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.. < chapter lxxxi 21 THE PEQUOD MEETS THE VIRGIN >

The predestinated day
arrived, and we duly met the ship Jungfrau, Derick De Deer, master, of
Bremen. At one time the greatest whaling people in the world, the Dutch and
Germans are now among the least; but here and there at very wide intervals of
latitude and longitude, you still occasionally meet with their flag in the
Pacific. For some reason, the Jungfrau seemed quite eager to pay her
respects. While yet some distance from the Pequod, she rounded to, and
dropping a boat, her captain was impelled towards us, impatiently standing
in the bows instead of the stern.

What has he in his hand there? cried Starbuck, pointing to something
wavingly held by the German. Impossible! --a lamp-feeder! Not that, said
Stubb, no, no, it's a coffee-pot, Mr. Starbuck; he's coming off to make
us our coffee, is the Yarman; don't you see that big tin can there alongside
of him? --that's his boiling water. Oh! he's all right, is the Yarman. Go
along with you, cried Flask, it's a lamp-feeder and an oil-can. He's out
of oil, and has come a-begging. However curious it may seem for an oil-ship
to be borrowing oil on the whale-ground, and however much it may invertedly
contradict the old proverb about carrying coals to Newcastle, yet sometimes
such a thing really happens; and in the present case Captain Derick De Deer
did indubitably conduct a lamp-feeder as Flask did declare. As he mounted the
deck, ahab abruptly accosted him, without at all heeding what he had in his
hand; but in his broken lingo, the German soon evinced his complete
ignorance of the White Whale; immediately turning the conversation to his
lamp-feeder and oil can, with some remarks touching his having to turn into
his hammock at night in profound darkness --his last drop of Bremen oil being
gone, and not a single flying-fish yet captured to supply the deficiency;
concluding by hinting that his ship was indeed what in the Fishery is
technically called a clean one (that is, an empty one), well deserving the
name of Jungfrau or the Virgin. His necessities supplied, Derick departed;
but he had not gained his ship's side, when whales were almost simultaneously

raised from the mast-heads of both vessels; and so eager for the chase was
Derick, that without pausing to put his oil-can and lamp-feeder aboard, he
slewed round his boat and made after the leviathan lamp-feeders. Now, the
game having risen to leeward, he and the other three German boats that soon
followed him, had considerably the start of the Pequod's keels. There were
eight whales, an average pod. Aware of their danger, they were going all
abreast with great speed straight before the wind, rubbing their flanks as
closely as so many spans of horses in harness. They left a

great, wide wake, as though continually unrolling a great wide parchment upon
the sea. Full in this rapid wake, and many fathoms in the rear, swam a
huge, humped old bull, which by his comparatively slow progress, as well as
by the unusual yellowish incrustations overgrowing him, seemed afflicted
with the jaundice, or some other infirmity. Whether this whale belonged to
the pod in advance, seemed questionable; for it is not customary for such
venerable leviathans to be at all social. Nevertheless, he stuck to their
wake, though indeed their back water must have retarded him, because the
white-bone or swell at his broad muzzle was a dashed one, like the swell
formed when two hostile currents meet. His spout was short, slow, and
laborious; coming forth with a choking sort of gush, and spending itself in
torn shreds, followed by strange subterranean commotions in him, which
seemed to have egress at his other buried extremity, causing the waters
behind him to upbubble. Who's got some paregoric? said Stubb, he has the
stomach-ache, I'm afraid. Lord, think of having half an acre of stomach-ache!

Adverse winds are holding mad Christmas in him, boys. It's the first foul
wind I ever knew to blow from astern; but look, did ever whale yaw so
before? it must be, he's lost his tiller. As an overladen Indiaman bearing
down the Hindostan coast with a deck load of frightened horses, careens,
buries, rolls, and wallows on her way; so did this old whale heave his aged
bulk, and now and then partly turning over on his cumbrous rib-ends, expose
the cause of his devious wake in the unnatural stump of his starboard fin.
Whether he had lost that fin in battle, or had been born without it, it were
hard to say. Only wait a bit, old chap, and I'll give ye a sling for that
wounded arm, cried cruel Flask, pointing to the whale-line near him. Mind
he don't sling thee with it, cried Starbuck. Give way, or the German will
have him. With one intent all the combined rival boats were pointed for this
one fish, because not only was he the largest, and therefore the most
valuable whale, but he was nearest to them, and the other whales were going
with such great velocity, moreover,

