Moby Dick Chapter 91 - 92
Chapter 91 - 92
The Pequod Meets the Rosebud/Ambergris
A few weeks after the previous chapter, the Pequod is sailing slowly when it comes across an awful smell; eventually, another ship is seen in the distance. This ship has two dead whales on it, but both of them were picked up after they were dead, hence the smell. One of them was killed by the men of the Pequod during the attack on the herd earlier, but the other died of seemingly natural causes. Whales like this are called "blasted whales," and whalers do not pick them up, usually, because they contain no oil; however, the one that died of natural causes might contain ambergris, a valuable substance that can be sold to druggists.
Stubb, seeing an opportunity, takes a boat over to the other ship, called the Rosebud--a French ship. He first asks if anyone speaks English; one man answers, and Stubb asks him if they've seen Moby-Dick. The man says no, and Stubb relays this information back to Ahab. He then asks why the Rosebud is wasting time with the two dead whales; the man says their captain is a fool, and refuses to believe that such whales have no oil. With Stubb's help, the man manages to convince the captain, who does not speak English, that the ship is in danger of catching the plague from the dead whales.
The Rosebud drops its corpses, and Stubb pulls the one he wants over to the Pequod. He excavates the skull, and finds six handfuls of ambergris.
Ambergris is a soft, waxy, spicy smelling substance that can be used in perfumes and precious candles, and it is found in the bowels of sick whales.
There is a charge made against whaling that whales smell bad, but this charge is a wholly false one.