew
at all of our vicinity. One of the men selected for
shipkeepers--that is, those not appointed to the boats, by this time
relieved the Indian at the main-mast head. The sailors at the fore
and mizzen had come down; the line tubs were fixed in their places;
the cranes were thrust out; the mainyard was backed, and the three
boats swung over the sea like three samphire baskets over high
cliffs. Outside of the bulwarks their eager crews with one hand
clung to the rail, while one foot was expectantly poised on the
gunwale. So look the long line of man-of-war's men about to throw
themselves on board an enemy's ship.

But at this critical instant a sudden exclamation was heard that took
every eye from the whale. With a start all glared at dark Ahab, who
was surrounded by five dusky phantoms that seemed fresh formed out of


The First Lowering.

The phantoms, for so they then seemed, were flitting on the other
side of the deck, and, with a noiseless celerity, were casting loose
the tackles and bands of the boat which swung there. This boat had
always been deemed one of the spare boats, though technically called
the captain's, on account of its hanging from the starboard quarter.
The figure that now stood by its bows was tall and swart, with one
white tooth evilly protruding from its steel-like lips. A rumpled
Chinese jacket of black cotton funereally invested him, with wide
black trowsers of the same dark stuff. But strangely crowning this
ebonness was a glistening white plaited turban, the living hair
braided and coiled round and round upon his head. Less swart in
aspect, the companions of this figure were of that vivid,
tiger-yellow complexion peculiar to some of the aboriginal natives of
the Manillas;--a race notorious for a certain diabolism of subtilty,
and by some honest white mariners supposed to be the paid spies and
secret confidential agents on the water of the devil, their lord,
whose counting-room they suppose to be elsewhere.

While yet the wondering ship's company were gazing upon these
strangers, Ahab cried out to the white-turbaned old man at their
head, "All ready there, Fedallah?"

"Ready," was the half-hissed reply.

"Lower away then; d'ye hear?" shouting across the deck. "Lower away
there, I say."

Such was the thunder of his voice, that spite of their amazement the
men sprang over the rail; the sheaves whirled round in the blocks;
with a wallow, the three boats dropped into the sea; while, with a
dexterous, off-handed daring, unknown in any other vocation, the
sailors, goat-like, leaped down the rolling ship's side into the
tossed boats below.

Hardly had they pulled out from under the ship's lee, when a fourth
keel, coming from the windward side, pulled round under the stern,
and showed the five strangers rowing Ahab, who, standing erect in the
stern, loudly hailed Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, to spread themselves
widely, so as to cover a large expanse of water. But with all their
eyes again riveted upon the swart Fedallah and his crew, the inmates
of the other boats obeyed not the command.

"Captain Ahab?--" said Starbuck.

"Spread yourselves," cried Ahab; "give way, all four boats. Thou,
Flask, pull out more to leeward!"

"Aye, aye, sir," cheerily cried little King-Post, sweeping round his
great steering oar. "Lay back!" addressing his crew.
"There!--there!--there again! There she blows right ahead,
boys!--lay back!"

"Never heed yonder yellow boys, Archy."

"Oh, I don't mind'em, sir," said Archy; "I knew it all before now.
Didn't I hear 'em in the hold? And didn't I tell Cabaco here of it?
What say ye, Cabaco? They are stowaways, Mr. Flask."

"Pull, pull, my fine hearts-alive; pull, my children; pull, my little
ones," drawlingly and soothingly sighed Stubb to his crew, some of
whom still showed signs of uneasiness. "Why don't you break your
backbones, my boys? What is it you stare at? Those chaps in yonder
boat? Tut! They are only five more hands come to help us--never
mind from where--the more the merrier. Pull, then, do pull; never
mind the brimstone--devils are good fellows enough. So, so; there
you are now; that's the stroke for a thousand pounds; that's the
stroke to sweep the stakes! Hurrah for the gold cup of sperm oil, my
heroes! Three cheers, men--all hearts alive! Easy, easy; don't be
in a hurry--don't be in a hurry. Why don't you snap your oars, you
rascals? Bite something, you dogs! So, so, so, then:--softly,
softly! That's it--that's it! long and strong. Give way there, give
way! The devil fetch ye, ye ragamuffin rapscallions; ye are all
asleep. Stop snoring, ye sleepers, and pull. Pull, will ye? pull,
can't ye? pull, won't ye? Why in the name of gudgeons and
ginger-cakes don't ye pull?--pull and break something! pull, and
start your eyes out! Here!" whipping out the sharp knife from his
girdle; "every mother's son of ye draw his knife, and pull with the
blade between his teeth. That's it--that's it. Now ye do something;
that looks like it, my steel-bits. Start her--start her, my
silver-spoons! Start her, marling-spikes!"

Stubb's exordium to his crew is given here at large, because he had
rather a peculiar way of talking to them in general, and especially
in inculcating the religion of rowing. But you must not suppose from
this specimen of his sermonizings that he ever flew into downright
passions with his congregation. Not at all; and therein consisted
his chief peculiarity. He would say the most terrific things to his
crew, in a tone so strangely compounded of fun and fury, and the fury
seemed so calculated merely as a spice to the fun, that no oarsman
could hear such queer invocations without pulling for dear life, and
yet pulling for the mere joke of the thing. Besides he all the time
looked so easy and indolent himself, so loungingly managed his
steering-oar, and so broadly gaped--open-mouthed at times--that the
mere sight of such a yawning commander, by sheer force of contrast,
acted like a charm upon the crew. Then again, Stubb was one of those
odd sort of humorists, whose jollity is sometimes so curiously
ambiguous, as to put all inferiors on their guard in the matter of
obeying them.

In obedience to a sign from Ahab, Starbuck was now pulling obliquely
across Stubb's bow; and when for a minute or so the two boats were
pretty near to each other, Stubb hailed the mate.

"Mr. Starbuck! larboard boat there, ahoy! a word with ye, sir, if ye

"Halloa!" returned Starbuck, turning round not a single inch as he
spoke; still earnestly but whisperingly urging his crew; his face set
like a flint from Stubb's.

"What think ye of those yellow boys, sir!

