another, without at all blending with it for a time.
"I have it, I have it," cried Stubb, with delight, striking something in
the subterranean regions, "a purse! a purse!"
Dropping his spade, he thrust both hands in, and drew out handfuls
of something that looked like ripe Windsor soap, or rich mottled old
cheese; very unctuous and savory withal. You might easily dent it with
your thumb; it is of a hue between yellow and ash colour. And this, good
friends, is ambergris, worth a gold guinea an ounce to any druggist.
Some six handfuls were obtained; but more was unavoidably lost in the
sea, and still more, perhaps, might have been secured were it not for
impatient Ahab's loud command to Stubb to desist, and come on board,
else the ship would bid them good bye.
CHAPTER 92. Ambergris.
Now this ambergris is a very curious substance, and so important as
an article of commerce, that in 1791 a certain Nantucket-born Captain
Coffin was examined at the bar of the English House of Commons on that
subject. For at that time, and indeed until a comparatively late day,
the precise origin of ambergris remained, like amber itself, a problem
to the learned. Though the word ambergris is but the French compound for
grey amber, yet the two substances are quite distinct. For amber, though
at times found on the sea-coast, is also dug up in some far inland
soils, whereas ambergris is never found except upon the sea. Besides,
amber is a hard, transparent, brittle, odorless substance, used for
mouth-pieces to pipes, for beads and ornaments; but ambergris is soft,
waxy, and so highly fragrant and spicy, that it is largely used in
perfumery, in pastiles, precious candles, hair-powders, and pomatum.
The Turks use it in cooking, and also carry it to Mecca, for the same
purpose that frankincense is carried to St. Peter's in Rome. Some wine
merchants drop a few grains into claret, to flavor it.
Who would think, then, that such fine ladies and gentlemen should regale
themselves with an essence found in the inglorious bowels of a sick
whale! Yet so it is. By some, ambergris is supposed to be the cause, and
by others the effect, of the dyspepsia in the whale. How to cure such
a dyspepsia it were hard to say, unless by administering three or four
boat loads of Brandreth's pills, and then running out of harm's way, as
laborers do in blasting rocks.
I have forgotten to say that there were found in this ambergris, certain
hard, round, bony plates, which at first Stubb thought might be sailors'
trowsers buttons; but it afterwards turned out that they were nothing
more than pieces of small squid bones embalmed in that manner.
Now that the incorruption of this most fragrant ambergris should be
found in the heart of such decay; is this nothing? Bethink thee of that
saying of St. Paul in Corinthians, about corruption and incorruption;
how that we are sown in dishonour, but raised in glory. And likewise
call to mind that saying of Paracelsus about what it is that maketh
the best musk. Also forget not the strange fact that of all things of
ill-savor, Cologne-water, in its rudimental manufacturing stages, is the
I should like to conclude the chapter with the above appeal, but cannot,
owing to my anxiety to repel a charge often made against whalemen,
and which, in the estimation of some already biased minds, might be
considered as indirectly substantiated by what has been said of
the Frenchman's two whales. Elsewhere in this volume the slanderous
aspersion has been disproved, that the vocation of whaling is throughout
a slatternly, untidy business. But there is another thing to rebut. They
hint that all whales always smell bad. Now how did this odious stigma
I opine, that it is plainly traceable to the first arrival of the
Greenland whaling ships in London, more than two centuries ago. Because
those whalemen did not then, and do not now, try out their oil at sea as
the Southern ships have always done; but cutting up the fresh blubber in
small bits, thrust it through the bung holes of large casks, and carry
it home in that manner; the shortness of the season in those Icy Seas,
and the sudden and violent storms to which they are exposed, forbidding
any other course. The consequence is, that upon breaking into the hold,
and unloading one of these whale cemeteries, in the Greenland dock, a
savor is given forth somewhat similar to that arising from excavating an
old city grave-yard, for the foundations of a Lying-in-Hospital.
