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Moby Dick; or The Whale by Herman Melville

Part 8 out of 12

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"Both! both!--it is both!"--cried Daggoo again with a joyful shout;
and soon after, Queequeg was seen boldly striking out with one hand,
and with the other clutching the long hair of the Indian. Drawn into
the waiting boat, they were quickly brought to the deck; but Tashtego
was long in coming to, and Queequeg did not look very brisk.

Now, how had this noble rescue been accomplished? Why, diving after
the slowly descending head, Queequeg with his keen sword had made
side lunges near its bottom, so as to scuttle a large hole there;
then dropping his sword, had thrust his long arm far inwards and
upwards, and so hauled out poor Tash by the head. He averred, that
upon first thrusting in for him, a leg was presented; but well
knowing that that was not as it ought to be, and might occasion great
trouble;--he had thrust back the leg, and by a dexterous heave and
toss, had wrought a somerset upon the Indian; so that with the next
trial, he came forth in the good old way--head foremost. As for the
great head itself, that was doing as well as could be expected.

And thus, through the courage and great skill in obstetrics of
Queequeg, the deliverance, or rather, delivery of Tashtego, was
successfully accomplished, in the teeth, too, of the most untoward
and apparently hopeless impediments; which is a lesson by no means to
be forgotten. Midwifery should be taught in the same course with
fencing and boxing, riding and rowing.

I know that this queer adventure of the Gay-Header's will be sure to
seem incredible to some landsmen, though they themselves may have
either seen or heard of some one's falling into a cistern ashore; an
accident which not seldom happens, and with much less reason too than
the Indian's, considering the exceeding slipperiness of the curb of
the Sperm Whale's well.

But, peradventure, it may be sagaciously urged, how is this? We
thought the tissued, infiltrated head of the Sperm Whale, was the
lightest and most corky part about him; and yet thou makest it sink
in an element of a far greater specific gravity than itself. We have
thee there. Not at all, but I have ye; for at the time poor Tash
fell in, the case had been nearly emptied of its lighter contents,
leaving little but the dense tendinous wall of the well--a double
welded, hammered substance, as I have before said, much heavier than
the sea water, and a lump of which sinks in it like lead almost. But
the tendency to rapid sinking in this substance was in the present
instance materially counteracted by the other parts of the head
remaining undetached from it, so that it sank very slowly and
deliberately indeed, affording Queequeg a fair chance for performing
his agile obstetrics on the run, as you may say. Yes, it was a
running delivery, so it was.

Now, had Tashtego perished in that head, it had been a very precious
perishing; smothered in the very whitest and daintiest of fragrant
spermaceti; coffined, hearsed, and tombed in the secret inner chamber
and sanctum sanctorum of the whale. Only one sweeter end can readily
be recalled--the delicious death of an Ohio honey-hunter, who seeking
honey in the crotch of a hollow tree, found such exceeding store of
it, that leaning too far over, it sucked him in, so that he died
embalmed. How many, think ye, have likewise fallen into Plato's
honey head, and sweetly perished there?


The Prairie.

To scan the lines of his face, or feel the bumps on the head of this
Leviathan; this is a thing which no Physiognomist or Phrenologist has
as yet undertaken. Such an enterprise would seem almost as hopeful
as for Lavater to have scrutinized the wrinkles on the Rock of
Gibraltar, or for Gall to have mounted a ladder and manipulated the
Dome of the Pantheon. Still, in that famous work of his, Lavater
not only treats of the various faces of men, but also attentively
studies the faces of horses, birds, serpents, and fish; and dwells in
detail upon the modifications of expression discernible therein. Nor
have Gall and his disciple Spurzheim failed to throw out some hints
touching the phrenological characteristics of other beings than man.
Therefore, though I am but ill qualified for a pioneer, in the
application of these two semi-sciences to the whale, I will do my
endeavor. I try all things; I achieve what I can.

Physiognomically regarded, the Sperm Whale is an anomalous creature.
He has no proper nose. And since the nose is the central and most
conspicuous of the features; and since it perhaps most modifies and
finally controls their combined expression; hence it would seem that
its entire absence, as an external appendage, must very largely
affect the countenance of the whale. For as in landscape gardening,
a spire, cupola, monument, or tower of some sort, is deemed almost
indispensable to the completion of the scene; so no face can be
physiognomically in keeping without the elevated open-work belfry of
the nose. Dash the nose from Phidias's marble Jove, and what a sorry
remainder! Nevertheless, Leviathan is of so mighty a magnitude, all
his proportions are so stately, that the same deficiency which in the
sculptured Jove were hideous, in him is no blemish at all. Nay, it
is an added grandeur. A nose to the whale would have been
impertinent. As on your physiognomical voyage you sail round his
vast head in your jolly-boat, your noble conceptions of him are never
insulted by the reflection that he has a nose to be pulled. A
pestilent conceit, which so often will insist upon obtruding even
when beholding the mightiest royal beadle on his throne.

In some particulars, perhaps the most imposing physiognomical view
to be had of the Sperm Whale, is that of the full front of his head.
This aspect is sublime.

In thought, a fine human brow is like the East when troubled with
the morning. In the repose of the pasture, the curled brow of the
bull has a touch of the grand in it. Pushing heavy cannon up
mountain defiles, the elephant's brow is majestic. Human or animal,
the mystical brow is as that great golden seal affixed by the German
Emperors to their decrees. It signifies--"God: done this day by my
hand." But in most creatures, nay in man himself, very often the
brow is but a mere strip of alpine land lying along the snow line.
Few are the foreheads which like Shakespeare's or Melancthon's rise
so high, and descend so low, that the eyes themselves seem clear,
eternal, tideless mountain lakes; and all above them in the forehead's
wrinkles, you seem to track the antlered thoughts descending there to
drink, as the Highland hunters track the snow prints of the deer.
But in the great Sperm Whale, this high and mighty god-like dignity
inherent in the brow is so immensely amplified, that gazing on it, in
that full front view, you feel the Deity and the dread powers more
forcibly than in beholding any other object in living nature. For
you see no one point precisely; not one distinct feature is revealed;
no nose, eyes, ears, or mouth; no face; he has none, proper; nothing
but that one broad firmament of a forehead, pleated with riddles;
dumbly lowering with the doom of boats, and ships, and men. Nor, in
profile, does this wondrous brow diminish; though that way viewed its
grandeur does not domineer upon you so. In profile, you plainly
perceive that horizontal, semi-crescentic depression in the
forehead's middle, which, in man, is Lavater's mark of genius.

But how? Genius in the Sperm Whale? Has the Sperm Whale ever
written a book, spoken a speech? No, his great genius is declared in
his doing nothing particular to prove it. It is moreover declared in
his pyramidical silence. And this reminds me that had the great
Sperm Whale been known to the young Orient World, he would have been
deified by their child-magian thoughts. They deified the crocodile
of the Nile, because the crocodile is tongueless; and the Sperm Whale
has no tongue, or at least it is so exceedingly small, as to be
incapable of protrusion. If hereafter any highly cultured, poetical
nation shall lure back to their birth-right, the merry May-day gods
of old; and livingly enthrone them again in the now egotistical sky;
in the now unhaunted hill; then be sure, exalted to Jove's high seat,
the great Sperm Whale shall lord it.

Champollion deciphered the wrinkled granite hieroglyphics. But there
is no Champollion to decipher the Egypt of every man's and every
being's face. Physiognomy, like every other human science, is but a
passing fable. If then, Sir William Jones, who read in thirty
languages, could not read the simplest peasant's face in its
profounder and more subtle meanings, how may unlettered Ishmael hope
to read the awful Chaldee of the Sperm Whale's brow? I but put that
brow before you. Read it if you can.


The Nut.

If the Sperm Whale be physiognomically a Sphinx, to the phrenologist
his brain seems that geometrical circle which it is impossible to

In the full-grown creature the skull will measure at least twenty
feet in length. Unhinge the lower jaw, and the side view of this
skull is as the side of a moderately inclined plane resting
throughout on a level base. But in life--as we have elsewhere
seen--this inclined plane is angularly filled up, and almost squared
by the enormous superincumbent mass of the junk and sperm. At the
high end the skull forms a crater to bed that part of the mass; while
under the long floor of this crater--in another cavity seldom
exceeding ten inches in length and as many in depth--reposes the
mere handful of this monster's brain. The brain is at least twenty
feet from his apparent forehead in life; it is hidden away behind its
vast outworks, like the innermost citadel within the amplified
fortifications of Quebec. So like a choice casket is it secreted in
him, that I have known some whalemen who peremptorily deny that the
Sperm Whale has any other brain than that palpable semblance of one
formed by the cubic-yards of his sperm magazine. Lying in strange
folds, courses, and convolutions, to their apprehensions, it seems
more in keeping with the idea of his general might to regard that
mystic part of him as the seat of his intelligence.

It is plain, then, that phrenologically the head of this Leviathan,
in the creature's living intact state, is an entire delusion. As for
his true brain, you can then see no indications of it, nor feel any.
The whale, like all things that are mighty, wears a false brow to the
common world.

If you unload his skull of its spermy heaps and then take a rear view
of its rear end, which is the high end, you will be struck by its
resemblance to the human skull, beheld in the same situation, and
from the same point of view. Indeed, place this reversed skull
(scaled down to the human magnitude) among a plate of men's skulls,
and you would involuntarily confound it with them; and remarking the
depressions on one part of its summit, in phrenological phrase you
would say--This man had no self-esteem, and no veneration. And by
those negations, considered along with the affirmative fact of his
prodigious bulk and power, you can best form to yourself the truest,
though not the most exhilarating conception of what the most exalted
potency is.

But if from the comparative dimensions of the whale's proper brain,
you deem it incapable of being adequately charted, then I have
another idea for you. If you attentively regard almost any
quadruped's spine, you will be struck with the resemblance of its
vertebrae to a strung necklace of dwarfed skulls, all bearing
rudimental resemblance to the skull proper. It is a German conceit,
that the vertebrae are absolutely undeveloped skulls. But the
curious external resemblance, I take it the Germans were not the
first men to perceive. A foreign friend once pointed it out to me,
in the skeleton of a foe he had slain, and with the vertebrae of
which he was inlaying, in a sort of basso-relievo, the beaked prow
of his canoe. Now, I consider that the phrenologists have omitted an
important thing in not pushing their investigations from the
cerebellum through the spinal canal. For I believe that much of a
man's character will be found betokened in his backbone. I would
rather feel your spine than your skull, whoever you are. A thin
joist of a spine never yet upheld a full and noble soul. I rejoice
in my spine, as in the firm audacious staff of that flag which I
fling half out to the world.

Apply this spinal branch of phrenology to the Sperm Whale. His
cranial cavity is continuous with the first neck-vertebra; and in
that vertebra the bottom of the spinal canal will measure ten inches
across, being eight in height, and of a triangular figure with the
base downwards. As it passes through the remaining vertebrae the
canal tapers in size, but for a considerable distance remains of
large capacity. Now, of course, this canal is filled with much the
same strangely fibrous substance--the spinal cord--as the brain; and
directly communicates with the brain. And what is still more, for
many feet after emerging from the brain's cavity, the spinal cord
remains of an undecreasing girth, almost equal to that of the brain.
Under all these circumstances, would it be unreasonable to survey and
map out the whale's spine phrenologically? For, viewed in this
light, the wonderful comparative smallness of his brain proper is
more than compensated by the wonderful comparative magnitude of his
spinal cord.

But leaving this hint to operate as it may with the phrenologists, I
would merely assume the spinal theory for a moment, in reference to
the Sperm Whale's hump. This august hump, if I mistake not, rises
over one of the larger vertebrae, and is, therefore, in some sort,
the outer convex mould of it. From its relative situation then, I
should call this high hump the organ of firmness or indomitableness
in the Sperm Whale. And that the great monster is indomitable, you
will yet have reason to know.