"Smuggled on board, somehow, before the ship sailed. (Strong, strong,
boys!)" in a whisper to his crew, then speaking out loud again: "A
sad business, Mr. Stubb! (seethe her, seethe her, my lads!) but never
mind, Mr. Stubb, all for the best. Let all your crew pull strong,
come what will. (Spring, my men, spring!) There's hogsheads of sperm
ahead, Mr. Stubb, and that's what ye came for. (Pull, my boys!)
Sperm, sperm's the play! This at least is duty; duty and profit hand
in hand."

"Aye, aye, I thought as much," soliloquized Stubb, when the boats
diverged, "as soon as I clapt eye on 'em, I thought so. Aye, and
that's what he went into the after hold for, so often, as Dough-Boy
long suspected. They were hidden down there. The White Whale's at
the bottom of it. Well, well, so be it! Can't be helped! All
right! Give way, men! It ain't the White Whale to-day! Give way!"

Now the advent of these outlandish strangers at such a critical
instant as the lowering of the boats from the deck, this had not
unreasonably awakened a sort of superstitious amazement in some of
the ship's company; but Archy's fancied discovery having some time
previous got abroad among them, though indeed not credited then, this
had in some small measure prepared them for the event. It took off
the extreme edge of their wonder; and so what with all this and
Stubb's confident way of accounting for their appearance, they were
for the time freed from superstitious surmisings; though the affair
still left abundant room for all manner of wild conjectures as to
dark Ahab's precise agency in the matter from the beginning. For me,
I silently recalled the mysterious shadows I had seen creeping on
board the Pequod during the dim Nantucket dawn, as well as the
enigmatical hintings of the unaccountable Elijah.

Meantime, Ahab, out of hearing of his officers, having sided the
furthest to windward, was still ranging ahead of the other boats; a
circumstance bespeaking how potent a crew was pulling him. Those
tiger yellow creatures of his seemed all steel and whalebone; like
five trip-hammers they rose and fell with regular strokes of
strength, which periodically started the boat along the water like a
horizontal burst boiler out of a Mississippi steamer. As for
Fedallah, who was seen pulling the harpooneer oar, he had thrown
aside his black jacket, and displayed his naked chest with the whole
part of his body above the gunwale, clearly cut against the
alternating depressions of the watery horizon; while at the other end
of the boat Ahab, with one arm, like a fencer's, thrown half backward
into the air, as if to counterbalance any tendency to trip; Ahab was
seen steadily managing his steering oar as in a thousand boat
lowerings ere the White Whale had torn him. All at once the
outstretched arm gave a peculiar motion and then remained fixed,
while the boat's five oars were seen simultaneously peaked. Boat and
crew sat motionless on the sea. Instantly the three spread boats in
the rear paused on their way. The whales had irregularly settled
bodily down into the blue, thus giving no distantly discernible token
of the movement, though from his closer vicinity Ahab had observed

"Every man look out along his oars!" cried Starbuck. "Thou,
Queequeg, stand up!"

Nimbly springing up on the triangular raised box in the bow, the
savage stood erect there, and with intensely eager eyes gazed off
towards the spot where the chase had last been descried. Likewise
upon the extreme stern of the boat where it was also triangularly
platformed level with the gunwale, Starbuck himself was seen coolly
and adroitly balancing himself to the jerking tossings of his chip of
a craft, and silently eyeing the vast blue eye of the sea.

Not very far distant Flask's boat was also lying breathlessly still;
its commander recklessly standing upon the top of the loggerhead, a
stout sort of post rooted in the keel, and rising some two feet above
the level of the stern platform. It is used for catching turns with
the whale line. Its top is not more spacious than the palm of a
man's hand, and standing upon such a base as that, Flask seemed
perched at the mast-head of some ship which had sunk to all but her
trucks. But little King-Post was small and short, and at the same
time little King-Post was full of a large and tall ambition, so that
this loggerhead stand-point of his did by no means satisfy King-Post.

"I can't see three seas off; tip us up an oar there, and let me on to

Upon this, Daggoo, with either hand upon the gunwale to steady his
way, swiftly slid aft, and then erecting himself volunteered his
lofty shoulders for a pedestal.

"Good a mast-head as any, sir. Will you mount?"

"That I will, and thank ye very much, my fine fellow; only I wish you
fifty feet taller."

Whereupon planting his feet firmly against two opposite planks of the
boat, the gigantic negro, stooping a little, presented his flat palm
to Flask's foot, and then putting Flask's hand on his hearse-plumed
head and bidding him spring as he himself should toss, with one
dexterous fling landed the little man high and dry on his shoulders.
And here was Flask now standing, Daggoo with one lifted arm
furnishing him with a breastband to lean against and steady himself

At any time it is a strange sight to the tyro to see with what
wondrous habitude of unconscious skill the whaleman will maintain an
erect posture in his boat, even when pitched about by the most
riotously perverse and cross-running seas. Still more strange to see
him giddily perched upon the loggerhead itself, under such
circumstances. But the sight of little Flask mounted upon gigantic
Daggoo was yet more curious; for sustaining himself with a cool,
indifferent, easy, unthought of, barbaric majesty, the noble negro to
every roll of the sea harmoniously rolled his fine form. On his
broad back, flaxen-haired Flask seemed a snow-flake. The bearer
looked nobler than the rider. Though truly vivacious, tumultuous,
ostentatious little Flask would now and then stamp with impatience;
but not one added heave did he thereby give to the negro's lordly
chest. So have I seen Passion and Vanity stamping the living
magnanimous earth, but the earth did not alter her tides and her
seasons for that.

Meanwhile Stubb, the third mate, betrayed no such far-gazing
solicitudes. The whales might have made one of their regular
soundings, not a temporary dive from mere fright; and if that were
the case, Stubb, as his wont in such cases, it seems, was resolved to
solace the languishing interval with his pipe. He withdrew it from
his hatband, where he always wore it aslant like a feather. He
loaded it, and rammed home the loading with his thumb-end; but hardly
had he ignited his match across the rough sandpaper of his hand,
when Tashtego, his harpooneer, whose eyes had been setting to
windward like two fixed stars, suddenly dropped like light from his
erect attitude to his seat, crying out in a quick phrensy of hurry,
"Down, down all, and give way!--there they are!"