I partly surmise also, that this wicked charge against whalers may be
likewise imputed to the existence on the coast of Greenland, in former
times, of a Dutch village called Schmerenburgh or Smeerenberg, which
latter name is the one used by the learned Fogo Von Slack, in his great
work on Smells, a text-book on that subject. As its name imports (smeer,
fat; berg, to put up), this village was founded in order to afford a
place for the blubber of the Dutch whale fleet to be tried out, without
being taken home to Holland for that purpose. It was a collection of
furnaces, fat-kettles, and oil sheds; and when the works were in full
operation certainly gave forth no very pleasant savor. But all this is
quite different with a South Sea Sperm Whaler; which in a voyage of four
years perhaps, after completely filling her hold with oil, does not,
perhaps, consume fifty days in the business of boiling out; and in the
state that it is casked, the oil is nearly scentless. The truth is, that
living or dead, if but decently treated, whales as a species are by
no means creatures of ill odor; nor can whalemen be recognised, as the
people of the middle ages affected to detect a Jew in the company, by
the nose. Nor indeed can the whale possibly be otherwise than fragrant,
when, as a general thing, he enjoys such high health; taking abundance
of exercise; always out of doors; though, it is true, seldom in the
open air. I say, that the motion of a Sperm Whale's flukes above water
dispenses a perfume, as when a musk-scented lady rustles her dress in a
warm parlor. What then shall I liken the Sperm Whale to for fragrance,
considering his magnitude? Must it not be to that famous elephant, with
jewelled tusks, and redolent with myrrh, which was led out of an Indian
town to do honour to Alexander the Great?
CHAPTER 93. The Castaway.
It was but some few days after encountering the Frenchman, that a most
significant event befell the most insignificant of the Pequod's crew; an
event most lamentable; and which ended in providing the sometimes
madly merry and predestinated craft with a living and ever accompanying
prophecy of whatever shattered sequel might prove her own.
Now, in the whale ship, it is not every one that goes in the boats. Some
few hands are reserved called ship-keepers, whose province it is to work
the vessel while the boats are pursuing the whale. As a general thing,
these ship-keepers are as hardy fellows as the men comprising the boats'
crews. But if there happen to be an unduly slender, clumsy, or timorous
wight in the ship, that wight is certain to be made a ship-keeper. It
was so in the Pequod with the little negro Pippin by nick-name, Pip by
abbreviation. Poor Pip! ye have heard of him before; ye must remember
his tambourine on that dramatic midnight, so gloomy-jolly.
In outer aspect, Pip and Dough-Boy made a match, like a black pony and a
white one, of equal developments, though of dissimilar colour, driven in
one eccentric span. But while hapless Dough-Boy was by nature dull and
torpid in his intellects, Pip, though over tender-hearted, was at bottom
very bright, with that pleasant, genial, jolly brightness peculiar to
his tribe; a tribe, which ever enjoy all holidays and festivities with
finer, freer relish than any other race. For blacks, the year's calendar
should show naught but three hundred and sixty-five Fourth of Julys and
New Year's Days. Nor smile so, while I write that this little black was
brilliant, for even blackness has its brilliancy; behold yon lustrous
ebony, panelled in king's cabinets. But Pip loved life, and all life's
peaceable securities; so that the panic-striking business in which he
had somehow unaccountably become entrapped, had most sadly blurred his
brightness; though, as ere long will be seen, what was thus temporarily
subdued in him, in the end was destined to be luridly illumined by
strange wild fires, that fictitiously showed him off to ten times the
natural lustre with which in his native Tolland County in Connecticut,
he had once enlivened many a fiddler's frolic on the green; and at
melodious even-tide, with his gay ha-ha! had turned the round horizon
into one star-belled tambourine. So, though in the clear air of day,
suspended against a blue-veined neck, the pure-watered diamond drop
will healthful glow; yet, when the cunning jeweller would show you
the diamond in its most impressive lustre, he lays it against a gloomy
ground, and then lights it up, not by the sun, but by some unnatural
gases. Then come out those fiery effulgences, infernally superb; then
the evil-blazing diamond, once the divinest symbol of the crystal skies,
looks like some crown-jewel stolen from the King of Hell. But let us to
It came to pass, that in the ambergris affair Stubb's after-oarsman
chanced so to sprain his hand, as for a time to become quite maimed;
and, temporarily, Pip was put into his place.
The first time Stubb lowered with him, Pip evinced much nervousness;
but happily, for that time, escaped close contact with the whale; and
therefore came off not altogether discreditably; though Stubb observing
him, took care, afterwards, to exhort him to cherish his courageousness
to the utmost, for he might often find it needful.
Now upon the second lowering, the boat paddled upon the whale; and as
the fish received the darted iron, it gave its customary rap, which
happened, in this instance, to be right under poor Pip's seat. The
involuntary consternation of the moment caused him to leap, paddle in
hand, out of the boat; and in such a way, that part of the slack whale
line coming against his chest, he breasted it overboard with him, so as
to become entangled in it, when at last plumping into the water. That
instant the stricken whale started on a fierce run, the line swiftly
straightened; and presto! poor Pip came all foaming up to the chocks
of the boat, remorselessly dragged there by the line, which had taken
several turns around his chest and neck.
