Part 7 out of 12
part of the Sperm Whale designated by Stubb; comprising the tapering
extremity of the body.
About midnight that steak was cut and cooked; and lighted by two
lanterns of sperm oil, Stubb stoutly stood up to his spermaceti
supper at the capstan-head, as if that capstan were a sideboard. Nor
was Stubb the only banqueter on whale's flesh that night. Mingling
their mumblings with his own mastications, thousands on thousands of
sharks, swarming round the dead leviathan, smackingly feasted on its
fatness. The few sleepers below in their bunks were often startled
by the sharp slapping of their tails against the hull, within a few
inches of the sleepers' hearts. Peering over the side you could just
see them (as before you heard them) wallowing in the sullen, black
waters, and turning over on their backs as they scooped out huge
globular pieces of the whale of the bigness of a human head. This
particular feat of the shark seems all but miraculous. How at such
an apparently unassailable surface, they contrive to gouge out such
symmetrical mouthfuls, remains a part of the universal problem of all
things. The mark they thus leave on the whale, may best be likened
to the hollow made by a carpenter in countersinking for a screw.
Though amid all the smoking horror and diabolism of a sea-fight,
sharks will be seen longingly gazing up to the ship's decks, like
hungry dogs round a table where red meat is being carved, ready to
bolt down every killed man that is tossed to them; and though, while
the valiant butchers over the deck-table are thus cannibally carving
each other's live meat with carving-knives all gilded and tasselled,
the sharks, also, with their jewel-hilted mouths, are quarrelsomely
carving away under the table at the dead meat; and though, were you
to turn the whole affair upside down, it would still be pretty much
the same thing, that is to say, a shocking sharkish business enough
for all parties; and though sharks also are the invariable outriders
of all slave ships crossing the Atlantic, systematically trotting
alongside, to be handy in case a parcel is to be carried anywhere, or
a dead slave to be decently buried; and though one or two other like
instances might be set down, touching the set terms, places, and
occasions, when sharks do most socially congregate, and most
hilariously feast; yet is there no conceivable time or occasion when
you will find them in such countless numbers, and in gayer or more
jovial spirits, than around a dead sperm whale, moored by night to a
whaleship at sea. If you have never seen that sight, then suspend
your decision about the propriety of devil-worship, and the
expediency of conciliating the devil.
But, as yet, Stubb heeded not the mumblings of the banquet that was
going on so nigh him, no more than the sharks heeded the smacking of
his own epicurean lips.
"Cook, cook!--where's that old Fleece?" he cried at length, widening
his legs still further, as if to form a more secure base for his
supper; and, at the same time darting his fork into the dish, as if
stabbing with his lance; "cook, you cook!--sail this way, cook!"
The old black, not in any very high glee at having been previously
roused from his warm hammock at a most unseasonable hour, came
shambling along from his galley, for, like many old blacks, there was
something the matter with his knee-pans, which he did not keep well
scoured like his other pans; this old Fleece, as they called him,
came shuffling and limping along, assisting his step with his tongs,
which, after a clumsy fashion, were made of straightened iron hoops;
this old Ebony floundered along, and in obedience to the word of
command, came to a dead stop on the opposite side of Stubb's
sideboard; when, with both hands folded before him, and resting on
his two-legged cane, he bowed his arched back still further over, at
the same time sideways inclining his head, so as to bring his best
ear into play.
"Cook," said Stubb, rapidly lifting a rather reddish morsel to his
mouth, "don't you think this steak is rather overdone? You've been
beating this steak too much, cook; it's too tender. Don't I always
say that to be good, a whale-steak must be tough? There are those
sharks now over the side, don't you see they prefer it tough and
rare? What a shindy they are kicking up! Cook, go and talk to 'em;
tell 'em they are welcome to help themselves civilly, and in
moderation, but they must keep quiet. Blast me, if I can hear my own
voice. Away, cook, and deliver my message. Here, take this
lantern," snatching one from his sideboard; "now then, go and preach
Sullenly taking the offered lantern, old Fleece limped across the
deck to the bulwarks; and then, with one hand dropping his light low
over the sea, so as to get a good view of his congregation, with the
other hand he solemnly flourished his tongs, and leaning far over the
side in a mumbling voice began addressing the sharks, while Stubb,
softly crawling behind, overheard all that was said.
"Fellow-critters: I'se ordered here to say dat you must stop dat dam
noise dare. You hear? Stop dat dam smackin' ob de lips! Massa
Stubb say dat you can fill your dam bellies up to de hatchings, but
by Gor! you must stop dat dam racket!"
"Cook," here interposed Stubb, accompanying the word with a sudden
slap on the shoulder,--"Cook! why, damn your eyes, you mustn't swear
that way when you're preaching. That's no way to convert sinners,
"Who dat? Den preach to him yourself," sullenly turning to go.
"No, cook; go on, go on."
"Well, den, Belubed fellow-critters:"-
"Right!" exclaimed Stubb, approvingly, "coax 'em to it; try that,"
and Fleece continued.
"Do you is all sharks, and by natur wery woracious, yet I zay to you,
fellow-critters, dat dat woraciousness--'top dat dam slappin' ob de
tail! How you tink to hear, spose you keep up such a dam slappin'
and bitin' dare?"
"Cook," cried Stubb, collaring him, "I won't have that swearing.
Talk to 'em gentlemanly."
Once more the sermon proceeded.
"Your woraciousness, fellow-critters, I don't blame ye so much for;
dat is natur, and can't be helped; but to gobern dat wicked natur,
dat is de pint. You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in
you, why den you be angel; for all angel is not'ing more dan de shark
well goberned. Now, look here, bred'ren, just try wonst to be cibil,
a helping yourselbs from dat whale. Don't be tearin' de blubber out
your neighbour's mout, I say. Is not one shark dood right as toder
to dat whale? And, by Gor, none on you has de right to dat whale;
dat whale belong to some one else. I know some o' you has berry brig
mout, brigger dan oders; but den de brig mouts sometimes has de
small bellies; so dat de brigness of de mout is not to swaller wid,
but to bit off de blubber for de small fry ob sharks, dat can't get
into de scrouge to help demselves."
"Well done, old Fleece!" cried Stubb, "that's Christianity; go on."
"No use goin' on; de dam willains will keep a scougin' and slappin'
each oder, Massa Stubb; dey don't hear one word; no use a-preaching
to such dam g'uttons as you call 'em, till dare bellies is full, and
dare bellies is bottomless; and when dey do get 'em full, dey wont
hear you den; for den dey sink in the sea, go fast to sleep on de
coral, and can't hear noting at all, no more, for eber and eber."
"Upon my soul, I am about of the same opinion; so give the
benediction, Fleece, and I'll away to my supper."
Upon this, Fleece, holding both hands over the fishy mob, raised his
shrill voice, and cried--
"Cussed fellow-critters! Kick up de damndest row as ever you can;
fill your dam bellies 'till dey bust--and den die."
"Now, cook," said Stubb, resuming his supper at the capstan; "stand
just where you stood before, there, over against me, and pay
"All 'dention," said Fleece, again stooping over upon his tongs in
the desired position.
"Well," said Stubb, helping himself freely meanwhile; "I shall now go
back to the subject of this steak. In the first place, how old are
"What dat do wid de 'teak," said the old black, testily.
"Silence! How old are you, cook?"
"'Bout ninety, dey say," he gloomily muttered.
"And you have lived in this world hard upon one hundred years, cook,
and don't know yet how to cook a whale-steak?" rapidly bolting
another mouthful at the last word, so that morsel seemed a
continuation of the question. "Where were you born, cook?"
"'Hind de hatchway, in ferry-boat, goin' ober de Roanoke."
"Born in a ferry-boat! That's queer, too. But I want to know what
country you were born in, cook!"
"Didn't I say de Roanoke country?" he cried sharply.
"No, you didn't, cook; but I'll tell you what I'm coming to, cook.
You must go home and be born over again; you don't know how to cook a
"Bress my soul, if I cook noder one," he growled, angrily, turning
round to depart.
"Come back here, cook;--here, hand me those tongs;--now take that bit
of steak there, and tell me if you think that steak cooked as it
should be? Take it, I say"--holding the tongs towards him--"take it,
and taste it."
Faintly smacking his withered lips over it for a moment, the old
negro muttered, "Best cooked 'teak I eber taste; joosy, berry joosy."
"Cook," said Stubb, squaring himself once more; "do you belong to the
"Passed one once in Cape-Down," said the old man sullenly.
"And you have once in your life passed a holy church in Cape-Town,
where you doubtless overheard a holy parson addressing his hearers as
his beloved fellow-creatures, have you, cook! And yet you come here,
and tell me such a dreadful lie as you did just now, eh?" said Stubb.
"Where do you expect to go to, cook?"
"Go to bed berry soon," he mumbled, half-turning as he spoke.
"Avast! heave to! I mean when you die, cook. It's an awful
question. Now what's your answer?"
"When dis old brack man dies," said the negro slowly, changing his
whole air and demeanor, "he hisself won't go nowhere; but some
bressed angel will come and fetch him."
"Fetch him? How? In a coach and four, as they fetched Elijah? And
fetch him where?"
"Up dere," said Fleece, holding his tongs straight over his head, and
keeping it there very solemnly.
"So, then, you expect to go up into our main-top, do you, cook, when
you are dead? But don't you know the higher you climb, the colder it
gets? Main-top, eh?"
"Didn't say dat t'all," said Fleece, again in the sulks.
"You said up there, didn't you? and now look yourself, and see where
your tongs are pointing. But, perhaps you expect to get into heaven
by crawling through the lubber's hole, cook; but, no, no, cook, you
don't get there, except you go the regular way, round by the rigging.
It's a ticklish business, but must be done, or else it's no go. But
none of us are in heaven yet. Drop your tongs, cook, and hear my
orders. Do ye hear? Hold your hat in one hand, and clap t'other
a'top of your heart, when I'm giving my orders, cook. What! that
your heart, there?--that's your gizzard! Aloft! aloft!--that's
it--now you have it. Hold it there now, and pay attention."
"All 'dention," said the old black, with both hands placed as
desired, vainly wriggling his grizzled head, as if to get both ears
in front at one and the same time.
"Well then, cook, you see this whale-steak of yours was so very bad,
that I have put it out of sight as soon as possible; you see that,
don't you? Well, for the future, when you cook another whale-steak
for my private table here, the capstan, I'll tell you what to do so
as not to spoil it by overdoing. Hold the steak in one hand, and
show a live coal to it with the other; that done, dish it; d'ye hear?
And now to-morrow, cook, when we are cutting in the fish, be sure
you stand by to get the tips of his fins; have them put in pickle.
As for the ends of the flukes, have them soused, cook. There, now ye
But Fleece had hardly got three paces off, when he was recalled.
"Cook, give me cutlets for supper to-morrow night in the mid-watch.
D'ye hear? away you sail, then.--Halloa! stop! make a bow before you
go.--Avast heaving again! Whale-balls for breakfast--don't forget."
"Wish, by gor! whale eat him, 'stead of him eat whale. I'm bressed
if he ain't more of shark dan Massa Shark hisself," muttered the old
man, limping away; with which sage ejaculation he went to his
The Whale as a Dish.