To a landsman, no whale, nor any sign of a herring, would have been
visible at that moment; nothing but a troubled bit of greenish white
water, and thin scattered puffs of vapour hovering over it, and
suffusingly blowing off to leeward, like the confused scud from white
rolling billows. The air around suddenly vibrated and tingled, as it
were, like the air over intensely heated plates of iron. Beneath
this atmospheric waving and curling, and partially beneath a thin
layer of water, also, the whales were swimming. Seen in advance of
all the other indications, the puffs of vapour they spouted, seemed
their forerunning couriers and detached flying outriders.

All four boats were now in keen pursuit of that one spot of troubled
water and air. But it bade fair to outstrip them; it flew on and on,
as a mass of interblending bubbles borne down a rapid stream from the

"Pull, pull, my good boys," said Starbuck, in the lowest possible but
intensest concentrated whisper to his men; while the sharp fixed
glance from his eyes darted straight ahead of the bow, almost seemed
as two visible needles in two unerring binnacle compasses. He did
not say much to his crew, though, nor did his crew say anything to
him. Only the silence of the boat was at intervals startlingly
pierced by one of his peculiar whispers, now harsh with command, now
soft with entreaty.

How different the loud little King-Post. "Sing out and say
something, my hearties. Roar and pull, my thunderbolts! Beach me,
beach me on their black backs, boys; only do that for me, and I'll
sign over to you my Martha's Vineyard plantation, boys; including
wife and children, boys. Lay me on--lay me on! O Lord, Lord! but I
shall go stark, staring mad! See! see that white water!" And so
shouting, he pulled his hat from his head, and stamped up and down on
it; then picking it up, flirted it far off upon the sea; and finally
fell to rearing and plunging in the boat's stern like a crazed colt
from the prairie.

"Look at that chap now," philosophically drawled Stubb, who, with his
unlighted short pipe, mechanically retained between his teeth, at a
short distance, followed after--"He's got fits, that Flask has.
Fits? yes, give him fits--that's the very word--pitch fits into 'em.
Merrily, merrily, hearts-alive. Pudding for supper, you
know;--merry's the word. Pull, babes--pull, sucklings--pull, all.
But what the devil are you hurrying about? Softly, softly, and
steadily, my men. Only pull, and keep pulling; nothing more. Crack
all your backbones, and bite your knives in two--that's all. Take it
easy--why don't ye take it easy, I say, and burst all your livers and

But what it was that inscrutable Ahab said to that tiger-yellow crew
of his--these were words best omitted here; for you live under the
blessed light of the evangelical land. Only the infidel sharks in
the audacious seas may give ear to such words, when, with tornado
brow, and eyes of red murder, and foam-glued lips, Ahab leaped after
his prey.

Meanwhile, all the boats tore on. The repeated specific allusions of
Flask to "that whale," as he called the fictitious monster which he
declared to be incessantly tantalizing his boat's bow with its
tail--these allusions of his were at times so vivid and life-like,
that they would cause some one or two of his men to snatch a fearful
look over the shoulder. But this was against all rule; for the
oarsmen must put out their eyes, and ram a skewer through their
necks; usage pronouncing that they must have no organs but ears, and
no limbs but arms, in these critical moments.

It was a sight full of quick wonder and awe! The vast swells of the
omnipotent sea; the surging, hollow roar they made, as they rolled
along the eight gunwales, like gigantic bowls in a boundless
bowling-green; the brief suspended agony of the boat, as it would tip
for an instant on the knife-like edge of the sharper waves, that
almost seemed threatening to cut it in two; the sudden profound dip
into the watery glens and hollows; the keen spurrings and goadings to
gain the top of the opposite hill; the headlong, sled-like slide down
its other side;--all these, with the cries of the headsmen and
harpooneers, and the shuddering gasps of the oarsmen, with the
wondrous sight of the ivory Pequod bearing down upon her boats with
outstretched sails, like a wild hen after her screaming brood;--all
this was thrilling.

Not the raw recruit, marching from the bosom of his wife into the
fever heat of his first battle; not the dead man's ghost encountering
the first unknown phantom in the other world;--neither of these can
feel stranger and stronger emotions than that man does, who for the
first time finds himself pulling into the charmed, churned circle of
the hunted sperm whale.

The dancing white water made by the chase was now becoming more and
more visible, owing to the increasing darkness of the dun
cloud-shadows flung upon the sea. The jets of vapour no longer
blended, but tilted everywhere to right and left; the whales seemed
separating their wakes. The boats were pulled more apart; Starbuck
giving chase to three whales running dead to leeward. Our sail was
now set, and, with the still rising wind, we rushed along; the boat
going with such madness through the water, that the lee oars could
scarcely be worked rapidly enough to escape being torn from the

Soon we were running through a suffusing wide veil of mist; neither
ship nor boat to be seen.

"Give way, men," whispered Starbuck, drawing still further aft the
sheet of his sail; "there is time to kill a fish yet before the
squall comes. There's white water again!--close to! Spring!"

Soon after, two cries in quick succession on each side of us denoted
that the other boats had got fast; but hardly were they overheard,
when with a lightning-like hurtling whisper Starbuck said: "Stand
up!" and Queequeg, harpoon in hand, sprang to his feet.

Though not one of the oarsmen was then facing the life and death
peril so close to them ahead, yet with their eyes on the intense
countenance of the mate in the stern of the boat, they knew that the
imminent instant had come; they heard, too, an enormous wallowing
sound as of fifty elephants stirring in their litter. Meanwhile the
boat was still booming through the mist, the waves curling and
hissing around us like the erected crests of enraged serpents.

"That's his hump. THERE, THERE, give it to him!" whispered Starbuck.

A short rushing sound leaped out of the boat; it was the darted iron
of Queequeg. Then all in one welded commotion came an invisible push
from astern, while forward the boat seemed striking on a ledge; the
sail collapsed and exploded; a gush of scalding vapour shot up near
by; something rolled and tumbled like an earthquake beneath us. The
whole crew were half suffocated as they were tossed helter-skelter
into the white curdling cream of the squall. Squall, whale, and
harpoon had all blended together; and the whale, merely grazed by the
iron, escaped.