The Pequod Meets The Virgin.

The predestinated day arrived, and we duly met the ship Jungfrau,
Derick De Deer, master, of Bremen.

At one time the greatest whaling people in the world, the Dutch and
Germans are now among the least; but here and there at very wide
intervals of latitude and longitude, you still occasionally meet with
their flag in the Pacific.

For some reason, the Jungfrau seemed quite eager to pay her respects.
While yet some distance from the Pequod, she rounded to, and
dropping a boat, her captain was impelled towards us, impatiently
standing in the bows instead of the stern.

"What has he in his hand there?" cried Starbuck, pointing to
something wavingly held by the German. "Impossible!--a lamp-feeder!"

"Not that," said Stubb, "no, no, it's a coffee-pot, Mr. Starbuck;
he's coming off to make us our coffee, is the Yarman; don't you see
that big tin can there alongside of him?--that's his boiling water.
Oh! he's all right, is the Yarman."

"Go along with you," cried Flask, "it's a lamp-feeder and an oil-can.
He's out of oil, and has come a-begging."

However curious it may seem for an oil-ship to be borrowing oil on
the whale-ground, and however much it may invertedly contradict the
old proverb about carrying coals to Newcastle, yet sometimes such a
thing really happens; and in the present case Captain Derick De Deer
did indubitably conduct a lamp-feeder as Flask did declare.

As he mounted the deck, Ahab abruptly accosted him, without at all
heeding what he had in his hand; but in his broken lingo, the German
soon evinced his complete ignorance of the White Whale; immediately
turning the conversation to his lamp-feeder and oil can, with some
remarks touching his having to turn into his hammock at night in
profound darkness--his last drop of Bremen oil being gone, and not a
single flying-fish yet captured to supply the deficiency; concluding
by hinting that his ship was indeed what in the Fishery is
technically called a CLEAN one (that is, an empty one), well
deserving the name of Jungfrau or the Virgin.

His necessities supplied, Derick departed; but he had not gained his
ship's side, when whales were almost simultaneously raised from the
mast-heads of both vessels; and so eager for the chase was Derick,
that without pausing to put his oil-can and lamp-feeder aboard, he
slewed round his boat and made after the leviathan lamp-feeders.

Now, the game having risen to leeward, he and the other three German
boats that soon followed him, had considerably the start of the
Pequod's keels. There were eight whales, an average pod. Aware of
their danger, they were going all abreast with great speed straight
before the wind, rubbing their flanks as closely as so many spans of
horses in harness. They left a great, wide wake, as though
continually unrolling a great wide parchment upon the sea.

Full in this rapid wake, and many fathoms in the rear, swam a huge,
humped old bull, which by his comparatively slow progress, as well as
by the unusual yellowish incrustations overgrowing him, seemed
afflicted with the jaundice, or some other infirmity. Whether this
whale belonged to the pod in advance, seemed questionable; for it is
not customary for such venerable leviathans to be at all social.
Nevertheless, he stuck to their wake, though indeed their back water
must have retarded him, because the white-bone or swell at his broad
muzzle was a dashed one, like the swell formed when two hostile
currents meet. His spout was short, slow, and laborious; coming
forth with a choking sort of gush, and spending itself in torn
shreds, followed by strange subterranean commotions in him, which
seemed to have egress at his other buried extremity, causing the
waters behind him to upbubble.

"Who's got some paregoric?" said Stubb, "he has the stomach-ache, I'm
afraid. Lord, think of having half an acre of stomach-ache! Adverse
winds are holding mad Christmas in him, boys. It's the first foul
wind I ever knew to blow from astern; but look, did ever whale yaw
so before? it must be, he's lost his tiller."

As an overladen Indiaman bearing down the Hindostan coast with a deck
load of frightened horses, careens, buries, rolls, and wallows on her
way; so did this old whale heave his aged bulk, and now and then
partly turning over on his cumbrous rib-ends, expose the cause of his
devious wake in the unnatural stump of his starboard fin. Whether he
had lost that fin in battle, or had been born without it, it were
hard to say.

"Only wait a bit, old chap, and I'll give ye a sling for that wounded
arm," cried cruel Flask, pointing to the whale-line near him.

"Mind he don't sling thee with it," cried Starbuck. "Give way, or
the German will have him."

With one intent all the combined rival boats were pointed for this
one fish, because not only was he the largest, and therefore the most
valuable whale, but he was nearest to them, and the other whales were
going with such great velocity, moreover, as almost to defy pursuit
for the time. At this juncture the Pequod's keels had shot by the
three German boats last lowered; but from the great start he had had,
Derick's boat still led the chase, though every moment neared by his
foreign rivals. The only thing they feared, was, that from being
already so nigh to his mark, he would be enabled to dart his iron
before they could completely overtake and pass him. As for Derick,
he seemed quite confident that this would be the case, and
occasionally with a deriding gesture shook his lamp-feeder at the
other boats.

"The ungracious and ungrateful dog!" cried Starbuck; "he mocks and
dares me with the very poor-box I filled for him not five minutes
ago!"--then in his old intense whisper--"Give way, greyhounds! Dog
to it!"

"I tell ye what it is, men"--cried Stubb to his crew--"it's against
my religion to get mad; but I'd like to eat that villainous
Yarman--Pull--won't ye? Are ye going to let that rascal beat ye? Do
ye love brandy? A hogshead of brandy, then, to the best man. Come,
why don't some of ye burst a blood-vessel? Who's that been dropping
an anchor overboard--we don't budge an inch--we're becalmed. Halloo,
here's grass growing in the boat's bottom--and by the Lord, the mast
there's budding. This won't do, boys. Look at that Yarman! The
short and long of it is, men, will ye spit fire or not?"

"Oh! see the suds he makes!" cried Flask, dancing up and down--"What
a hump--Oh, DO pile on the beef--lays like a log! Oh! my lads, DO
spring--slap-jacks and quahogs for supper, you know, my lads--baked
clams and muffins--oh, DO, DO, spring,--he's a hundred barreller--don't
lose him now--don't oh, DON'T!--see that Yarman--Oh,
won't ye pull for your duff, my lads--such a sog! such a sogger!
Don't ye love sperm? There goes three thousand dollars, men!--a
bank!--a whole bank! The bank of England!--Oh, DO, DO, DO!--What's
that Yarman about now?"

At this moment Derick was in the act of pitching his lamp-feeder at
the advancing boats, and also his oil-can; perhaps with the double
view of retarding his rivals' way, and at the same time economically
accelerating his own by the momentary impetus of the backward toss.

"The unmannerly Dutch dogger!" cried Stubb. "Pull now, men, like
fifty thousand line-of-battle-ship loads of red-haired devils. What
d'ye say, Tashtego; are you the man to snap your spine in
two-and-twenty pieces for the honour of old Gayhead? What d'ye say?"

"I say, pull like god-dam,"--cried the Indian.

Fiercely, but evenly incited by the taunts of the German, the
Pequod's three boats now began ranging almost abreast; and, so
disposed, momentarily neared him. In that fine, loose, chivalrous
attitude of the headsman when drawing near to his prey, the three
mates stood up proudly, occasionally backing the after oarsman with
an exhilarating cry of, "There she slides, now! Hurrah for the
white-ash breeze! Down with the Yarman! Sail over him!"

But so decided an original start had Derick had, that spite of all
their gallantry, he would have proved the victor in this race, had
not a righteous judgment descended upon him in a crab which caught
the blade of his midship oarsman. While this clumsy lubber was
striving to free his white-ash, and while, in consequence, Derick's
boat was nigh to capsizing, and he thundering away at his men in a
mighty rage;--that was a good time for Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask.
With a shout, they took a mortal start forwards, and slantingly
ranged up on the German's quarter. An instant more, and all four
boats were diagonically in the whale's immediate wake, while
stretching from them, on both sides, was the foaming swell that he

It was a terrific, most pitiable, and maddening sight. The whale was
now going head out, and sending his spout before him in a continual
tormented jet; while his one poor fin beat his side in an agony of
fright. Now to this hand, now to that, he yawed in his faltering
flight, and still at every billow that he broke, he spasmodically
sank in the sea, or sideways rolled towards the sky his one beating
fin. So have I seen a bird with clipped wing making affrighted
broken circles in the air, vainly striving to escape the piratical
hawks. But the bird has a voice, and with plaintive cries will make
known her fear; but the fear of this vast dumb brute of the sea, was
chained up and enchanted in him; he had no voice, save that choking
respiration through his spiracle, and this made the sight of him
unspeakably pitiable; while still, in his amazing bulk, portcullis
jaw, and omnipotent tail, there was enough to appal the stoutest man
who so pitied.

Seeing now that but a very few moments more would give the Pequod's
boats the advantage, and rather than be thus foiled of his game,
Derick chose to hazard what to him must have seemed a most unusually
long dart, ere the last chance would for ever escape.

But no sooner did his harpooneer stand up for the stroke, than all
three tigers--Queequeg, Tashtego, Daggoo--instinctively sprang to
their feet, and standing in a diagonal row, simultaneously pointed
their barbs; and darted over the head of the German harpooneer, their
three Nantucket irons entered the whale. Blinding vapours of foam and
white-fire! The three boats, in the first fury of the whale's
headlong rush, bumped the German's aside with such force, that both
Derick and his baffled harpooneer were spilled out, and sailed over
by the three flying keels.

"Don't be afraid, my butter-boxes," cried Stubb, casting a passing
glance upon them as he shot by; "ye'll be picked up presently--all
right--I saw some sharks astern--St. Bernard's dogs, you
know--relieve distressed travellers. Hurrah! this is the way to sail
now. Every keel a sunbeam! Hurrah!--Here we go like three tin
kettles at the tail of a mad cougar! This puts me in mind of
fastening to an elephant in a tilbury on a plain--makes the
wheel-spokes fly, boys, when you fasten to him that way; and there's
danger of being pitched out too, when you strike a hill. Hurrah!
this is the way a fellow feels when he's going to Davy Jones--all a
rush down an endless inclined plane! Hurrah! this whale carries the
everlasting mail!"

But the monster's run was a brief one. Giving a sudden gasp, he
tumultuously sounded. With a grating rush, the three lines flew
round the loggerheads with such a force as to gouge deep grooves in
them; while so fearful were the harpooneers that this rapid sounding
would soon exhaust the lines, that using all their dexterous might,
they caught repeated smoking turns with the rope to hold on; till at
last--owing to the perpendicular strain from the lead-lined chocks of
the boats, whence the three ropes went straight down into the
blue--the gunwales of the bows were almost even with the water, while
the three sterns tilted high in the air. And the whale soon ceasing
to sound, for some time they remained in that attitude, fearful of
expending more line, though the position was a little ticklish. But
though boats have been taken down and lost in this way, yet it is
this "holding on," as it is called; this hooking up by the sharp
barbs of his live flesh from the back; this it is that often torments
the Leviathan into soon rising again to meet the sharp lance of his
foes. Yet not to speak of the peril of the thing, it is to be
doubted whether this course is always the best; for it is but
reasonable to presume, that the longer the stricken whale stays under
water, the more he is exhausted. Because, owing to the enormous
surface of him--in a full grown sperm whale something less than 2000
square feet--the pressure of the water is immense. We all know what
an astonishing atmospheric weight we ourselves stand up under; even
here, above-ground, in the air; how vast, then, the burden of a
whale, bearing on his back a column of two hundred fathoms of ocean!
It must at least equal the weight of fifty atmospheres. One whaleman
has estimated it at the weight of twenty line-of-battle ships, with
all their guns, and stores, and men on board.

