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Next morning the not-yet-subsided sea rolled in long slow
billows of mighty bulk, and striving in the Pequod's gurgling
track, pushed her on like giants' palms outspread. The strong,
unstaggering breeze abounded so, that sky and air seemed vast
outbellying sails; the whole world boomed before the wind.
Muffled in the full morning light, the invisible sun was only
known by the spread intensity of his place; where his bayonet
rays moved on in stacks. Emblazonings, as of crowned Babylonian
kings and queens, reigned over everything. The sea was
as a crucible of molten gold, that bubblingly leaps with light
and heat.

Long maintaining an enchanted silence, Ahab stood apart;
and every time the tetering ship loweringly pitched down her


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bowsprit, he turned to eye the bright sun's rays produced
ahead; and when she profoundly settled by the stern, he
turned behind, and saw the sun's rearward place, and how the
same yellow rays were blending with his undeviating wake.

“Ha, ha, my ship! thou mightest well be taken now for the
sea-chariot of the sun. Ho, ho! all ye nations before my prow,
I bring the sun to ye! Yoke on the further billows; hallo!
a tandem, I drive the sea!”

But suddenly reined back by some counter thought, he hurried
towards the helm, huskily demanding how the ship was

“East-sou-east, sir,” said the frightened steersman.

“Thou liest!” smiting him with his clenched fist. “Heading
East at this hour in the morning, and the sun astern?”

Upon this every soul was confounded; for the phenomenon
just then observed by Ahab had unaccountably escaped every
one else; but its very blinding palpableness must have been
the cause.

Thrusting his head half way into the binnacle, Ahab caught
one glimpse of the compasses; his uplifted arm slowly fell; for
a moment he almost seemed to stagger. Standing behind him
Starbuck looked, and lo! the two compasses pointed East, and
the Pequod was as infallibly going West.

But ere the first wild alarm could get out abroad among the
crew, the old man with a rigid laugh exclaimed, “I have it!
It has happened before. Mr. Starbuck, last night's thunder
turned our compasses—that's all. Thou hast before now heard
of such a thing, I take it.”

“Aye; but never before has it happened to me, sir,” said
the pale mate, gloomily.

Here, it must needs be said, that accidents like this have in
more than one case occurred to ships in violent storms. The
magnetic energy, as developed in the mariner's needle, is, as all
know, essentially one with the electricity beheld in heaven;


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hence it is not to be much marvelled at, that such things should
be. In instances where the lightning has actually struck the
vessel, so as to smite down some of the spars and rigging, the
effect upon the needle has at times been still more fatal; all its
loadstone virtue being annihilated, so that the before magnetic
steel was of no more use than an old wife's knitting needle.
But in either case, the needle never again, of itself, recovers the
original virtue thus marred or lost; and if the binnacle compasses
be affected, the same fate reaches all the others that may
be in the ship; even were the lowermost one inserted into the

Deliberately standing before the binnacle, and eyeing the
transpointed compasses, the old man, with the sharp of his
extended hand, now took the precise bearing of the sun, and
satisfied that the needles were exactly inverted, shouted out his
orders for the ship's course to be changed accordingly. The
yards were hard up; and once more the Pequod thrust her
undaunted bows into the opposing wind, for the supposed
fair one had only been juggling her.

Meanwhile, whatever were his own secret thoughts, Starbuck
said nothing, but quietly he issued all requisite orders; while
Stubb and Flask—who in some small degree seemed then to
be sharing his feelings—likewise unmurmuringly acquiesced. As
for the men, though some of them lowly rumbled, their fear of
Ahab was greater than their fear of Fate. But as ever before,
the pagan harpooneers remained almost wholly unimpressed;
or if impressed, it was only with a certain magnetism shot into
their congenial hearts from inflexible Ahab's.

For a space the old man walked the deck in rolling reveries.
But chancing to slip with his ivory heel, he saw the crushed
copper sight-tubes of the quadrant he had the day before
dashed to the deck.

“Thou poor, proud heaven-gazer and sun's pilot! yesterday
I wrecked thee, and to-day the compasses would feign have


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wrecked me. So, so. But Ahab is lord over the level loadstone
yet. Mr. Starbuck—a lance without the pole; a top-maul,
and the smallest of the sail-maker's needles. Quick!”

Accessory, perhaps, to the impulse dictating the thing he was
now about to do, were certain prudential motives, whose object
might have been to revive the spirits of his crew by a
stroke of his subtile skill, in a matter so wondrous as that of
the inverted compasses. Besides, the old man well knew that
to steer by transpointed needles, though clumsily practicable,
was not a thing to be passed over by superstitious sailors, without
some shudderings and evil portents.

“Men,” said he, steadily turning upon the crew, as the mate
handed him the things he had demanded, “my men, the
thunder turned old Ahab's needles; but out of this bit of
steel Ahab can make one of his own, that will point as true as

Abashed glances of servile wonder were exchanged by
the sailors, as this was said; and with fascinated eyes they
awaited whatever magic might follow. But Starbuck looked

With a blow from the top-maul Ahab knocked off the steel
head of the lance, and then handing to the mate the long iron
rod remaining, bade him hold it upright, without its touching
the deck. Then, with the maul, after repeatedly smiting the upper
end of this iron rod, he placed the blunted needle endwise on the
top of it, and less strongly hammered that, several times, the
mate still holding the rod as before. Then going through some
small strange motions with it—whether indispensable to the
magnetizing of the steel, or merely intended to augment the
awe of the crew, is uncertain—he called for linen thread; and
moving to the binnacle, slipped out the two reversed needles
there, and horizontally suspended the sail-needle by its middle,
over one of the compass-cards. At first, the steel went round
and round, quivering and vibrating at either end; but at last


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it settled to its place, when Ahab, who had been intently
watching for this result, stepped frankly back from the binnacle,
and pointing his stretched arm towards it, exclaimed,—“Look
ye, for yourselves, if Ahab be not lord of the level loadstone!
The sun is East, and that compass swears it!”

One after another they peered in, for nothing but their own
eyes could persuade such ignorance as theirs, and one after
another they slunk away.

In his fiery eyes of scorn and triumph, you then saw Ahab
in all his fatal pride.