Tashtego stood in the bows. He was full of the fire of the hunt. He
hated Pip for a poltroon. Snatching the boat-knife from its sheath,
he suspended its sharp edge over the line, and turning towards Stubb,
exclaimed interrogatively, "Cut?" Meantime Pip's blue, choked face
plainly looked, Do, for God's sake! All passed in a flash. In less than
half a minute, this entire thing happened.
"Damn him, cut!" roared Stubb; and so the whale was lost and Pip was
So soon as he recovered himself, the poor little negro was assailed
by yells and execrations from the crew. Tranquilly permitting these
irregular cursings to evaporate, Stubb then in a plain, business-like,
but still half humorous manner, cursed Pip officially; and that done,
unofficially gave him much wholesome advice. The substance was, Never
jump from a boat, Pip, except--but all the rest was indefinite, as the
soundest advice ever is. Now, in general, STICK TO THE BOAT, is your
true motto in whaling; but cases will sometimes happen when LEAP FROM
THE BOAT, is still better. Moreover, as if perceiving at last that if he
should give undiluted conscientious advice to Pip, he would be leaving
him too wide a margin to jump in for the future; Stubb suddenly dropped
all advice, and concluded with a peremptory command, "Stick to the boat,
Pip, or by the Lord, I won't pick you up if you jump; mind that. We
can't afford to lose whales by the likes of you; a whale would sell for
thirty times what you would, Pip, in Alabama. Bear that in mind, and
don't jump any more." Hereby perhaps Stubb indirectly hinted, that
though man loved his fellow, yet man is a money-making animal, which
propensity too often interferes with his benevolence.
But we are all in the hands of the Gods; and Pip jumped again. It was
under very similar circumstances to the first performance; but this time
he did not breast out the line; and hence, when the whale started to
run, Pip was left behind on the sea, like a hurried traveller's trunk.
Alas! Stubb was but too true to his word. It was a beautiful, bounteous,
blue day; the spangled sea calm and cool, and flatly stretching away,
all round, to the horizon, like gold-beater's skin hammered out to the
extremest. Bobbing up and down in that sea, Pip's ebon head showed
like a head of cloves. No boat-knife was lifted when he fell so rapidly
astern. Stubb's inexorable back was turned upon him; and the whale was
winged. In three minutes, a whole mile of shoreless ocean was between
Pip and Stubb. Out from the centre of the sea, poor Pip turned his
crisp, curling, black head to the sun, another lonely castaway, though
the loftiest and the brightest.
Now, in calm weather, to swim in the open ocean is as easy to the
practised swimmer as to ride in a spring-carriage ashore. But the awful
lonesomeness is intolerable. The intense concentration of self in the
middle of such a heartless immensity, my God! who can tell it? Mark, how
when sailors in a dead calm bathe in the open sea--mark how closely they
hug their ship and only coast along her sides.
But had Stubb really abandoned the poor little negro to his fate? No; he
did not mean to, at least. Because there were two boats in his wake,
and he supposed, no doubt, that they would of course come up to Pip very
quickly, and pick him up; though, indeed, such considerations towards
oarsmen jeopardized through their own timidity, is not always manifested
by the hunters in all similar instances; and such instances not
unfrequently occur; almost invariably in the fishery, a coward, so
called, is marked with the same ruthless detestation peculiar to
military navies and armies.
But it so happened, that those boats, without seeing Pip, suddenly
spying whales close to them on one side, turned, and gave chase; and
Stubb's boat was now so far away, and he and all his crew so intent
upon his fish, that Pip's ringed horizon began to expand around him
miserably. By the merest chance the ship itself at last rescued him; but
from that hour the little negro went about the deck an idiot; such, at
least, they said he was. The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body
up, but drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned entirely, though.
Rather carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of
the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes;
and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps; and among the
joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities, Pip saw the multitudinous,
God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters
heaved the colossal orbs. He saw God's foot upon the treadle of the
loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man's
insanity is heaven's sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man
comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and
frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his
For the rest, blame not Stubb too hardly. The thing is common in that
fishery; and in the sequel of the narrative, it will then be seen what
like abandonment befell myself.
CHAPTER 94. A Squeeze of the Hand.
That whale of Stubb's, so dearly purchased, was duly brought to
the Pequod's side, where all those cutting and hoisting operations
previously detailed, were regularly gone through, even to the baling of
the Heidelburgh Tun, or Case.
While some were occupied with this latter duty, others were employed
in dragging away the larger tubs, so soon as filled with the sperm; and
when the proper time arrived, this same sperm was carefully manipulated
ere going to the try-works, of which anon.