That mortal man should feed upon the creature that feeds his lamp,
and, like Stubb, eat him by his own light, as you may say; this seems
so outlandish a thing that one must needs go a little into the
history and philosophy of it.
It is upon record, that three centuries ago the tongue of the Right
Whale was esteemed a great delicacy in France, and commanded large
prices there. Also, that in Henry VIIIth's time, a certain cook of
the court obtained a handsome reward for inventing an admirable sauce
to be eaten with barbacued porpoises, which, you remember, are a
species of whale. Porpoises, indeed, are to this day considered fine
eating. The meat is made into balls about the size of billiard
balls, and being well seasoned and spiced might be taken for
turtle-balls or veal balls. The old monks of Dunfermline were very
fond of them. They had a great porpoise grant from the crown.
The fact is, that among his hunters at least, the whale would by all
hands be considered a noble dish, were there not so much of him; but
when you come to sit down before a meat-pie nearly one hundred feet
long, it takes away your appetite. Only the most unprejudiced of men
like Stubb, nowadays partake of cooked whales; but the Esquimaux are
not so fastidious. We all know how they live upon whales, and have
rare old vintages of prime old train oil. Zogranda, one of their
most famous doctors, recommends strips of blubber for infants, as
being exceedingly juicy and nourishing. And this reminds me that
certain Englishmen, who long ago were accidentally left in Greenland
by a whaling vessel--that these men actually lived for several months
on the mouldy scraps of whales which had been left ashore after
trying out the blubber. Among the Dutch whalemen these scraps are
called "fritters"; which, indeed, they greatly resemble, being brown
and crisp, and smelling something like old Amsterdam housewives'
dough-nuts or oly-cooks, when fresh. They have such an eatable look
that the most self-denying stranger can hardly keep his hands off.
But what further depreciates the whale as a civilized dish, is his
exceeding richness. He is the great prize ox of the sea, too fat to
be delicately good. Look at his hump, which would be as fine eating
as the buffalo's (which is esteemed a rare dish), were it not such a
solid pyramid of fat. But the spermaceti itself, how bland and
creamy that is; like the transparent, half-jellied, white meat of a
cocoanut in the third month of its growth, yet far too rich to supply
a substitute for butter. Nevertheless, many whalemen have a method
of absorbing it into some other substance, and then partaking of it.
In the long try watches of the night it is a common thing for the
seamen to dip their ship-biscuit into the huge oil-pots and let them
fry there awhile. Many a good supper have I thus made.
In the case of a small Sperm Whale the brains are accounted a fine
dish. The casket of the skull is broken into with an axe, and the
two plump, whitish lobes being withdrawn (precisely resembling two
large puddings), they are then mixed with flour, and cooked into a
most delectable mess, in flavor somewhat resembling calves' head,
which is quite a dish among some epicures; and every one knows that
some young bucks among the epicures, by continually dining upon
calves' brains, by and by get to have a little brains of their own,
so as to be able to tell a calf's head from their own heads; which,
indeed, requires uncommon discrimination. And that is the reason why
a young buck with an intelligent looking calf's head before him, is
somehow one of the saddest sights you can see. The head looks a sort
of reproachfully at him, with an "Et tu Brute!" expression.
It is not, perhaps, entirely because the whale is so excessively
unctuous that landsmen seem to regard the eating of him with
abhorrence; that appears to result, in some way, from the
consideration before mentioned: i.e. that a man should eat a newly
murdered thing of the sea, and eat it too by its own light. But no
doubt the first man that ever murdered an ox was regarded as a
murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if he had been put on his trial by
oxen, he certainly would have been; and he certainly deserved it if
any murderer does. Go to the meat-market of a Saturday night and see
the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead
quadrupeds. Does not that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal's
jaw? Cannibals? who is not a cannibal? I tell you it will be more
tolerable for the Fejee that salted down a lean missionary in his
cellar against a coming famine; it will be more tolerable for that
provident Fejee, I say, in the day of judgment, than for thee,
civilized and enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese to the ground
and feastest on their bloated livers in thy pate-de-foie-gras.
But Stubb, he eats the whale by its own light, does he? and that is
adding insult to injury, is it? Look at your knife-handle, there, my
civilized and enlightened gourmand dining off that roast beef, what
is that handle made of?--what but the bones of the brother of the
very ox you are eating? And what do you pick your teeth with, after
devouring that fat goose? With a feather of the same fowl. And with
what quill did the Secretary of the Society for the Suppression of
Cruelty to Ganders formally indite his circulars? It is only within
the last month or two that that society passed a resolution to
patronise nothing but steel pens.
The Shark Massacre.
When in the Southern Fishery, a captured Sperm Whale, after long and
weary toil, is brought alongside late at night, it is not, as a
general thing at least, customary to proceed at once to the business
of cutting him in. For that business is an exceedingly laborious
one; is not very soon completed; and requires all hands to set about
it. Therefore, the common usage is to take in all sail; lash the
helm a'lee; and then send every one below to his hammock till
daylight, with the reservation that, until that time, anchor-watches
shall be kept; that is, two and two for an hour, each couple, the
crew in rotation shall mount the deck to see that all goes well.
But sometimes, especially upon the Line in the Pacific, this plan
will not answer at all; because such incalculable hosts of sharks
gather round the moored carcase, that were he left so for six hours,
say, on a stretch, little more than the skeleton would be visible by
morning. In most other parts of the ocean, however, where these fish
do not so largely abound, their wondrous voracity can be at times
considerably diminished, by vigorously stirring them up with sharp
whaling-spades, a procedure notwithstanding, which, in some
instances, only seems to tickle them into still greater activity.
But it was not thus in the present case with the Pequod's sharks;
though, to be sure, any man unaccustomed to such sights, to have
looked over her side that night, would have almost thought the whole
round sea was one huge cheese, and those sharks the maggots in it.
Nevertheless, upon Stubb setting the anchor-watch after his supper
was concluded; and when, accordingly, Queequeg and a forecastle
seaman came on deck, no small excitement was created among the
sharks; for immediately suspending the cutting stages over the side,
and lowering three lanterns, so that they cast long gleams of light
over the turbid sea, these two mariners, darting their long
whaling-spades, kept up an incessant murdering of the sharks,* by
striking the keen steel deep into their skulls, seemingly their only
vital part. But in the foamy confusion of their mixed and struggling
hosts, the marksmen could not always hit their mark; and this brought
about new revelations of the incredible ferocity of the foe. They
viciously snapped, not only at each other's disembowelments, but like
flexible bows, bent round, and bit their own; till those entrails
seemed swallowed over and over again by the same mouth, to be
oppositely voided by the gaping wound. Nor was this all. It was
unsafe to meddle with the corpses and ghosts of these creatures. A
sort of generic or Pantheistic vitality seemed to lurk in their very
joints and bones, after what might be called the individual life had
departed. Killed and hoisted on deck for the sake of his skin, one
of these sharks almost took poor Queequeg's hand off, when he tried
to shut down the dead lid of his murderous jaw.
*The whaling-spade used for cutting-in is made of the very best
steel; is about the bigness of a man's spread hand; and in general
shape, corresponds to the garden implement after which it is named;
only its sides are perfectly flat, and its upper end considerably
narrower than the lower. This weapon is always kept as sharp as
possible; and when being used is occasionally honed, just like a
razor. In its socket, a stiff pole, from twenty to thirty feet long,
is inserted for a handle.
"Queequeg no care what god made him shark," said the savage,
agonizingly lifting his hand up and down; "wedder Fejee god or
Nantucket god; but de god wat made shark must be one dam Ingin."
It was a Saturday night, and such a Sabbath as followed! Ex officio
professors of Sabbath breaking are all whalemen. The ivory Pequod
was turned into what seemed a shamble; every sailor a butcher. You
would have thought we were offering up ten thousand red oxen to the
In the first place, the enormous cutting tackles, among other
ponderous things comprising a cluster of blocks generally painted
green, and which no single man can possibly lift--this vast bunch of
grapes was swayed up to the main-top and firmly lashed to the lower
mast-head, the strongest point anywhere above a ship's deck. The end
of the hawser-like rope winding through these intricacies, was then
conducted to the windlass, and the huge lower block of the tackles
was swung over the whale; to this block the great blubber hook,
weighing some one hundred pounds, was attached. And now suspended in
stages over the side, Starbuck and Stubb, the mates, armed with their
long spades, began cutting a hole in the body for the insertion of
the hook just above the nearest of the two side-fins. This done, a
broad, semicircular line is cut round the hole, the hook is inserted,
and the main body of the crew striking up a wild chorus, now commence
heaving in one dense crowd at the windlass. When instantly, the
entire ship careens over on her side; every bolt in her starts like
the nail-heads of an old house in frosty weather; she trembles,
quivers, and nods her frighted mast-heads to the sky. More and more
she leans over to the whale, while every gasping heave of the
windlass is answered by a helping heave from the billows; till at
last, a swift, startling snap is heard; with a great swash the ship
rolls upwards and backwards from the whale, and the triumphant tackle
rises into sight dragging after it the disengaged semicircular end of
the first strip of blubber. Now as the blubber envelopes the whale
precisely as the rind does an orange, so is it stripped off from the
body precisely as an orange is sometimes stripped by spiralizing it.
For the strain constantly kept up by the windlass continually keeps
the whale rolling over and over in the water, and as the blubber in
one strip uniformly peels off along the line called the "scarf,"
simultaneously cut by the spades of Starbuck and Stubb, the mates;
and just as fast as it is thus peeled off, and indeed by that very
act itself, it is all the time being hoisted higher and higher aloft
till its upper end grazes the main-top; the men at the windlass then
cease heaving, and for a moment or two the prodigious blood-dripping
mass sways to and fro as if let down from the sky, and every one
present must take good heed to dodge it when it swings, else it may
box his ears and pitch him headlong overboard.
One of the attending harpooneers now advances with a long, keen
weapon called a boarding-sword, and watching his chance he
dexterously slices out a considerable hole in the lower part of the
swaying mass. Into this hole, the end of the second alternating
great tackle is then hooked so as to retain a hold upon the blubber,
in order to prepare for what follows. Whereupon, this accomplished
swordsman, warning all hands to stand off, once more makes a
scientific dash at the mass, and with a few sidelong, desperate,
lunging slicings, severs it completely in twain; so that while the
short lower part is still fast, the long upper strip, called a
blanket-piece, swings clear, and is all ready for lowering. The
heavers forward now resume their song, and while the one tackle is
peeling and hoisting a second strip from the whale, the other is
slowly slackened away, and down goes the first strip through the main
hatchway right beneath, into an unfurnished parlor called the
blubber-room. Into this twilight apartment sundry nimble hands keep
coiling away the long blanket-piece as if it were a great live mass
of plaited serpents. And thus the work proceeds; the two tackles
hoisting and lowering simultaneously; both whale and windlass
heaving, the heavers singing, the blubber-room gentlemen coiling, the
mates scarfing, the ship straining, and all hands swearing
occasionally, by way of assuaging the general friction.