as almost to defy pursuit for the time. At this juncture, the Pequod's keel
had shot by the three German boats last lowered; but from the great start he
had had, Derick's boat still led the chase, though every moment neared by
his foreign rivals. The only thing they feared, was, that from being already
so nigh to his mark, he would be enabled to dart his iron before they could
completely overtake and pass him. as for derick, he seemed quite confident
that this would be the case, and occasionally with a deriding gesture shook
his lamp-feeder at the other boats. The ungracious and ungrateful dog!
cried Starbuck; he mocks and dares me with the very poor-box I filled for
him not five minutes ago! --then in his old intense whisper -- give way,
greyhounds! Dog to it! I tell ye what it is, men --cried Stubb to his crew
-- It's against my religion to get mad; but I'd like to eat that villanous
Yarman --Pull--won't ye? Are ye going to let that rascal beat ye? Do ye love
brandy? A hogshead of brandy, then, to the best man. Come, why don't some of
ye burst a blood-vessel? Who's that been dropping an anchor overboard --we
don't budge an inch --we're becalmed. Halloo, here's grass growing in the
boat's bottom --and by the Lord, the mast there's budding. This won't do,
boys. Look at that Yarman! The short and long of it is, men, will ye spit
fire or not? Oh! see the suds he makes! cried Flask, dancing up and down
-- What a hump --Oh, do pile on the beef --lays like a log! Oh! my lads, do
spring --slap-jacks and quohogs for supper, you know, my lads --baked clams and
muffins --oh, do, do spring --he's a hundred barreler --don't lose him now
--don't oh, don't! -- see that Yarman --Oh! won't ye pull for your duff, my
lads --such a sog! such a sogger! Don't ye love sperm? There goes three
thousand dollars, men! --a bank! --a whole bank! The bank of England! --Oh, do,

do, do! --What's that Yarman about now? At this moment Derick was in the act
of pitching his lamp-feeder at the advancing boats, and also his oil-can;
perhaps with the double view of retarding his rivals' way, and at the same
time economically accelerating his own by the momentary impetus of the
backward toss. The unmannerly Dutch dogger! cried Stubb. Pull now,

men, like fifty thousand line-of-battle-ship loads of red-haired devils. What
d'ye say, Tashtego; are you the man to snap your spine in two-and-twenty
pieces for the honor of old Gay-head? What d'ye say? I say, pull like
god-dam, --cried the Indian. Fiercely, but evenly incited by the taunts of
the German, the Pequod's three boats now began ranging almost abreast; and,
so disposed, momentarily neared him. In that fine, loose, chivalrous attitude
of the headsman when drawing near to his prey, the three mates stood up
proudly, occasionally backing the after oarsman with an exhilarating cry of,

There she slides, now! Hurrah for the white-ash breeze! Down with the
Yarman! Sail over him! But so decided an original start had Derick had,
that spite of all their gallantry, he would have proved the victor in this
race, had not a righteous judgment descended upon him in a crab which caught
the blade of his midship oarsman. While this clumsy lubber was striving to
free his white-ash, and while, in consequence, Derick's boat was nigh to
capsizing, and he thundering away at his men in a mighty rage; --that was a
good time for Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask. With a shout, they took a mortal
start forwards, and slantingly ranged up on the German's quarter. An instant
more, and all four boats were diagonically in the whale's immediate wake,
while stretching from them, on both sides, was the foaming swell that he made.

It was a terrific, most pitiable, and maddening sight. The whale was now
going head out, and sending his spout before him in a continual tormented
jet; while his one poor fin beat his side in an agony of fright. Now to this
hand, now to that, he yawed in his faltering flight, and still at every
billow that he broke, he spasmodically sank in the sea, or sideways rolled
towards the sky his one beating fin. So have I seen a bird with clipped wing,

making affrighted broken circles in the air, vainly striving to escape the
piratical hawks. But the bird has a voice, and with plaintive cries will make
known her fear; but the fear of this vast dumb brute of the sea, was chained
up and enchanted in him; he had no voice, save that choking respiration
through his spiracle, and this made the sight of him unspeakably

