well of sperm; no ivory teeth at all; no long, slender mandible of a
lower jaw, like the Sperm Whale's. Nor in the Sperm Whale are there any
of those blinds of bone; no huge lower lip; and scarcely anything of a
tongue. Again, the Right Whale has two external spout-holes, the Sperm
Whale only one.
Look your last, now, on these venerable hooded heads, while they yet lie
together; for one will soon sink, unrecorded, in the sea; the other will
not be very long in following.
Can you catch the expression of the Sperm Whale's there? It is the same
he died with, only some of the longer wrinkles in the forehead seem
now faded away. I think his broad brow to be full of a prairie-like
placidity, born of a speculative indifference as to death. But mark the
other head's expression. See that amazing lower lip, pressed by accident
against the vessel's side, so as firmly to embrace the jaw. Does not
this whole head seem to speak of an enormous practical resolution in
facing death? This Right Whale I take to have been a Stoic; the Sperm
Whale, a Platonian, who might have taken up Spinoza in his latter years.
CHAPTER 76. The Battering-Ram.
Ere quitting, for the nonce, the Sperm Whale's head, I would have
you, as a sensible physiologist, simply--particularly remark its front
aspect, in all its compacted collectedness. I would have you investigate
it now with the sole view of forming to yourself some unexaggerated,
intelligent estimate of whatever battering-ram power may be lodged
there. Here is a vital point; for you must either satisfactorily settle
this matter with yourself, or for ever remain an infidel as to one of
the most appalling, but not the less true events, perhaps anywhere to be
found in all recorded history.
You observe that in the ordinary swimming position of the Sperm Whale,
the front of his head presents an almost wholly vertical plane to the
water; you observe that the lower part of that front slopes considerably
backwards, so as to furnish more of a retreat for the long socket which
receives the boom-like lower jaw; you observe that the mouth is entirely
under the head, much in the same way, indeed, as though your own mouth
were entirely under your chin. Moreover you observe that the whale has
no external nose; and that what nose he has--his spout hole--is on the
top of his head; you observe that his eyes and ears are at the sides
of his head, nearly one third of his entire length from the front.
Wherefore, you must now have perceived that the front of the Sperm
Whale's head is a dead, blind wall, without a single organ or tender
prominence of any sort whatsoever. Furthermore, you are now to consider
that only in the extreme, lower, backward sloping part of the front of
the head, is there the slightest vestige of bone; and not till you
get near twenty feet from the forehead do you come to the full cranial
development. So that this whole enormous boneless mass is as one wad.
Finally, though, as will soon be revealed, its contents partly comprise
the most delicate oil; yet, you are now to be apprised of the nature of
the substance which so impregnably invests all that apparent effeminacy.
In some previous place I have described to you how the blubber wraps the
body of the whale, as the rind wraps an orange. Just so with the head;
but with this difference: about the head this envelope, though not so
thick, is of a boneless toughness, inestimable by any man who has not
handled it. The severest pointed harpoon, the sharpest lance darted by
the strongest human arm, impotently rebounds from it. It is as though
the forehead of the Sperm Whale were paved with horses' hoofs. I do not
think that any sensation lurks in it.
Bethink yourself also of another thing. When two large, loaded Indiamen
chance to crowd and crush towards each other in the docks, what do the
sailors do? They do not suspend between them, at the point of coming
contact, any merely hard substance, like iron or wood. No, they hold
there a large, round wad of tow and cork, enveloped in the thickest
and toughest of ox-hide. That bravely and uninjured takes the jam which
would have snapped all their oaken handspikes and iron crow-bars. By
itself this sufficiently illustrates the obvious fact I drive at. But
supplementary to this, it has hypothetically occurred to me, that
as ordinary fish possess what is called a swimming bladder in them,
capable, at will, of distension or contraction; and as the Sperm Whale,
as far as I know, has no such provision in him; considering, too,
the otherwise inexplicable manner in which he now depresses his head
altogether beneath the surface, and anon swims with it high elevated out
of the water; considering the unobstructed elasticity of its envelope;
considering the unique interior of his head; it has hypothetically
occurred to me, I say, that those mystical lung-celled honeycombs there
may possibly have some hitherto unknown and unsuspected connexion with
the outer air, so as to be susceptible to atmospheric distension and
contraction. If this be so, fancy the irresistibleness of that might, to
which the most impalpable and destructive of all elements contributes.