I have given no small attention to that not unvexed subject, the skin
of the whale. I have had controversies about it with experienced
whalemen afloat, and learned naturalists ashore. My original opinion
remains unchanged; but it is only an opinion.
The question is, what and where is the skin of the whale? Already
you know what his blubber is. That blubber is something of the
consistence of firm, close-grained beef, but tougher, more elastic
and compact, and ranges from eight or ten to twelve and fifteen
inches in thickness.
Now, however preposterous it may at first seem to talk of any
creature's skin as being of that sort of consistence and thickness,
yet in point of fact these are no arguments against such a
presumption; because you cannot raise any other dense enveloping
layer from the whale's body but that same blubber; and the outermost
enveloping layer of any animal, if reasonably dense, what can that be
but the skin? True, from the unmarred dead body of the whale, you
may scrape off with your hand an infinitely thin, transparent
substance, somewhat resembling the thinnest shreds of isinglass, only
it is almost as flexible and soft as satin; that is, previous to
being dried, when it not only contracts and thickens, but becomes
rather hard and brittle. I have several such dried bits, which I use
for marks in my whale-books. It is transparent, as I said before;
and being laid upon the printed page, I have sometimes pleased myself
with fancying it exerted a magnifying influence. At any rate, it is
pleasant to read about whales through their own spectacles, as you
may say. But what I am driving at here is this. That same
infinitely thin, isinglass substance, which, I admit, invests the
entire body of the whale, is not so much to be regarded as the skin
of the creature, as the skin of the skin, so to speak; for it were
simply ridiculous to say, that the proper skin of the tremendous
whale is thinner and more tender than the skin of a new-born child.
But no more of this.
Assuming the blubber to be the skin of the whale; then, when this
skin, as in the case of a very large Sperm Whale, will yield the bulk
of one hundred barrels of oil; and, when it is considered that, in
quantity, or rather weight, that oil, in its expressed state, is only
three fourths, and not the entire substance of the coat; some idea
may hence be had of the enormousness of that animated mass, a mere
part of whose mere integument yields such a lake of liquid as that.
Reckoning ten barrels to the ton, you have ten tons for the net
weight of only three quarters of the stuff of the whale's skin.
In life, the visible surface of the Sperm Whale is not the least
among the many marvels he presents. Almost invariably it is all over
obliquely crossed and re-crossed with numberless straight marks in
thick array, something like those in the finest Italian line
engravings. But these marks do not seem to be impressed upon the
isinglass substance above mentioned, but seem to be seen through it,
as if they were engraved upon the body itself. Nor is this all. In
some instances, to the quick, observant eye, those linear marks, as
in a veritable engraving, but afford the ground for far other
delineations. These are hieroglyphical; that is, if you call those
mysterious cyphers on the walls of pyramids hieroglyphics, then that
is the proper word to use in the present connexion. By my retentive
memory of the hieroglyphics upon one Sperm Whale in particular, I was
much struck with a plate representing the old Indian characters
chiselled on the famous hieroglyphic palisades on the banks of the
Upper Mississippi. Like those mystic rocks, too, the mystic-marked
whale remains undecipherable. This allusion to the Indian rocks
reminds me of another thing. Besides all the other phenomena which
the exterior of the Sperm Whale presents, he not seldom displays the
back, and more especially his flanks, effaced in great part of the
regular linear appearance, by reason of numerous rude scratches,
altogether of an irregular, random aspect. I should say that those
New England rocks on the sea-coast, which Agassiz imagines to bear
the marks of violent scraping contact with vast floating icebergs--I
should say, that those rocks must not a little resemble the Sperm
Whale in this particular. It also seems to me that such scratches in
the whale are probably made by hostile contact with other whales; for
I have most remarked them in the large, full-grown bulls of the
A word or two more concerning this matter of the skin or blubber of
the whale. It has already been said, that it is stript from him in
long pieces, called blanket-pieces. Like most sea-terms, this one is
very happy and significant. For the whale is indeed wrapt up in his
blubber as in a real blanket or counterpane; or, still better, an
Indian poncho slipt over his head, and skirting his extremity. It is
by reason of this cosy blanketing of his body, that the whale is
enabled to keep himself comfortable in all weathers, in all seas,
times, and tides. What would become of a Greenland whale, say, in
those shuddering, icy seas of the North, if unsupplied with his cosy
surtout? True, other fish are found exceedingly brisk in those
Hyperborean waters; but these, be it observed, are your cold-blooded,
lungless fish, whose very bellies are refrigerators; creatures, that
warm themselves under the lee of an iceberg, as a traveller in winter
would bask before an inn fire; whereas, like man, the whale has lungs
and warm blood. Freeze his blood, and he dies. How wonderful is it
then--except after explanation--that this great monster, to whom
corporeal warmth is as indispensable as it is to man; how wonderful
that he should be found at home, immersed to his lips for life in
those Arctic waters! where, when seamen fall overboard, they are
sometimes found, months afterwards, perpendicularly frozen into the
hearts of fields of ice, as a fly is found glued in amber. But more
surprising is it to know, as has been proved by experiment, that the
blood of a Polar whale is warmer than that of a Borneo negro in
It does seem to me, that herein we see the rare virtue of a strong
individual vitality, and the rare virtue of thick walls, and the rare
virtue of interior spaciousness. Oh, man! admire and model thyself
after the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm among ice. Do thou, too,
live in this world without being of it. Be cool at the equator; keep
thy blood fluid at the Pole. Like the great dome of St. Peter's, and
like the great whale, retain, O man! in all seasons a temperature of
But how easy and how hopeless to teach these fine things! Of
erections, how few are domed like St. Peter's! of creatures, how few
vast as the whale!
Haul in the chains! Let the carcase go astern!
The vast tackles have now done their duty. The peeled white body of
the beheaded whale flashes like a marble sepulchre; though changed in
hue, it has not perceptibly lost anything in bulk. It is still
colossal. Slowly it floats more and more away, the water round it
torn and splashed by the insatiate sharks, and the air above vexed
with rapacious flights of screaming fowls, whose beaks are like so
many insulting poniards in the whale. The vast white headless
phantom floats further and further from the ship, and every rod that
it so floats, what seem square roods of sharks and cubic roods of
fowls, augment the murderous din. For hours and hours from the
almost stationary ship that hideous sight is seen. Beneath the
unclouded and mild azure sky, upon the fair face of the pleasant sea,
wafted by the joyous breezes, that great mass of death floats on and
on, till lost in infinite perspectives.
There's a most doleful and most mocking funeral! The sea-vultures
all in pious mourning, the air-sharks all punctiliously in black or
speckled. In life but few of them would have helped the whale, I
ween, if peradventure he had needed it; but upon the banquet of his
funeral they most piously do pounce. Oh, horrible vultureism of
earth! from which not the mightiest whale is free.
Nor is this the end. Desecrated as the body is, a vengeful ghost
survives and hovers over it to scare. Espied by some timid
man-of-war or blundering discovery-vessel from afar, when the
distance obscuring the swarming fowls, nevertheless still shows the
white mass floating in the sun, and the white spray heaving high
against it; straightway the whale's unharming corpse, with trembling
fingers is set down in the log--SHOALS, ROCKS, AND BREAKERS
HEREABOUTS: BEWARE! And for years afterwards, perhaps, ships shun
the place; leaping over it as silly sheep leap over a vacuum, because
their leader originally leaped there when a stick was held. There's
your law of precedents; there's your utility of traditions; there's
the story of your obstinate survival of old beliefs never bottomed on
the earth, and now not even hovering in the air! There's orthodoxy!
Thus, while in life the great whale's body may have been a real
terror to his foes, in his death his ghost becomes a powerless panic
to a world.
Are you a believer in ghosts, my friend? There are other ghosts than
the Cock-Lane one, and far deeper men than Doctor Johnson who believe
It should not have been omitted that previous to completely stripping
the body of the leviathan, he was beheaded. Now, the beheading of
the Sperm Whale is a scientific anatomical feat, upon which
experienced whale surgeons very much pride themselves: and not
Consider that the whale has nothing that can properly be called a
neck; on the contrary, where his head and body seem to join, there,
in that very place, is the thickest part of him. Remember, also,
that the surgeon must operate from above, some eight or ten feet
intervening between him and his subject, and that subject almost
hidden in a discoloured, rolling, and oftentimes tumultuous and
bursting sea. Bear in mind, too, that under these untoward
circumstances he has to cut many feet deep in the flesh; and in that
subterraneous manner, without so much as getting one single peep into
the ever-contracting gash thus made, he must skilfully steer clear
of all adjacent, interdicted parts, and exactly divide the spine at a
critical point hard by its insertion into the skull. Do you not
marvel, then, at Stubb's boast, that he demanded but ten minutes to
behead a sperm whale?
When first severed, the head is dropped astern and held there by a
cable till the body is stripped. That done, if it belong to a small
whale it is hoisted on deck to be deliberately disposed of. But,
with a full grown leviathan this is impossible; for the sperm whale's
head embraces nearly one third of his entire bulk, and completely to
suspend such a burden as that, even by the immense tackles of a
whaler, this were as vain a thing as to attempt weighing a Dutch barn
in jewellers' scales.
The Pequod's whale being decapitated and the body stripped, the head
was hoisted against the ship's side--about half way out of the sea,
so that it might yet in great part be buoyed up by its native
element. And there with the strained craft steeply leaning over to it,
by reason of the enormous downward drag from the lower mast-head, and
every yard-arm on that side projecting like a crane over the waves;
there, that blood-dripping head hung to the Pequod's waist like the
giant Holofernes's from the girdle of Judith.
When this last task was accomplished it was noon, and the seamen went
below to their dinner. Silence reigned over the before tumultuous
but now deserted deck. An intense copper calm, like a universal
yellow lotus, was more and more unfolding its noiseless measureless
leaves upon the sea.
A short space elapsed, and up into this noiselessness came Ahab alone
from his cabin. Taking a few turns on the quarter-deck, he paused to
gaze over the side, then slowly getting into the main-chains he took
Stubb's long spade--still remaining there after the whale's
Decapitation--and striking it into the lower part of the
half-suspended mass, placed its other end crutch-wise under one arm,
and so stood leaning over with eyes attentively fixed on this head.
It was a black and hooded head; and hanging there in the midst of so
intense a calm, it seemed the Sphynx's in the desert. "Speak, thou
vast and venerable head," muttered Ahab, "which, though ungarnished
with a beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak,
mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all
divers, thou hast dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper
sun now gleams, has moved amid this world's foundations. Where
unrecorded names and navies rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot;
where in her murderous hold this frigate earth is ballasted with
bones of millions of the drowned; there, in that awful water-land,
there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast been where bell or diver
never went; hast slept by many a sailor's side, where sleepless
mothers would give their lives to lay them down. Thou saw'st the
locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart
they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven
seemed false to them. Thou saw'st the murdered mate when tossed by
pirates from the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper
midnight of the insatiate maw; and his murderers still sailed on
unharmed--while swift lightnings shivered the neighboring ship that
would have borne a righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms.
O head! thou hast seen enough to split the planets and make an
infidel of Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!"
