bigness of a human head. This particular feat of the shark seems all
but miraculous. How at such an apparently unassailable surface, they
contrive to gouge out such symmetrical mouthfuls, remains a part of the
universal problem of all things. The mark they thus leave on the whale,
may best be likened to the hollow made by a carpenter in countersinking
for a screw.
Though amid all the smoking horror and diabolism of a sea-fight, sharks
will be seen longingly gazing up to the ship's decks, like hungry dogs
round a table where red meat is being carved, ready to bolt down
every killed man that is tossed to them; and though, while the valiant
butchers over the deck-table are thus cannibally carving each other's
live meat with carving-knives all gilded and tasselled, the sharks,
also, with their jewel-hilted mouths, are quarrelsomely carving away
under the table at the dead meat; and though, were you to turn the whole
affair upside down, it would still be pretty much the same thing, that
is to say, a shocking sharkish business enough for all parties; and
though sharks also are the invariable outriders of all slave ships
crossing the Atlantic, systematically trotting alongside, to be handy in
case a parcel is to be carried anywhere, or a dead slave to be decently
buried; and though one or two other like instances might be set down,
touching the set terms, places, and occasions, when sharks do most
socially congregate, and most hilariously feast; yet is there no
conceivable time or occasion when you will find them in such countless
numbers, and in gayer or more jovial spirits, than around a dead sperm
whale, moored by night to a whaleship at sea. If you have never
seen that sight, then suspend your decision about the propriety of
devil-worship, and the expediency of conciliating the devil.
But, as yet, Stubb heeded not the mumblings of the banquet that was
going on so nigh him, no more than the sharks heeded the smacking of his
own epicurean lips.
"Cook, cook!--where's that old Fleece?" he cried at length, widening
his legs still further, as if to form a more secure base for his supper;
and, at the same time darting his fork into the dish, as if stabbing
with his lance; "cook, you cook!--sail this way, cook!"
The old black, not in any very high glee at having been previously
roused from his warm hammock at a most unseasonable hour, came shambling
along from his galley, for, like many old blacks, there was something
the matter with his knee-pans, which he did not keep well scoured like
his other pans; this old Fleece, as they called him, came shuffling and
limping along, assisting his step with his tongs, which, after a clumsy
fashion, were made of straightened iron hoops; this old Ebony floundered
along, and in obedience to the word of command, came to a dead stop on
the opposite side of Stubb's sideboard; when, with both hands folded
before him, and resting on his two-legged cane, he bowed his arched back
still further over, at the same time sideways inclining his head, so as
to bring his best ear into play.
"Cook," said Stubb, rapidly lifting a rather reddish morsel to his
mouth, "don't you think this steak is rather overdone? You've been
beating this steak too much, cook; it's too tender. Don't I always say
that to be good, a whale-steak must be tough? There are those sharks
now over the side, don't you see they prefer it tough and rare? What a
shindy they are kicking up! Cook, go and talk to 'em; tell 'em they are
welcome to help themselves civilly, and in moderation, but they must
keep quiet. Blast me, if I can hear my own voice. Away, cook, and
deliver my message. Here, take this lantern," snatching one from his
sideboard; "now then, go and preach to 'em!"
Sullenly taking the offered lantern, old Fleece limped across the deck
to the bulwarks; and then, with one hand dropping his light low over the
sea, so as to get a good view of his congregation, with the other hand
he solemnly flourished his tongs, and leaning far over the side in a
mumbling voice began addressing the sharks, while Stubb, softly crawling
behind, overheard all that was said.
"Fellow-critters: I'se ordered here to say dat you must stop dat dam
noise dare. You hear? Stop dat dam smackin' ob de lips! Massa Stubb say
dat you can fill your dam bellies up to de hatchings, but by Gor! you
must stop dat dam racket!"
"Cook," here interposed Stubb, accompanying the word with a sudden slap
on the shoulder,--"Cook! why, damn your eyes, you mustn't swear that way
when you're preaching. That's no way to convert sinners, cook!"