As the three boats lay there on that gently rolling sea, gazing down
into its eternal blue noon; and as not a single groan or cry of any
sort, nay, not so much as a ripple or a bubble came up from its
depths; what landsman would have thought, that beneath all that
silence and placidity, the utmost monster of the seas was writhing
and wrenching in agony! Not eight inches of perpendicular rope were
visible at the bows. Seems it credible that by three such thin
threads the great Leviathan was suspended like the big weight to an
eight day clock. Suspended? and to what? To three bits of board.
Is this the creature of whom it was once so triumphantly said--"Canst
thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish-spears?
The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold, the spear, the dart,
nor the habergeon: he esteemeth iron as straw; the arrow cannot make
him flee; darts are counted as stubble; he laugheth at the shaking of
a spear!" This the creature? this he? Oh! that unfulfilments should
follow the prophets. For with the strength of a thousand thighs in
his tail, Leviathan had run his head under the mountains of the sea,
to hide him from the Pequod's fish-spears!

In that sloping afternoon sunlight, the shadows that the three boats
sent down beneath the surface, must have been long enough and broad
enough to shade half Xerxes' army. Who can tell how appalling to the
wounded whale must have been such huge phantoms flitting over his

"Stand by, men; he stirs," cried Starbuck, as the three lines
suddenly vibrated in the water, distinctly conducting upwards to
them, as by magnetic wires, the life and death throbs of the whale,
so that every oarsman felt them in his seat. The next moment,
relieved in great part from the downward strain at the bows, the
boats gave a sudden bounce upwards, as a small icefield will, when a
dense herd of white bears are scared from it into the sea.

"Haul in! Haul in!" cried Starbuck again; "he's rising."

The lines, of which, hardly an instant before, not one hand's breadth
could have been gained, were now in long quick coils flung back all
dripping into the boats, and soon the whale broke water within two
ship's lengths of the hunters.

His motions plainly denoted his extreme exhaustion. In most land
animals there are certain valves or flood-gates in many of their
veins, whereby when wounded, the blood is in some degree at least
instantly shut off in certain directions. Not so with the whale; one
of whose peculiarities it is to have an entire non-valvular structure
of the blood-vessels, so that when pierced even by so small a point
as a harpoon, a deadly drain is at once begun upon his whole
arterial system; and when this is heightened by the extraordinary
pressure of water at a great distance below the surface, his life may
be said to pour from him in incessant streams. Yet so vast is the
quantity of blood in him, and so distant and numerous its interior
fountains, that he will keep thus bleeding and bleeding for a
considerable period; even as in a drought a river will flow, whose
source is in the well-springs of far-off and undiscernible hills.
Even now, when the boats pulled upon this whale, and perilously drew
over his swaying flukes, and the lances were darted into him, they
were followed by steady jets from the new made wound, which kept
continually playing, while the natural spout-hole in his head was
only at intervals, however rapid, sending its affrighted moisture
into the air. From this last vent no blood yet came, because no
vital part of him had thus far been struck. His life, as they
significantly call it, was untouched.

As the boats now more closely surrounded him, the whole upper part of
his form, with much of it that is ordinarily submerged, was plainly
revealed. His eyes, or rather the places where his eyes had been,
were beheld. As strange misgrown masses gather in the knot-holes of
the noblest oaks when prostrate, so from the points which the whale's
eyes had once occupied, now protruded blind bulbs, horribly pitiable
to see. But pity there was none. For all his old age, and his one
arm, and his blind eyes, he must die the death and be murdered, in
order to light the gay bridals and other merry-makings of men, and
also to illuminate the solemn churches that preach unconditional
inoffensiveness by all to all. Still rolling in his blood, at last
he partially disclosed a strangely discoloured bunch or protuberance,
the size of a bushel, low down on the flank.

"A nice spot," cried Flask; "just let me prick him there once."

"Avast!" cried Starbuck, "there's no need of that!"

But humane Starbuck was too late. At the instant of the dart an
ulcerous jet shot from this cruel wound, and goaded by it into more
than sufferable anguish, the whale now spouting thick blood, with
swift fury blindly darted at the craft, bespattering them and their
glorying crews all over with showers of gore, capsizing Flask's boat
and marring the bows. It was his death stroke. For, by this time,
so spent was he by loss of blood, that he helplessly rolled away from
the wreck he had made; lay panting on his side, impotently flapped
with his stumped fin, then over and over slowly revolved like a
waning world; turned up the white secrets of his belly; lay like a
log, and died. It was most piteous, that last expiring spout. As
when by unseen hands the water is gradually drawn off from some
mighty fountain, and with half-stifled melancholy gurglings the
spray-column lowers and lowers to the ground--so the last long dying
spout of the whale.

Soon, while the crews were awaiting the arrival of the ship, the body
showed symptoms of sinking with all its treasures unrifled.
Immediately, by Starbuck's orders, lines were secured to it at
different points, so that ere long every boat was a buoy; the sunken
whale being suspended a few inches beneath them by the cords. By
very heedful management, when the ship drew nigh, the whale was
transferred to her side, and was strongly secured there by the
stiffest fluke-chains, for it was plain that unless artificially
upheld, the body would at once sink to the bottom.

It so chanced that almost upon first cutting into him with the
spade, the entire length of a corroded harpoon was found imbedded in
his flesh, on the lower part of the bunch before described. But as
the stumps of harpoons are frequently found in the dead bodies of
captured whales, with the flesh perfectly healed around them, and no
prominence of any kind to denote their place; therefore, there must
needs have been some other unknown reason in the present case fully
to account for the ulceration alluded to. But still more curious was
the fact of a lance-head of stone being found in him, not far from
the buried iron, the flesh perfectly firm about it. Who had darted
that stone lance? And when? It might have been darted by some Nor'
West Indian long before America was discovered.

What other marvels might have been rummaged out of this monstrous
cabinet there is no telling. But a sudden stop was put to further
discoveries, by the ship's being unprecedentedly dragged over
sideways to the sea, owing to the body's immensely increasing
tendency to sink. However, Starbuck, who had the ordering of
affairs, hung on to it to the last; hung on to it so resolutely,
indeed, that when at length the ship would have been capsized, if
still persisting in locking arms with the body; then, when the
command was given to break clear from it, such was the immovable
strain upon the timber-heads to which the fluke-chains and cables
were fastened, that it was impossible to cast them off. Meantime
everything in the Pequod was aslant. To cross to the other side of
the deck was like walking up the steep gabled roof of a house. The
ship groaned and gasped. Many of the ivory inlayings of her bulwarks
and cabins were started from their places, by the unnatural
dislocation. In vain handspikes and crows were brought to bear upon
the immovable fluke-chains, to pry them adrift from the timberheads;
and so low had the whale now settled that the submerged ends could
not be at all approached, while every moment whole tons of
ponderosity seemed added to the sinking bulk, and the ship seemed on
the point of going over.

"Hold on, hold on, won't ye?" cried Stubb to the body, "don't be in
such a devil of a hurry to sink! By thunder, men, we must do
something or go for it. No use prying there; avast, I say with your
handspikes, and run one of ye for a prayer book and a pen-knife, and
cut the big chains."

"Knife? Aye, aye," cried Queequeg, and seizing the carpenter's heavy
hatchet, he leaned out of a porthole, and steel to iron, began
slashing at the largest fluke-chains. But a few strokes, full of
sparks, were given, when the exceeding strain effected the rest.
With a terrific snap, every fastening went adrift; the ship righted,
the carcase sank.

Now, this occasional inevitable sinking of the recently killed Sperm
Whale is a very curious thing; nor has any fisherman yet adequately
accounted for it. Usually the dead Sperm Whale floats with great
buoyancy, with its side or belly considerably elevated above the
surface. If the only whales that thus sank were old, meagre, and
broken-hearted creatures, their pads of lard diminished and all their
bones heavy and rheumatic; then you might with some reason assert
that this sinking is caused by an uncommon specific gravity in the
fish so sinking, consequent upon this absence of buoyant matter in
him. But it is not so. For young whales, in the highest health, and
swelling with noble aspirations, prematurely cut off in the warm
flush and May of life, with all their panting lard about them; even
these brawny, buoyant heroes do sometimes sink.

Be it said, however, that the Sperm Whale is far less liable to this
accident than any other species. Where one of that sort go down,
twenty Right Whales do. This difference in the species is no doubt
imputable in no small degree to the greater quantity of bone in the
Right Whale; his Venetian blinds alone sometimes weighing more than a
ton; from this incumbrance the Sperm Whale is wholly free. But there
are instances where, after the lapse of many hours or several days,
the sunken whale again rises, more buoyant than in life. But the
reason of this is obvious. Gases are generated in him; he swells to
a prodigious magnitude; becomes a sort of animal balloon. A
line-of-battle ship could hardly keep him under then. In the Shore
Whaling, on soundings, among the Bays of New Zealand, when a Right
Whale gives token of sinking, they fasten buoys to him, with plenty
of rope; so that when the body has gone down, they know where to look
for it when it shall have ascended again.

It was not long after the sinking of the body that a cry was heard
from the Pequod's mast-heads, announcing that the Jungfrau was again
lowering her boats; though the only spout in sight was that of a
Fin-Back, belonging to the species of uncapturable whales, because of
its incredible power of swimming. Nevertheless, the Fin-Back's spout
is so similar to the Sperm Whale's, that by unskilful fishermen it is
often mistaken for it. And consequently Derick and all his host were
now in valiant chase of this unnearable brute. The Virgin crowding
all sail, made after her four young keels, and thus they all
disappeared far to leeward, still in bold, hopeful chase.

Oh! many are the Fin-Backs, and many are the Dericks, my friend.


The Honour and Glory of Whaling.

There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the
true method.

The more I dive into this matter of whaling, and push my researches
up to the very spring-head of it so much the more am I impressed with
its great honourableness and antiquity; and especially when I find so
many great demi-gods and heroes, prophets of all sorts, who one way
or other have shed distinction upon it, I am transported with the
reflection that I myself belong, though but subordinately, to so
emblazoned a fraternity.

The gallant Perseus, a son of Jupiter, was the first whaleman; and to
the eternal honour of our calling be it said, that the first whale
attacked by our brotherhood was not killed with any sordid intent.
Those were the knightly days of our profession, when we only bore
arms to succor the distressed, and not to fill men's lamp-feeders.
Every one knows the fine story of Perseus and Andromeda; how the
lovely Andromeda, the daughter of a king, was tied to a rock on the
sea-coast, and as Leviathan was in the very act of carrying her off,
Perseus, the prince of whalemen, intrepidly advancing, harpooned the
monster, and delivered and married the maid. It was an admirable
artistic exploit, rarely achieved by the best harpooneers of the
present day; inasmuch as this Leviathan was slain at the very first
dart. And let no man doubt this Arkite story; for in the ancient
Joppa, now Jaffa, on the Syrian coast, in one of the Pagan temples,
there stood for many ages the vast skeleton of a whale, which the
city's legends and all the inhabitants asserted to be the identical
bones of the monster that Perseus slew. When the Romans took Joppa,
the same skeleton was carried to Italy in triumph. What seems most
singular and suggestively important in this story, is this: it was
from Joppa that Jonah set sail.

Akin to the adventure of Perseus and Andromeda--indeed, by some
supposed to be indirectly derived from it--is that famous story of
St. George and the Dragon; which dragon I maintain to have been a
whale; for in many old chronicles whales and dragons are strangely
jumbled together, and often stand for each other. "Thou art as a
lion of the waters, and as a dragon of the sea," saith Ezekiel;
hereby, plainly meaning a whale; in truth, some versions of the Bible
use that word itself. Besides, it would much subtract from the glory
of the exploit had St. George but encountered a crawling reptile of
the land, instead of doing battle with the great monster of the deep.
Any man may kill a snake, but only a Perseus, a St. George, a
Coffin, have the heart in them to march boldly up to a whale.