"Sail ho!" cried a triumphant voice from the main-mast-head.
"Aye? Well, now, that's cheering," cried Ahab, suddenly erecting
himself, while whole thunder-clouds swept aside from his brow. "That
lively cry upon this deadly calm might almost convert a better
"Three points on the starboard bow, sir, and bringing down her breeze
"Better and better, man. Would now St. Paul would come along that
way, and to my breezelessness bring his breeze! O Nature, and O soul
of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies! not
the smallest atom stirs or lives on matter, but has its cunning
duplicate in mind."
The Jeroboam's Story.
Hand in hand, ship and breeze blew on; but the breeze came faster
than the ship, and soon the Pequod began to rock.
By and by, through the glass the stranger's boats and manned
mast-heads proved her a whale-ship. But as she was so far to
windward, and shooting by, apparently making a passage to some other
ground, the Pequod could not hope to reach her. So the signal was
set to see what response would be made.
Here be it said, that like the vessels of military marines, the ships
of the American Whale Fleet have each a private signal; all which
signals being collected in a book with the names of the respective
vessels attached, every captain is provided with it. Thereby, the
whale commanders are enabled to recognise each other upon the ocean,
even at considerable distances and with no small facility.
The Pequod's signal was at last responded to by the stranger's
setting her own; which proved the ship to be the Jeroboam of
Nantucket. Squaring her yards, she bore down, ranged abeam under the
Pequod's lee, and lowered a boat; it soon drew nigh; but, as the
side-ladder was being rigged by Starbuck's order to accommodate the
visiting captain, the stranger in question waved his hand from his
boat's stern in token of that proceeding being entirely unnecessary.
It turned out that the Jeroboam had a malignant epidemic on board,
and that Mayhew, her captain, was fearful of infecting the Pequod's
company. For, though himself and boat's crew remained untainted, and
though his ship was half a rifle-shot off, and an incorruptible sea
and air rolling and flowing between; yet conscientiously adhering to
the timid quarantine of the land, he peremptorily refused to come
into direct contact with the Pequod.
But this did by no means prevent all communications. Preserving an
interval of some few yards between itself and the ship, the
Jeroboam's boat by the occasional use of its oars contrived to keep
parallel to the Pequod, as she heavily forged through the sea (for by
this time it blew very fresh), with her main-topsail aback; though,
indeed, at times by the sudden onset of a large rolling wave, the
boat would be pushed some way ahead; but would be soon skilfully
brought to her proper bearings again. Subject to this, and other the
like interruptions now and then, a conversation was sustained between
the two parties; but at intervals not without still another
interruption of a very different sort.
Pulling an oar in the Jeroboam's boat, was a man of a singular
appearance, even in that wild whaling life where individual
notabilities make up all totalities. He was a small, short, youngish
man, sprinkled all over his face with freckles, and wearing redundant
yellow hair. A long-skirted, cabalistically-cut coat of a faded
walnut tinge enveloped him; the overlapping sleeves of which were
rolled up on his wrists. A deep, settled, fanatic delirium was in
So soon as this figure had been first descried, Stubb had
exclaimed--"That's he! that's he!--the long-togged scaramouch the
Town-Ho's company told us of!" Stubb here alluded to a strange story
told of the Jeroboam, and a certain man among her crew, some time
previous when the Pequod spoke the Town-Ho. According to this
account and what was subsequently learned, it seemed that the
scaramouch in question had gained a wonderful ascendency over almost
everybody in the Jeroboam. His story was this:
He had been originally nurtured among the crazy society of Neskyeuna
Shakers, where he had been a great prophet; in their cracked, secret
meetings having several times descended from heaven by the way of a
trap-door, announcing the speedy opening of the seventh vial, which
he carried in his vest-pocket; but, which, instead of containing
gunpowder, was supposed to be charged with laudanum. A strange,
apostolic whim having seized him, he had left Neskyeuna for
Nantucket, where, with that cunning peculiar to craziness, he assumed
a steady, common-sense exterior, and offered himself as a green-hand
candidate for the Jeroboam's whaling voyage. They engaged him; but
straightway upon the ship's getting out of sight of land, his
insanity broke out in a freshet. He announced himself as the
archangel Gabriel, and commanded the captain to jump overboard. He
published his manifesto, whereby he set himself forth as the
deliverer of the isles of the sea and vicar-general of all Oceanica.
The unflinching earnestness with which he declared these things;--the
dark, daring play of his sleepless, excited imagination, and all the
preternatural terrors of real delirium, united to invest this Gabriel
in the minds of the majority of the ignorant crew, with an atmosphere
of sacredness. Moreover, they were afraid of him. As such a man,
however, was not of much practical use in the ship, especially as he
refused to work except when he pleased, the incredulous captain would
fain have been rid of him; but apprised that that individual's
intention was to land him in the first convenient port, the archangel
forthwith opened all his seals and vials--devoting the ship and all
hands to unconditional perdition, in case this intention was carried
out. So strongly did he work upon his disciples among the crew, that
at last in a body they went to the captain and told him if Gabriel
was sent from the ship, not a man of them would remain. He was
therefore forced to relinquish his plan. Nor would they permit
Gabriel to be any way maltreated, say or do what he would; so that it
came to pass that Gabriel had the complete freedom of the ship. The
consequence of all this was, that the archangel cared little or
nothing for the captain and mates; and since the epidemic had broken
out, he carried a higher hand than ever; declaring that the plague,
as he called it, was at his sole command; nor should it be stayed but
according to his good pleasure. The sailors, mostly poor devils,
cringed, and some of them fawned before him; in obedience to his
instructions, sometimes rendering him personal homage, as to a god.
Such things may seem incredible; but, however wondrous, they are
true. Nor is the history of fanatics half so striking in respect to
the measureless self-deception of the fanatic himself, as his
measureless power of deceiving and bedevilling so many others. But
it is time to return to the Pequod.
"I fear not thy epidemic, man," said Ahab from the bulwarks, to
Captain Mayhew, who stood in the boat's stern; "come on board."
But now Gabriel started to his feet.
"Think, think of the fevers, yellow and bilious! Beware of the
"Gabriel! Gabriel!" cried Captain Mayhew; "thou must either--" But
that instant a headlong wave shot the boat far ahead, and its
seethings drowned all speech.
"Hast thou seen the White Whale?" demanded Ahab, when the boat
"Think, think of thy whale-boat, stoven and sunk! Beware of the
"I tell thee again, Gabriel, that--" But again the boat tore ahead
as if dragged by fiends. Nothing was said for some moments, while a
succession of riotous waves rolled by, which by one of those
occasional caprices of the seas were tumbling, not heaving it.
Meantime, the hoisted sperm whale's head jogged about very violently,
and Gabriel was seen eyeing it with rather more apprehensiveness than
his archangel nature seemed to warrant.
When this interlude was over, Captain Mayhew began a dark story
concerning Moby Dick; not, however, without frequent interruptions
from Gabriel, whenever his name was mentioned, and the crazy sea that
seemed leagued with him.
It seemed that the Jeroboam had not long left home, when upon
speaking a whale-ship, her people were reliably apprised of the
existence of Moby Dick, and the havoc he had made. Greedily sucking
in this intelligence, Gabriel solemnly warned the captain against
attacking the White Whale, in case the monster should be seen; in his
gibbering insanity, pronouncing the White Whale to be no less a being
than the Shaker God incarnated; the Shakers receiving the Bible. But
when, some year or two afterwards, Moby Dick was fairly sighted from
the mast-heads, Macey, the chief mate, burned with ardour to encounter
him; and the captain himself being not unwilling to let him have the
opportunity, despite all the archangel's denunciations and
forewarnings, Macey succeeded in persuading five men to man his boat.
With them he pushed off; and, after much weary pulling, and many
perilous, unsuccessful onsets, he at last succeeded in getting one
iron fast. Meantime, Gabriel, ascending to the main-royal mast-head,
was tossing one arm in frantic gestures, and hurling forth prophecies
of speedy doom to the sacrilegious assailants of his divinity. Now,
while Macey, the mate, was standing up in his boat's bow, and with
all the reckless energy of his tribe was venting his wild
exclamations upon the whale, and essaying to get a fair chance for
his poised lance, lo! a broad white shadow rose from the sea; by its
quick, fanning motion, temporarily taking the breath out of the
bodies of the oarsmen. Next instant, the luckless mate, so full of
furious life, was smitten bodily into the air, and making a long arc
in his descent, fell into the sea at the distance of about fifty
yards. Not a chip of the boat was harmed, nor a hair of any
oarsman's head; but the mate for ever sank.
It is well to parenthesize here, that of the fatal accidents in the
Sperm-Whale Fishery, this kind is perhaps almost as frequent as any.
Sometimes, nothing is injured but the man who is thus annihilated;
oftener the boat's bow is knocked off, or the thigh-board, in which
the headsman stands, is torn from its place and accompanies the body.
But strangest of all is the circumstance, that in more instances
than one, when the body has been recovered, not a single mark of
violence is discernible; the man being stark dead.
The whole calamity, with the falling form of Macey, was plainly
descried from the ship. Raising a piercing shriek--"The vial! the
vial!" Gabriel called off the terror-stricken crew from the further
hunting of the whale. This terrible event clothed the archangel with
added influence; because his credulous disciples believed that he had
specifically fore-announced it, instead of only making a general
prophecy, which any one might have done, and so have chanced to hit
one of many marks in the wide margin allowed. He became a nameless
terror to the ship.
Mayhew having concluded his narration, Ahab put such questions to
him, that the stranger captain could not forbear inquiring whether he
intended to hunt the White Whale, if opportunity should offer. To
which Ahab answered--"Aye." Straightway, then, Gabriel once more
started to his feet, glaring upon the old man, and vehemently
exclaimed, with downward pointed finger--"Think, think of the
blasphemer--dead, and down there!--beware of the blasphemer's end!"
Ahab stolidly turned aside; then said to Mayhew, "Captain, I have
just bethought me of my letter-bag; there is a letter for one of thy
officers, if I mistake not. Starbuck, look over the bag."
Every whale-ship takes out a goodly number of letters for various
ships, whose delivery to the persons to whom they may be addressed,
depends upon the mere chance of encountering them in the four oceans.
Thus, most letters never reach their mark; and many are only
received after attaining an age of two or three years or more.
Soon Starbuck returned with a letter in his hand. It was sorely
tumbled, damp, and covered with a dull, spotted, green mould, in
consequence of being kept in a dark locker of the cabin. Of such a
letter, Death himself might well have been the post-boy.
"Can'st not read it?" cried Ahab. "Give it me, man. Aye, aye, it's
but a dim scrawl;--what's this?" As he was studying it out, Starbuck
took a long cutting-spade pole, and with his knife slightly split the
end, to insert the letter there, and in that way, hand it to the
boat, without its coming any closer to the ship.
Meantime, Ahab holding the letter, muttered, "Mr. Har--yes, Mr.
Harry--(a woman's pinny hand,--the man's wife, I'll wager)--Aye--Mr.
Harry Macey, Ship Jeroboam;--why it's Macey, and he's dead!"
"Poor fellow! poor fellow! and from his wife," sighed Mayhew; "but
let me have it."