pitiable; while still, in his amazing bulk, portcullis jaw, and omnipotent
tail, there was enough to appal the stoutest man who so pitied. Seeing now
that but a very few moments more would give the Pequod's boats the advantage,
and rather than be thus foiled of his game, Derick chose to hazard what to
him must have seemed a most unusually long dart, ere the last chance would
for ever escape. But no sooner did his harpooneer stand up for the stroke,
than all three tigers --Queequeg, Tashtego, Daggoo -- instinctively sprang to
their feet, and standing in a diagonal row, simultaneously pointed their
barbs; and darted over the head of the German harpooneer, their three
Nantucket irons entered the whale. Blinding vapors of foam and white-fire!
The three boats, in the first fury of the whale's headlong rush, bumped the
German's aside with such force, that both Derick and his baffled harpooneer
were spilled out, and sailed over by the three flying keels. Don't be
afraid, my butter-boxes, cried Stubb, casting a passing glance upon them as
he shot by; ye'll be picked up presently --all right --I saw some sharks
astern --St. Bernard's dogs, you know --relieve distressed travellers.
Hurrah! this is the way to sail now. Every keel a sun-beam! Hurrah! --Here
we go like three tin kettles at the tail of a mad cougar! This puts me in
mind of fastening to an elephant in a tilbury on a plain --makes the
wheel-spokes fly, boys, when you fasten to him that way; and there's danger of
being pitched out too, when you strike a hill. Hurrah! this is the way a
fellow feels when he's going to Davy Jones --all a rush down an endless
inclined plane! Hurrah! this whale carries the everlasting mail! But the
monster's run was a brief one. Giving a sudden gasp, he tumultuously sounded.

With a grating rush, the three lines flew round the loggerheads with such a
force as to gouge deep grooves in them; while so fearful were the
harpooneers that this rapid sounding would soon exhaust the lines, that using
all their dexterous might, they caught repeated smoking turns with the rope
to hold on; till at last --owing to the perpendicular strain from the
lead-lined chocks of the boats, whence the three

ropes went straight down into the blue --the gunwales of the bows were almost
even with the water, while the three sterns tilted high in the air. And the
whale soon ceasing to sound, for some time they remained in that attitude,
fearful of expending more line, though the position was a little ticklish.
But though boats have been taken down and lost in this way, yet it is this

holding on, as it is called; this hooking up by the sharp barbs of his live
flesh from the back; this it is that often torments the Leviathan into soon
rising again to meet the sharp lance of his foes. Yet not to speak of the
peril of the thing, it is to be doubted whether this course is always the
best; for it is but reasonable to presume, that the longer the stricken
whale stays under water, the more he is exhausted. Because, owing to the
enormous surface of him --in a full grown sperm whale something less than

square feet --the pressure of the water is immense. We all know what an
astonishing atmospheric weight we ourselves stand up under; even here,
above-ground, in the air; how vast, then, the burden of a whale, bearing on
his back a column of two hundred fathoms of ocean! It must at least equal the
weight of fifty atmospheres. One whaleman has estimated it at the weight of
twenty line-of-battle ships, with all their guns, and stores, and men on
board. As the three boats lay there on that gently rolling sea, gazing down
into its eternal blue noon; and as not a single groan or cry of any sort,
nay, not so much as a ripple or a bubble came up from its depths; what
landsman would have thought, that beneath all that silence and placidity, the
utmost monster of the seas was writhing and wrenching in agony! Not eight
inches of perpendicular rope were visible at the bows. Seems it credible
that by three such thin threads the great Leviathan was suspended like the big
weight to an eight day clock. Suspended? and to what? To three bits of
board. Is this the creature of whom it was once so triumphantly said -- Canst
thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish-spears? The
sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold, the spear, the dart, nor the
habergeon: he esteemeth iron as straw; the arrow cannot make him flee;
darts are counted as stubble; he laugheth at the shaking of a spear! This
the creature? this he? Oh! that unfulfilments

