Moby Dick: or, the White Whale eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 623 pages of information about Moby Dick.
in any other part of the creature.  Though in life it remains perfectly fluid, yet, upon exposure to the air, after death, it soon begins to concrete; sending forth beautiful crystalline shoots, as when the first thin delicate ice is just forming in water.  A large whale’s case generally yields about five hundred gallons of sperm, though from unavoidable circumstances, considerable of it is spilled, leaks, and dribbles away, or is otherwise irrevocably lost in the ticklish business of securing what you can.

I know not with what fine and costly material the Heidelburgh Tun was coated within, but in superlative richness that coating could not possibly have compared with the silken pearl-colored membrane, like the lining of a fine pelisse, forming the inner surface of the Sperm Whale’s case.

It will have been seen that the Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale embraces the entire length of the entire top of the head; and since—­as has been elsewhere set forth—­the head embraces one third of the whole length of the creature, then setting that length down at eighty feet for a good sized whale, you have more than twenty-six feet for the depth of the tun, when it is lengthwise hoisted up and down against a ship’s side.

As in decapitating the whale, the operator’s instrument is brought close to the spot where an entrance is subsequently forced into the spermaceti magazine; he has, therefore, to be uncommonly heedful, lest a careless, untimely stroke should invade the sanctuary and wastingly let out its invaluable contents.  It is this decapitated end of the head, also, which is at last elevated out of the water, and retained in that position by the enormous cutting tackles, whose hempen combinations, on one side, make quite a wilderness of ropes in that quarter.

Thus much being said, attend now, I pray you, to that marvellous and—­ in this particular instance—­almost fatal operation whereby the Sperm Whale’s great Heidelburgh Tun is tapped.

CHAPTER 78

Cistern and Buckets

Nimble as a cat, Tashtego mounts aloft; and without altering his erect posture, runs straight out upon the overhanging mainyard-arm, to the part where it exactly projects over the hoisted Tun.  He has carried with him a light tackle called a whip, consisting of only two parts, travelling through a single-sheaved block.  Securing this block, so that it hangs down from the yard-arm, he swings one end of the rope, till it is caught and firmly held by a hand on the deck.  Then, hand-over-hand, down the other part, the Indian drops through the air, till dexterously he lands on the summit of the head.  There—­still high elevated above the rest of the company, to whom he vivaciously cries—­ he seems some Turkish Muezzin calling the good people to prayers from the top of a tower.  A short-handled sharp spade being sent up to him, he diligently searches for the proper

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Moby Dick: or, the White Whale from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.