"Nay, keep it thyself," cried Gabriel to Ahab; "thou art soon going
"Curses throttle thee!" yelled Ahab. "Captain Mayhew, stand by now
to receive it"; and taking the fatal missive from Starbuck's hands,
he caught it in the slit of the pole, and reached it over towards the
boat. But as he did so, the oarsmen expectantly desisted from
rowing; the boat drifted a little towards the ship's stern; so that,
as if by magic, the letter suddenly ranged along with Gabriel's eager
hand. He clutched it in an instant, seized the boat-knife, and
impaling the letter on it, sent it thus loaded back into the ship.
It fell at Ahab's feet. Then Gabriel shrieked out to his comrades to
give way with their oars, and in that manner the mutinous boat
rapidly shot away from the Pequod.
As, after this interlude, the seamen resumed their work upon the
jacket of the whale, many strange things were hinted in reference to
this wild affair.
In the tumultuous business of cutting-in and attending to a whale,
there is much running backwards and forwards among the crew. Now
hands are wanted here, and then again hands are wanted there. There
is no staying in any one place; for at one and the same time
everything has to be done everywhere. It is much the same with him
who endeavors the description of the scene. We must now retrace our
way a little. It was mentioned that upon first breaking ground in
the whale's back, the blubber-hook was inserted into the original
hole there cut by the spades of the mates. But how did so clumsy and
weighty a mass as that same hook get fixed in that hole? It was
inserted there by my particular friend Queequeg, whose duty it was,
as harpooneer, to descend upon the monster's back for the special
purpose referred to. But in very many cases, circumstances require
that the harpooneer shall remain on the whale till the whole tensing
or stripping operation is concluded. The whale, be it observed, lies
almost entirely submerged, excepting the immediate parts operated
upon. So down there, some ten feet below the level of the deck, the
poor harpooneer flounders about, half on the whale and half in the
water, as the vast mass revolves like a tread-mill beneath him. On
the occasion in question, Queequeg figured in the Highland costume--a
shirt and socks--in which to my eyes, at least, he appeared to
uncommon advantage; and no one had a better chance to observe him, as
will presently be seen.
Being the savage's bowsman, that is, the person who pulled the
bow-oar in his boat (the second one from forward), it was my cheerful
duty to attend upon him while taking that hard-scrabble scramble upon
the dead whale's back. You have seen Italian organ-boys holding a
dancing-ape by a long cord. Just so, from the ship's steep side, did
I hold Queequeg down there in the sea, by what is technically called
in the fishery a monkey-rope, attached to a strong strip of canvas
belted round his waist.
It was a humorously perilous business for both of us. For, before we
proceed further, it must be said that the monkey-rope was fast at
both ends; fast to Queequeg's broad canvas belt, and fast to my
narrow leather one. So that for better or for worse, we two, for the
time, were wedded; and should poor Queequeg sink to rise no more,
then both usage and honour demanded, that instead of cutting the cord,
it should drag me down in his wake. So, then, an elongated Siamese
ligature united us. Queequeg was my own inseparable twin brother;
nor could I any way get rid of the dangerous liabilities which the
hempen bond entailed.
So strongly and metaphysically did I conceive of my situation then,
that while earnestly watching his motions, I seemed distinctly to
perceive that my own individuality was now merged in a joint stock
company of two; that my free will had received a mortal wound; and
that another's mistake or misfortune might plunge innocent me into
unmerited disaster and death. Therefore, I saw that here was a sort
of interregnum in Providence; for its even-handed equity never could
have so gross an injustice. And yet still further pondering--while I
jerked him now and then from between the whale and ship, which would
threaten to jam him--still further pondering, I say, I saw that this
situation of mine was the precise situation of every mortal that
breathes; only, in most cases, he, one way or other, has this Siamese
connexion with a plurality of other mortals. If your banker breaks,
you snap; if your apothecary by mistake sends you poison in your
pills, you die. True, you may say that, by exceeding caution, you
may possibly escape these and the multitudinous other evil chances of
life. But handle Queequeg's monkey-rope heedfully as I would,
sometimes he jerked it so, that I came very near sliding overboard.
Nor could I possibly forget that, do what I would, I only had the
management of one end of it.*
*The monkey-rope is found in all whalers; but it was only in the
Pequod that the monkey and his holder were ever tied together. This
improvement upon the original usage was introduced by no less a man
than Stubb, in order to afford the imperilled harpooneer the strongest
possible guarantee for the faithfulness and vigilance of his
I have hinted that I would often jerk poor Queequeg from between the
whale and the ship--where he would occasionally fall, from the
incessant rolling and swaying of both. But this was not the only
jamming jeopardy he was exposed to. Unappalled by the massacre made
upon them during the night, the sharks now freshly and more keenly
allured by the before pent blood which began to flow from the
carcass--the rabid creatures swarmed round it like bees in a beehive.
And right in among those sharks was Queequeg; who often pushed them
aside with his floundering feet. A thing altogether incredible were
it not that attracted by such prey as a dead whale, the otherwise
miscellaneously carnivorous shark will seldom touch a man.
Nevertheless, it may well be believed that since they have such a
ravenous finger in the pie, it is deemed but wise to look sharp to
them. Accordingly, besides the monkey-rope, with which I now and
then jerked the poor fellow from too close a vicinity to the maw of
what seemed a peculiarly ferocious shark--he was provided with still
another protection. Suspended over the side in one of the stages,
Tashtego and Daggoo continually flourished over his head a couple of
keen whale-spades, wherewith they slaughtered as many sharks as they
could reach. This procedure of theirs, to be sure, was very
disinterested and benevolent of them. They meant Queequeg's best
happiness, I admit; but in their hasty zeal to befriend him, and from
the circumstance that both he and the sharks were at times half
hidden by the blood-muddled water, those indiscreet spades of theirs
would come nearer amputating a leg than a tall. But poor Queequeg, I
suppose, straining and gasping there with that great iron hook--poor
Queequeg, I suppose, only prayed to his Yojo, and gave up his life
into the hands of his gods.
Well, well, my dear comrade and twin-brother, thought I, as I drew in
and then slacked off the rope to every swell of the sea--what matters
it, after all? Are you not the precious image of each and all of us
men in this whaling world? That unsounded ocean you gasp in, is
Life; those sharks, your foes; those spades, your friends; and what
between sharks and spades you are in a sad pickle and peril, poor
But courage! there is good cheer in store for you, Queequeg. For
now, as with blue lips and blood-shot eyes the exhausted savage at
last climbs up the chains and stands all dripping and involuntarily
trembling over the side; the steward advances, and with a benevolent,
consolatory glance hands him--what? Some hot Cognac? No! hands him,
ye gods! hands him a cup of tepid ginger and water!
"Ginger? Do I smell ginger?" suspiciously asked Stubb, coming near.
"Yes, this must be ginger," peering into the as yet untasted cup.
Then standing as if incredulous for a while, he calmly walked towards
the astonished steward slowly saying, "Ginger? ginger? and will you
have the goodness to tell me, Mr. Dough-Boy, where lies the virtue of
ginger? Ginger! is ginger the sort of fuel you use, Dough-boy, to
kindle a fire in this shivering cannibal? Ginger!--what the devil is
matches?--tinder?--gunpowder?--what the devil is ginger, I say, that
you offer this cup to our poor Queequeg here."
"There is some sneaking Temperance Society movement about this
business," he suddenly added, now approaching Starbuck, who had just
come from forward. "Will you look at that kannakin, sir; smell of
it, if you please." Then watching the mate's countenance, he added,
"The steward, Mr. Starbuck, had the face to offer that calomel and
jalap to Queequeg, there, this instant off the whale. Is the steward
an apothecary, sir? and may I ask whether this is the sort of bitters
by which he blows back the life into a half-drowned man?"
"I trust not," said Starbuck, "it is poor stuff enough."
"Aye, aye, steward," cried Stubb, "we'll teach you to drug it
harpooneer; none of your apothecary's medicine here; you want to
poison us, do ye? You have got out insurances on our lives and want
to murder us all, and pocket the proceeds, do ye?"
"It was not me," cried Dough-Boy, "it was Aunt Charity that brought
the ginger on board; and bade me never give the harpooneers any
spirits, but only this ginger-jub--so she called it."
"Ginger-jub! you gingerly rascal! take that! and run along with ye to
the lockers, and get something better. I hope I do no wrong, Mr.
Starbuck. It is the captain's orders--grog for the harpooneer on a
"Enough," replied Starbuck, "only don't hit him again, but--"
"Oh, I never hurt when I hit, except when I hit a whale or something
of that sort; and this fellow's a weazel. What were you about
"Only this: go down with him, and get what thou wantest thyself."
When Stubb reappeared, he came with a dark flask in one hand, and a
sort of tea-caddy in the other. The first contained strong spirits,
and was handed to Queequeg; the second was Aunt Charity's gift, and
that was freely given to the waves.
Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk Over Him.
It must be borne in mind that all this time we have a Sperm Whale's
prodigious head hanging to the Pequod's side. But we must let it
continue hanging there a while till we can get a chance to attend to
it. For the present other matters press, and the best we can do now
for the head, is to pray heaven the tackles may hold.
Now, during the past night and forenoon, the Pequod had gradually
drifted into a sea, which, by its occasional patches of yellow brit,
gave unusual tokens of the vicinity of Right Whales, a species of the
Leviathan that but few supposed to be at this particular time lurking
anywhere near. And though all hands commonly disdained the capture
of those inferior creatures; and though the Pequod was not
commissioned to cruise for them at all, and though she had passed
numbers of them near the Crozetts without lowering a boat; yet now
that a Sperm Whale had been brought alongside and beheaded, to the
surprise of all, the announcement was made that a Right Whale should
be captured that day, if opportunity offered.
Nor was this long wanting. Tall spouts were seen to leeward; and two
boats, Stubb's and Flask's, were detached in pursuit. Pulling
further and further away, they at last became almost invisible to the
men at the mast-head. But suddenly in the distance, they saw a great
heap of tumultuous white water, and soon after news came from aloft
that one or both the boats must be fast. An interval passed and the
boats were in plain sight, in the act of being dragged right towards
the ship by the towing whale. So close did the monster come to the
hull, that at first it seemed as if he meant it malice; but suddenly
going down in a maelstrom, within three rods of the planks, he wholly
disappeared from view, as if diving under the keel. "Cut, cut!" was
the cry from the ship to the boats, which, for one instant, seemed on
the point of being brought with a deadly dash against the vessel's
side. But having plenty of line yet in the tubs, and the whale not
sounding very rapidly, they paid out abundance of rope, and at the
same time pulled with all their might so as to get ahead of the ship.
For a few minutes the struggle was intensely critical; for while
they still slacked out the tightened line in one direction, and still
plied their oars in another, the contending strain threatened to take
them under. But it was only a few feet advance they sought to gain.
And they stuck to it till they did gain it; when instantly, a swift
tremor was felt running like lightning along the keel, as the
strained line, scraping beneath the ship, suddenly rose to view under
her bows, snapping and quivering; and so flinging off its drippings,
that the drops fell like bits of broken glass on the water, while the
whale beyond also rose to sight, and once more the boats were free to
fly. But the fagged whale abated his speed, and blindly altering his
course, went round the stern of the ship towing the two boats after
him, so that they performed a complete circuit.