It had cooled and crystallized to such a degree, that when, with several
others, I sat down before a large Constantine's bath of it, I found
it strangely concreted into lumps, here and there rolling about in the
liquid part. It was our business to squeeze these lumps back into fluid.
A sweet and unctuous duty! No wonder that in old times this sperm was
such a favourite cosmetic. Such a clearer! such a sweetener! such a
softener! such a delicious molifier! After having my hands in it for
only a few minutes, my fingers felt like eels, and began, as it were, to
serpentine and spiralise.
As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck; after the bitter
exertion at the windlass; under a blue tranquil sky; the ship under
indolent sail, and gliding so serenely along; as I bathed my hands among
those soft, gentle globules of infiltrated tissues, woven almost within
the hour; as they richly broke to my fingers, and discharged all their
opulence, like fully ripe grapes their wine; as I snuffed up that
uncontaminated aroma,--literally and truly, like the smell of spring
violets; I declare to you, that for the time I lived as in a musky
meadow; I forgot all about our horrible oath; in that inexpressible
sperm, I washed my hands and my heart of it; I almost began to credit
the old Paracelsan superstition that sperm is of rare virtue in allaying
the heat of anger; while bathing in that bath, I felt divinely free from
all ill-will, or petulance, or malice, of any sort whatsoever.
Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm
till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a
strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly
squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking their hands for the
gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving
feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually
squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as
much as to say,--Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish
any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come;
let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into
each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and
sperm of kindness.
Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm for ever! For now, since by
many prolonged, repeated experiences, I have perceived that in all cases
man must eventually lower, or at least shift, his conceit of attainable
felicity; not placing it anywhere in the intellect or the fancy; but in
the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle, the fireside, the
country; now that I have perceived all this, I am ready to squeeze case
eternally. In thoughts of the visions of the night, I saw long rows of
angels in paradise, each with his hands in a jar of spermaceti.
Now, while discoursing of sperm, it behooves to speak of other things
akin to it, in the business of preparing the sperm whale for the
First comes white-horse, so called, which is obtained from the tapering
part of the fish, and also from the thicker portions of his flukes. It
is tough with congealed tendons--a wad of muscle--but still contains
some oil. After being severed from the whale, the white-horse is first
cut into portable oblongs ere going to the mincer. They look much like
blocks of Berkshire marble.
Plum-pudding is the term bestowed upon certain fragmentary parts of the
whale's flesh, here and there adhering to the blanket of blubber, and
often participating to a considerable degree in its unctuousness. It is
a most refreshing, convivial, beautiful object to behold. As its name
imports, it is of an exceedingly rich, mottled tint, with a bestreaked
snowy and golden ground, dotted with spots of the deepest crimson and
purple. It is plums of rubies, in pictures of citron. Spite of reason,
it is hard to keep yourself from eating it. I confess, that once I stole
behind the foremast to try it. It tasted something as I should conceive
a royal cutlet from the thigh of Louis le Gros might have tasted,
supposing him to have been killed the first day after the venison
season, and that particular venison season contemporary with an
unusually fine vintage of the vineyards of Champagne.
There is another substance, and a very singular one, which turns up in
the course of this business, but which I feel it to be very puzzling
adequately to describe. It is called slobgollion; an appellation
original with the whalemen, and even so is the nature of the substance.
It is an ineffably oozy, stringy affair, most frequently found in the
tubs of sperm, after a prolonged squeezing, and subsequent decanting.
I hold it to be the wondrously thin, ruptured membranes of the case,
Gurry, so called, is a term properly belonging to right whalemen, but
sometimes incidentally used by the sperm fishermen. It designates the
dark, glutinous substance which is scraped off the back of the Greenland
or right whale, and much of which covers the decks of those inferior
souls who hunt that ignoble Leviathan.
Nippers. Strictly this word is not indigenous to the whale's vocabulary.
But as applied by whalemen, it becomes so. A whaleman's nipper is
a short firm strip of tendinous stuff cut from the tapering part of
Leviathan's tail: it averages an inch in thickness, and for the rest, is
about the size of the iron part of a hoe. Edgewise moved along the
oily deck, it operates like a leathern squilgee; and by nameless
blandishments, as of magic, allures along with it all impurities.
But to learn all about these recondite matters, your best way is at once
to descend into the blubber-room, and have a long talk with its inmates.
This place has previously been mentioned as the receptacle for the
blanket-pieces, when stript and hoisted from the whale. When the proper
time arrives for cutting up its contents, this apartment is a scene of