Let not the modern paintings of this scene mislead us; for though the
creature encountered by that valiant whaleman of old is vaguely
represented of a griffin-like shape, and though the battle is
depicted on land and the saint on horseback, yet considering the
great ignorance of those times, when the true form of the whale was
unknown to artists; and considering that as in Perseus' case, St.
George's whale might have crawled up out of the sea on the beach; and
considering that the animal ridden by St. George might have been only
a large seal, or sea-horse; bearing all this in mind, it will not
appear altogether incompatible with the sacred legend and the
ancientest draughts of the scene, to hold this so-called dragon no
other than the great Leviathan himself. In fact, placed before the
strict and piercing truth, this whole story will fare like that fish,
flesh, and fowl idol of the Philistines, Dagon by name; who being
planted before the ark of Israel, his horse's head and both the palms
of his hands fell off from him, and only the stump or fishy part of
him remained. Thus, then, one of our own noble stamp, even a
whaleman, is the tutelary guardian of England; and by good rights, we
harpooneers of Nantucket should be enrolled in the most noble order
of St. George. And therefore, let not the knights of that honourable
company (none of whom, I venture to say, have ever had to do with a
whale like their great patron), let them never eye a Nantucketer with
disdain, since even in our woollen frocks and tarred trowsers we are
much better entitled to St. George's decoration than they.

Whether to admit Hercules among us or not, concerning this I long
remained dubious: for though according to the Greek mythologies, that
antique Crockett and Kit Carson--that brawny doer of rejoicing good
deeds, was swallowed down and thrown up by a whale; still, whether
that strictly makes a whaleman of him, that might be mooted. It
nowhere appears that he ever actually harpooned his fish, unless,
indeed, from the inside. Nevertheless, he may be deemed a sort of
involuntary whaleman; at any rate the whale caught him, if he did not
the whale. I claim him for one of our clan.

But, by the best contradictory authorities, this Grecian story of
Hercules and the whale is considered to be derived from the still
more ancient Hebrew story of Jonah and the whale; and vice versa;
certainly they are very similar. If I claim the demigod then, why
not the prophet?

Nor do heroes, saints, demigods, and prophets alone comprise the
whole roll of our order. Our grand master is still to be named; for
like royal kings of old times, we find the head waters of our
fraternity in nothing short of the great gods themselves. That
wondrous oriental story is now to be rehearsed from the Shaster,
which gives us the dread Vishnoo, one of the three persons in the
godhead of the Hindoos; gives us this divine Vishnoo himself for our
Lord;--Vishnoo, who, by the first of his ten earthly incarnations,
has for ever set apart and sanctified the whale. When Brahma, or the
God of Gods, saith the Shaster, resolved to recreate the world after
one of its periodical dissolutions, he gave birth to Vishnoo, to
preside over the work; but the Vedas, or mystical books, whose
perusal would seem to have been indispensable to Vishnoo before
beginning the creation, and which therefore must have contained
something in the shape of practical hints to young architects, these
Vedas were lying at the bottom of the waters; so Vishnoo became
incarnate in a whale, and sounding down in him to the uttermost
depths, rescued the sacred volumes. Was not this Vishnoo a whaleman,
then? even as a man who rides a horse is called a horseman?

Perseus, St. George, Hercules, Jonah, and Vishnoo! there's a
member-roll for you! What club but the whaleman's can head off like


Jonah Historically Regarded.

Reference was made to the historical story of Jonah and the whale in
the preceding chapter. Now some Nantucketers rather distrust this
historical story of Jonah and the whale. But then there were some
sceptical Greeks and Romans, who, standing out from the orthodox
pagans of their times, equally doubted the story of Hercules and the
whale, and Arion and the dolphin; and yet their doubting those
traditions did not make those traditions one whit the less facts, for
all that.

One old Sag-Harbor whaleman's chief reason for questioning the Hebrew
story was this:--He had one of those quaint old-fashioned Bibles,
embellished with curious, unscientific plates; one of which
represented Jonah's whale with two spouts in his head--a peculiarity
only true with respect to a species of the Leviathan (the Right
Whale, and the varieties of that order), concerning which the
fishermen have this saying, "A penny roll would choke him"; his
swallow is so very small. But, to this, Bishop Jebb's anticipative
answer is ready. It is not necessary, hints the Bishop, that we
consider Jonah as tombed in the whale's belly, but as temporarily
lodged in some part of his mouth. And this seems reasonable enough
in the good Bishop. For truly, the Right Whale's mouth would
accommodate a couple of whist-tables, and comfortably seat all the
players. Possibly, too, Jonah might have ensconced himself in a
hollow tooth; but, on second thoughts, the Right Whale is toothless.

Another reason which Sag-Harbor (he went by that name) urged for his
want of faith in this matter of the prophet, was something obscurely
in reference to his incarcerated body and the whale's gastric juices.
But this objection likewise falls to the ground, because a German
exegetist supposes that Jonah must have taken refuge in the floating
body of a DEAD whale--even as the French soldiers in the Russian
campaign turned their dead horses into tents, and crawled into them.
Besides, it has been divined by other continental commentators, that
when Jonah was thrown overboard from the Joppa ship, he straightway
effected his escape to another vessel near by, some vessel with a
whale for a figure-head; and, I would add, possibly called "The
Whale," as some craft are nowadays christened the "Shark," the
"Gull," the "Eagle." Nor have there been wanting learned exegetists
who have opined that the whale mentioned in the book of Jonah merely
meant a life-preserver--an inflated bag of wind--which the endangered
prophet swam to, and so was saved from a watery doom. Poor
Sag-Harbor, therefore, seems worsted all round. But he had still
another reason for his want of faith. It was this, if I remember
right: Jonah was swallowed by the whale in the Mediterranean Sea, and
after three days he was vomited up somewhere within three days'
journey of Nineveh, a city on the Tigris, very much more than three
days' journey across from the nearest point of the Mediterranean
coast. How is that?

But was there no other way for the whale to land the prophet within
that short distance of Nineveh? Yes. He might have carried him
round by the way of the Cape of Good Hope. But not to speak of the
passage through the whole length of the Mediterranean, and another
passage up the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, such a supposition would
involve the complete circumnavigation of all Africa in three days,
not to speak of the Tigris waters, near the site of Nineveh, being
too shallow for any whale to swim in. Besides, this idea of Jonah's
weathering the Cape of Good Hope at so early a day would wrest the
honour of the discovery of that great headland from Bartholomew Diaz,
its reputed discoverer, and so make modern history a liar.

But all these foolish arguments of old Sag-Harbor only evinced his
foolish pride of reason--a thing still more reprehensible in him,
seeing that he had but little learning except what he had picked up
from the sun and the sea. I say it only shows his foolish, impious
pride, and abominable, devilish rebellion against the reverend
clergy. For by a Portuguese Catholic priest, this very idea of
Jonah's going to Nineveh via the Cape of Good Hope was advanced as a
signal magnification of the general miracle. And so it was.
Besides, to this day, the highly enlightened Turks devoutly believe
in the historical story of Jonah. And some three centuries ago, an
English traveller in old Harris's Voyages, speaks of a Turkish Mosque
built in honour of Jonah, in which Mosque was a miraculous lamp that
burnt without any oil.



To make them run easily and swiftly, the axles of carriages are
anointed; and for much the same purpose, some whalers perform an
analogous operation upon their boat; they grease the bottom. Nor is
it to be doubted that as such a procedure can do no harm, it may
possibly be of no contemptible advantage; considering that oil and
water are hostile; that oil is a sliding thing, and that the object
in view is to make the boat slide bravely. Queequeg believed
strongly in anointing his boat, and one morning not long after the
German ship Jungfrau disappeared, took more than customary pains in
that occupation; crawling under its bottom, where it hung over the
side, and rubbing in the unctuousness as though diligently seeking to
insure a crop of hair from the craft's bald keel. He seemed to be
working in obedience to some particular presentiment. Nor did it
remain unwarranted by the event.

Towards noon whales were raised; but so soon as the ship sailed down
to them, they turned and fled with swift precipitancy; a disordered
flight, as of Cleopatra's barges from Actium.

Nevertheless, the boats pursued, and Stubb's was foremost. By great
exertion, Tashtego at last succeeded in planting one iron; but the
stricken whale, without at all sounding, still continued his
horizontal flight, with added fleetness. Such unintermitted
strainings upon the planted iron must sooner or later inevitably
extract it. It became imperative to lance the flying whale, or be
content to lose him. But to haul the boat up to his flank was
impossible, he swam so fast and furious. What then remained?

Of all the wondrous devices and dexterities, the sleights of hand and
countless subtleties, to which the veteran whaleman is so often
forced, none exceed that fine manoeuvre with the lance called
pitchpoling. Small sword, or broad sword, in all its exercises
boasts nothing like it. It is only indispensable with an inveterate
running whale; its grand fact and feature is the wonderful distance
to which the long lance is accurately darted from a violently
rocking, jerking boat, under extreme headway. Steel and wood
included, the entire spear is some ten or twelve feet in length; the
staff is much slighter than that of the harpoon, and also of a
lighter material--pine. It is furnished with a small rope called a
warp, of considerable length, by which it can be hauled back to the
hand after darting.

But before going further, it is important to mention here, that
though the harpoon may be pitchpoled in the same way with the lance,
yet it is seldom done; and when done, is still less frequently
successful, on account of the greater weight and inferior length of
the harpoon as compared with the lance, which in effect become
serious drawbacks. As a general thing, therefore, you must first
get fast to a whale, before any pitchpoling comes into play.

Look now at Stubb; a man who from his humorous, deliberate coolness
and equanimity in the direst emergencies, was specially qualified to
excel in pitchpoling. Look at him; he stands upright in the tossed
bow of the flying boat; wrapt in fleecy foam, the towing whale is
forty feet ahead. Handling the long lance lightly, glancing twice or
thrice along its length to see if it be exactly straight, Stubb
whistlingly gathers up the coil of the warp in one hand, so as to
secure its free end in his grasp, leaving the rest unobstructed.
Then holding the lance full before his waistband's middle, he levels
it at the whale; when, covering him with it, he steadily depresses
the butt-end in his hand, thereby elevating the point till the weapon
stands fairly balanced upon his palm, fifteen feet in the air. He
minds you somewhat of a juggler, balancing a long staff on his chin.
Next moment with a rapid, nameless impulse, in a superb lofty arch the
bright steel spans the foaming distance, and quivers in the life spot
of the whale. Instead of sparkling water, he now spouts red blood.

"That drove the spigot out of him!" cried Stubb. "'Tis July's
immortal Fourth; all fountains must run wine today! Would now, it
were old Orleans whiskey, or old Ohio, or unspeakable old
Monongahela! Then, Tashtego, lad, I'd have ye hold a canakin to the
jet, and we'd drink round it! Yea, verily, hearts alive, we'd brew
choice punch in the spread of his spout-hole there, and from that
live punch-bowl quaff the living stuff."

Again and again to such gamesome talk, the dexterous dart is
repeated, the spear returning to its master like a greyhound held in
skilful leash. The agonized whale goes into his flurry; the tow-line
is slackened, and the pitchpoler dropping astern, folds his hands,
and mutely watches the monster die.


The Fountain.

That for six thousand years--and no one knows how many millions of
ages before--the great whales should have been spouting all over the
sea, and sprinkling and mistifying the gardens of the deep, as with
so many sprinkling or mistifying pots; and that for some centuries
back, thousands of hunters should have been close by the fountain of
the whale, watching these sprinklings and spoutings--that all this
should be, and yet, that down to this blessed minute (fifteen and a
quarter minutes past one o'clock P.M. of this sixteenth day of
December, A.D. 1851), it should still remain a problem, whether these
spoutings are, after all, really water, or nothing but vapour--this is
surely a noteworthy thing.

Let us, then, look at this matter, along with some interesting items
contingent. Every one knows that by the peculiar cunning of their
gills, the finny tribes in general breathe the air which at all times
is combined with the element in which they swim; hence, a herring or
a cod might live a century, and never once raise its head above the
surface. But owing to his marked internal structure which gives him
regular lungs, like a human being's, the whale can only live by
inhaling the disengaged air in the open atmosphere. Wherefore the
necessity for his periodical visits to the upper world. But he
cannot in any degree breathe through his mouth, for, in his ordinary
attitude, the Sperm Whale's mouth is buried at least eight feet
beneath the surface; and what is still more, his windpipe has no
connexion with his mouth. No, he breathes through his spiracle
alone; and this is on the top of his head.