should follow the prophets. For with the strength of a thousand thighs in his
tail, Leviathan had run his head under the mountains of the sea, to hide him
from the Pequod's fish-spears! In that sloping afternoon sunlight, the
shadows that the three boats sent down beneath the surface, must have been
long enough and broad enough to shade half Xerxes' army. Who can tell how
appalling to the wounded whale must have been such huge phantoms flitting over
his head! Stand by, men; he stirs, cried Starbuck, as the three lines
suddenly vibrated in the water, distinctly conducting upwards to them, as by
magnetic wires, the life and death throbs of the whale, so that every oarsman
felt them in his seat. The next moment, relieved in a great part from the
downward strain at the bows, the boats gave a sudden bounce upwards, as a
small ice-field will, when a dense herd of white bears are scared from it
into the sea. Haul in! Haul in! cried Starbuck again; he's rising. The
lines, of which, hardly an instant before, not one hand's breadth could have
been gained, were now in long quick coils flung back all dripping into the
boats, and soon the whale broke water within two ship's lengths of the
hunters. His motions plainly denoted his extreme exhaustion. In most land
animals there are certain valves or flood-gates in many of their veins,
whereby when wounded, the blood is in some degree at least instantly shut off
in certain directions. Not so with the whale; one of whose peculiarities it
is, to have an entire nonvalvular structure of the blood-vessels, so that
when pierced even by so small a point as a harpoon, a deadly drain is at once
begun upon his whole arterial system; and when this is heightened by the
extraordinary pressure of water at a great distance below the surface, his
life may be said to pour from him in incessant streams. Yet so vast is the
quantity of blood in him, and so distant and numerous its interior fountains,

that he will keep thus bleeding and bleeding for a considerable period; even
as in a drought a river will flow, whose source is in the well-springs of
far-off and undiscernible hills. Even now, when the boats pulled upon this
whale, and perilously drew over his swaying

flukes, and the lances were darted into him, they were followed by steady
jets from the new made wound, which kept continually playing, while the
natural spout-hole in his head was only at intervals, however rapid, sending
its affrighted moisture into the air. From this last vent no blood yet came,
because no vital part of him had thus far been struck. His life, as they
significantly call it, was untouched. As the boats now more closely
surrounded him, the whole upper part of his form, with much of it that is
ordinarily submerged, was plainly revealed. His eyes, or rather the places
where his eyes had been, were beheld. As strange misgrown masses gather in
the knot-holes of the noblest oaks when prostrate, so from the points which
the whale's eyes had once occupied, now protruded blind bulbs, horribly
pitiable to see. but pity there was none. For all his old age, and his one
arm, and his blind eyes, he must die the death and be murdered, in order to
light the gay bridals and other merry-makings of men, and also to illuminate
the solemn churches that preach unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all.
Still rolling in his blood, at last he partially disclosed a strangely
discolored bunch or protuberance, the size of a bushel, low down on the flank.

A nice spot, cried Flask; just let me prick him there once. Avast!
cried Starbuck, there's no need of that! But humane Starbuck was too late.
At the instant of the dart an ulcerous jet shot from this cruel wound, and
goaded by it into more than sufferable anguish, the whale now spouting thick
blood, with swift fury blindly darted at the craft, bespattering them and
their glorying crews all over with showers of gore, capsizing Flask's boat and
marring the bows. It was his death stroke. For, by this time, so spent was
he by loss of blood, that he helplessly rolled away from the wreck he had
made; lay panting on his side, impotently flapped with his stumped fin,
then over and over slowly revolved like a waning world; turned up the white
secrets of his belly; lay like a log, and died. It was most piteous, that
last expiring spout. As when by unseen hands the water is gradually drawn off
from some mighty fountain, and with half-stifled melancholy gurglings the
spray-column lowers and lowers to the ground --so the last long dying spout
of the whale.

