Moby Dick Chapter 79 - 81
Chapter 79 - 81
The Prairie/The Nut/The Pequod Meets the Virgin
The Sperm Whale is a strange creature, in terms of studying its "face." It has no actual nose, which, being the central part of any face, has a large affect on the countenance of the whale. The most impressive part of the Whale's head is its brow, which is as wide and smooth as a prairie.
In a full-grown whale, the skull is at least twenty feet in length; the brain is cased inside of it like a nut in a shell. From the skull extends the spine of the whale, and the hump of the whale rises above the larger vertebrae.
"The predestinated day arrived, and we duly met the ship Jungrau, Derick De Deer, master, of Bremen." Chapter 79, pg. 295
The Pequod meets a German boat, the Jungfrau, or Virgin. The captain, Derick De Deer, comes over with a lamp-feeder to beg for some oil. Ahab asks for news of Moby-Dick, but the captain begs ignorance; his ship is a clean one, well deserving of its name.
Oil is brought to him, and he leaves to go back to his ship, but as he is going, whales are spotted, and he gives chase. The German boats have a head start on the Pequod's. There are eight whales, the average herd size, and in the rear swims a huge, old bull, which seemed to be afflicted with some disease that has slowed it down. All boats go for this one whale, because of his slowness and his size, and the Pequod's boats soon pass all but De Deer's boat. De Deer is confident that he will reach the whale first, and waves the newly filled lamp feeder at the Pequod's crew. Starbuck is annoyed at this, and tells his men to go faster.
De Deer's boat remains in the lead, until a crab takes hold of one the oars, and the boat nearly capsizes. This gives the Pequod's boats time to get near him. The flight of the whale is a pitiable sight, his only fin swimming as fast as it can go. Derick, seeing that he will be defeated, has a harpooneer stand up to dart the whale, but no sooner does he make the order, Queequeg, Daggoo, and Tashtego also get up, and manage to all three hit the whale. The force of the whale pulling the three ships knocks the German boat out of the way, and Derick and his harpooneer are both thrown into the ocean.
The wounded whale dives, and there is a long time of calmness, as the men wait for him to resurface. He does, exhausted and wounded badly; he is dying, but Flask stabs him one more anyway. The whale dies, and the men wait for the Pequod to come and pick it up.
While they are stripping the whale, the Pequod starts to tip towards it, due to the unusual size and weight of the thing. Starbuck does his best to keep it with them to the last, but eventually, Queequeg has to cut it free, and it sinks into the ocean.
Not long after this, the Jungfrau lowers boats again; they have seen the spout of a Fin Back, a whale impossible to capture due to its swimming speed, and mistake it for a Sperm Whale. The other ship sails away after it.