Meantime, they hauled more and more upon their lines, till close
flanking him on both sides, Stubb answered Flask with lance for
lance; and thus round and round the Pequod the battle went, while the
multitudes of sharks that had before swum round the Sperm Whale's
body, rushed to the fresh blood that was spilled, thirstily drinking
at every new gash, as the eager Israelites did at the new bursting
fountains that poured from the smitten rock.
At last his spout grew thick, and with a frightful roll and vomit, he
turned upon his back a corpse.
While the two headsmen were engaged in making fast cords to his
flukes, and in other ways getting the mass in readiness for towing,
some conversation ensued between them.
"I wonder what the old man wants with this lump of foul lard," said
Stubb, not without some disgust at the thought of having to do with
so ignoble a leviathan.
"Wants with it?" said Flask, coiling some spare line in the boat's
bow, "did you never hear that the ship which but once has a Sperm
Whale's head hoisted on her starboard side, and at the same time a
Right Whale's on the larboard; did you never hear, Stubb, that that
ship can never afterwards capsize?"
"I don't know, but I heard that gamboge ghost of a Fedallah saying
so, and he seems to know all about ships' charms. But I sometimes
think he'll charm the ship to no good at last. I don't half like
that chap, Stubb. Did you ever notice how that tusk of his is a sort
of carved into a snake's head, Stubb?"
"Sink him! I never look at him at all; but if ever I get a chance of
a dark night, and he standing hard by the bulwarks, and no one by;
look down there, Flask"--pointing into the sea with a peculiar motion
of both hands--"Aye, will I! Flask, I take that Fedallah to be the
devil in disguise. Do you believe that cock and bull story about his
having been stowed away on board ship? He's the devil, I say. The
reason why you don't see his tail, is because he tucks it up out of
sight; he carries it coiled away in his pocket, I guess. Blast him!
now that I think of it, he's always wanting oakum to stuff into the
toes of his boots."
"He sleeps in his boots, don't he? He hasn't got any hammock; but
I've seen him lay of nights in a coil of rigging."
"No doubt, and it's because of his cursed tail; he coils it down, do
ye see, in the eye of the rigging."
"What's the old man have so much to do with him for?"
"Striking up a swap or a bargain, I suppose."
"Why, do ye see, the old man is hard bent after that White Whale, and
the devil there is trying to come round him, and get him to swap away
his silver watch, or his soul, or something of that sort, and then
he'll surrender Moby Dick."
"Pooh! Stubb, you are skylarking; how can Fedallah do that?"
"I don't know, Flask, but the devil is a curious chap, and a wicked
one, I tell ye. Why, they say as how he went a sauntering into the
old flag-ship once, switching his tail about devilish easy and
gentlemanlike, and inquiring if the old governor was at home. Well,
he was at home, and asked the devil what he wanted. The devil,
switching his hoofs, up and says, 'I want John.' 'What for?' says
the old governor. 'What business is that of yours,' says the devil,
getting mad,--'I want to use him.' 'Take him,' says the
governor--and by the Lord, Flask, if the devil didn't give John the
Asiatic cholera before he got through with him, I'll eat this whale
in one mouthful. But look sharp--ain't you all ready there? Well,
then, pull ahead, and let's get the whale alongside."
"I think I remember some such story as you were telling," said Flask,
when at last the two boats were slowly advancing with their burden
towards the ship, "but I can't remember where."
"Three Spaniards? Adventures of those three bloody-minded soladoes?
Did ye read it there, Flask? I guess ye did?"
"No: never saw such a book; heard of it, though. But now, tell me,
Stubb, do you suppose that that devil you was speaking of just now,
was the same you say is now on board the Pequod?"
"Am I the same man that helped kill this whale? Doesn't the devil
live for ever; who ever heard that the devil was dead? Did you ever
see any parson a wearing mourning for the devil? And if the devil
has a latch-key to get into the admiral's cabin, don't you suppose he
can crawl into a porthole? Tell me that, Mr. Flask?"
"How old do you suppose Fedallah is, Stubb?"
"Do you see that mainmast there?" pointing to the ship; "well, that's
the figure one; now take all the hoops in the Pequod's hold, and
string along in a row with that mast, for oughts, do you see; well,
that wouldn't begin to be Fedallah's age. Nor all the coopers in
creation couldn't show hoops enough to make oughts enough."
"But see here, Stubb, I thought you a little boasted just now, that
you meant to give Fedallah a sea-toss, if you got a good chance.
Now, if he's so old as all those hoops of yours come to, and if he is
going to live for ever, what good will it do to pitch him
overboard--tell me that?
"Give him a good ducking, anyhow."
"But he'd crawl back."
"Duck him again; and keep ducking him."
"Suppose he should take it into his head to duck you, though--yes,
and drown you--what then?"
"I should like to see him try it; I'd give him such a pair of black
eyes that he wouldn't dare to show his face in the admiral's cabin
again for a long while, let alone down in the orlop there, where he
lives, and hereabouts on the upper decks where he sneaks so much.
Damn the devil, Flask; so you suppose I'm afraid of the devil? Who's
afraid of him, except the old governor who daresn't catch him and put
him in double-darbies, as he deserves, but lets him go about
kidnapping people; aye, and signed a bond with him, that all the
people the devil kidnapped, he'd roast for him? There's a governor!"
"Do you suppose Fedallah wants to kidnap Captain Ahab?"
"Do I suppose it? You'll know it before long, Flask. But I am going
now to keep a sharp look-out on him; and if I see anything very
suspicious going on, I'll just take him by the nape of his neck, and
say--Look here, Beelzebub, you don't do it; and if he makes any fuss,
by the Lord I'll make a grab into his pocket for his tail, take it to
the capstan, and give him such a wrenching and heaving, that his tail
will come short off at the stump--do you see; and then, I rather
guess when he finds himself docked in that queer fashion, he'll sneak
off without the poor satisfaction of feeling his tail between his
"And what will you do with the tail, Stubb?"
"Do with it? Sell it for an ox whip when we get home;--what else?"
"Now, do you mean what you say, and have been saying all along,
"Mean or not mean, here we are at the ship."
The boats were here hailed, to tow the whale on the larboard side,
where fluke chains and other necessaries were already prepared for
"Didn't I tell you so?" said Flask; "yes, you'll soon see this right
whale's head hoisted up opposite that parmacetti's."
In good time, Flask's saying proved true. As before, the Pequod
steeply leaned over towards the sperm whale's head, now, by the
counterpoise of both heads, she regained her even keel; though sorely
strained, you may well believe. So, when on one side you hoist in
Locke's head, you go over that way; but now, on the other side, hoist
in Kant's and you come back again; but in very poor plight. Thus,
some minds for ever keep trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all
these thunder-heads overboard, and then you will float light and
In disposing of the body of a right whale, when brought alongside the
ship, the same preliminary proceedings commonly take place as in the
case of a sperm whale; only, in the latter instance, the head is cut
off whole, but in the former the lips and tongue are separately
removed and hoisted on deck, with all the well known black bone
attached to what is called the crown-piece. But nothing like this,
in the present case, had been done. The carcases of both whales had
dropped astern; and the head-laden ship not a little resembled a mule
carrying a pair of overburdening panniers.
Meantime, Fedallah was calmly eyeing the right whale's head, and ever
and anon glancing from the deep wrinkles there to the lines in his
own hand. And Ahab chanced so to stand, that the Parsee occupied his
shadow; while, if the Parsee's shadow was there at all it seemed only
to blend with, and lengthen Ahab's. As the crew toiled on,
Laplandish speculations were bandied among them, concerning all these
The Sperm Whale's Head--Contrasted View.
Here, now, are two great whales, laying their heads together; let us
join them, and lay together our own.
Of the grand order of folio leviathans, the Sperm Whale and the Right
Whale are by far the most noteworthy. They are the only whales
regularly hunted by man. To the Nantucketer, they present the two
extremes of all the known varieties of the whale. As the external
difference between them is mainly observable in their heads; and as a
head of each is this moment hanging from the Pequod's side; and as we
may freely go from one to the other, by merely stepping across the
deck:--where, I should like to know, will you obtain a better chance
to study practical cetology than here?
In the first place, you are struck by the general contrast between
these heads. Both are massive enough in all conscience; but there
is a certain mathematical symmetry in the Sperm Whale's which the
Right Whale's sadly lacks. There is more character in the Sperm
Whale's head. As you behold it, you involuntarily yield the immense
superiority to him, in point of pervading dignity. In the present
instance, too, this dignity is heightened by the pepper and salt
colour of his head at the summit, giving token of advanced age and
large experience. In short, he is what the fishermen technically
call a "grey-headed whale."
Let us now note what is least dissimilar in these heads--namely, the
two most important organs, the eye and the ear. Far back on the side
of the head, and low down, near the angle of either whale's jaw, if
you narrowly search, you will at last see a lashless eye, which you
would fancy to be a young colt's eye; so out of all proportion is it
to the magnitude of the head.
Now, from this peculiar sideway position of the whale's eyes, it is
plain that he can never see an object which is exactly ahead, no more
than he can one exactly astern. In a word, the position of the
whale's eyes corresponds to that of a man's ears; and you may fancy,
for yourself, how it would fare with you, did you sideways survey
objects through your ears. You would find that you could only
command some thirty degrees of vision in advance of the straight
side-line of sight; and about thirty more behind it. If your
bitterest foe were walking straight towards you, with dagger uplifted
in broad day, you would not be able to see him, any more than if he
were stealing upon you from behind. In a word, you would have two
backs, so to speak; but, at the same time, also, two fronts (side
fronts): for what is it that makes the front of a man--what, indeed,
but his eyes?
Moreover, while in most other animals that I can now think of, the
eyes are so planted as imperceptibly to blend their visual power, so
as to produce one picture and not two to the brain; the peculiar
position of the whale's eyes, effectually divided as they are by many
cubic feet of solid head, which towers between them like a great
mountain separating two lakes in valleys; this, of course, must
wholly separate the impressions which each independent organ imparts.
The whale, therefore, must see one distinct picture on this side,
and another distinct picture on that side; while all between must be
profound darkness and nothingness to him. Man may, in effect, be
said to look out on the world from a sentry-box with two joined
sashes for his window. But with the whale, these two sashes are
separately inserted, making two distinct windows, but sadly impairing
the view. This peculiarity of the whale's eyes is a thing always to
be borne in mind in the fishery; and to be remembered by the reader
in some subsequent scenes.
A curious and most puzzling question might be started concerning this
visual matter as touching the Leviathan. But I must be content with
a hint. So long as a man's eyes are open in the light, the act of
seeing is involuntary; that is, he cannot then help mechanically
seeing whatever objects are before him. Nevertheless, any one's
experience will teach him, that though he can take in an
undiscriminating sweep of things at one glance, it is quite
impossible for him, attentively, and completely, to examine any two
things--however large or however small--at one and the same instant
of time; never mind if they lie side by side and touch each other.
