Moby Dick Chapter 76 - 78
Chapter 76 - 78
The Battering Ram/The Great Heidelburgh Tun/Cistern and Buckets
The forehead of a Sperm Whale's skull resembles a large battering ram. The skull is exceedingly thick, and impossible to pierce with a harpoon. It can be divided into two parts, a lower, consisting of the cranium and jaws, and the upper, a mass entirely free of bones. It is in the lower that the oil resides, and it is the lower that is tapped to release that oil. The operation, like the beheading of the whale, is a dangerous one.
Tashtego climbs up to the overhanging arm of the ship, and tying one end of rope onto the arm, he climbs down the rope onto the skull of the whale. With a spade, he finds the best place to start plumbing, and buckets are hoisted up to him to fill with oil. The more oil removed, the further down Tashtego has to stab.
After they have been doing this for some time, Tashtego falls into the skull. Daggoo immediately calls out man overboard, and has a bucket swung over that he gets on, using it to bring himself to the head. While he's doing this, one of the hooks holding the head up gives way, sinking the head even further into the water. The remaining hook looks like it will give way at any second. Daggoo tries to send the bucket down into the head for Tashtego to grab onto, but before it can, the last hook tears free, and the head drops into the ocean completely, taking Tashtego with it.
Queequeg dives into the sea after him. He cuts a hole in the whale head, and yanks Tashtego out by his head, pulling him up to the surface.
"And thu, through the courage and great skill in obstetrics of Queequeg, the deliverance, or rather, the delivery of Tashtego, was successfully accomplished, in the teeth, too, of the most untoward and apparently hopeless impediments; which is a lesson by no means to be forgotten. Midwifery should be taught in the same course with fencing and boxing, riding and rowing." Chapter 78, pg. 290