"Who dat? Den preach to him yourself," sullenly turning to go.
"No, cook; go on, go on."
"Well, den, Belubed fellow-critters:"--
"Right!" exclaimed Stubb, approvingly, "coax 'em to it; try that," and
"Do you is all sharks, and by natur wery woracious, yet I zay to you,
fellow-critters, dat dat woraciousness--'top dat dam slappin' ob de
tail! How you tink to hear, spose you keep up such a dam slappin' and
"Cook," cried Stubb, collaring him, "I won't have that swearing. Talk to
Once more the sermon proceeded.
"Your woraciousness, fellow-critters, I don't blame ye so much for; dat
is natur, and can't be helped; but to gobern dat wicked natur, dat is de
pint. You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den
you be angel; for all angel is not'ing more dan de shark well goberned.
Now, look here, bred'ren, just try wonst to be cibil, a helping
yourselbs from dat whale. Don't be tearin' de blubber out your
neighbour's mout, I say. Is not one shark dood right as toder to dat
whale? And, by Gor, none on you has de right to dat whale; dat whale
belong to some one else. I know some o' you has berry brig mout, brigger
dan oders; but den de brig mouts sometimes has de small bellies; so dat
de brigness of de mout is not to swaller wid, but to bit off de blubber
for de small fry ob sharks, dat can't get into de scrouge to help
"Well done, old Fleece!" cried Stubb, "that's Christianity; go on."
"No use goin' on; de dam willains will keep a scougin' and slappin' each
oder, Massa Stubb; dey don't hear one word; no use a-preaching to
such dam g'uttons as you call 'em, till dare bellies is full, and dare
bellies is bottomless; and when dey do get 'em full, dey wont hear you
den; for den dey sink in the sea, go fast to sleep on de coral, and
can't hear noting at all, no more, for eber and eber."
"Upon my soul, I am about of the same opinion; so give the benediction,
Fleece, and I'll away to my supper."
Upon this, Fleece, holding both hands over the fishy mob, raised his
shrill voice, and cried--
"Cussed fellow-critters! Kick up de damndest row as ever you can; fill
your dam bellies 'till dey bust--and den die."
"Now, cook," said Stubb, resuming his supper at the capstan; "stand
just where you stood before, there, over against me, and pay particular
"All 'dention," said Fleece, again stooping over upon his tongs in the
"Well," said Stubb, helping himself freely meanwhile; "I shall now go
back to the subject of this steak. In the first place, how old are you,
"What dat do wid de 'teak," said the old black, testily.
"Silence! How old are you, cook?"
"'Bout ninety, dey say," he gloomily muttered.
"And you have lived in this world hard upon one hundred years, cook,
and don't know yet how to cook a whale-steak?" rapidly bolting another
mouthful at the last word, so that morsel seemed a continuation of the
question. "Where were you born, cook?"
"'Hind de hatchway, in ferry-boat, goin' ober de Roanoke."
"Born in a ferry-boat! That's queer, too. But I want to know what
country you were born in, cook!"
"Didn't I say de Roanoke country?" he cried sharply.
"No, you didn't, cook; but I'll tell you what I'm coming to, cook.
You must go home and be born over again; you don't know how to cook a
"Bress my soul, if I cook noder one," he growled, angrily, turning round
"Come back here, cook;--here, hand me those tongs;--now take that bit of
steak there, and tell me if you think that steak cooked as it should be?
Take it, I say"--holding the tongs towards him--"take it, and taste it."
Faintly smacking his withered lips over it for a moment, the old negro
muttered, "Best cooked 'teak I eber taste; joosy, berry joosy."
"Cook," said Stubb, squaring himself once more; "do you belong to the
"Passed one once in Cape-Down," said the old man sullenly.
