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.. < chapter lxvii 23 CUTTING IN >

It was a Saturday night, and such a
Sabbath as followed! Ex officio professors of Sabbath breaking are all
whalemen. The ivory Pequod was turned into what seemed a shamble;

every sailor a butcher. You would have thought we were offering up ten
thousand red oxen to the sea gods. In the first place, the enormous cutting
tackles, among other ponderous things comprising a cluster of blocks generally
painted green, and which no single man can possibly lift --this vast bunch of
grapes was swayed up to the main-top and firmly lashed to the lower mast-head,

the strongest point anywhere above a ship's deck. The end of the hawser-like
rope winding through these intricacies, was then conducted to the windlass,
and the huge lower block of the tackles was swung over the whale; to this
block the great blubber hook, weighing some one hundred pounds, was attached.
And now suspended in stages over the side, Starbuck and Stubb, the mates,
armed with their long spades, began cutting a hole in the body for the
insertion of the hook just above the nearest of the two side-fins. This done,

a broad, semicircular line is cut round the hole, the hook is inserted, and
the main body of the crew striking up a wild chorus, now commence heaving in
one dense crowd at the windlass. When instantly, the entire ship careens over
on her side; every bolt in her starts like the nail-heads of an old house in
frosty weather; she trembles, quivers, and nods her frighted mast-heads to
the sky. More and more she leans over to the whale, while every gasping
heave of the windlass is answered by a helping heave from the billows; till
at last, a swift, startling snap is heard; with a great swash the ship rolls
upwards and backwards from the whale, and the triumphant tackle rises into
sight dragging after it the disengaged semicircular end of the first strip of
blubber. Now as the blubber envelopes the whale precisely as the rind does an
orange, so is it stripped off from the body precisely as an orange is
sometimes stripped by spiralizing it. For the strain constantly kept up by
the windlass continually keeps the whale rolling over and over in the water,
and as the blubber in one strip uniformly peels off along the line called the

scarf, simultaneously cut by the spades of Starbuck and Stubb, the mates;
and just as fast as it is thus peeled off, and indeed by that very act itself,

it is all the time being hoisted higher and higher aloft till its upper end
grazes the main-top; the men at the windlass then cease heaving, and for a

or two the prodigious blood-dripping mass sways to and fro as if let down from
the sky, and every one present must take good heed to dodge it when it
swings, else it may box his ears and pitch him headlong overboard. One of
the attending harpooneers now advances with a long, keen weapon called a
boarding-sword, and watching his chance he dexterously slices out a
considerable hole in the lower part of the swaying mass. Into this hole, the
end of the second alternating great tackle is then hooked so as to retain a
hold upon the blubber, in order to prepare for what follows. Whereupon, this
accomplished swordsman, warning all hands to stand off, once more makes a
scientific dash at the mass, and with a few sidelong, desperate, lunging
slicings, severs it completely in twain; so that while the short lower part
is still fast, the long upper strip, called a blanket-piece, swings clear,
and is all ready for lowering. The heavers forward now resume their song,
and while the one tackle is peeling and hoisting a second strip from the
whale, the other is slowly slackened away, and down goes the first strip
through the main hatchway right beneath, into an unfurnished parlor called the
blubber-room. Into this twilight apartment sundry nimble hands keep coiling
away the long blanket-piece as if it were a great live mass of plaited
serpents. And thus the work proceeds; the two tackles hoisting and lowering
simultaneously; both whale and windlass heaving, the heavers singing, the
blubber-room gentlemen coiling, the mates scarfing, the ship straining, and
all hands swearing occasionally, by way of assuaging the general friction.