But if you now come to separate these two objects, and surround each
by a circle of profound darkness; then, in order to see one of them,
in such a manner as to bring your mind to bear on it, the other will
be utterly excluded from your contemporary consciousness. How is it,
then, with the whale? True, both his eyes, in themselves, must
simultaneously act; but is his brain so much more comprehensive,
combining, and subtle than man's, that he can at the same moment of
time attentively examine two distinct prospects, one on one side of
him, and the other in an exactly opposite direction? If he can, then
is it as marvellous a thing in him, as if a man were able
simultaneously to go through the demonstrations of two distinct
problems in Euclid. Nor, strictly investigated, is there any
incongruity in this comparison.
It may be but an idle whim, but it has always seemed to me, that the
extraordinary vacillations of movement displayed by some whales when
beset by three or four boats; the timidity and liability to queer
frights, so common to such whales; I think that all this indirectly
proceeds from the helpless perplexity of volition, in which their
divided and diametrically opposite powers of vision must involve
But the ear of the whale is full as curious as the eye. If you are
an entire stranger to their race, you might hunt over these two heads
for hours, and never discover that organ. The ear has no external
leaf whatever; and into the hole itself you can hardly insert a
quill, so wondrously minute is it. It is lodged a little behind the
eye. With respect to their ears, this important difference is to be
observed between the sperm whale and the right. While the ear of
the former has an external opening, that of the latter is entirely
and evenly covered over with a membrane, so as to be quite
imperceptible from without.
Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should see the
world through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear
which is smaller than a hare's? But if his eyes were broad as the
lens of Herschel's great telescope; and his ears capacious as the
porches of cathedrals; would that make him any longer of sight, or
sharper of hearing? Not at all.--Why then do you try to "enlarge"
your mind? Subtilize it.
Let us now with whatever levers and steam-engines we have at hand,
cant over the sperm whale's head, that it may lie bottom up;
then, ascending by a ladder to the summit, have a peep down the
mouth; and were it not that the body is now completely separated from
it, with a lantern we might descend into the great Kentucky Mammoth
Cave of his stomach. But let us hold on here by this tooth, and look
about us where we are. What a really beautiful and chaste-looking
mouth! from floor to ceiling, lined, or rather papered with a
glistening white membrane, glossy as bridal satins.
But come out now, and look at this portentous lower jaw, which seems
like the long narrow lid of an immense snuff-box, with the hinge at
one end, instead of one side. If you pry it up, so as to get it
overhead, and expose its rows of teeth, it seems a terrific
portcullis; and such, alas! it proves to many a poor wight in the
fishery, upon whom these spikes fall with impaling force. But far
more terrible is it to behold, when fathoms down in the sea, you see
some sulky whale, floating there suspended, with his prodigious jaw,
some fifteen feet long, hanging straight down at right-angles with
his body, for all the world like a ship's jib-boom. This whale is
not dead; he is only dispirited; out of sorts, perhaps;
hypochondriac; and so supine, that the hinges of his jaw have
relaxed, leaving him there in that ungainly sort of plight, a
reproach to all his tribe, who must, no doubt, imprecate lock-jaws
In most cases this lower jaw--being easily unhinged by a practised
artist--is disengaged and hoisted on deck for the purpose of
extracting the ivory teeth, and furnishing a supply of that hard
white whalebone with which the fishermen fashion all sorts of curious
articles, including canes, umbrella-stocks, and handles to
With a long, weary hoist the jaw is dragged on board, as if it were
an anchor; and when the proper time comes--some few days after the
other work--Queequeg, Daggoo, and Tashtego, being all accomplished
dentists, are set to drawing teeth. With a keen cutting-spade,
Queequeg lances the gums; then the jaw is lashed down to ringbolts,
and a tackle being rigged from aloft, they drag out these teeth, as
Michigan oxen drag stumps of old oaks out of wild wood lands. There
are generally forty-two teeth in all; in old whales, much worn down,
but undecayed; nor filled after our artificial fashion. The jaw is
afterwards sawn into slabs, and piled away like joists for building
The Right Whale's Head--Contrasted View.
Crossing the deck, let us now have a good long look at the Right
As in general shape the noble Sperm Whale's head may be compared to a
Roman war-chariot (especially in front, where it is so broadly
rounded); so, at a broad view, the Right Whale's head bears a rather
inelegant resemblance to a gigantic galliot-toed shoe. Two hundred
years ago an old Dutch voyager likened its shape to that of a
shoemaker's last. And in this same last or shoe, that old woman of
the nursery tale, with the swarming brood, might very comfortably be
lodged, she and all her progeny.
But as you come nearer to this great head it begins to assume
different aspects, according to your point of view. If you stand on
its summit and look at these two F-shaped spoutholes, you would take
the whole head for an enormous bass-viol, and these spiracles, the
apertures in its sounding-board. Then, again, if you fix your eye
upon this strange, crested, comb-like incrustation on the top of the
mass--this green, barnacled thing, which the Greenlanders call the
"crown," and the Southern fishers the "bonnet" of the Right Whale;
fixing your eyes solely on this, you would take the head for the
trunk of some huge oak, with a bird's nest in its crotch. At any
rate, when you watch those live crabs that nestle here on this
bonnet, such an idea will be almost sure to occur to you; unless,
indeed, your fancy has been fixed by the technical term "crown" also
bestowed upon it; in which case you will take great interest in
thinking how this mighty monster is actually a diademed king of the
sea, whose green crown has been put together for him in this
marvellous manner. But if this whale be a king, he is a very sulky
looking fellow to grace a diadem. Look at that hanging lower lip!
what a huge sulk and pout is there! a sulk and pout, by carpenter's
measurement, about twenty feet long and five feet deep; a sulk and
pout that will yield you some 500 gallons of oil and more.
A great pity, now, that this unfortunate whale should be hare-lipped.
The fissure is about a foot across. Probably the mother during an
important interval was sailing down the Peruvian coast, when
earthquakes caused the beach to gape. Over this lip, as over a
slippery threshold, we now slide into the mouth. Upon my word were I
at Mackinaw, I should take this to be the inside of an Indian wigwam.
Good Lord! is this the road that Jonah went? The roof is about
twelve feet high, and runs to a pretty sharp angle, as if there were
a regular ridge-pole there; while these ribbed, arched, hairy sides,
present us with those wondrous, half vertical, scimetar-shaped slats
of whalebone, say three hundred on a side, which depending from the
upper part of the head or crown bone, form those Venetian blinds
which have elsewhere been cursorily mentioned. The edges of these
bones are fringed with hairy fibres, through which the Right Whale
strains the water, and in whose intricacies he retains the small
fish, when openmouthed he goes through the seas of brit in feeding
time. In the central blinds of bone, as they stand in their natural
order, there are certain curious marks, curves, hollows, and ridges,
whereby some whalemen calculate the creature's age, as the age of an
oak by its circular rings. Though the certainty of this criterion is
far from demonstrable, yet it has the savor of analogical
probability. At any rate, if we yield to it, we must grant a far
greater age to the Right Whale than at first glance will seem
In old times, there seem to have prevailed the most curious fancies
concerning these blinds. One voyager in Purchas calls them the
wondrous "whiskers" inside of the whale's mouth;* another, "hogs'
bristles"; a third old gentleman in Hackluyt uses the following
elegant language: "There are about two hundred and fifty fins growing
on each side of his upper CHOP, which arch over his tongue on each
side of his mouth."
*This reminds us that the Right Whale really has a sort of whisker,
or rather a moustache, consisting of a few scattered white hairs on
the upper part of the outer end of the lower jaw. Sometimes these
tufts impart a rather brigandish expression to his otherwise solemn
As every one knows, these same "hogs' bristles," "fins," "whiskers,"
"blinds," or whatever you please, furnish to the ladies their busks
and other stiffening contrivances. But in this particular, the
demand has long been on the decline. It was in Queen Anne's time
that the bone was in its glory, the farthingale being then all the
fashion. And as those ancient dames moved about gaily, though in the
jaws of the whale, as you may say; even so, in a shower, with the
like thoughtlessness, do we nowadays fly under the same jaws for
protection; the umbrella being a tent spread over the same bone.
But now forget all about blinds and whiskers for a moment, and,
standing in the Right Whale's mouth, look around you afresh. Seeing
all these colonnades of bone so methodically ranged about, would you
not think you were inside of the great Haarlem organ, and gazing
upon its thousand pipes? For a carpet to the organ we have a rug of
the softest Turkey--the tongue, which is glued, as it were, to the
floor of the mouth. It is very fat and tender, and apt to tear in
pieces in hoisting it on deck. This particular tongue now before us;
at a passing glance I should say it was a six-barreler; that is, it
will yield you about that amount of oil.
Ere this, you must have plainly seen the truth of what I started
with--that the Sperm Whale and the Right Whale have almost entirely
different heads. To sum up, then: in the Right Whale's there is no
great well of sperm; no ivory teeth at all; no long, slender mandible
of a lower jaw, like the Sperm Whale's. Nor in the Sperm Whale are
there any of those blinds of bone; no huge lower lip; and scarcely
anything of a tongue. Again, the Right Whale has two external
spout-holes, the Sperm Whale only one.
Look your last, now, on these venerable hooded heads, while they yet
lie together; for one will soon sink, unrecorded, in the sea; the
other will not be very long in following.
Can you catch the expression of the Sperm Whale's there? It is the
same he died with, only some of the longer wrinkles in the forehead
seem now faded away. I think his broad brow to be full of a
prairie-like placidity, born of a speculative indifference as to
death. But mark the other head's expression. See that amazing lower
lip, pressed by accident against the vessel's side, so as firmly to
embrace the jaw. Does not this whole head seem to speak of an
enormous practical resolution in facing death? This Right Whale I
take to have been a Stoic; the Sperm Whale, a Platonian, who might
have taken up Spinoza in his latter years.
Ere quitting, for the nonce, the Sperm Whale's head, I would have
you, as a sensible physiologist, simply--particularly remark its
front aspect, in all its compacted collectedness. I would have you
investigate it now with the sole view of forming to yourself some
unexaggerated, intelligent estimate of whatever battering-ram power
may be lodged there. Here is a vital point; for you must either
satisfactorily settle this matter with yourself, or for ever remain
an infidel as to one of the most appalling, but not the less true
events, perhaps anywhere to be found in all recorded history.
You observe that in the ordinary swimming position of the Sperm
Whale, the front of his head presents an almost wholly vertical plane
to the water; you observe that the lower part of that front slopes
considerably backwards, so as to furnish more of a retreat for the
long socket which receives the boom-like lower jaw; you observe that
the mouth is entirely under the head, much in the same way, indeed,
as though your own mouth were entirely under your chin. Moreover you
observe that the whale has no external nose; and that what nose he
has--his spout hole--is on the top of his head; you observe that his
eyes and ears are at the sides of his head, nearly one third of his
entire length from the front. Wherefore, you must now have perceived
that the front of the Sperm Whale's head is a dead, blind wall,
without a single organ or tender prominence of any sort whatsoever.
