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Page 336


When in the Southern Fishery, a captured Sperm Whale,
after long and weary toil, is brought alongside late at night, it
is not, as a general thing at least, customary to proceed at once
to the business of cutting him in. For that business is an
exceedingly laborious one; is not very soon completed; and
requires all hands to set about it. Therefore, the common
usage is to take in all sail; lash the helm a'lee; and then send
every one below to his hammock till daylight, with the reservation
that, until that time, anchor-watches shall be kept; that
is, two and two for an hour, each couple, the crew in rotation
shall mount the deck to see that all goes well.

But sometimes, especially upon the Line in the Pacific; this
plan will not answer at all; because such incalculable hosts of
sharks gather round the moored carcase, that were he left so
for six hours, say, on a stretch, little more than the skeleton
would be visible by morning. In most other parts of the
ocean, however, where these fish do not so largely abound, their
wondrous voracity can be at times considerably diminished, by
vigorously stirring them up with sharp whaling-spades, a procedure
notwithstanding, which, in some instances, only seems to
tickle them into still greater activity. But it was not thus in
the present case with the Pequod's sharks; though, to be sure,
any man unaccustomed to such sights, to have looked over her
side that night, would have almost thought the whole round
sea was one huge cheese, and those sharks the maggots in it.

Nevertheless, upon Stubb setting the anchor-watch after his
supper was concluded; and when, accordingly, Queequeg and


Page 337
a forecastle seaman came on deck, no small excitement was
created among the sharks; for immediately suspending the
cutting stages over the side, and lowering three lanterns, so
that they cast long gleams of light over the turbid sea, these
two mariners, darting their long whaling-spades, kept up an
incessant murdering of the sharks,[1] by striking the keen steel
deep into their skulls, seemingly their only vital part. But in
the foamy confusion of their mixed and struggling hosts, the
marksmen could not always hit their mark; and this brought
about new revelations of the incredible ferocity of the foe.
They viciously snapped, not only at each other's disembowelments,
but like flexible bows, bent round, and bit their own;
till those entrails seemed swallowed over and over again by the
same mouth, to be oppositely voided by the gaping wound. Nor
was this all. It was unsafe to meddle with the corpses and
ghosts of these creatures. A sort of generic or Pantheistic
vitality seemed to lurk in their very joints and bones, after what
might be called the individual life had departed. Killed and
hoisted on deck for the sake of his skin, one of these sharks
almost took poor Queequeg's hand off, when he tried to shut
down the dead lid of his murderous jaw.

“Queequeg no care what god made him shark,” said the
savage, agonizingly lifting his hand up and down; “wedder
Fejee god or Nantucket god; but de god wat made shark must
be one dam Ingin.”


The whaling-spade used for cutting-in is made of the very best
steel; is about the bigness of a man's spread hand; and in general shape,
corresponds to the garden implement after which it is named; only its
sides are perfectly flat, and its upper end considerably narrower than the
lower. This weapon is always kept as sharp as possible; and when
being used is occasionally honed, just like a razor. In its socket, a
stiff pole, from twenty to thirty feet long, is inserted for a handle.