Soon, while the crews were awaiting the arrival of the ship, the body showed
symptoms of sinking with all its treasures unrifled. Immediately, by
Starbuck's orders, lines were secured to it at different points, so that ere
long every boat was a buoy; the sunken whale being suspended a few inches
beneath them by the cords. By very heedful management, when the ship drew
nigh, the whale was transferred to her side, and was strongly secured there
by the stiffest fluke-chains, for it was plain that unless artificially
upheld, the body would at once sink to the bottom. It so chanced that almost
upon first cutting into him with the spade, the entire length of a corroded
harpoon was found imbedded in his flesh, on the lower part of the bunch
before described. But as the stumps of harpoons are frequently found in the
dead bodies of captured whales, with the flesh perfectly healed around them,
and no prominence of any kind to denote their place; therefore, there must
needs have been some other unknown reason in the present case fully to account
for the ulceration alluded to. But still more curious was the fact of a
lance-head of stone being found in him, not far from the buried iron, the
flesh perfectly firm about it. Who had darted that stone lance? And when?
It might have been darted by some Nor' West Indian long before America was
discovered. What other marvels might have been rummaged out of this monstrous
cabinet there is no telling. But a sudden stop was put to further
discoveries, by the ship's being unprecedentedly dragged over sideways to the
sea, owing to the body's immensely increasing tendency to sink. However,
Starbuck, who had the ordering of affairs, hung on to it to the last; hung
on to it so resolutely, indeed, that when at length the ship would have been
capsized, if still persisting in locking arms with the body; then, when the
command was given to break clear from it, such was the immovable strain upon
the timber-heads to which the fluke-chains and cables were fastened, that it
was impossible to cast them off. Meantime everything in the Pequod was
aslant. To cross to the other side of the deck was like walking up the steep
gabled roof of a house. The ship groaned and gasped. Many of the ivory
inlayings of her bulwarks and cabins were started from their places, by the
unnatural dislocation. In

vain handspikes and crows were brought to bear upon the immovable
fluke-chains, to pry them adrift from the timber-heads; and so low had the
whale now settled that the submerged ends could not be at all approached,
while every moment whole tons of ponderosity seemed added to the sinking bulk,

and the ship seemed on the point of going over. Hold on, hold on, won't
ye? cried Stubb to the body, don't be in such a devil of a hurry to sink!
By thunder, men, we must do something or go for it. No use prying there;
avast, I say with your handspikes, and run one of ye for a prayer book and a
pen-knife, and cut the big chains. Knife? Aye, aye, cried Queequeg, and
seizing the carpenter's heavy hatchet, he leaned out of a porthole, and
steel to iron, began slashing at the largest fluke-chains. But a few strokes,

full of sparks, were given, when the exceeding strain effected the rest.
With a terrific snap, every fastening went adrift; the ship righted, the
carcase sank. Now, this occasional inevitable sinking of the recently killed
Sperm Whale is a very curious thing; nor has any fisherman yet adequately
accounted for it. Usually the dead Sperm Whale floats with great buoyancy,
with its side or belly considerably elevated above the surface. If the only
whales that thus sank were old, meagre, and broken-hearted creatures, their
pads of lard diminished and all their bones heavy and rheumatic; then you
might with some reason assert that this sinking is caused by an uncommon
specific gravity in the fish so sinking, consequent upon this absence of
buoyant matter in him. But it is not so. For young whales, in the highest
health, and swelling with noble aspirations, prematurely cut off in the warm
flush and May of life, with all their panting lard about them; even these
brawny, buoyant heroes do sometimes sink. Be it said, however, that the Sperm
Whale is far less liable to this accident than any other species. Where one
of that sort go down, twenty Right Whales do. This difference in the
species is no doubt imputable in no small degree to the greater quantity of
bone in the Right Whale; his Venetian blinds alone sometimes weighing more
than a ton; from this incumbrance the Sperm Whale is wholly free. But there
are instances where,

after the lapse of many hours or several days, the sunken whale again rises,
more buoyant than in life. But the reason of this is obvious. Gases are
generated in him; he swells to a prodigious magnitude; becomes a sort of
animal balloon. A line-of-battle ship could hardly keep him under then. In
the Shore Whaling, on soundings, among the Bays of New Zealand, when a Right

Whale gives token of sinking, they fasten buoys to him, with plenty of
rope; so that when the body has gone down, they know where to look for it
when it shall have ascended again. It was not long after the sinking of the
body that a cry was heard from the Pequod's mast-heads, announcing that the
Jungfrau was again lowering her boats; though the only spout in sight was
that of a Fin-Back, belonging to the species of uncapturable whales,
because of its incredible power of swimming. Nevertheless, the Fin-Back's
spout is so similar to the Sperm Whale's, that by unskilful fishermen it is
often mistaken for it. And consequently Derick and all his host were now in
valiant chase of this unnearable brute. The Virgin crowding all sail, made
after her four young keels, and thus they all disappeared far to leeward,
still in bold, hopeful chase. Oh! many are the Fin-Backs, and many are the
Dericks, my friend.