Though completely swamped, the boat was nearly unharmed. Swimming
round it we picked up the floating oars, and lashing them across the
gunwale, tumbled back to our places. There we sat up to our knees in
the sea, the water covering every rib and plank, so that to our
downward gazing eyes the suspended craft seemed a coral boat grown up
to us from the bottom of the ocean.

The wind increased to a howl; the waves dashed their bucklers
together; the whole squall roared, forked, and crackled around us
like a white fire upon the prairie, in which, unconsumed, we were
burning; immortal in these jaws of death! In vain we hailed the
other boats; as well roar to the live coals down the chimney of a
flaming furnace as hail those boats in that storm. Meanwhile the
driving scud, rack, and mist, grew darker with the shadows of night;
no sign of the ship could be seen. The rising sea forbade all
attempts to bale out the boat. The oars were useless as propellers,
performing now the office of life-preservers. So, cutting the
lashing of the waterproof match keg, after many failures Starbuck
contrived to ignite the lamp in the lantern; then stretching it on a
waif pole, handed it to Queequeg as the standard-bearer of this
forlorn hope. There, then, he sat, holding up that imbecile candle
in the heart of that almighty forlornness. There, then, he sat, the
sign and symbol of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in
the midst of despair.

Wet, drenched through, and shivering cold, despairing of ship or
boat, we lifted up our eyes as the dawn came on. The mist still
spread over the sea, the empty lantern lay crushed in the bottom of
the boat. Suddenly Queequeg started to his feet, hollowing his hand
to his ear. We all heard a faint creaking, as of ropes and yards
hitherto muffled by the storm. The sound came nearer and nearer; the
thick mists were dimly parted by a huge, vague form. Affrighted, we
all sprang into the sea as the ship at last loomed into view, bearing
right down upon us within a distance of not much more than its

Floating on the waves we saw the abandoned boat, as for one instant
it tossed and gaped beneath the ship's bows like a chip at the base
of a cataract; and then the vast hull rolled over it, and it was seen
no more till it came up weltering astern. Again we swam for it, were
dashed against it by the seas, and were at last taken up and safely
landed on board. Ere the squall came close to, the other boats had
cut loose from their fish and returned to the ship in good time. The
ship had given us up, but was still cruising, if haply it might light
upon some token of our perishing,--an oar or a lance pole.


The Hyena.

There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed
affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast
practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and
more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.
However, nothing dispirits, and nothing seems worth while disputing.
He bolts down all events, all creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions,
all hard things visible and invisible, never mind how knobby; as an
ostrich of potent digestion gobbles down bullets and gun flints. And
as for small difficulties and worryings, prospects of sudden
disaster, peril of life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem
to him only sly, good-natured hits, and jolly punches in the side
bestowed by the unseen and unaccountable old joker. That odd sort of
wayward mood I am speaking of, comes over a man only in some time of
extreme tribulation; it comes in the very midst of his earnestness,
so that what just before might have seemed to him a thing most
momentous, now seems but a part of the general joke. There is
nothing like the perils of whaling to breed this free and easy sort
of genial, desperado philosophy; and with it I now regarded this
whole voyage of the Pequod, and the great White Whale its object.

"Queequeg," said I, when they had dragged me, the last man, to the
deck, and I was still shaking myself in my jacket to fling off the
water; "Queequeg, my fine friend, does this sort of thing often
happen?" Without much emotion, though soaked through just like me,
he gave me to understand that such things did often happen.

"Mr. Stubb," said I, turning to that worthy, who, buttoned up in his
oil-jacket, was now calmly smoking his pipe in the rain; "Mr. Stubb,
I think I have heard you say that of all whalemen you ever met, our
chief mate, Mr. Starbuck, is by far the most careful and prudent. I
suppose then, that going plump on a flying whale with your sail set
in a foggy squall is the height of a whaleman's discretion?"

"Certain. I've lowered for whales from a leaking ship in a gale off
Cape Horn."

"Mr. Flask," said I, turning to little King-Post, who was standing
close by; "you are experienced in these things, and I am not. Will
you tell me whether it is an unalterable law in this fishery, Mr.
Flask, for an oarsman to break his own back pulling himself
back-foremost into death's jaws?"

"Can't you twist that smaller?" said Flask. "Yes, that's the law. I
should like to see a boat's crew backing water up to a whale face
foremost. Ha, ha! the whale would give them squint for squint, mind

Here then, from three impartial witnesses, I had a deliberate
statement of the entire case. Considering, therefore, that squalls
and capsizings in the water and consequent bivouacks on the deep,
were matters of common occurrence in this kind of life; considering
that at the superlatively critical instant of going on to the whale I
must resign my life into the hands of him who steered the
boat--oftentimes a fellow who at that very moment is in his
impetuousness upon the point of scuttling the craft with his own
frantic stampings; considering that the particular disaster to our
own particular boat was chiefly to be imputed to Starbuck's driving
on to his whale almost in the teeth of a squall, and considering that
Starbuck, notwithstanding, was famous for his great heedfulness in
the fishery; considering that I belonged to this uncommonly prudent
Starbuck's boat; and finally considering in what a devil's chase I
was implicated, touching the White Whale: taking all things together,
I say, I thought I might as well go below and make a rough draft of
my will. "Queequeg," said I, "come along, you shall be my lawyer,
executor, and legatee."

It may seem strange that of all men sailors should be tinkering at
their last wills and testaments, but there are no people in the world
more fond of that diversion. This was the fourth time in my nautical
life that I had done the same thing. After the ceremony was
concluded upon the present occasion, I felt all the easier; a stone
was rolled away from my heart. Besides, all the days I should now
live would be as good as the days that Lazarus lived after his
resurrection; a supplementary clean gain of so many months or weeks
as the case might be. I survived myself; my death and burial were
locked up in my chest. I looked round me tranquilly and contentedly,
like a quiet ghost with a clean conscience sitting inside the bars of
a snug family vault.

Now then, thought I, unconsciously rolling up the sleeves of my
frock, here goes for a cool, collected dive at death and destruction,
and the devil fetch the hindmost.