Now, mark. Unerringly impelling this dead, impregnable, uninjurable
wall, and this most buoyant thing within; there swims behind it all a
mass of tremendous life, only to be adequately estimated as piled wood
is--by the cord; and all obedient to one volition, as the smallest
insect. So that when I shall hereafter detail to you all the
specialities and concentrations of potency everywhere lurking in this
expansive monster; when I shall show you some of his more inconsiderable
braining feats; I trust you will have renounced all ignorant
incredulity, and be ready to abide by this; that though the Sperm Whale
stove a passage through the Isthmus of Darien, and mixed the Atlantic
with the Pacific, you would not elevate one hair of your eye-brow. For
unless you own the whale, you are but a provincial and sentimentalist
in Truth. But clear Truth is a thing for salamander giants only to
encounter; how small the chances for the provincials then? What befell
the weakling youth lifting the dread goddess's veil at Lais?
CHAPTER 77. The Great Heidelburgh Tun.
Now comes the Baling of the Case. But to comprehend it aright, you must
know something of the curious internal structure of the thing operated
Regarding the Sperm Whale's head as a solid oblong, you may, on an
inclined plane, sideways divide it into two quoins,* whereof the lower
is the bony structure, forming the cranium and jaws, and the upper an
unctuous mass wholly free from bones; its broad forward end forming the
expanded vertical apparent forehead of the whale. At the middle of the
forehead horizontally subdivide this upper quoin, and then you have two
almost equal parts, which before were naturally divided by an internal
wall of a thick tendinous substance.
*Quoin is not a Euclidean term. It belongs to the pure nautical
mathematics. I know not that it has been defined before. A quoin is a
solid which differs from a wedge in having its sharp end formed by the
steep inclination of one side, instead of the mutual tapering of both
The lower subdivided part, called the junk, is one immense honeycomb
of oil, formed by the crossing and recrossing, into ten thousand
infiltrated cells, of tough elastic white fibres throughout its whole
extent. The upper part, known as the Case, may be regarded as the great
Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale. And as that famous great tierce is
mystically carved in front, so the whale's vast plaited forehead forms
innumerable strange devices for the emblematical adornment of his
wondrous tun. Moreover, as that of Heidelburgh was always replenished
with the most excellent of the wines of the Rhenish valleys, so the tun
of the whale contains by far the most precious of all his oily vintages;
namely, the highly-prized spermaceti, in its absolutely pure, limpid,
and odoriferous state. Nor is this precious substance found unalloyed
in any other part of the creature. Though in life it remains perfectly
fluid, yet, upon exposure to the air, after death, it soon begins to
concrete; sending forth beautiful crystalline shoots, as when the
first thin delicate ice is just forming in water. A large whale's
case generally yields about five hundred gallons of sperm, though from
unavoidable circumstances, considerable of it is spilled, leaks, and
dribbles away, or is otherwise irrevocably lost in the ticklish business
of securing what you can.
I know not with what fine and costly material the Heidelburgh Tun
was coated within, but in superlative richness that coating could not
possibly have compared with the silken pearl-coloured membrane, like the
lining of a fine pelisse, forming the inner surface of the Sperm Whale's
It will have been seen that the Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale
embraces the entire length of the entire top of the head; and since--as
has been elsewhere set forth--the head embraces one third of the whole
length of the creature, then setting that length down at eighty feet for
a good sized whale, you have more than twenty-six feet for the depth
of the tun, when it is lengthwise hoisted up and down against a ship's
As in decapitating the whale, the operator's instrument is brought close
to the spot where an entrance is subsequently forced into the spermaceti
magazine; he has, therefore, to be uncommonly heedful, lest a careless,
untimely stroke should invade the sanctuary and wastingly let out its
invaluable contents. It is this decapitated end of the head, also, which
is at last elevated out of the water, and retained in that position by
the enormous cutting tackles, whose hempen combinations, on one side,
make quite a wilderness of ropes in that quarter.
Thus much being said, attend now, I pray you, to that marvellous and--in
this particular instance--almost fatal operation whereby the Sperm
Whale's great Heidelburgh Tun is tapped.
CHAPTER 78. Cistern and Buckets.
