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To make them run easily and swiftly, the axles of carriages
are anointed; and for much the same purpose, some whalers
perform an analogous operation upon their boat; they grease
the bottom. Nor is it to be doubted that as such a procedure
can do no harm, it may possibly be of no contemptible advantage;
considering that oil and water are hostile; that oil is a
sliding thing, and that the object in view is to make the boat
slide bravely. Queequeg believed strongly in anointing his
boat, and one morning not long after the German ship Jungfrau
disappeared, took more than customary pains in that occupation;
crawling under its bottom, where it hung over the side,
and rubbing in the unctuousness as though diligently seeking to
insure a crop of hair from the craft's bald keel. He seemed to


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be working in obedience to some particular presentiment. Nor
did it remain unwarranted by the event.

Towards noon whales were raised; but so soon as the ship
sailed down to them, they turned and fled with swift precipitancy;
a disordered flight, as of Cleopatra's barges from Actium.

Nevertheless, the boats pursued, and Stubb's was foremost.
By great exertion, Tashtego at last succeeded in planting one
iron; but the stricken whale, without at all sounding, still continued
his horizontal flight, with added fleetness. Such unintermitted
strainings upon the planted iron must sooner or later
inevitably extract it. It became imperative to lance the flying
whale, or be content to lose him. But to haul the boat up to
his flank was impossible, he swam so fast and furious. What
then remained?

Of all the wondrous devices and dexterities, the sleights of
hand and countless subtleties, to which the veteran whaleman
is so often forced, none exceed that fine manœuvre with the
lance called pitchpoling. Small sword, or broad sword, in all
its exercises boasts nothing like it. It is only indispensable with
an inveterate running whale; its grand fact and feature is the
wonderful distance to which the long lance is accurately darted
from a violently rocking, jerking boat, under extreme headway.
Steel and wood included, the entire spear is some ten or twelve
feet in length; the staff is much slighter than that of the harpoon,
and also of a lighter material—pine. It is furnished with
a small rope called a warp, of considerable length, by which it
can be hauled back to the hand after darting.

But before going further, it is important to mention here,
that though the harpoon may be pitchpoled in the same way
with the lance, yet it is seldom done; and when done, is still
less frequently successful, on account of the greater weight and
inferior length of the harpoon as compared with the lance,
which in effect become serious drawbacks. As a general thing,


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therefore, you must first get fast to a whale, before any pitchpoling
comes into play.

Look now at Stubb; a man who from his humorous, deliberate
coolness and equanimity in the direst emergencies, was
specially qualified to excel in pitchpoling. Look at him; he
stands upright in the tossed bow of the flying boat; wrapt in fleecy
foam, the towing whale is forty feet ahead. Handling the long
lance lightly, glancing twice or thrice along its length to see if
it be exactly straight, Stubb whistlingly gathers up the coil of
the warp in one hand, so as to secure its free end in his grasp,
leaving the rest unobstructed. Then holding the lance full
before his waistband's middle, he levels it at the whale; when,
covering him with it, he steadily depresses the butt-end in his
hand, thereby elevating the point till the weapon stands fairly
balanced upon his palm, fifteen feet in the air. He minds you
somewhat of a juggler, balancing a long staff on his chin.
Next moment with a rapid, nameless impulse, in a superb lofty
arch the bright steel spans the foaming distance, and quivers in
the life spot of the whale. Instead of sparkling water, he now
spouts red blood.

“That drove the spigot out of him!” cries Stubb. “'Tis
July's immortal Fourth; all fountains must run wine to-day!
Would now, it were old Orleans whiskey, or old Ohio, or unspeakable
old Monongahela! Then, Tashtego, lad, I'd have ye
hold a canakin to the jet, and we'd drink round it! Yea,
verily, hearts alive, we'd brew choice punch in the spread of
his spout-hole there, and from that live punch-bowl quaff the
living stuff!”

Again and again to such gamesome talk, the dexterous dart
is repeated, the spear returning to its master like a greyhound
held in skilful leash. The agonized whale goes into his flurry;
the tow-line is slackened, and the pitchpoler dropping astern,
folds his hands, and mutely watches the monster die.