If I say, that in any creature breathing is only a function
indispensable to vitality, inasmuch as it withdraws from the air a
certain element, which being subsequently brought into contact with
the blood imparts to the blood its vivifying principle, I do not
think I shall err; though I may possibly use some superfluous
scientific words. Assume it, and it follows that if all the blood in
a man could be aerated with one breath, he might then seal up his
nostrils and not fetch another for a considerable time. That is to
say, he would then live without breathing. Anomalous as it may seem,
this is precisely the case with the whale, who systematically lives,
by intervals, his full hour and more (when at the bottom) without
drawing a single breath, or so much as in any way inhaling a particle
of air; for, remember, he has no gills. How is this? Between his
ribs and on each side of his spine he is supplied with a remarkable
involved Cretan labyrinth of vermicelli-like vessels, which vessels,
when he quits the surface, are completely distended with oxygenated
blood. So that for an hour or more, a thousand fathoms in the sea,
he carries a surplus stock of vitality in him, just as the camel
crossing the waterless desert carries a surplus supply of drink for
future use in its four supplementary stomachs. The anatomical fact
of this labyrinth is indisputable; and that the supposition founded
upon it is reasonable and true, seems the more cogent to me, when I
consider the otherwise inexplicable obstinacy of that leviathan in
HAVING HIS SPOUTINGS OUT, as the fishermen phrase it. This is what I
mean. If unmolested, upon rising to the surface, the Sperm Whale
will continue there for a period of time exactly uniform with all his
other unmolested risings. Say he stays eleven minutes, and jets
seventy times, that is, respires seventy breaths; then whenever he
rises again, he will be sure to have his seventy breaths over again,
to a minute. Now, if after he fetches a few breaths you alarm him,
so that he sounds, he will be always dodging up again to make good
his regular allowance of air. And not till those seventy breaths are
told, will he finally go down to stay out his full term below.
Remark, however, that in different individuals these rates are
different; but in any one they are alike. Now, why should the whale
thus insist upon having his spoutings out, unless it be to replenish
his reservoir of air, ere descending for good? How obvious is it,
too, that this necessity for the whale's rising exposes him to all
the fatal hazards of the chase. For not by hook or by net could
this vast leviathan be caught, when sailing a thousand fathoms
beneath the sunlight. Not so much thy skill, then, O hunter, as the
great necessities that strike the victory to thee!

In man, breathing is incessantly going on--one breath only serving
for two or three pulsations; so that whatever other business he has
to attend to, waking or sleeping, breathe he must, or die he will.
But the Sperm Whale only breathes about one seventh or Sunday of his

It has been said that the whale only breathes through his spout-hole;
if it could truthfully be added that his spouts are mixed with water,
then I opine we should be furnished with the reason why his sense of
smell seems obliterated in him; for the only thing about him that at
all answers to his nose is that identical spout-hole; and being so
clogged with two elements, it could not be expected to have the power
of smelling. But owing to the mystery of the spout--whether it be
water or whether it be vapour--no absolute certainty can as yet be
arrived at on this head. Sure it is, nevertheless, that the Sperm
Whale has no proper olfactories. But what does he want of them? No
roses, no violets, no Cologne-water in the sea.

Furthermore, as his windpipe solely opens into the tube of his
spouting canal, and as that long canal--like the grand Erie Canal--is
furnished with a sort of locks (that open and shut) for the downward
retention of air or the upward exclusion of water, therefore the
whale has no voice; unless you insult him by saying, that when he so
strangely rumbles, he talks through his nose. But then again, what
has the whale to say? Seldom have I known any profound being that
had anything to say to this world, unless forced to stammer out
something by way of getting a living. Oh! happy that the world is
such an excellent listener!

Now, the spouting canal of the Sperm Whale, chiefly intended as it is
for the conveyance of air, and for several feet laid along,
horizontally, just beneath the upper surface of his head, and a
little to one side; this curious canal is very much like a gas-pipe
laid down in a city on one side of a street. But the question
returns whether this gas-pipe is also a water-pipe; in other words,
whether the spout of the Sperm Whale is the mere vapour of the exhaled
breath, or whether that exhaled breath is mixed with water taken in
at the mouth, and discharged through the spiracle. It is certain
that the mouth indirectly communicates with the spouting canal; but
it cannot be proved that this is for the purpose of discharging water
through the spiracle. Because the greatest necessity for so doing
would seem to be, when in feeding he accidentally takes in water.
But the Sperm Whale's food is far beneath the surface, and there he
cannot spout even if he would. Besides, if you regard him very
closely, and time him with your watch, you will find that when
unmolested, there is an undeviating rhyme between the periods of his
jets and the ordinary periods of respiration.

But why pester one with all this reasoning on the subject? Speak
out! You have seen him spout; then declare what the spout is; can
you not tell water from air? My dear sir, in this world it is not so
easy to settle these plain things. I have ever found your plain
things the knottiest of all. And as for this whale spout, you might
almost stand in it, and yet be undecided as to what it is precisely.

The central body of it is hidden in the snowy sparkling mist
enveloping it; and how can you certainly tell whether any water falls
from it, when, always, when you are close enough to a whale to get a
close view of his spout, he is in a prodigious commotion, the water
cascading all around him. And if at such times you should think that
you really perceived drops of moisture in the spout, how do you know
that they are not merely condensed from its vapour; or how do you know
that they are not those identical drops superficially lodged in the
spout-hole fissure, which is countersunk into the summit of the
whale's head? For even when tranquilly swimming through the mid-day
sea in a calm, with his elevated hump sun-dried as a dromedary's in
the desert; even then, the whale always carries a small basin of
water on his head, as under a blazing sun you will sometimes see a
cavity in a rock filled up with rain.

Nor is it at all prudent for the hunter to be over curious touching
the precise nature of the whale spout. It will not do for him to be
peering into it, and putting his face in it. You cannot go with your
pitcher to this fountain and fill it, and bring it away. For even
when coming into slight contact with the outer, vapoury shreds of the
jet, which will often happen, your skin will feverishly smart, from
the acridness of the thing so touching it. And I know one, who
coming into still closer contact with the spout, whether with some
scientific object in view, or otherwise, I cannot say, the skin
peeled off from his cheek and arm. Wherefore, among whalemen, the
spout is deemed poisonous; they try to evade it. Another thing; I
have heard it said, and I do not much doubt it, that if the jet is
fairly spouted into your eyes, it will blind you. The wisest thing
the investigator can do then, it seems to me, is to let this deadly
spout alone.

Still, we can hypothesize, even if we cannot prove and establish. My
hypothesis is this: that the spout is nothing but mist. And besides
other reasons, to this conclusion I am impelled, by considerations
touching the great inherent dignity and sublimity of the Sperm Whale;
I account him no common, shallow being, inasmuch as it is an
undisputed fact that he is never found on soundings, or near shores;
all other whales sometimes are. He is both ponderous and profound.
And I am convinced that from the heads of all ponderous profound
beings, such as Plato, Pyrrho, the Devil, Jupiter, Dante, and so on,
there always goes up a certain semi-visible steam, while in the act
of thinking deep thoughts. While composing a little treatise on
Eternity, I had the curiosity to place a mirror before me; and ere
long saw reflected there, a curious involved worming and undulation
in the atmosphere over my head. The invariable moisture of my hair,
while plunged in deep thought, after six cups of hot tea in my thin
shingled attic, of an August noon; this seems an additional argument
for the above supposition.

And how nobly it raises our conceit of the mighty, misty monster, to
behold him solemnly sailing through a calm tropical sea; his vast,
mild head overhung by a canopy of vapour, engendered by his
incommunicable contemplations, and that vapour--as you will sometimes
see it--glorified by a rainbow, as if Heaven itself had put its seal
upon his thoughts. For, d'ye see, rainbows do not visit the clear
air; they only irradiate vapour. And so, through all the thick mists
of the dim doubts in my mind, divine intuitions now and then shoot,
enkindling my fog with a heavenly ray. And for this I thank God; for
all have doubts; many deny; but doubts or denials, few along with
them, have intuitions. Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions
of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor
infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with equal eye.


The Tail.

Other poets have warbled the praises of the soft eye of the antelope,
and the lovely plumage of the bird that never alights; less
celestial, I celebrate a tail.

Reckoning the largest sized Sperm Whale's tail to begin at that point
of the trunk where it tapers to about the girth of a man, it
comprises upon its upper surface alone, an area of at least fifty
square feet. The compact round body of its root expands into two
broad, firm, flat palms or flukes, gradually shoaling away to less
than an inch in thickness. At the crotch or junction, these flukes
slightly overlap, then sideways recede from each other like wings,
leaving a wide vacancy between. In no living thing are the lines of
beauty more exquisitely defined than in the crescentic borders of
these flukes. At its utmost expansion in the full grown whale, the
tail will considerably exceed twenty feet across.

The entire member seems a dense webbed bed of welded sinews; but cut
into it, and you find that three distinct strata compose it:--upper,
middle, and lower. The fibres in the upper and lower layers, are
long and horizontal; those of the middle one, very short, and running
crosswise between the outside layers. This triune structure, as much
as anything else, imparts power to the tail. To the student of old
Roman walls, the middle layer will furnish a curious parallel to the
thin course of tiles always alternating with the stone in those
wonderful relics of the antique, and which undoubtedly contribute so
much to the great strength of the masonry.

But as if this vast local power in the tendinous tail were not
enough, the whole bulk of the leviathan is knit over with a warp and
woof of muscular fibres and filaments, which passing on either side
the loins and running down into the flukes, insensibly blend with
them, and largely contribute to their might; so that in the tail the
confluent measureless force of the whole whale seems concentrated to
a point. Could annihilation occur to matter, this were the thing to
do it.

Nor does this--its amazing strength, at all tend to cripple the
graceful flexion of its motions; where infantileness of ease
undulates through a Titanism of power. On the contrary, those
motions derive their most appalling beauty from it. Real strength
never impairs beauty or harmony, but it often bestows it; and in
everything imposingly beautiful, strength has much to do with the
magic. Take away the tied tendons that all over seem bursting from
the marble in the carved Hercules, and its charm would be gone. As
devout Eckerman lifted the linen sheet from the naked corpse of
Goethe, he was overwhelmed with the massive chest of the man, that
seemed as a Roman triumphal arch. When Angelo paints even God the
Father in human form, mark what robustness is there. And whatever
they may reveal of the divine love in the Son, the soft, curled,
hermaphroditical Italian pictures, in which his idea has been most
successfully embodied; these pictures, so destitute as they are of
all brawniness, hint nothing of any power, but the mere negative,
feminine one of submission and endurance, which on all hands it is
conceded, form the peculiar practical virtues of his teachings.

Such is the subtle elasticity of the organ I treat of, that whether
wielded in sport, or in earnest, or in anger, whatever be the mood it
be in, its flexions are invariably marked by exceeding grace.
Therein no fairy's arm can transcend it.

Five great motions are peculiar to it. First, when used as a fin for
progression; Second, when used as a mace in battle; Third, in
sweeping; Fourth, in lobtailing; Fifth, in peaking flukes.