Nimble as a cat, Tashtego mounts aloft; and without altering his erect
posture, runs straight out upon the overhanging mainyard-arm, to the
part where it exactly projects over the hoisted Tun. He has carried
with him a light tackle called a whip, consisting of only two parts,
travelling through a single-sheaved block. Securing this block, so that
it hangs down from the yard-arm, he swings one end of the rope, till it
is caught and firmly held by a hand on deck. Then, hand-over-hand, down
the other part, the Indian drops through the air, till dexterously he
lands on the summit of the head. There--still high elevated above the
rest of the company, to whom he vivaciously cries--he seems some Turkish
Muezzin calling the good people to prayers from the top of a tower. A
short-handled sharp spade being sent up to him, he diligently searches
for the proper place to begin breaking into the Tun. In this business
he proceeds very heedfully, like a treasure-hunter in some old house,
sounding the walls to find where the gold is masoned in. By the time
this cautious search is over, a stout iron-bound bucket, precisely like
a well-bucket, has been attached to one end of the whip; while the other
end, being stretched across the deck, is there held by two or three
alert hands. These last now hoist the bucket within grasp of the Indian,
to whom another person has reached up a very long pole. Inserting this
pole into the bucket, Tashtego downward guides the bucket into the Tun,
till it entirely disappears; then giving the word to the seamen at the
whip, up comes the bucket again, all bubbling like a dairy-maid's pail
of new milk. Carefully lowered from its height, the full-freighted
vessel is caught by an appointed hand, and quickly emptied into a large
tub. Then remounting aloft, it again goes through the same round until
the deep cistern will yield no more. Towards the end, Tashtego has to
ram his long pole harder and harder, and deeper and deeper into the Tun,
until some twenty feet of the pole have gone down.
Now, the people of the Pequod had been baling some time in this way;
several tubs had been filled with the fragrant sperm; when all at once a
queer accident happened. Whether it was that Tashtego, that wild Indian,
was so heedless and reckless as to let go for a moment his one-handed
hold on the great cabled tackles suspending the head; or whether the
place where he stood was so treacherous and oozy; or whether the Evil
One himself would have it to fall out so, without stating his particular
reasons; how it was exactly, there is no telling now; but, on a sudden,
as the eightieth or ninetieth bucket came suckingly up--my God! poor
Tashtego--like the twin reciprocating bucket in a veritable well,
dropped head-foremost down into this great Tun of Heidelburgh, and with
a horrible oily gurgling, went clean out of sight!
"Man overboard!" cried Daggoo, who amid the general consternation first
came to his senses. "Swing the bucket this way!" and putting one foot
into it, so as the better to secure his slippery hand-hold on the whip
itself, the hoisters ran him high up to the top of the head, almost
before Tashtego could have reached its interior bottom. Meantime,
there was a terrible tumult. Looking over the side, they saw the before
lifeless head throbbing and heaving just below the surface of the sea,
as if that moment seized with some momentous idea; whereas it was only
the poor Indian unconsciously revealing by those struggles the perilous
depth to which he had sunk.
At this instant, while Daggoo, on the summit of the head, was clearing
the whip--which had somehow got foul of the great cutting tackles--a
sharp cracking noise was heard; and to the unspeakable horror of all,
one of the two enormous hooks suspending the head tore out, and with
a vast vibration the enormous mass sideways swung, till the drunk ship
reeled and shook as if smitten by an iceberg. The one remaining hook,
upon which the entire strain now depended, seemed every instant to be
on the point of giving way; an event still more likely from the violent
motions of the head.
"Come down, come down!" yelled the seamen to Daggoo, but with one hand
holding on to the heavy tackles, so that if the head should drop, he
would still remain suspended; the negro having cleared the foul line,
rammed down the bucket into the now collapsed well, meaning that the
buried harpooneer should grasp it, and so be hoisted out.
"In heaven's name, man," cried Stubb, "are you ramming home a cartridge
there?--Avast! How will that help him; jamming that iron-bound bucket on
top of his head? Avast, will ye!"
"Stand clear of the tackle!" cried a voice like the bursting of a
Almost in the same instant, with a thunder-boom, the enormous mass
dropped into the sea, like Niagara's Table-Rock into the whirlpool; the
suddenly relieved hull rolled away from it, to far down her glittering
copper; and all caught their breath, as half swinging--now over the
sailors' heads, and now over the water--Daggoo, through a thick mist of
spray, was dimly beheld clinging to the pendulous tackles, while poor,
buried-alive Tashtego was sinking utterly down to the bottom of the sea!
But hardly had the blinding vapour cleared away, when a naked figure
with a boarding-sword in his hand, was for one swift moment seen
hovering over the bulwarks. The next, a loud splash announced that my
brave Queequeg had dived to the rescue. One packed rush was made to the
side, and every eye counted every ripple, as moment followed moment, and
no sign of either the sinker or the diver could be seen. Some hands now
jumped into a boat alongside, and pushed a little off from the ship.
"Ha! ha!" cried Daggoo, all at once, from his now quiet, swinging perch
overhead; and looking further off from the side, we saw an arm thrust
upright from the blue waves; a sight strange to see, as an arm thrust
forth from the grass over a grave.
"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?
CHAPTER 79. 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.