Furthermore, you are now to consider that only in the extreme, lower,
backward sloping part of the front of the head, is there the
slightest vestige of bone; and not till you get near twenty feet from
the forehead do you come to the full cranial development. So that
this whole enormous boneless mass is as one wad. Finally, though, as
will soon be revealed, its contents partly comprise the most delicate
oil; yet, you are now to be apprised of the nature of the substance
which so impregnably invests all that apparent effeminacy. In some
previous place I have described to you how the blubber wraps the body
of the whale, as the rind wraps an orange. Just so with the head;
but with this difference: about the head this envelope, though not so
thick, is of a boneless toughness, inestimable by any man who has not
handled it. The severest pointed harpoon, the sharpest lance darted
by the strongest human arm, impotently rebounds from it. It is as
though the forehead of the Sperm Whale were paved with horses' hoofs.
I do not think that any sensation lurks in it.
Bethink yourself also of another thing. When two large, loaded
Indiamen chance to crowd and crush towards each other in the
docks, what do the sailors do? They do not suspend between them, at
the point of coming contact, any merely hard substance, like iron or
wood. No, they hold there a large, round wad of tow and cork,
enveloped in the thickest and toughest of ox-hide. That bravely and
uninjured takes the jam which would have snapped all their oaken
handspikes and iron crow-bars. By itself this sufficiently
illustrates the obvious fact I drive at. But supplementary to this,
it has hypothetically occurred to me, that as ordinary fish possess
what is called a swimming bladder in them, capable, at will, of
distension or contraction; and as the Sperm Whale, as far as I know,
has no such provision in him; considering, too, the otherwise
inexplicable manner in which he now depresses his head altogether
beneath the surface, and anon swims with it high elevated out of the
water; considering the unobstructed elasticity of its envelope;
considering the unique interior of his head; it has hypothetically
occurred to me, I say, that those mystical lung-celled honeycombs
there may possibly have some hitherto unknown and unsuspected
connexion with the outer air, so as to be susceptible to atmospheric
distension and contraction. If this be so, fancy the
irresistibleness of that might, to which the most impalpable and
destructive of all elements contributes.
Now, mark. Unerringly impelling this dead, impregnable, uninjurable
wall, and this most buoyant thing within; there swims behind it all a
mass of tremendous life, only to be adequately estimated as piled
wood is--by the cord; and all obedient to one volition, as the
smallest insect. So that when I shall hereafter detail to you all
the specialities and concentrations of potency everywhere lurking in
this expansive monster; when I shall show you some of his more
inconsiderable braining feats; I trust you will have renounced all
ignorant incredulity, and be ready to abide by this; that though the
Sperm Whale stove a passage through the Isthmus of Darien, and mixed
the Atlantic with the Pacific, you would not elevate one hair of your
eye-brow. For unless you own the whale, you are but a provincial and
sentimentalist in Truth. But clear Truth is a thing for salamander
giants only to encounter; how small the chances for the provincials
then? What befell the weakling youth lifting the dread goddess's
veil at Lais?
The Great Heidelburgh Tun.
Now comes the Baling of the Case. But to comprehend it aright, you
must know something of the curious internal structure of the thing
Regarding the Sperm Whale's head as a solid oblong, you may, on an
inclined plane, sideways divide it into two quoins,* whereof the
lower is the bony structure, forming the cranium and jaws, and the
upper an unctuous mass wholly free from bones; its broad forward end
forming the expanded vertical apparent forehead of the whale. At the
middle of the forehead horizontally subdivide this upper quoin, and
then you have two almost equal parts, which before were naturally
divided by an internal wall of a thick tendinous substance.
*Quoin is not a Euclidean term. It belongs to the pure nautical
mathematics. I know not that it has been defined before. A quoin is
a solid which differs from a wedge in having its sharp end formed by
the steep inclination of one side, instead of the mutual tapering of
The lower subdivided part, called the junk, is one immense honeycomb
of oil, formed by the crossing and recrossing, into ten thousand
infiltrated cells, of tough elastic white fibres throughout its whole
extent. The upper part, known as the Case, may be regarded as the
great Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale. And as that famous great
tierce is mystically carved in front, so the whale's vast plaited
forehead forms innumerable strange devices for the emblematical
adornment of his wondrous tun. Moreover, as that of Heidelburgh was
always replenished with the most excellent of the wines of the
Rhenish valleys, so the tun of the whale contains by far the most
precious of all his oily vintages; namely, the highly-prized
spermaceti, in its absolutely pure, limpid, and odoriferous state.
Nor is this precious substance found unalloyed in any other part of
the creature. Though in life it remains perfectly fluid, yet, upon
exposure to the air, after death, it soon begins to concrete; sending
forth beautiful crystalline shoots, as when the first thin delicate
ice is just forming in water. A large whale's case generally yields
about five hundred gallons of sperm, though from unavoidable
circumstances, considerable of it is spilled, leaks, and dribbles
away, or is otherwise irrevocably lost in the ticklish business of
securing what you can.
I know not with what fine and costly material the Heidelburgh Tun was
coated within, but in superlative richness that coating could not
possibly have compared with the silken pearl-coloured membrane, like
the lining of a fine pelisse, forming the inner surface of the Sperm
It will have been seen that the Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale
embraces the entire length of the entire top of the head; and
since--as has been elsewhere set forth--the head embraces one third
of the whole length of the creature, then setting that length down at
eighty feet for a good sized whale, you have more than twenty-six
feet for the depth of the tun, when it is lengthwise hoisted up and
down against a ship's side.
As in decapitating the whale, the operator's instrument is brought
close to the spot where an entrance is subsequently forced into the
spermaceti magazine; he has, therefore, to be uncommonly heedful,
lest a careless, untimely stroke should invade the sanctuary and
wastingly let out its invaluable contents. It is this decapitated
end of the head, also, which is at last elevated out of the water,
and retained in that position by the enormous cutting tackles, whose
hempen combinations, on one side, make quite a wilderness of ropes in
Thus much being said, attend now, I pray you, to that marvellous
and--in this particular instance--almost fatal operation whereby the
Sperm Whale's great Heidelburgh Tun is tapped.
Cistern and Buckets.
Nimble as a cat, Tashtego mounts aloft; and without altering his
erect posture, runs straight out upon the overhanging mainyard-arm,
to the part where it exactly projects over the hoisted Tun. He has
carried with him a light tackle called a whip, consisting of only two
parts, travelling through a single-sheaved block. Securing this
block, so that it hangs down from the yard-arm, he swings one end of
the rope, till it is caught and firmly held by a hand on deck.
Then, hand-over-hand, down the other part, the Indian drops through
the air, till dexterously he lands on the summit of the head.
There--still high elevated above the rest of the company, to whom he
vivaciously cries--he seems some Turkish Muezzin calling the good
people to prayers from the top of a tower. A short-handled sharp
spade being sent up to him, he diligently searches for the proper
place to begin breaking into the Tun. In this business he proceeds
very heedfully, like a treasure-hunter in some old house, sounding
the walls to find where the gold is masoned in. By the time this
cautious search is over, a stout iron-bound bucket, precisely like a
well-bucket, has been attached to one end of the whip; while the
other end, being stretched across the deck, is there held by two or
three alert hands. These last now hoist the bucket within grasp of
the Indian, to whom another person has reached up a very long pole.
Inserting this pole into the bucket, Tashtego downward guides the
bucket into the Tun, till it entirely disappears; then giving the
word to the seamen at the whip, up comes the bucket again, all
bubbling like a dairy-maid's pail of new milk. Carefully lowered
from its height, the full-freighted vessel is caught by an appointed
hand, and quickly emptied into a large tub. Then remounting aloft,
it again goes through the same round until the deep cistern will
yield no more. Towards the end, Tashtego has to ram his long pole
harder and harder, and deeper and deeper into the Tun, until some
twenty feet of the pole have gone down.
Now, the people of the Pequod had been baling some time in this way;
several tubs had been filled with the fragrant sperm; when all at
once a queer accident happened. Whether it was that Tashtego, that
wild Indian, was so heedless and reckless as to let go for a moment
his one-handed hold on the great cabled tackles suspending the head;
or whether the place where he stood was so treacherous and oozy; or
whether the Evil One himself would have it to fall out so, without
stating his particular reasons; how it was exactly, there is no
telling now; but, on a sudden, as the eightieth or ninetieth bucket
came suckingly up--my God! poor Tashtego--like the twin reciprocating
bucket in a veritable well, dropped head-foremost down into this
great Tun of Heidelburgh, and with a horrible oily gurgling, went
clean out of sight!
"Man overboard!" cried Daggoo, who amid the general consternation
first came to his senses. "Swing the bucket this way!" and putting
one foot into it, so as the better to secure his slippery hand-hold
on the whip itself, the hoisters ran him high up to the top of the
head, almost before Tashtego could have reached its interior bottom.
Meantime, there was a terrible tumult. Looking over the side, they
saw the before lifeless head throbbing and heaving just below the
surface of the sea, as if that moment seized with some momentous
idea; whereas it was only the poor Indian unconsciously revealing by
those struggles the perilous depth to which he had sunk.
At this instant, while Daggoo, on the summit of the head, was
clearing the whip--which had somehow got foul of the great cutting
tackles--a sharp cracking noise was heard; and to the unspeakable
horror of all, one of the two enormous hooks suspending the head tore
out, and with a vast vibration the enormous mass sideways swung, till
the drunk ship reeled and shook as if smitten by an iceberg. The one
remaining hook, upon which the entire strain now depended, seemed
every instant to be on the point of giving way; an event still more
likely from the violent motions of the head.
"Come down, come down!" yelled the seamen to Daggoo, but with one
hand holding on to the heavy tackles, so that if the head should
drop, he would still remain suspended; the negro having cleared the
foul line, rammed down the bucket into the now collapsed well,
meaning that the buried harpooneer should grasp it, and so be hoisted
"In heaven's name, man," cried Stubb, "are you ramming home a
cartridge there?--Avast! How will that help him; jamming that
iron-bound bucket on top of his head? Avast, will ye!"
"Stand clear of the tackle!" cried a voice like the bursting of a
Almost in the same instant, with a thunder-boom, the enormous mass
dropped into the sea, like Niagara's Table-Rock into the whirlpool;
the suddenly relieved hull rolled away from it, to far down her
glittering copper; and all caught their breath, as half swinging--now
over the sailors' heads, and now over the water--Daggoo, through a
thick mist of spray, was dimly beheld clinging to the pendulous
tackles, while poor, buried-alive Tashtego was sinking utterly down
to the bottom of the sea! But hardly had the blinding vapour cleared
away, when a naked figure with a boarding-sword in his hand, was for
one swift moment seen hovering over the bulwarks. The next, a loud
splash announced that my brave Queequeg had dived to the rescue. One
packed rush was made to the side, and every eye counted every ripple,
as moment followed moment, and no sign of either the sinker or the
diver could be seen. Some hands now jumped into a boat alongside,
and pushed a little off from the ship.
"Ha! ha!" cried Daggoo, all at once, from his now quiet, swinging
perch overhead; and looking further off from the side, we saw an arm
thrust upright from the blue waves; a sight strange to see, as an arm
thrust forth from the grass over a grave.