First: Being horizontal in its position, the Leviathan's tail acts in
a different manner from the tails of all other sea creatures. It
never wriggles. In man or fish, wriggling is a sign of inferiority.
To the whale, his tail is the sole means of propulsion. Scroll-wise
coiled forwards beneath the body, and then rapidly sprung backwards,
it is this which gives that singular darting, leaping motion to the
monster when furiously swimming. His side-fins only serve to steer

Second: It is a little significant, that while one sperm whale only
fights another sperm whale with his head and jaw, nevertheless, in
his conflicts with man, he chiefly and contemptuously uses his tail.
In striking at a boat, he swiftly curves away his flukes from it, and
the blow is only inflicted by the recoil. If it be made in the
unobstructed air, especially if it descend to its mark, the stroke is
then simply irresistible. No ribs of man or boat can withstand it.
Your only salvation lies in eluding it; but if it comes sideways
through the opposing water, then partly owing to the light buoyancy
of the whale boat, and the elasticity of its materials, a cracked
rib or a dashed plank or two, a sort of stitch in the side, is
generally the most serious result. These submerged side blows are so
often received in the fishery, that they are accounted mere child's
play. Some one strips off a frock, and the hole is stopped.

Third: I cannot demonstrate it, but it seems to me, that in the whale
the sense of touch is concentrated in the tail; for in this respect
there is a delicacy in it only equalled by the daintiness of the
elephant's trunk. This delicacy is chiefly evinced in the action of
sweeping, when in maidenly gentleness the whale with a certain soft
slowness moves his immense flukes from side to side upon the surface of
the sea; and if he feel but a sailor's whisker, woe to that sailor,
whiskers and all. What tenderness there is in that preliminary
touch! Had this tail any prehensile power, I should straightway
bethink me of Darmonodes' elephant that so frequented the
flower-market, and with low salutations presented nosegays to
damsels, and then caressed their zones. On more accounts than one, a
pity it is that the whale does not possess this prehensile virtue in
his tail; for I have heard of yet another elephant, that when wounded
in the fight, curved round his trunk and extracted the dart.

Fourth: Stealing unawares upon the whale in the fancied security of
the middle of solitary seas, you find him unbent from the vast
corpulence of his dignity, and kitten-like, he plays on the ocean as
if it were a hearth. But still you see his power in his play. The
broad palms of his tail are flirted high into the air; then smiting
the surface, the thunderous concussion resounds for miles. You would
almost think a great gun had been discharged; and if you noticed the
light wreath of vapour from the spiracle at his other extremity, you
would think that that was the smoke from the touch-hole.

Fifth: As in the ordinary floating posture of the leviathan the
flukes lie considerably below the level of his back, they are then
completely out of sight beneath the surface; but when he is about to
plunge into the deeps, his entire flukes with at least thirty feet of
his body are tossed erect in the air, and so remain vibrating a
moment, till they downwards shoot out of view. Excepting the sublime
BREACH--somewhere else to be described--this peaking of the whale's
flukes is perhaps the grandest sight to be seen in all animated
nature. Out of the bottomless profundities the gigantic tail seems
spasmodically snatching at the highest heaven. So in dreams, have I
seen majestic Satan thrusting forth his tormented colossal claw from
the flame Baltic of Hell. But in gazing at such scenes, it is all in
all what mood you are in; if in the Dantean, the devils will occur to
you; if in that of Isaiah, the archangels. Standing at the mast-head
of my ship during a sunrise that crimsoned sky and sea, I once saw a
large herd of whales in the east, all heading towards the sun, and
for a moment vibrating in concert with peaked flukes. As it seemed
to me at the time, such a grand embodiment of adoration of the gods
was never beheld, even in Persia, the home of the fire worshippers.
As Ptolemy Philopater testified of the African elephant, I then
testified of the whale, pronouncing him the most devout of all
beings. For according to King Juba, the military elephants of
antiquity often hailed the morning with their trunks uplifted in the
profoundest silence.

The chance comparison in this chapter, between the whale and the
elephant, so far as some aspects of the tail of the one and the trunk
of the other are concerned, should not tend to place those two
opposite organs on an equality, much less the creatures to which they
respectively belong. For as the mightiest elephant is but a terrier
to Leviathan, so, compared with Leviathan's tail, his trunk is but
the stalk of a lily. The most direful blow from the elephant's trunk
were as the playful tap of a fan, compared with the measureless crush
and crash of the sperm whale's ponderous flukes, which in repeated
instances have one after the other hurled entire boats with all their
oars and crews into the air, very much as an Indian juggler tosses
his balls.*

*Though all comparison in the way of general bulk between the whale
and the elephant is preposterous, inasmuch as in that particular the
elephant stands in much the same respect to the whale that a dog does
to the elephant; nevertheless, there are not wanting some points of
curious similitude; among these is the spout. It is well known that
the elephant will often draw up water or dust in his trunk, and then
elevating it, jet it forth in a stream.

The more I consider this mighty tail, the more do I deplore my
inability to express it. At times there are gestures in it, which,
though they would well grace the hand of man, remain wholly
inexplicable. In an extensive herd, so remarkable, occasionally, are
these mystic gestures, that I have heard hunters who have declared
them akin to Free-Mason signs and symbols; that the whale, indeed, by
these methods intelligently conversed with the world. Nor are there
wanting other motions of the whale in his general body, full of
strangeness, and unaccountable to his most experienced assailant.
Dissect him how I may, then, I but go skin deep; I know him not,
and never will. But if I know not even the tail of this whale, how
understand his head? much more, how comprehend his face, when face he
has none? Thou shalt see my back parts, my tail, he seems to say,
but my face shall not be seen. But I cannot completely make out his
back parts; and hint what he will about his face, I say again he has
no face.


The Grand Armada.

The long and narrow peninsula of Malacca, extending south-eastward
from the territories of Birmah, forms the most southerly point of all
Asia. In a continuous line from that peninsula stretch the long
islands of Sumatra, Java, Bally, and Timor; which, with many others,
form a vast mole, or rampart, lengthwise connecting Asia with
Australia, and dividing the long unbroken Indian ocean from the
thickly studded oriental archipelagoes. This rampart is pierced by
several sally-ports for the convenience of ships and whales;
conspicuous among which are the straits of Sunda and Malacca. By the
straits of Sunda, chiefly, vessels bound to China from the west,
emerge into the China seas.

Those narrow straits of Sunda divide Sumatra from Java; and standing
midway in that vast rampart of islands, buttressed by that bold green
promontory, known to seamen as Java Head; they not a little
correspond to the central gateway opening into some vast walled
empire: and considering the inexhaustible wealth of spices, and
silks, and jewels, and gold, and ivory, with which the thousand
islands of that oriental sea are enriched, it seems a significant
provision of nature, that such treasures, by the very formation of
the land, should at least bear the appearance, however ineffectual,
of being guarded from the all-grasping western world. The shores of
the Straits of Sunda are unsupplied with those domineering fortresses
which guard the entrances to the Mediterranean, the Baltic, and the
Propontis. Unlike the Danes, these Orientals do not demand the
obsequious homage of lowered top-sails from the endless procession of
ships before the wind, which for centuries past, by night and by day,
have passed between the islands of Sumatra and Java, freighted with
the costliest cargoes of the east. But while they freely waive a
ceremonial like this, they do by no means renounce their claim to
more solid tribute.

Time out of mind the piratical proas of the Malays, lurking among the
low shaded coves and islets of Sumatra, have sallied out upon the
vessels sailing through the straits, fiercely demanding tribute at
the point of their spears. Though by the repeated bloody
chastisements they have received at the hands of European cruisers,
the audacity of these corsairs has of late been somewhat repressed;
yet, even at the present day, we occasionally hear of English and
American vessels, which, in those waters, have been remorselessly
boarded and pillaged.

With a fair, fresh wind, the Pequod was now drawing nigh to these
straits; Ahab purposing to pass through them into the Javan sea, and
thence, cruising northwards, over waters known to be frequented here
and there by the Sperm Whale, sweep inshore by the Philippine
Islands, and gain the far coast of Japan, in time for the great
whaling season there. By these means, the circumnavigating Pequod
would sweep almost all the known Sperm Whale cruising grounds of the
world, previous to descending upon the Line in the Pacific; where
Ahab, though everywhere else foiled in his pursuit, firmly counted
upon giving battle to Moby Dick, in the sea he was most known to
frequent; and at a season when he might most reasonably be presumed
to be haunting it.

But how now? in this zoned quest, does Ahab touch no land? does his
crew drink air? Surely, he will stop for water. Nay. For a long
time, now, the circus-running sun has raced within his fiery ring,
and needs no sustenance but what's in himself. So Ahab. Mark this,
too, in the whaler. While other hulls are loaded down with alien
stuff, to be transferred to foreign wharves; the world-wandering
whale-ship carries no cargo but herself and crew, their weapons and
their wants. She has a whole lake's contents bottled in her ample
hold. She is ballasted with utilities; not altogether with unusable
pig-lead and kentledge. She carries years' water in her. Clear old
prime Nantucket water; which, when three years afloat, the
Nantucketer, in the Pacific, prefers to drink before the brackish
fluid, but yesterday rafted off in casks, from the Peruvian or Indian
streams. Hence it is, that, while other ships may have gone to China
from New York, and back again, touching at a score of ports, the
whale-ship, in all that interval, may not have sighted one grain of
soil; her crew having seen no man but floating seamen like
themselves. So that did you carry them the news that another flood
had come; they would only answer--"Well, boys, here's the ark!"

Now, as many Sperm Whales had been captured off the western coast of
Java, in the near vicinity of the Straits of Sunda; indeed, as most
of the ground, roundabout, was generally recognised by the fishermen
as an excellent spot for cruising; therefore, as the Pequod gained
more and more upon Java Head, the look-outs were repeatedly hailed,
and admonished to keep wide awake. But though the green palmy cliffs
of the land soon loomed on the starboard bow, and with delighted
nostrils the fresh cinnamon was snuffed in the air, yet not a single
jet was descried. Almost renouncing all thought of falling in with
any game hereabouts, the ship had well nigh entered the straits, when
the customary cheering cry was heard from aloft, and ere long a
spectacle of singular magnificence saluted us.

But here be it premised, that owing to the unwearied activity with
which of late they have been hunted over all four oceans, the Sperm
Whales, instead of almost invariably sailing in small detached
companies, as in former times, are now frequently met with in
extensive herds, sometimes embracing so great a multitude, that it
would almost seem as if numerous nations of them had sworn solemn
league and covenant for mutual assistance and protection. To this
aggregation of the Sperm Whale into such immense caravans, may be
imputed the circumstance that even in the best cruising grounds, you
may now sometimes sail for weeks and months together, without being
greeted by a single spout; and then be suddenly saluted by what
sometimes seems thousands on thousands.

Broad on both bows, at the distance of some two or three miles, and
forming a great semicircle, embracing one half of the level horizon,
a continuous chain of whale-jets were up-playing and sparkling in the
noon-day air. Unlike the straight perpendicular twin-jets of the
Right Whale, which, dividing at top, fall over in two branches, like
the cleft drooping boughs of a willow, the single forward-slanting
spout of the Sperm Whale presents a thick curled bush of white mist,
continually rising and falling away to leeward.

Seen from the Pequod's deck, then, as she would rise on a high hill
of the sea, this host of vapoury spouts, individually curling up into
the air, and beheld through a blending atmosphere of bluish haze,
showed like the thousand cheerful chimneys of some dense metropolis,
descried of a balmy autumnal morning, by some horseman on a height.

As marching armies approaching an unfriendly defile in the mountains,
accelerate their march, all eagerness to place that perilous passage
in their rear, and once more expand in comparative security upon the
plain; even so did this vast fleet of whales now seem hurrying
forward through the straits; gradually contracting the wings of their
semicircle, and swimming on, in one solid, but still crescentic

Crowding all sail the Pequod pressed after them; the harpooneers
handling their weapons, and loudly cheering from the heads of their
yet suspended boats. If the wind only held, little doubt had they,
that chased through these Straits of Sunda, the vast host would only
deploy into the Oriental seas to witness the capture of not a few of
their number. And who could tell whether, in that congregated
caravan, Moby Dick himself might not temporarily be swimming, like
the worshipped white-elephant in the coronation procession of the
Siamese! So with stun-sail piled on stun-sail, we sailed along,
driving these leviathans before us; when, of a sudden, the voice of
Tashtego was heard, loudly directing attention to something in our

Corresponding to the crescent in our van, we beheld another in our
rear. It seemed formed of detached white vapours, rising and falling
something like the spouts of the whales; only they did not so
completely come and go; for they constantly hovered, without finally
disappearing. Levelling his glass at this sight, Ahab quickly
revolved in his pivot-hole, crying, "Aloft there, and rig whips and
buckets to wet the sails;--Malays, sir, and after us!"

