Monday, July 9, 2012

The Kill; but not Moby-Dick

Chapter 60 – The Line
Ishmael gives a description of the whale line used in harpooning, as well as the dangers involved with the line; everyman in that harpoon boat is in peril because he can be thrown out of the rocking boat.  Ishmael surmises: “All men live enveloped in whale-lines.  All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life.”

Chapter 61 – Stubb Kills a Whale
Queequeg believes the sight of a ‘quid’ is actually a good sign because, “then you quick see him ‘parm whale.”  He’s correct!  The day Ishmael is dreamily watching from the mast-head, he sees a whale; the crews chase after him silently until he knows he is pursued; and, this time, it is Stubb who makes the dramatic kill.

 Chapter 62 – The Dart
 The dart is the heavy, iron harpoon that is flung about twenty to thirty feet into the whale by the harpooner; however, Ishmael argues that it is most difficult for the harpooner to accomplish this task when he is also expected to row and shout at the same time.  When they reach a good distance from the whale, the harpooner must secure his oar, turn around, grab his harpoon, and target the whale with whatever strength he has left.  He contends that to guarantee the effectiveness in the dart, harpooners “must start to their feet from out of idleness, and not from out of toil.”

Chapter 63 – The Crotch
The crotch is a notched stick used to hold two harpoons, which are both attached to the line.  Multiply that by four, and you have eight sharp weapons flying through the air if they don’t make it to the whale; therefore, they must hang the unsuccessful irons over the side of the boat and careful not to cut up the craft or line.

Chapter 64 – Stubb’s Supper
It takes hours and three harpoon boats to bring the whale to the Pequod, but once there, they secure it to the ship and go aboard; Ahab, dissatisfied because it is not Moby Dick, disappears to his cabin for the night.  Meanwhile, Stubb, who is still energized with excitement, requests a whale steak, but complains to the old cook, Fleece, that it is overcooked.  Then Stubb gives Fleece a hard time by jesting with him, and being so late at night, the old man is obviously irritated.

Chapter 65 – The Whale as a Dish
An unappetizing chapter on the history of whale and other sea animals as a meal.  Ishmael suggests that the sight of whale meat would cause anyone to lose his appetite, and that whale is too rich anyway.

Chapter 66 – The Shark Massacre
The whale must wait until daylight to be cut up since it is such a long process; meanwhile sharks feed on the dead carcass while the crew attempt to shut them down by striking sharp whaling-spades into the sharks’ skulls.  This works them into more of a fury. 

Chapter 67 – Cutting In
Ugh!  The wonderful art of stripping a whale and removing its blubber.

Chapter 68 – The Blanket
“What and where is the skin of the whale?”  While the blubber is a firm, close-grained beef, tough, elastic, and compact, the description of the skin, according to Ishmael, is more his opinion:  thin and transparent and obliquely crisscrossed with marks all over, probably from impact with other whales.  When the skin or blubber is cut into long strips, it is called a blanket-piece; for the whale is covered in his own blanket of blubber, which keeps him mighty cool at the equator and his blood warm near the poles.

Chapter 69 – The Funeral
The carcass of the headless whale is released back into the ocean for its sarcastic funeral while sharks and sea birds attend its service.  The carcass floats on and on continuing to inflict dread afterward on other ships’ crews that mistakenly chart the drifting forms as rocks or shoals.

Chapter 70 – The Sphynx
The removal of the whale’s head from its body: a critical feat and the part of the whale, which holds the precious spermaceti, used for oil.  Before the carcass is released into the sea, Ahab visits the whale alone and interrogates the head, commanding it to give up its secrets!

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