Ahab's Boat and Crew. Fedallah.

"Who would have thought it, Flask!" cried Stubb; "if I had but one
leg you would not catch me in a boat, unless maybe to stop the
plug-hole with my timber toe. Oh! he's a wonderful old man!"

"I don't think it so strange, after all, on that account," said
Flask. "If his leg were off at the hip, now, it would be a different
thing. That would disable him; but he has one knee, and good part of
the other left, you know."

"I don't know that, my little man; I never yet saw him kneel."

Among whale-wise people it has often been argued whether, considering
the paramount importance of his life to the success of the voyage, it
is right for a whaling captain to jeopardize that life in the active
perils of the chase. So Tamerlane's soldiers often argued with tears
in their eyes, whether that invaluable life of his ought to be
carried into the thickest of the fight.

But with Ahab the question assumed a modified aspect. Considering
that with two legs man is but a hobbling wight in all times of
danger; considering that the pursuit of whales is always under great
and extraordinary difficulties; that every individual moment, indeed,
then comprises a peril; under these circumstances is it wise for any
maimed man to enter a whale-boat in the hunt? As a general thing,
the joint-owners of the Pequod must have plainly thought not.

Ahab well knew that although his friends at home would think little
of his entering a boat in certain comparatively harmless vicissitudes
of the chase, for the sake of being near the scene of action and
giving his orders in person, yet for Captain Ahab to have a boat
actually apportioned to him as a regular headsman in the hunt--above
all for Captain Ahab to be supplied with five extra men, as that same
boat's crew, he well knew that such generous conceits never entered the
heads of the owners of the Pequod. Therefore he had not solicited a
boat's crew from them, nor had he in any way hinted his desires on
that head. Nevertheless he had taken private measures of his own
touching all that matter. Until Cabaco's published discovery, the
sailors had little foreseen it, though to be sure when, after being a
little while out of port, all hands had concluded the customary
business of fitting the whaleboats for service; when some time after
this Ahab was now and then found bestirring himself in the matter of
making thole-pins with his own hands for what was thought to be one
of the spare boats, and even solicitously cutting the small wooden
skewers, which when the line is running out are pinned over the
groove in the bow: when all this was observed in him, and
particularly his solicitude in having an extra coat of sheathing in
the bottom of the boat, as if to make it better withstand the pointed
pressure of his ivory limb; and also the anxiety he evinced in
exactly shaping the thigh board, or clumsy cleat, as it is sometimes
called, the horizontal piece in the boat's bow for bracing the knee
against in darting or stabbing at the whale; when it was observed how
often he stood up in that boat with his solitary knee fixed in the
semi-circular depression in the cleat, and with the carpenter's
chisel gouged out a little here and straightened it a little there;
all these things, I say, had awakened much interest and curiosity at
the time. But almost everybody supposed that this particular
preparative heedfulness in Ahab must only be with a view to the
ultimate chase of Moby Dick; for he had already revealed his
intention to hunt that mortal monster in person. But such a
supposition did by no means involve the remotest suspicion as to any
boat's crew being assigned to that boat.

Now, with the subordinate phantoms, what wonder remained soon waned
away; for in a whaler wonders soon wane. Besides, now and then such
unaccountable odds and ends of strange nations come up from the
unknown nooks and ash-holes of the earth to man these floating
outlaws of whalers; and the ships themselves often pick up such queer
castaway creatures found tossing about the open sea on planks, bits
of wreck, oars, whaleboats, canoes, blown-off Japanese junks, and
what not; that Beelzebub himself might climb up the side and step
down into the cabin to chat with the captain, and it would not create
any unsubduable excitement in the forecastle.

But be all this as it may, certain it is that while the subordinate
phantoms soon found their place among the crew, though still as it
were somehow distinct from them, yet that hair-turbaned Fedallah
remained a muffled mystery to the last. Whence he came in a mannerly
world like this, by what sort of unaccountable tie he soon evinced
himself to be linked with Ahab's peculiar fortunes; nay, so far as to
have some sort of a half-hinted influence; Heaven knows, but it might
have been even authority over him; all this none knew. But one
cannot sustain an indifferent air concerning Fedallah. He was such a
creature as civilized, domestic people in the temperate zone only see
in their dreams, and that but dimly; but the like of whom now and
then glide among the unchanging Asiatic communities, especially the
Oriental isles to the east of the continent--those insulated,
immemorial, unalterable countries, which even in these modern days
still preserve much of the ghostly aboriginalness of earth's primal
generations, when the memory of the first man was a distinct
recollection, and all men his descendants, unknowing whence he came,
eyed each other as real phantoms, and asked of the sun and the moon
why they were created and to what end; when though, according to
Genesis, the angels indeed consorted with the daughters of men, the
devils also, add the uncanonical Rabbins, indulged in mundane amours.


The Spirit-Spout.

Days, weeks passed, and under easy sail, the ivory Pequod had slowly
swept across four several cruising-grounds; that off the Azores; off
the Cape de Verdes; on the Plate (so called), being off the mouth of
the Rio de la Plata; and the Carrol Ground, an unstaked, watery
locality, southerly from St. Helena.

It was while gliding through these latter waters that one serene and
moonlight night, when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver;
and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery
silence, not a solitude; on such a silent night a silvery jet was
seen far in advance of the white bubbles at the bow. Lit up by the
moon, it looked celestial; seemed some plumed and glittering god
uprising from the sea. Fedallah first descried this jet. For of
these moonlight nights, it was his wont to mount to the main-mast
head, and stand a look-out there, with the same precision as if it
had been day. And yet, though herds of whales were seen by night,
not one whaleman in a hundred would venture a lowering for them. You
may think with what emotions, then, the seamen beheld this old
Oriental perched aloft at such unusual hours; his turban and the
moon, companions in one sky. But when, after spending his uniform
interval there for several successive nights without uttering a
single sound; when, after all this silence, his unearthly voice was
heard announcing that silvery, moon-lit jet, every reclining mariner
started to his feet as if some winged spirit had lighted in the
rigging, and hailed the mortal crew. "There she blows!" Had the
trump of judgment blown, they could not have quivered more; yet still
they felt no terror; rather pleasure. For though it was a most
unwonted hour, yet so impressive was the cry, and so deliriously
exciting, that almost every soul on board instinctively desired a

