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If to Starbuck the apparition of the Squid was a thing of
portents, to Queequeg it was quite a different object.

“When you see him 'quid,” said the savage, honing his
harpoon in the bow of his hoisted boat, “then you quick see
him 'parm whale.”

The next day was exceedingly still and sultry, and with
nothing special to engage them, the Pequod's crew could hardly
resist the spell of sleep induced by such a vacant sea. For this
part of the Indian Ocean through which we then were voyaging
is not what whalemen call a lively ground; that is, it affords
fewer glimpses of porpoises, dolphins, flying-fish, and other
vivacious denizens of more stirring waters, than those off the Rio
de la Plata, or the in-shore ground off Peru.

It was my turn to stand at the foremast-head; and with my
shoulders leaning against the slackened royal shrouds, to and
fro I idly swayed in what seemed an enchanted air. No resolution
could withstand it; in that dreamy mood losing all consciousness,
at last my soul went out of my body; though my
body still continued to sway as a pendulum will, long after the
power which first moved it is withdrawn.


Page 316

Ere forgetfulness altogether came over me, I had noticed that
the seamen at the main and mizen mast-heads were already
drowsy. So that at last all three of us lifelessly swung from
the spars, and for every swing that we made there was a nod
from below from the slumbering helmsman. The waves, too,
nodded their indolent crests; and across the wide trance of the
sea, east nodded to west, and the sun over all.

Suddenly bubbles seemed bursting beneath my closed eyes;
like vices my hands grasped the shrouds; some invisible, gracious
agency preserved me; with a shock I came back to life. And
lo! close under our lee, not forty fathoms off, a gigantic Sperm
Whale lay rolling in the water like the capsized hull of a frigate,
his broad, glossy back, of an Ethiopian hue, glistening in the
sun's rays like a mirror. But lazily undulating in the trough of
the sea, and ever and anon tranquilly spouting his vapory jet,
the whale looked like a portly burgher smoking his pipe of a
warm afternoon. But that pipe, poor whale, was thy last. As
if struck by some enchanter's wand, the sleepy ship and every
sleeper in it all at once started into wakefulness; and more than
a score of voices from all parts of the vessel, simultaneously with
the three notes from aloft, shouted forth the accustomed cry, as
the great fish slowly and regularly spouted the sparkling brine
into the air.

“Clear away the boats! Luff!” cried Ahab. And obeying
his own order, he dashed the helm down before the helmsman
could handle the spokes.

The sudden exclamations of the crew must have alarmed the
whale; and ere the boats were down, majestically turning, he
swam away to the leeward, but with such a steady tranquillity,
and making so few ripples as he swam, that thinking after all
he might not as yet be alarmed, Ahab gave orders that not an
oar should be used, and no man must speak but in whispers.
So seated like Ontario Indians on the gunwales of the boats, we
swiftly but silently paddled along; the calm not admitting of


Page 317
the noiseless sails being set. Presently, as we thus glided in
chase, the monster perpendicularly flitted his tail forty feet into
the air, and then sank out of sight like a tower swallowed up.

“There go flukes!” was the cry, an announcement immediately
followed by Stubb's producing his match and igniting his
pipe, for now a respite was granted. After the full interval
of his sounding had elapsed, the whale rose again, and being
now in advance of the smoker's boat, and much nearer to it
than to any of the others, Stubb counted upon the honor of the
capture. It was obvious, now, that the whale had at length become
aware of his pursuers. All silence of cautiousness was
therefore no longer of use. Paddles were dropped, and oars
came loudly into play. And still puffing at his pipe, Stubb
cheered on his crew to the assault.

Yes, a mighty change had come over the fish. All alive to
his jeopardy, he was going “head out;” that part obliquely projecting
from the mad yeast which he brewed.[1]

“Start her, start her, my men! Don't hurry yourselves; take
plenty of time—but start her; start her like thunder-claps, that's
all,” cried Stubb, spluttering out the smoke as he spoke. “Start
her, now; give 'em the long and strong stroke, Tashtego.
Start her, Tash, my boy—start her, all; but keep cool, keep
cool—cucumbers is the word—easy, easy—only start her like
grim death and grinning devils, and raise the buried dead perpendicular
out of their graves, boys—that's all. Start her!”


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“Woo-hoo! Wa-hee!” screamed the Gay-Header in reply,
raising some old war-whoop to the skies; as every oarsman in
the strained boat involuntarily bounced forward with the one
tremendous leading stroke which the eager Indian gave.

But his wild screams were answered by others quite as wild.
“Kee-hee! Kee-hee!” yelled Daggoo, straining forwards and
backwards on his seat, like a pacing tiger in his cage.

