The Project Gutenberg ebook of Moby Dick; or The Whale, by Herman Melville

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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

the story.

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

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