Moby Dick Chapter 124 - 126
Chapter 124 - 126
The Needle/The Log and Line/The Life-Buoy
The Pequod sails onward, and Ahab stands at her stern. By the compass, they are going east, but Ahab soon realizes that the sun is in the wrong place for them to be going east. The compasses were depolarized in the storm. Ahab takes his bearing from the sun, and changes the course. Then, in order to impress the men, he makes a new compass from some steel, and has the men look at it pointing in the right direction.
"One after another they peered in, for nothing but their own eyes could persuade such ignorance as theirs, and one after another they slunk away. In his fiery eyes of scorn and triumph, you then saw Ahab in all his fatal pride." Chapter 124, pg. 432
One method of keeping direction, the log and the line, is generally discounted when a ship is sailing by compass correctly; this is true of the Pequod. However, since the compasses had broken, Ahab has two men come over and lift the log out to the sea. One of the men, the old Manxman, tells Ahab that he doesn't think the rope will hold. Ahab disagrees, and the log is thrown into the ocean. Only a few moments after, the rope holding the log snaps.
Ahab orders the carpenter to make a new log and line, and while he's doing this, Pip comes over and starts ranting. Ahab is touched by the boy's madness, and decides that from now on, Pip will stay with him in the cabin below. They depart.
The ship moves closer to the equator, meeting no other ships and riding over mild waves. One night, near the outskirts of the Equator, a mournful crying is heard that wakes almost the entire ship. Some of the men believe it to be mermaids, and the Manxman says that it is the voices of drowned sailors. Ahab does not hear it, but the next morning, when he hears of the story, he explains that it was just the noise of seals, sobbing over dead cubs. This does not put the crew at ease.
That morning, a man climbs up to the mast-head, and with a cry, falls from it into the sea. The life-buoy is dropped in after him, but no hand reaches to grab it; because the buoy is cracked and damaged, it sinks. Starbuck is ordered to make a new one, and because of a scarceness of supplies, Queequeg volunteers the use of his coffin.