Walking the deck with quick, side-lunging strides, Ahab commanded the
t'gallant sails and royals to be set, and every stunsail spread. The
best man in the ship must take the helm. Then, with every mast-head
manned, the piled-up craft rolled down before the wind. The strange,
upheaving, lifting tendency of the taffrail breeze filling the
hollows of so many sails, made the buoyant, hovering deck to feel
like air beneath the feet; while still she rushed along, as if two
antagonistic influences were struggling in her--one to mount direct
to heaven, the other to drive yawingly to some horizontal goal. And
had you watched Ahab's face that night, you would have thought that
in him also two different things were warring. While his one live
leg made lively echoes along the deck, every stroke of his dead limb
sounded like a coffin-tap. On life and death this old man walked.
But though the ship so swiftly sped, and though from every eye, like
arrows, the eager glances shot, yet the silvery jet was no more seen
that night. Every sailor swore he saw it once, but not a second

This midnight-spout had almost grown a forgotten thing, when, some
days after, lo! at the same silent hour, it was again announced:
again it was descried by all; but upon making sail to overtake it,
once more it disappeared as if it had never been. And so it served
us night after night, till no one heeded it but to wonder at it.
Mysteriously jetted into the clear moonlight, or starlight, as the
case might be; disappearing again for one whole day, or two days, or
three; and somehow seeming at every distinct repetition to be
advancing still further and further in our van, this solitary jet
seemed for ever alluring us on.

Nor with the immemorial superstition of their race, and in accordance
with the preternaturalness, as it seemed, which in many things
invested the Pequod, were there wanting some of the seamen who swore
that whenever and wherever descried; at however remote times, or in
however far apart latitudes and longitudes, that unnearable spout was
cast by one self-same whale; and that whale, Moby Dick. For a time,
there reigned, too, a sense of peculiar dread at this flitting
apparition, as if it were treacherously beckoning us on and on, in
order that the monster might turn round upon us, and rend us at last
in the remotest and most savage seas.

These temporary apprehensions, so vague but so awful, derived a
wondrous potency from the contrasting serenity of the weather, in
which, beneath all its blue blandness, some thought there lurked a
devilish charm, as for days and days we voyaged along, through seas
so wearily, lonesomely mild, that all space, in repugnance to our
vengeful errand, seemed vacating itself of life before our urn-like

But, at last, when turning to the eastward, the Cape winds began
howling around us, and we rose and fell upon the long, troubled seas
that are there; when the ivory-tusked Pequod sharply bowed to the
blast, and gored the dark waves in her madness, till, like showers of
silver chips, the foam-flakes flew over her bulwarks; then all this
desolate vacuity of life went away, but gave place to sights more
dismal than before.

Close to our bows, strange forms in the water darted hither and
thither before us; while thick in our rear flew the inscrutable
sea-ravens. And every morning, perched on our stays, rows of these
birds were seen; and spite of our hootings, for a long time
obstinately clung to the hemp, as though they deemed our ship some
drifting, uninhabited craft; a thing appointed to desolation, and
therefore fit roosting-place for their homeless selves. And heaved
and heaved, still unrestingly heaved the black sea, as if its vast
tides were a conscience; and the great mundane soul were in anguish
and remorse for the long sin and suffering it had bred.

Cape of Good Hope, do they call ye? Rather Cape Tormentoto, as
called of yore; for long allured by the perfidious silences that
before had attended us, we found ourselves launched into this
tormented sea, where guilty beings transformed into those fowls and
these fish, seemed condemned to swim on everlastingly without any
haven in store, or beat that black air without any horizon. But
calm, snow-white, and unvarying; still directing its fountain of
feathers to the sky; still beckoning us on from before, the solitary
jet would at times be descried.

During all this blackness of the elements, Ahab, though assuming for
the time the almost continual command of the drenched and dangerous
deck, manifested the gloomiest reserve; and more seldom than ever
addressed his mates. In tempestuous times like these, after
everything above and aloft has been secured, nothing more can be done
but passively to await the issue of the gale. Then Captain and crew
become practical fatalists. So, with his ivory leg inserted into its
accustomed hole, and with one hand firmly grasping a shroud, Ahab for
hours and hours would stand gazing dead to windward, while an
occasional squall of sleet or snow would all but congeal his very
eyelashes together. Meantime, the crew driven from the forward part
of the ship by the perilous seas that burstingly broke over its bows,
stood in a line along the bulwarks in the waist; and the better to
guard against the leaping waves, each man had slipped himself into a
sort of bowline secured to the rail, in which he swung as in a
loosened belt. Few or no words were spoken; and the silent ship, as
if manned by painted sailors in wax, day after day tore on through
all the swift madness and gladness of the demoniac waves. By night
the same muteness of humanity before the shrieks of the ocean
prevailed; still in silence the men swung in the bowlines; still
wordless Ahab stood up to the blast. Even when wearied nature seemed
demanding repose he would not seek that repose in his hammock.
Never could Starbuck forget the old man's aspect, when one night
going down into the cabin to mark how the barometer stood, he saw him
with closed eyes sitting straight in his floor-screwed chair; the
rain and half-melted sleet of the storm from which he had some time
before emerged, still slowly dripping from the unremoved hat and
coat. On the table beside him lay unrolled one of those charts of
tides and currents which have previously been spoken of. His lantern
swung from his tightly clenched hand. Though the body was erect, the
head was thrown back so that the closed eyes were pointed towards the
needle of the tell-tale that swung from a beam in the ceiling.*

*The cabin-compass is called the tell-tale, because without going to
the compass at the helm, the Captain, while below, can inform himself
of the course of the ship.

Terrible old man! thought Starbuck with a shudder, sleeping in this
gale, still thou steadfastly eyest thy purpose.


The Albatross.

South-eastward from the Cape, off the distant Crozetts, a good
cruising ground for Right Whalemen, a sail loomed ahead, the Goney
(Albatross) by name. As she slowly drew nigh, from my lofty perch at
the fore-mast-head, I had a good view of that sight so remarkable to
a tyro in the far ocean fisheries--a whaler at sea, and long absent
from home.