"And you have once in your life passed a holy church in Cape-Town, where
you doubtless overheard a holy parson addressing his hearers as his
beloved fellow-creatures, have you, cook! And yet you come here, and
tell me such a dreadful lie as you did just now, eh?" said Stubb. "Where
do you expect to go to, cook?"
"Go to bed berry soon," he mumbled, half-turning as he spoke.
"Avast! heave to! I mean when you die, cook. It's an awful question. Now
what's your answer?"
"When dis old brack man dies," said the negro slowly, changing his whole
air and demeanor, "he hisself won't go nowhere; but some bressed angel
will come and fetch him."
"Fetch him? How? In a coach and four, as they fetched Elijah? And fetch
"Up dere," said Fleece, holding his tongs straight over his head, and
keeping it there very solemnly.
"So, then, you expect to go up into our main-top, do you, cook, when you
are dead? But don't you know the higher you climb, the colder it gets?
"Didn't say dat t'all," said Fleece, again in the sulks.
"You said up there, didn't you? and now look yourself, and see where
your tongs are pointing. But, perhaps you expect to get into heaven by
crawling through the lubber's hole, cook; but, no, no, cook, you don't
get there, except you go the regular way, round by the rigging. It's a
ticklish business, but must be done, or else it's no go. But none of
us are in heaven yet. Drop your tongs, cook, and hear my orders. Do ye
hear? Hold your hat in one hand, and clap t'other a'top of your heart,
when I'm giving my orders, cook. What! that your heart, there?--that's
your gizzard! Aloft! aloft!--that's it--now you have it. Hold it there
now, and pay attention."
"All 'dention," said the old black, with both hands placed as desired,
vainly wriggling his grizzled head, as if to get both ears in front at
one and the same time.
"Well then, cook, you see this whale-steak of yours was so very bad,
that I have put it out of sight as soon as possible; you see that, don't
you? Well, for the future, when you cook another whale-steak for my
private table here, the capstan, I'll tell you what to do so as not to
spoil it by overdoing. Hold the steak in one hand, and show a live coal
to it with the other; that done, dish it; d'ye hear? And now to-morrow,
cook, when we are cutting in the fish, be sure you stand by to get
the tips of his fins; have them put in pickle. As for the ends of the
flukes, have them soused, cook. There, now ye may go."
But Fleece had hardly got three paces off, when he was recalled.
"Cook, give me cutlets for supper to-morrow night in the mid-watch.
D'ye hear? away you sail, then.--Halloa! stop! make a bow before you
go.--Avast heaving again! Whale-balls for breakfast--don't forget."
"Wish, by gor! whale eat him, 'stead of him eat whale. I'm bressed if
he ain't more of shark dan Massa Shark hisself," muttered the old man,
limping away; with which sage ejaculation he went to his hammock.
CHAPTER 65. The Whale as a Dish.
That mortal man should feed upon the creature that feeds his lamp, and,
like Stubb, eat him by his own light, as you may say; this seems so
outlandish a thing that one must needs go a little into the history and
philosophy of it.
It is upon record, that three centuries ago the tongue of the Right
Whale was esteemed a great delicacy in France, and commanded large
prices there. Also, that in Henry VIIIth's time, a certain cook of the
court obtained a handsome reward for inventing an admirable sauce to be
eaten with barbacued porpoises, which, you remember, are a species of
whale. Porpoises, indeed, are to this day considered fine eating. The
meat is made into balls about the size of billiard balls, and being well
seasoned and spiced might be taken for turtle-balls or veal balls.
The old monks of Dunfermline were very fond of them. They had a great
porpoise grant from the crown.
