Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Moby Dick: Chapters 100-106

In case you're wondering why no new photos from my other book...I have yet to catch up with the story there. All these mystical and physiological pages don't translate well to graphic novel/pop up form I guess. That is, if I have any non-Moby-Dick-readers left. Jason, are you still reading?

Chapter 100: Leg and Arm; The Pequod, of Nantucket, Meets the Enderby, of London

Ahab shouts his usual question:

"Hast seen the White Whale?"

"See you this?" and withdrawing it from the fold that had hidden it, he held up a white arm of sperm whale bone, terminating in a wooden head like a mallet.
Ahab is so excited he forgets the foreign boat will not have accommodations for his peg-leg. The English captain describes the whale. I don't remember that we've had such a vivid description yet, though we have had some.
"Presently up breaches from the bottom of the sea a bouncing great whale, with a milky-white head and hump, all crows' feet and wrinkles."
Ahab lost a leg and became obsessed. Captain Boomer has no further interest in tempting fate. There's a strange joking or biting sarcasm between him and his doctor. Said doctor really wants to treat the monomaniacal Ahab.
"Bless my soul, and curse the foul fiend's," cried Bunger, stoopingly walking round Ahab, and like a dog, strangely snuffing; "this man's blood--bring the thermometer;--it's at the boiling point!--his pulse makes these planks beat!--Sir!"--taking a lancet from his pocket, and drawing near to Ahab's arm.

"Avast!" roared Ahab, dashing him against the bulwarks--"Man the boat! Which way heading?"

Chapter 101: The Decanter
Be it distinctly recorded here, that the Nantucketers were the first among mankind to harpoon with civilized steel the great Sperm Whale...

Ishmael has more to say about the Enderby. It seems he got shortchanged with the gams while serving on Ahab's ship. All Ahab wanted was news of The Whale. Much later, Ishmael got the chance to party with the Englishmen. (gam definition reminder: exchange of officers, mail, and news when whaling ships met.)
Flip? Did I say we had flip? Yes, and we flipped it at the rate of ten gallons the hour...
Flip = alcohol + beaten eggs
There's a good strong tradition of living well on a whaling ship, thanks to the Dutch.
For, say they, when cruising in an empty ship, if you can get nothing better out of the world, get a good dinner out of it, at least. And this empties the decanter.
Chapter 102: A Bower in the Arsacides
...And as for my exact knowledge of the bones of the leviathan in their gigantic, full grown development, for that rare knowledge I am indebted to my late royal friend Tranquo, king of Tranque, one of the Arsacides.
The ribs were hung with trophies; the vertebrae were carved with Arsacidean annals, in strange hieroglyphics; in the skull, the priests kept up an unextinguished aromatic flame, so that the mystic head again sent forth its vapory spout; while, suspended from a bough, the terrific lower jaw vibrated over all the devotees...
Chapter 103: Measurement of the Whale's Skeleton
...a Sperm Whale of the largest magnitude, between eighty-five and ninety feet in length, and something less than forty feet in its fullest circumference, such a whale will weigh at least ninety tons; so that reckoning thirteen men to a ton, he would considerably outweigh the combined population of a whole village of one thousand one hundred inhabitants.
How vain and foolish, then, thought I, for timid untravelled man to try to comprehend aright this wondrous whale, by merely poring over his dead attenuated skeleton, stretched in this peaceful wood. No. Only in the heart of quickest perils; only when within the eddyings of his angry flukes; only on the profound unbounded sea, can the fully invested whale be truly and livingly found out.
Us poor landlubbers. We are deprived.

Chapter 104: The Fossil Whale
Having already described him in most of his present habitatory and anatomical peculiarities, it now remains to magnify him in an archaeological, fossiliferous, and antediluvian point of view.
To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.
I couldn't find a book, but I found a poem. I bet a great writer could create a mighty book about the tiny flea.
But by far the most wonderful of all cetacean relics was the almost complete vast skeleton of an extinct monster, found in the year 1842, on the plantation of Judge Creagh, in Alabama. The awe-stricken credulous slaves in the vicinity took it for the bones of one of the fallen angels.
antechronical: is that antichronical? And I suppose that would be pre-Adamite, outside of time as the biblical follower knows it?
Their Historians affirm, that a Prophet who prophesy'd of Mahomet, came from this Temple, and some do not stand to assert, that the Prophet Jonas was cast forth by the Whale at the Base of the Temple."

In this Afric Temple [Barbary coast] of the Whale I leave you, reader, and if you be a Nantucketer, and a whaleman, you will silently worship there.
Chapter 105: Does the Whale's Magnitude Diminish?--Will he Perish?

Ishmael looks to Pliny and other historians' accounts of whales to see if the whale grows smaller. He doesn't believe the stories, but instead the fossil evidences. As for extinction, he doesn't feel whalers kill enough for that to happen, as the whales have such larger fields to roam than the bison, and the bison were killed at such greater numbers.
Forty men in one ship hunting the Sperm Whale for forty-eight months think they have done extremely well, and thank God, if at last they carry home the oil of forty fish.
Finally! I've been wondering about that.
Moreover: we are to consider, that from the presumed great longevity of whales, their probably attaining the age of a century and more...
I wonder, is that true? Pause while researching...apparently more like 60-70 years.
Wherefore, for all these things, we account the whale immortal in his species, however perishable in his individuality....In Noah's flood, he despised Noah's Ark; and if ever the world is to be again flooded, like the Netherlands, to kill off its rats, then the eternal whale will still survive, and rearing upon the topmost crest of the equatorial flood, spout his frothed defiance to the skies.
Chapter 106: Ahab's Leg

Ahab injured his whale bone leg when he left the Enderby.
...it had not been very long prior to the Pequod's sailing from Nantucket, that he had been found one night lying prone upon the ground, and insensible; by some unknown, and seemingly inexplicable, unimaginable casualty, his ivory limb having been so violently displaced, that it had stake-wise smitten, and all but pierced his groin; nor was it without extreme difficulty that the agonizing wound was entirely cured.
Aha! ... the mysterious reason Ahab stayed out of sight at the beginning of the voyage.

Ahab knows karma:
Nor, at the time, had it failed to enter his monomaniac mind, that all the anguish of that then present suffering was but the direct issue of a former woe...so, equally with every felicity, all miserable events do naturally beget their like.
So, with bone and iron, the carpenter and blacksmith forged Ahab a new leg.

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