Moby Dick Chapter 67 - 70
Chapter 67 - 70
Cutting-In/The Blanket/The Funeral/The Sphynx
Using a complex series of pulls and hooks, the men use gravity and a windless to strip the whale of it's skin, and then it's under layer of blubber. The process is a dangerous one, because it involves a harpooneer getting onto the body of the whale itself, and cutting a hole into it.
There is a layer of the whale that covers the blubber; when it dries, it becomes thin and brittle, nearly transparent. This is not the skin - the blubber itself is the whale's actual skin. The skin will yield, in the case of a large Sperm Whale, one hundred barrels of oil; that oil is only three fourths of the weight of the entire substance. The skin is taken off in long strips, called blanket-pieces.
The peeled body of the whale is dropped into the ocean. The remains float in the water, almost as a ghost of the dead whale itself, to scare away other ships.
Before the whale is stripped, it is beheaded, and the head is hung against the ship's side.
Once all the work is done, it is noon, and the men go below to eat. Ahab comes onto the deck by himself, and stares at the head of the whale, hypnotized by its silence. He addresses the head as if he wishes it to speak to him, and asks it to divulge the secret thing within it.
"'O head! thou hast seen enough to split the planets and make an infidel of Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!'" Chapter 70, pg. 264
Another ship is spotted, and the Pequod approaches her.