The fact is, that among his hunters at least, the whale would by all
hands be considered a noble dish, were there not so much of him; but
when you come to sit down before a meat-pie nearly one hundred feet
long, it takes away your appetite. Only the most unprejudiced of men
like Stubb, nowadays partake of cooked whales; but the Esquimaux are not
so fastidious. We all know how they live upon whales, and have rare
old vintages of prime old train oil. Zogranda, one of their most famous
doctors, recommends strips of blubber for infants, as being exceedingly
juicy and nourishing. And this reminds me that certain Englishmen, who
long ago were accidentally left in Greenland by a whaling vessel--that
these men actually lived for several months on the mouldy scraps of
whales which had been left ashore after trying out the blubber. Among
the Dutch whalemen these scraps are called "fritters"; which, indeed,
they greatly resemble, being brown and crisp, and smelling something
like old Amsterdam housewives' dough-nuts or oly-cooks, when fresh. They
have such an eatable look that the most self-denying stranger can hardly
keep his hands off.
But what further depreciates the whale as a civilized dish, is his
exceeding richness. He is the great prize ox of the sea, too fat to be
delicately good. Look at his hump, which would be as fine eating as
the buffalo's (which is esteemed a rare dish), were it not such a solid
pyramid of fat. But the spermaceti itself, how bland and creamy that
is; like the transparent, half-jellied, white meat of a cocoanut in the
third month of its growth, yet far too rich to supply a substitute for
butter. Nevertheless, many whalemen have a method of absorbing it into
some other substance, and then partaking of it. In the long try
watches of the night it is a common thing for the seamen to dip their
ship-biscuit into the huge oil-pots and let them fry there awhile. Many
a good supper have I thus made.
In the case of a small Sperm Whale the brains are accounted a fine dish.
The casket of the skull is broken into with an axe, and the two plump,
whitish lobes being withdrawn (precisely resembling two large puddings),
they are then mixed with flour, and cooked into a most delectable mess,
in flavor somewhat resembling calves' head, which is quite a dish among
some epicures; and every one knows that some young bucks among the
epicures, by continually dining upon calves' brains, by and by get to
have a little brains of their own, so as to be able to tell a
calf's head from their own heads; which, indeed, requires uncommon
discrimination. And that is the reason why a young buck with an
intelligent looking calf's head before him, is somehow one of the
saddest sights you can see. The head looks a sort of reproachfully at
him, with an "Et tu Brute!" expression.
It is not, perhaps, entirely because the whale is so excessively
unctuous that landsmen seem to regard the eating of him with abhorrence;
that appears to result, in some way, from the consideration before
mentioned: i.e. that a man should eat a newly murdered thing of the sea,
and eat it too by its own light. But no doubt the first man that ever
murdered an ox was regarded as a murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if
he had been put on his trial by oxen, he certainly would have been; and
he certainly deserved it if any murderer does. Go to the meat-market
of a Saturday night and see the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the
long rows of dead quadrupeds. Does not that sight take a tooth out of
the cannibal's jaw? Cannibals? who is not a cannibal? I tell you it will
be more tolerable for the Fejee that salted down a lean missionary in
his cellar against a coming famine; it will be more tolerable for that
provident Fejee, I say, in the day of judgment, than for thee, civilized
and enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese to the ground and feastest
on their bloated livers in thy pate-de-foie-gras.
But Stubb, he eats the whale by its own light, does he? and that is
adding insult to injury, is it? Look at your knife-handle, there, my
civilized and enlightened gourmand dining off that roast beef, what is
that handle made of?--what but the bones of the brother of the very ox
you are eating? And what do you pick your teeth with, after devouring
that fat goose? With a feather of the same fowl. And with what quill did
the Secretary of the Society for the Suppression of Cruelty to Ganders
formally indite his circulars? It is only within the last month or two
that that society passed a resolution to patronise nothing but steel
CHAPTER 66. The Shark Massacre.
When in the Southern Fishery, a captured Sperm Whale, after long and
weary toil, is brought alongside late at night, it is not, as a general
thing at least, customary to proceed at once to the business of cutting
him in. For that business is an exceedingly laborious one; is not very
soon completed; and requires all hands to set about it. Therefore, the
common usage is to take in all sail; lash the helm a'lee; and then send
every one below to his hammock till daylight, with the reservation that,
until that time, anchor-watches shall be kept; that is, two and two for
an hour, each couple, the crew in rotation shall mount the deck to see
that all goes well.