As if the waves had been fullers, this craft was bleached like the
skeleton of a stranded walrus. All down her sides, this spectral
appearance was traced with long channels of reddened rust, while all
her spars and her rigging were like the thick branches of trees
furred over with hoar-frost. Only her lower sails were set. A wild
sight it was to see her long-bearded look-outs at those three
mast-heads. They seemed clad in the skins of beasts, so torn and
bepatched the raiment that had survived nearly four years of
cruising. Standing in iron hoops nailed to the mast, they swayed and
swung over a fathomless sea; and though, when the ship slowly glided
close under our stern, we six men in the air came so nigh to each
other that we might almost have leaped from the mast-heads of one
ship to those of the other; yet, those forlorn-looking fishermen,
mildly eyeing us as they passed, said not one word to our own
look-outs, while the quarter-deck hail was being heard from below.

"Ship ahoy! Have ye seen the White Whale?"

But as the strange captain, leaning over the pallid bulwarks, was in
the act of putting his trumpet to his mouth, it somehow fell from his
hand into the sea; and the wind now rising amain, he in vain strove
to make himself heard without it. Meantime his ship was still
increasing the distance between. While in various silent ways
the seamen of the Pequod were evincing their observance of this
ominous incident at the first mere mention of the White Whale's name
to another ship, Ahab for a moment paused; it almost seemed as though
he would have lowered a boat to board the stranger, had not the
threatening wind forbade. But taking advantage of his windward
position, he again seized his trumpet, and knowing by her aspect that
the stranger vessel was a Nantucketer and shortly bound home, he
loudly hailed--"Ahoy there! This is the Pequod, bound round the
world! Tell them to address all future letters to the Pacific ocean!
and this time three years, if I am not at home, tell them to address
them to--"

At that moment the two wakes were fairly crossed, and instantly,
then, in accordance with their singular ways, shoals of small
harmless fish, that for some days before had been placidly swimming
by our side, darted away with what seemed shuddering fins, and ranged
themselves fore and aft with the stranger's flanks. Though in the
course of his continual voyagings Ahab must often before have noticed
a similar sight, yet, to any monomaniac man, the veriest trifles
capriciously carry meanings.

"Swim away from me, do ye?" murmured Ahab, gazing over into the
water. There seemed but little in the words, but the tone conveyed
more of deep helpless sadness than the insane old man had ever before
evinced. But turning to the steersman, who thus far had been holding
the ship in the wind to diminish her headway, he cried out in his old
lion voice,--"Up helm! Keep her off round the world!"

Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud
feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only
through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where
those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us.

Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could
for ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and
strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were
promise in the voyage. But in pursuit of those far mysteries we
dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon phantom that, some time
or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this
round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave
us whelmed.


The Gam.

The ostensible reason why Ahab did not go on board of the whaler we
had spoken was this: the wind and sea betokened storms. But even had
this not been the case, he would not after all, perhaps, have boarded
her--judging by his subsequent conduct on similar occasions--if so it
had been that, by the process of hailing, he had obtained a negative
answer to the question he put. For, as it eventually turned out, he
cared not to consort, even for five minutes, with any stranger
captain, except he could contribute some of that information he so
absorbingly sought. But all this might remain inadequately
estimated, were not something said here of the peculiar usages of
whaling-vessels when meeting each other in foreign seas, and
especially on a common cruising-ground.

If two strangers crossing the Pine Barrens in New York State, or the
equally desolate Salisbury Plain in England; if casually encountering
each other in such inhospitable wilds, these twain, for the life of
them, cannot well avoid a mutual salutation; and stopping for a
moment to interchange the news; and, perhaps, sitting down for a
while and resting in concert: then, how much more natural that upon
the illimitable Pine Barrens and Salisbury Plains of the sea, two
whaling vessels descrying each other at the ends of the earth--off
lone Fanning's Island, or the far away King's Mills; how much more
natural, I say, that under such circumstances these ships should not
only interchange hails, but come into still closer, more friendly and
sociable contact. And especially would this seem to be a matter of
course, in the case of vessels owned in one seaport, and whose
captains, officers, and not a few of the men are personally known to
each other; and consequently, have all sorts of dear domestic things
to talk about.

For the long absent ship, the outward-bounder, perhaps, has letters
on board; at any rate, she will be sure to let her have some papers
of a date a year or two later than the last one on her blurred and
thumb-worn files. And in return for that courtesy, the outward-bound
ship would receive the latest whaling intelligence from the
cruising-ground to which she may be destined, a thing of the utmost
importance to her. And in degree, all this will hold true concerning
whaling vessels crossing each other's track on the cruising-ground
itself, even though they are equally long absent from home. For one
of them may have received a transfer of letters from some third, and
now far remote vessel; and some of those letters may be for the
people of the ship she now meets. Besides, they would exchange the
whaling news, and have an agreeable chat. For not only would they
meet with all the sympathies of sailors, but likewise with all the
peculiar congenialities arising from a common pursuit and mutually
shared privations and perils.

Nor would difference of country make any very essential difference;
that is, so long as both parties speak one language, as is the case
with Americans and English. Though, to be sure, from the small
number of English whalers, such meetings do not very often occur, and
when they do occur there is too apt to be a sort of shyness between
them; for your Englishman is rather reserved, and your Yankee, he
does not fancy that sort of thing in anybody but himself. Besides,
the English whalers sometimes affect a kind of metropolitan
superiority over the American whalers; regarding the long, lean
Nantucketer, with his nondescript provincialisms, as a sort of
sea-peasant. But where this superiority in the English whalemen
does really consist, it would be hard to say, seeing that the Yankees
in one day, collectively, kill more whales than all the English,
collectively, in ten years. But this is a harmless little foible in
the English whale-hunters, which the Nantucketer does not take much
to heart; probably, because he knows that he has a few foibles