“Ka-la! Koo-loo!” howled Queequeg, as if smacking his
lips over a mouthful of Grenadier's steak. And thus with oars
and yells the keels cut the sea. Meanwhile, Stubb retaining his
place in the van, still encouraged his men to the onset, all the
while puffing the smoke from his mouth. Like desperadoes they
tugged and they strained, till the welcome cry was heard—
“Stand up, Tashtego!—give it to him!” The harpoon was
hurled. “Stern all!” The oarsmen backed water; the same
moment something went hot and hissing along every one of their
wrists. It was the magical line. An instant before, Stubb had
swiftly caught two additional turns with it round the loggerhead,
whence, by reason of its increased rapid circlings, a
hempen blue smoke now jetted up and mingled with the steady
fumes from his pipe. As the line passed round and round the
loggerhead; so also, just before reaching that point, it blisteringly
passed through and through both of Stubb's hands, from
which the hand-cloths, or squares of quilted canvas sometimes
worn at these times, had accidentally dropped. It was like
holding an enemy's sharp two-edged sword by the blade, and
that enemy all the time striving to wrest it out of your clutch.

“Wet the line! wet the line!” cried Stubb to the tub oarsman
(him seated by the tub) who, snatching off his hat,
dashed the sea-water into it.[2] More turns were taken, so that


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the line began holding its place. The boat now flew through
the boiling water like a shark all fins. Stubb and Tashtego here
changed places—stem for stern—a staggering business truly in
that rocking commotion.

From the vibrating line extending the entire length of the
upper part of the boat, and from its now being more tight than
a harpstring, you would have thought the craft had two keels—
one cleaving the water, the other the air—as the boat churned
on through both opposing elements at once. A continual cascade
played at the bows; a ceaseless whirling eddy in her wake;
and, at the slightest motion from within, even but of a little
finger, the vibrating, cracking craft canted over her spasmodic
gunwale into the sea. Thus they rushed; each man with
might and main clinging to his seat, to prevent being tossed to
the foam; and the tall form of Tashtego at the steering oar
crouching almost double, in order to bring down his centre of
gravity. Whole Atlantics and Pacifics seemed passed as they
shot on their way, till at length the whale somewhat slackened
his flight.

“Haul in—haul in!” cried Stubb to the bowsman! and,
facing round towards the whale, all hands began pulling the
boat up to him, while yet the boat was being towed on. Soon
ranging up by his flank, Stubb, firmly planting his knee in the
clumsy cleat, darted dart after dart into the flying fish; at
the word of command, the boat alternately sterning out of
the way of the whale's horrible wallow, and then ranging up
for another fling.

The red tide now poured from all sides of the monster like
brooks down a hill. His tormented body rolled not in brine
but in blood, which bubbled and seethed for furlongs behind in
their wake. The slanting sun playing upon this crimson pond
in the sea, sent back its reflection into every face, so that they
all glowed to each other like red men. And all the while, jet
after jet of white smoke was agonizingly shot from the spiracle


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of the whale, and vehement puff after puff from the mouth of
the excited headsman; as at every dart, hauling in upon his
crooked lance (by the line attached to it), Stubb straightened it
again and again, by a few rapid blows against the gunwale, then
again and again sent it into the whale.

“Pull up—pull up!” he now cried to the bowsman, as the
waning whale relaxed in his wrath. “Pull up!—close to!”
and the boat ranged along the fish's flank. When reaching far
over the bow, Stubb slowly churned his long sharp lance into the
fish, and kept it there, carefully churning and churning, as if
cautiously seeking to feel after some gold watch that the whale
might have swallowed, and which he was fearful of breaking
ere he could hook it out. But that gold watch he sought was
the innermost life of the fish. And now it is struck; for, starting
from his trance into that unspeakable thing called his
“flurry,” the monster horribly wallowed in his blood, overwrapped
himself in impenetrable, mad, boiling spray, so that
the imperilled craft, instantly dropping astern, had much ado
blindly to struggle out from that phrensied twilight into the
clear air of the day.

And now abating in his flurry, the whale once more rolled
out into view; surging from side to side; spasmodically dilating
and contracting his spout-hole, with sharp, cracking, agonized
respirations. At last, gush after gush of clotted red gore,
as if it had been the purple lees of red wine, shot into the
frighted air; and falling back again, ran dripping down his
motionless flanks into the sea. His heart had burst!

“He's dead, Mr. Stubb,” said Daggoo.

“Yes; both pipes smoked out!” and withdrawing his own
from his mouth, Stubb scattered the dead ashes over the water;
and, for a moment, stood thoughtfully eyeing the vast corpse he
had made.


It will be seen in some other place of what a very light substance
the entire interior of the sperm whale's enormous head consists. Though
apparently the most massive, it is by far the most buoyant part about
him. So that with ease he elevates it in the air, and invariably does so
when going at his utmost speed. Besides, such is the breadth of the
upper part of the front of his head, and such the tapering cut-water formation
of the lower part, that by obliquely elevating his head, he thereby
may be said to transform himself from a bluff-bowed sluggish galliot into
a sharp-pointed New York pilot-boat.


Partly to show the indispensableness of this act, it may here be
stated, that, in the old Dutch fishery, a mop was used to dash the running
line with water; in many other ships, a wooden piggin, or bailer, is set
apart for that purpose. Your hat, however, is the most convenient.