But sometimes, especially upon the Line in the Pacific, this plan will
not answer at all; because such incalculable hosts of sharks gather
round the moored carcase, that were he left so for six hours, say, on a
stretch, little more than the skeleton would be visible by morning.
In most other parts of the ocean, however, where these fish do not so
largely abound, their wondrous voracity can be at times considerably
diminished, by vigorously stirring them up with sharp whaling-spades,
a procedure notwithstanding, which, in some instances, only seems to
tickle them into still greater activity. But it was not thus in the
present case with the Pequod's sharks; though, to be sure, any man
unaccustomed to such sights, to have looked over her side that night,
would have almost thought the whole round sea was one huge cheese, and
those sharks the maggots in it.
Nevertheless, upon Stubb setting the anchor-watch after his supper was
concluded; and when, accordingly, Queequeg and a forecastle seaman
came on deck, no small excitement was created among the sharks; for
immediately suspending the cutting stages over the side, and lowering
three lanterns, so that they cast long gleams of light over the turbid
sea, these two mariners, darting their long whaling-spades, kept up an
incessant murdering of the sharks,* by striking the keen steel deep
into their skulls, seemingly their only vital part. But in the foamy
confusion of their mixed and struggling hosts, the marksmen could not
always hit their mark; and this brought about new revelations of the
incredible ferocity of the foe. They viciously snapped, not only at each
other's disembowelments, but like flexible bows, bent round, and bit
their own; till those entrails seemed swallowed over and over again by
the same mouth, to be oppositely voided by the gaping wound. Nor was
this all. It was unsafe to meddle with the corpses and ghosts of these
creatures. A sort of generic or Pantheistic vitality seemed to lurk in
their very joints and bones, after what might be called the individual
life had departed. Killed and hoisted on deck for the sake of his skin,
one of these sharks almost took poor Queequeg's hand off, when he tried
to shut down the dead lid of his murderous jaw.
*The whaling-spade used for cutting-in is made of the very best steel;
is about the bigness of a man's spread hand; and in general shape,
corresponds to the garden implement after which it is named; only its
sides are perfectly flat, and its upper end considerably narrower than
the lower. This weapon is always kept as sharp as possible; and when
being used is occasionally honed, just like a razor. In its socket, a
stiff pole, from twenty to thirty feet long, is inserted for a handle.
"Queequeg no care what god made him shark," said the savage, agonizingly
lifting his hand up and down; "wedder Fejee god or Nantucket god; but de
god wat made shark must be one dam Ingin."
CHAPTER 67. Cutting In.
It was a Saturday night, and such a Sabbath as followed! Ex officio
professors of Sabbath breaking are all whalemen. The ivory Pequod was
turned into what seemed a shamble; every sailor a butcher. You would
have thought we were offering up ten thousand red oxen to the sea gods.
In the first place, the enormous cutting tackles, among other ponderous
things comprising a cluster of blocks generally painted green, and which
no single man can possibly lift--this vast bunch of grapes was swayed up
to the main-top and firmly lashed to the lower mast-head, the strongest
point anywhere above a ship's deck. The end of the hawser-like rope
winding through these intricacies, was then conducted to the windlass,
and the huge lower block of the tackles was swung over the whale; to
this block the great blubber hook, weighing some one hundred pounds, was
attached. And now suspended in stages over the side, Starbuck and Stubb,
the mates, armed with their long spades, began cutting a hole in the
body for the insertion of the hook just above the nearest of the two
side-fins. This done, a broad, semicircular line is cut round the hole,
the hook is inserted, and the main body of the crew striking up a wild
chorus, now commence heaving in one dense crowd at the windlass. When
instantly, the entire ship careens over on her side; every bolt in
her starts like the nail-heads of an old house in frosty weather; she