So, then, we see that of all ships separately sailing the sea, the
whalers have most reason to be sociable--and they are so. Whereas,
some merchant ships crossing each other's wake in the mid-Atlantic,
will oftentimes pass on without so much as a single word of
recognition, mutually cutting each other on the high seas, like a
brace of dandies in Broadway; and all the time indulging, perhaps, in
finical criticism upon each other's rig. As for Men-of-War, when
they chance to meet at sea, they first go through such a string of
silly bowings and scrapings, such a ducking of ensigns, that there
does not seem to be much right-down hearty good-will and brotherly
love about it at all. As touching Slave-ships meeting, why, they are
in such a prodigious hurry, they run away from each other as soon as
possible. And as for Pirates, when they chance to cross each other's
cross-bones, the first hail is--"How many skulls?"--the same way that
whalers hail--"How many barrels?" And that question once answered,
pirates straightway steer apart, for they are infernal villains on
both sides, and don't like to see overmuch of each other's villanous

But look at the godly, honest, unostentatious, hospitable, sociable,
free-and-easy whaler! What does the whaler do when she meets another
whaler in any sort of decent weather? She has a "GAM," a thing so
utterly unknown to all other ships that they never heard of the name
even; and if by chance they should hear of it, they only grin at it,
and repeat gamesome stuff about "spouters" and "blubber-boilers," and
such like pretty exclamations. Why it is that all Merchant-seamen,
and also all Pirates and Man-of-War's men, and Slave-ship sailors,
cherish such a scornful feeling towards Whale-ships; this is a
question it would be hard to answer. Because, in the case of
pirates, say, I should like to know whether that profession of theirs
has any peculiar glory about it. It sometimes ends in uncommon
elevation, indeed; but only at the gallows. And besides, when a man
is elevated in that odd fashion, he has no proper foundation for his
superior altitude. Hence, I conclude, that in boasting himself to be
high lifted above a whaleman, in that assertion the pirate has no
solid basis to stand on.

But what is a GAM? You might wear out your index-finger running up
and down the columns of dictionaries, and never find the word. Dr.
Johnson never attained to that erudition; Noah Webster's ark does not
hold it. Nevertheless, this same expressive word has now for many
years been in constant use among some fifteen thousand true born
Yankees. Certainly, it needs a definition, and should be
incorporated into the Lexicon. With that view, let me learnedly
define it.


There is another little item about Gamming which must not be
forgotten here. All professions have their own little peculiarities
of detail; so has the whale fishery. In a pirate, man-of-war, or
slave ship, when the captain is rowed anywhere in his boat, he always
sits in the stern sheets on a comfortable, sometimes cushioned seat
there, and often steers himself with a pretty little milliner's
tiller decorated with gay cords and ribbons. But the whale-boat has
no seat astern, no sofa of that sort whatever, and no tiller at all.
High times indeed, if whaling captains were wheeled about the water
on castors like gouty old aldermen in patent chairs. And as for a
tiller, the whale-boat never admits of any such effeminacy; and
therefore as in gamming a complete boat's crew must leave the ship,
and hence as the boat steerer or harpooneer is of the number, that
subordinate is the steersman upon the occasion, and the captain,
having no place to sit in, is pulled off to his visit all standing
like a pine tree. And often you will notice that being conscious of
the eyes of the whole visible world resting on him from the sides of
the two ships, this standing captain is all alive to the importance
of sustaining his dignity by maintaining his legs. Nor is this any
very easy matter; for in his rear is the immense projecting steering
oar hitting him now and then in the small of his back, the after-oar
reciprocating by rapping his knees in front. He is thus completely
wedged before and behind, and can only expand himself sideways by
settling down on his stretched legs; but a sudden, violent pitch of
the boat will often go far to topple him, because length of
foundation is nothing without corresponding breadth. Merely make a
spread angle of two poles, and you cannot stand them up. Then,
again, it would never do in plain sight of the world's riveted eyes,
it would never do, I say, for this straddling captain to be seen
steadying himself the slightest particle by catching hold of anything
with his hands; indeed, as token of his entire, buoyant self-command,
he generally carries his hands in his trowsers' pockets; but perhaps
being generally very large, heavy hands, he carries them there for
ballast. Nevertheless there have occurred instances, well
authenticated ones too, where the captain has been known for an
uncommonly critical moment or two, in a sudden squall say--to seize
hold of the nearest oarsman's hair, and hold on there like grim


The Town-Ho's Story.


The Cape of Good Hope, and all the watery region round about there,
is much like some noted four corners of a great highway, where you
meet more travellers than in any other part.

It was not very long after speaking the Goney that another
homeward-bound whaleman, the Town-Ho,* was encountered. She was
manned almost wholly by Polynesians. In the short gam that ensued
she gave us strong news of Moby Dick. To some the general interest
in the White Whale was now wildly heightened by a circumstance of the
Town-Ho's story, which seemed obscurely to involve with the whale a
certain wondrous, inverted visitation of one of those so called
judgments of God which at times are said to overtake some men. This
latter circumstance, with its own particular accompaniments, forming
what may be called the secret part of the tragedy about to be
narrated, never reached the ears of Captain Ahab or his mates. For
that secret part of the story was unknown to the captain of the
Town-Ho himself. It was the private property of three confederate
white seamen of that ship, one of whom, it seems, communicated it to
Tashtego with Romish injunctions of secrecy, but the following night
Tashtego rambled in his sleep, and revealed so much of it in that
way, that when he was wakened he could not well withhold the rest.
Nevertheless, so potent an influence did this thing have on those
seamen in the Pequod who came to the full knowledge of it, and by
such a strange delicacy, to call it so, were they governed in this
matter, that they kept the secret among themselves so that it never
transpired abaft the Pequod's main-mast. Interweaving in its proper
place this darker thread with the story as publicly narrated on the
ship, the whole of this strange affair I now proceed to put on
lasting record.

*The ancient whale-cry upon first sighting a whale from the
mast-head, still used by whalemen in hunting the famous Gallipagos

For my humor's sake, I shall preserve the style in which I once
narrated it at Lima, to a lounging circle of my Spanish friends, one
saint's eve, smoking upon the thick-gilt tiled piazza of the Golden
Inn. Of those fine cavaliers, the young Dons, Pedro and Sebastian,
were on the closer terms with me; and hence the interluding questions

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