As if too long lurking behind the headlands, till the Pequod should
fairly have entered the straits, these rascally Asiatics were now in
hot pursuit, to make up for their over-cautious delay. But when the
swift Pequod, with a fresh leading wind, was herself in hot chase;
how very kind of these tawny philanthropists to assist in speeding
her on to her own chosen pursuit,--mere riding-whips and rowels to
her, that they were. As with glass under arm, Ahab to-and-fro paced
the deck; in his forward turn beholding the monsters he chased, and
in the after one the bloodthirsty pirates chasing him; some such
fancy as the above seemed his. And when he glanced upon the green
walls of the watery defile in which the ship was then sailing, and
bethought him that through that gate lay the route to his vengeance,
and beheld, how that through that same gate he was now both chasing
and being chased to his deadly end; and not only that, but a herd of
remorseless wild pirates and inhuman atheistical devils were
infernally cheering him on with their curses;--when all these
conceits had passed through his brain, Ahab's brow was left gaunt and
ribbed, like the black sand beach after some stormy tide has been
gnawing it, without being able to drag the firm thing from its place.

But thoughts like these troubled very few of the reckless crew; and
when, after steadily dropping and dropping the pirates astern, the
Pequod at last shot by the vivid green Cockatoo Point on the Sumatra
side, emerging at last upon the broad waters beyond; then, the
harpooneers seemed more to grieve that the swift whales had been
gaining upon the ship, than to rejoice that the ship had so
victoriously gained upon the Malays. But still driving on in the
wake of the whales, at length they seemed abating their speed;
gradually the ship neared them; and the wind now dying away, word was
passed to spring to the boats. But no sooner did the herd, by some
presumed wonderful instinct of the Sperm Whale, become notified of
the three keels that were after them,--though as yet a mile in their
rear,--than they rallied again, and forming in close ranks and
battalions, so that their spouts all looked like flashing lines of
stacked bayonets, moved on with redoubled velocity.

Stripped to our shirts and drawers, we sprang to the white-ash, and
after several hours' pulling were almost disposed to renounce the
chase, when a general pausing commotion among the whales gave
animating token that they were now at last under the influence of
that strange perplexity of inert irresolution, which, when the
fishermen perceive it in the whale, they say he is gallied. The
compact martial columns in which they had been hitherto rapidly and
steadily swimming, were now broken up in one measureless rout; and
like King Porus' elephants in the Indian battle with Alexander, they
seemed going mad with consternation. In all directions expanding in
vast irregular circles, and aimlessly swimming hither and thither, by
their short thick spoutings, they plainly betrayed their distraction
of panic. This was still more strangely evinced by those of their
number, who, completely paralysed as it were, helplessly floated like
water-logged dismantled ships on the sea. Had these Leviathans been
but a flock of simple sheep, pursued over the pasture by three fierce
wolves, they could not possibly have evinced such excessive dismay.
But this occasional timidity is characteristic of almost all herding
creatures. Though banding together in tens of thousands, the
lion-maned buffaloes of the West have fled before a solitary
horseman. Witness, too, all human beings, how when herded together
in the sheepfold of a theatre's pit, they will, at the slightest
alarm of fire, rush helter-skelter for the outlets, crowding,
trampling, jamming, and remorselessly dashing each other to death.
Best, therefore, withhold any amazement at the strangely gallied
whales before us, for there is no folly of the beasts of the earth
which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.

Though many of the whales, as has been said, were in violent motion,
yet it is to be observed that as a whole the herd neither advanced
nor retreated, but collectively remained in one place. As is
customary in those cases, the boats at once separated, each making
for some one lone whale on the outskirts of the shoal. In about
three minutes' time, Queequeg's harpoon was flung; the stricken fish
darted blinding spray in our faces, and then running away with us like
light, steered straight for the heart of the herd. Though such a
movement on the part of the whale struck under such circumstances, is
in no wise unprecedented; and indeed is almost always more or less
anticipated; yet does it present one of the more perilous
vicissitudes of the fishery. For as the swift monster drags you
deeper and deeper into the frantic shoal, you bid adieu to
circumspect life and only exist in a delirious throb.

As, blind and deaf, the whale plunged forward, as if by sheer power
of speed to rid himself of the iron leech that had fastened to him;
as we thus tore a white gash in the sea, on all sides menaced as we
flew, by the crazed creatures to and fro rushing about us; our beset
boat was like a ship mobbed by ice-isles in a tempest, and striving
to steer through their complicated channels and straits, knowing not at
what moment it may be locked in and crushed.

But not a bit daunted, Queequeg steered us manfully; now sheering off
from this monster directly across our route in advance; now edging
away from that, whose colossal flukes were suspended overhead, while
all the time, Starbuck stood up in the bows, lance in hand, pricking
out of our way whatever whales he could reach by short darts, for
there was no time to make long ones. Nor were the oarsmen quite
idle, though their wonted duty was now altogether dispensed with.
They chiefly attended to the shouting part of the business. "Out of
the way, Commodore!" cried one, to a great dromedary that of a sudden
rose bodily to the surface, and for an instant threatened to swamp
us. "Hard down with your tail, there!" cried a second to another,
which, close to our gunwale, seemed calmly cooling himself with his
own fan-like extremity.

All whaleboats carry certain curious contrivances, originally
invented by the Nantucket Indians, called druggs. Two thick squares
of wood of equal size are stoutly clenched together, so that they
cross each other's grain at right angles; a line of considerable
length is then attached to the middle of this block, and the other
end of the line being looped, it can in a moment be fastened to a
harpoon. It is chiefly among gallied whales that this drugg is used.
For then, more whales are close round you than you can possibly
chase at one time. But sperm whales are not every day encountered;
while you may, then, you must kill all you can. And if you cannot
kill them all at once, you must wing them, so that they can be
afterwards killed at your leisure. Hence it is, that at times like
these the drugg, comes into requisition. Our boat was furnished with
three of them. The first and second were successfully darted, and we
saw the whales staggeringly running off, fettered by the enormous
sidelong resistance of the towing drugg. They were cramped like
malefactors with the chain and ball. But upon flinging the third, in
the act of tossing overboard the clumsy wooden block, it caught under
one of the seats of the boat, and in an instant tore it out and
carried it away, dropping the oarsman in the boat's bottom as the
seat slid from under him. On both sides the sea came in at the
wounded planks, but we stuffed two or three drawers and shirts in,
and so stopped the leaks for the time.

It had been next to impossible to dart these drugged-harpoons, were
it not that as we advanced into the herd, our whale's way greatly
diminished; moreover, that as we went still further and further from
the circumference of commotion, the direful disorders seemed waning.
So that when at last the jerking harpoon drew out, and the towing
whale sideways vanished; then, with the tapering force of his parting
momentum, we glided between two whales into the innermost heart of
the shoal, as if from some mountain torrent we had slid into a serene
valley lake. Here the storms in the roaring glens between the
outermost whales, were heard but not felt. In this central expanse
the sea presented that smooth satin-like surface, called a sleek,
produced by the subtle moisture thrown off by the whale in his more
quiet moods. Yes, we were now in that enchanted calm which they say
lurks at the heart of every commotion. And still in the distracted
distance we beheld the tumults of the outer concentric circles, and
saw successive pods of whales, eight or ten in each, swiftly going
round and round, like multiplied spans of horses in a ring; and so
closely shoulder to shoulder, that a Titanic circus-rider might
easily have over-arched the middle ones, and so have gone round on
their backs. Owing to the density of the crowd of reposing whales,
more immediately surrounding the embayed axis of the herd, no
possible chance of escape was at present afforded us. We must watch
for a breach in the living wall that hemmed us in; the wall that had
only admitted us in order to shut us up. Keeping at the centre of
the lake, we were occasionally visited by small tame cows and calves;
the women and children of this routed host.

Now, inclusive of the occasional wide intervals between the revolving
outer circles, and inclusive of the spaces between the various pods
in any one of those circles, the entire area at this juncture,
embraced by the whole multitude, must have contained at least two or
three square miles. At any rate--though indeed such a test at such a
time might be deceptive--spoutings might be discovered from our low
boat that seemed playing up almost from the rim of the horizon. I
mention this circumstance, because, as if the cows and calves had
been purposely locked up in this innermost fold; and as if the wide
extent of the herd had hitherto prevented them from learning the
precise cause of its stopping; or, possibly, being so young,
unsophisticated, and every way innocent and inexperienced; however it
may have been, these smaller whales--now and then visiting our
becalmed boat from the margin of the lake--evinced a wondrous
fearlessness and confidence, or else a still becharmed panic which it
was impossible not to marvel at. Like household dogs they came
snuffling round us, right up to our gunwales, and touching them; till
it almost seemed that some spell had suddenly domesticated them.
Queequeg patted their foreheads; Starbuck scratched their backs with
his lance; but fearful of the consequences, for the time refrained
from darting it.

But far beneath this wondrous world upon the surface, another and
still stranger world met our eyes as we gazed over the side. For,
suspended in those watery vaults, floated the forms of the nursing
mothers of the whales, and those that by their enormous girth seemed
shortly to become mothers. The lake, as I have hinted, was to a
considerable depth exceedingly transparent; and as human infants
while suckling will calmly and fixedly gaze away from the breast, as
if leading two different lives at the time; and while yet drawing
mortal nourishment, be still spiritually feasting upon some unearthly
reminiscence;--even so did the young of these whales seem looking up
towards us, but not at us, as if we were but a bit of Gulfweed in
their new-born sight. Floating on their sides, the mothers also
seemed quietly eyeing us. One of these little infants, that from
certain queer tokens seemed hardly a day old, might have measured
some fourteen feet in length, and some six feet in girth. He was a
little frisky; though as yet his body seemed scarce yet recovered
from that irksome position it had so lately occupied in the maternal
reticule; where, tail to head, and all ready for the final spring,
the unborn whale lies bent like a Tartar's bow. The delicate
side-fins, and the palms of his flukes, still freshly retained the
plaited crumpled appearance of a baby's ears newly arrived from
foreign parts.

"Line! line!" cried Queequeg, looking over the gunwale; "him fast!
him fast!--Who line him! Who struck?--Two whale; one big, one

"What ails ye, man?" cried Starbuck.

"Look-e here," said Queequeg, pointing down.

As when the stricken whale, that from the tub has reeled out hundreds
of fathoms of rope; as, after deep sounding, he floats up again, and
shows the slackened curling line buoyantly rising and spiralling
towards the air; so now, Starbuck saw long coils of the umbilical
cord of Madame Leviathan, by which the young cub seemed still
tethered to its dam. Not seldom in the rapid vicissitudes of the
chase, this natural line, with the maternal end loose, becomes
entangled with the hempen one, so that the cub is thereby trapped.
Some of the subtlest secrets of the seas seemed divulged to us in
this enchanted pond. We saw young Leviathan amours in the deep.*

*The sperm whale, as with all other species of the Leviathan, but
unlike most other fish, breeds indifferently at all seasons; after a
gestation which may probably be set down at nine months, producing
but one at a time; though in some few known instances giving birth to
an Esau and Jacob:--a contingency provided for in suckling by two
teats, curiously situated, one on each side of the anus; but the
breasts themselves extend upwards from that. When by chance these
precious parts in a nursing whale are cut by the hunter's lance, the
mother's pouring milk and blood rivallingly discolour the sea for
rods. The milk is very sweet and rich; it has been tasted by man; it
might do well with strawberries. When overflowing with mutual
esteem, the whales salute MORE HOMINUM.

And thus, though surrounded by circle upon circle of consternations
and affrights, did these inscrutable creatures at the centre freely
and fearlessly indulge in all peaceful concernments; yea, serenely
revelled in dalliance and delight. But even so, amid the tornadoed
Atlantic of my being, do I myself still for ever centrally disport in
mute calm; and while ponderous planets of unwaning woe revolve round
me, deep down and deep inland there I still bathe me in eternal
mildness of joy.

Meanwhile, as we thus lay entranced, the occasional sudden frantic
spectacles in the distance evinced the activity of the other boats,
still engaged in drugging the whales on the frontier of the host; or
possibly carrying on the war within the first circle, where abundance
of room and some convenient retreats were afforded them. But the
sight of the enraged drugged whales now and then blindly darting to
and fro across the circles, was nothing to what at last met our eyes.
It is sometimes the custom when fast to a whale more than commonly
powerful and alert, to seek to hamstring him, as it were, by
sundering or maiming his gigantic tail-tendon. It is done by darting
a short-handled cutting-spade, to which is attached a rope for
hauling it back again. A whale wounded (as we afterwards learned) in
this part, but not effectually, as it seemed, had broken away from
the boat, carrying along with him half of the harpoon line; and in
the extraordinary agony of the wound, he was now dashing among the
revolving circles like the lone mounted desperado Arnold, at the
battle of Saratoga, carrying dismay wherever he went.

But agonizing as was the wound of this whale, and an appalling
spectacle enough, any way; yet the peculiar horror with which he
seemed to inspire the rest of the herd, was owing to a cause which at
first the intervening distance obscured from us. But at length we
perceived that by one of the unimaginable accidents of the fishery,
this whale had become entangled in the harpoon-line that he towed; he
had also run away with the cutting-spade in him; and while the free
end of the rope attached to that weapon, had permanently caught in
the coils of the harpoon-line round his tail, the cutting-spade
itself had worked loose from his flesh. So that tormented to
madness, he was now churning through the water, violently flailing
with his flexible tail, and tossing the keen spade about him,
wounding and murdering his own comrades.

This terrific object seemed to recall the whole herd from their
stationary fright. First, the whales forming the margin of our lake
began to crowd a little, and tumble against each other, as if lifted
by half spent billows from afar; then the lake itself began faintly
to heave and swell; the submarine bridal-chambers and nurseries
vanished; in more and more contracting orbits the whales in the more
central circles began to swim in thickening clusters. Yes, the long
calm was departing. A low advancing hum was soon heard; and then
like to the tumultuous masses of block-ice when the great river
Hudson breaks up in Spring, the entire host of whales came tumbling
upon their inner centre, as if to pile themselves up in one common
mountain. Instantly Starbuck and Queequeg changed places; Starbuck
taking the stern.

"Oars! Oars!" he intensely whispered, seizing the helm--"gripe your
oars, and clutch your souls, now! My God, men, stand by! Shove him
off, you Queequeg--the whale there!--prick him!--hit him! Stand
up--stand up, and stay so! Spring, men--pull, men; never mind their
backs--scrape them!--scrape away!"

The boat was now all but jammed between two vast black bulks, leaving
a narrow Dardanelles between their long lengths. But by desperate
endeavor we at last shot into a temporary opening; then giving way
rapidly, and at the same time earnestly watching for another outlet.
After many similar hair-breadth escapes, we at last swiftly glided
into what had just been one of the outer circles, but now crossed by
random whales, all violently making for one centre. This lucky
salvation was cheaply purchased by the loss of Queequeg's hat, who,
while standing in the bows to prick the fugitive whales, had his hat
taken clean from his head by the air-eddy made by the sudden tossing
of a pair of broad flukes close by.

Riotous and disordered as the universal commotion now was, it soon
resolved itself into what seemed a systematic movement; for having
clumped together at last in one dense body, they then renewed their
onward flight with augmented fleetness. Further pursuit was useless;
but the boats still lingered in their wake to pick up what drugged
whales might be dropped astern, and likewise to secure one which
Flask had killed and waifed. The waif is a pennoned pole, two or
three of which are carried by every boat; and which, when additional
game is at hand, are inserted upright into the floating body of a
dead whale, both to mark its place on the sea, and also as token of
prior possession, should the boats of any other ship draw near.

The result of this lowering was somewhat illustrative of that
sagacious saying in the Fishery,--the more whales the less fish. Of
all the drugged whales only one was captured. The rest contrived to
escape for the time, but only to be taken, as will hereafter be seen,
by some other craft than the Pequod.


Schools and Schoolmasters.

The previous chapter gave account of an immense body or herd of Sperm
Whales, and there was also then given the probable cause inducing
those vast aggregations.

Now, though such great bodies are at times encountered, yet, as must
have been seen, even at the present day, small detached bands are
occasionally observed, embracing from twenty to fifty individuals
each. Such bands are known as schools. They generally are of two
sorts; those composed almost entirely of females, and those mustering
none but young vigorous males, or bulls, as they are familiarly

In cavalier attendance upon the school of females, you invariably see
a male of full grown magnitude, but not old; who, upon any alarm,
evinces his gallantry by falling in the rear and covering the flight
of his ladies. In truth, this gentleman is a luxurious Ottoman,
swimming about over the watery world, surroundingly accompanied by
all the solaces and endearments of the harem. The contrast between
this Ottoman and his concubines is striking; because, while he is
always of the largest leviathanic proportions, the ladies, even at
full growth, are not more than one-third of the bulk of an
average-sized male. They are comparatively delicate, indeed; I dare
say, not to exceed half a dozen yards round the waist. Nevertheless,
it cannot be denied, that upon the whole they are hereditarily
entitled to EMBONPOINT.

It is very curious to watch this harem and its lord in their indolent
ramblings. Like fashionables, they are for ever on the move in
leisurely search of variety. You meet them on the Line in time for
the full flower of the Equatorial feeding season, having just
returned, perhaps, from spending the summer in the Northern seas, and
so cheating summer of all unpleasant weariness and warmth. By the
time they have lounged up and down the promenade of the Equator
awhile, they start for the Oriental waters in anticipation of the
cool season there, and so evade the other excessive temperature of
the year.

When serenely advancing on one of these journeys, if any strange
suspicious sights are seen, my lord whale keeps a wary eye on his
interesting family. Should any unwarrantably pert young Leviathan
coming that way, presume to draw confidentially close to one of the
ladies, with what prodigious fury the Bashaw assails him, and chases
him away! High times, indeed, if unprincipled young rakes like him
are to be permitted to invade the sanctity of domestic bliss; though
do what the Bashaw will, he cannot keep the most notorious Lothario
out of his bed; for, alas! all fish bed in common. As ashore, the
ladies often cause the most terrible duels among their rival
admirers; just so with the whales, who sometimes come to deadly
battle, and all for love. They fence with their long lower jaws,
sometimes locking them together, and so striving for the supremacy
like elks that warringly interweave their antlers. Not a few are
captured having the deep scars of these encounters,--furrowed heads,
broken teeth, scolloped fins; and in some instances, wrenched and
dislocated mouths.

But supposing the invader of domestic bliss to betake himself away at
the first rush of the harem's lord, then is it very diverting to
watch that lord. Gently he insinuates his vast bulk among them again
and revels there awhile, still in tantalizing vicinity to young
Lothario, like pious Solomon devoutly worshipping among his thousand
concubines. Granting other whales to be in sight, the fishermen
will seldom give chase to one of these Grand Turks; for these Grand
Turks are too lavish of their strength, and hence their unctuousness
is small. As for the sons and the daughters they beget, why, those sons
and daughters must take care of themselves; at least, with only the
maternal help. For like certain other omnivorous roving lovers that
might be named, my Lord Whale has no taste for the nursery, however
much for the bower; and so, being a great traveller, he leaves his
anonymous babies all over the world; every baby an exotic. In good
time, nevertheless, as the ardour of youth declines; as years and
dumps increase; as reflection lends her solemn pauses; in short, as a
general lassitude overtakes the sated Turk; then a love of ease and
virtue supplants the love for maidens; our Ottoman enters upon the
impotent, repentant, admonitory stage of life, forswears, disbands
the harem, and grown to an exemplary, sulky old soul, goes about all
alone among the meridians and parallels saying his prayers, and
warning each young Leviathan from his amorous errors.

Now, as the harem of whales is called by the fishermen a school, so
is the lord and master of that school technically known as the
schoolmaster. It is therefore not in strict character, however
admirably satirical, that after going to school himself, he should
then go abroad inculcating not what he learned there, but the folly
of it. His title, schoolmaster, would very naturally seem derived
from the name bestowed upon the harem itself, but some have surmised
that the man who first thus entitled this sort of Ottoman whale, must
have read the memoirs of Vidocq, and informed himself what sort of a
country-schoolmaster that famous Frenchman was in his younger days,
and what was the nature of those occult lessons he inculcated into
some of his pupils.

The same secludedness and isolation to which the schoolmaster whale
betakes himself in his advancing years, is true of all aged Sperm
Whales. Almost universally, a lone whale--as a solitary Leviathan is
called--proves an ancient one. Like venerable moss-bearded Daniel
Boone, he will have no one near him but Nature herself; and her he
takes to wife in the wilderness of waters, and the best of wives she
is, though she keeps so many moody secrets.

The schools composing none but young and vigorous males, previously
mentioned, offer a strong contrast to the harem schools. For while
those female whales are characteristically timid, the young males, or
forty-barrel-bulls, as they call them, are by far the most pugnacious
of all Leviathans, and proverbially the most dangerous to encounter;
excepting those wondrous grey-headed, grizzled whales, sometimes met,
and these will fight you like grim fiends exasperated by a penal

The Forty-barrel-bull schools are larger than the harem schools.
Like a mob of young collegians, they are full of fight, fun, and
wickedness, tumbling round the world at such a reckless, rollicking
rate, that no prudent underwriter would insure them any more than he
would a riotous lad at Yale or Harvard. They soon relinquish this
turbulence though, and when about three-fourths grown, break up, and
separately go about in quest of settlements, that is, harems.

Another point of difference between the male and female schools is
still more characteristic of the sexes. Say you strike a
Forty-barrel-bull--poor devil! all his comrades quit him. But strike
a member of the harem school, and her companions swim around her with
every token of concern, sometimes lingering so near her and so long,
as themselves to fall a prey.


Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish.

The allusion to the waif and waif-poles in the last chapter but one,
necessitates some account of the laws and regulations of the whale
fishery, of which the waif may be deemed the grand symbol and badge.

It frequently happens that when several ships are cruising in
company, a whale may be struck by one vessel, then escape, and be
finally killed and captured by another vessel; and herein are
indirectly comprised many minor contingencies, all partaking of this
one grand feature. For example,--after a weary and perilous chase
and capture of a whale, the body may get loose from the ship by
reason of a violent storm; and drifting far away to leeward, be
retaken by a second whaler, who, in a calm, snugly tows it alongside,
without risk of life or line. Thus the most vexatious and violent
disputes would often arise between the fishermen, were there not some
written or unwritten, universal, undisputed law applicable to all

Perhaps the only formal whaling code authorized by legislative
enactment, was that of Holland. It was decreed by the States-General
in A.D. 1695. But though no other nation has ever had any written
whaling law, yet the American fishermen have been their own
legislators and lawyers in this matter. They have provided a system
which for terse comprehensiveness surpasses Justinian's Pandects and
the By-laws of the Chinese Society for the Suppression of Meddling
with other People's Business. Yes; these laws might be engraven on a
Queen Anne's forthing, or the barb of a harpoon, and worn round the
neck, so small are they.

I. A Fast-Fish belongs to the party fast to it.

II. A Loose-Fish is fair game for anybody who can soonest catch it.

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