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Chapter 50: Ahab's Boat and Crew. Fedallah in which Stubb is a huge Ahab fanboy.

pg. 243: "Who would have thought it, Flask!" cried Stubb; "if I had but one leg you would not catch me in a boat, unless maybe to stop the plug-hole with my timber toe. Oh! he's a wonderful old man!"

"I don't think it is so strange, after all, on that account," said Flask. "If his leg were off at the hip, now, it would be a different thing. That would disable him; but he has one knee, and a good part of the other left, you know."

"I don't know that, my little man; I never yet saw him kneel."


Ishmael points out how totally weird it is for the captain of a whaling vessel to go out on the whale hunt. According to him, the life of every man aboard is dependent on the life of the captain, so it is irresponsible on the part of the captain to take his life into his own hands and go out in the boats.

He reflects back on the past few days (weeks?) and notes that the crew probably should have seen this coming, since Ahab was spending an awful lot of time getting the "spare" boat ready to his unique (read: peg-legged) specifications.

Add to this the weirdness of the men he has chosen to man his oars and wield his harpoon, and the whole situation is downright freaky from the crew's perspective. At least, for a while. They get bored with it quickly, says Ishmael.

pg. 245: Besides, now and then such unaccountable odds and ends of strange nations come up from the unknown nooks and ash-holes of the earth to man these floating outlaws of whalers; and the ships themselves of ten pick up such queer castaway creatures found tossing about the open sea on planks, bits of wreck, oars, whaleboats, canoes, blown-off Japanese junks, and what not; that Beelzebub himself might climb up the side and step down into the cabin to chat with the captain, and it would not create any unsubduable excitement in the forecastle.

tl;dr–Everyone's weird on a whaling ship, ergo nobody cares about weirdness for very long.

Also, Fedallah is probably the spawn of Satan, according to Ishmael.

In Chapter 51: The Spirit-Spout, the crew chases a phantom whale spout across the sea for a couple of nights. This is probably foreshadowing.

Chapter 52: The Albatross, in which the Pequod crosses paths with the Goney.

AHAB: Ahoy there! You guys seen a white whale around?
GONEY: !!! [drops megaphone into the ocean, shrugs]
AHAB: Jerk.

Ahab proceeds to cuss out a school of fish swimming alongside the Pequod, who take the hint and swim away.

In Chapter 53: The Gam, we find out what a "gam" is, but not before Ishmael goes on a rant about how totally unfriendly all the non-whaling ships on the ocean are. Apparently, if the ocean were a high school, whaling ships would be the kids that sat alone at the lunch table and got picked last in gym. Ishmael feels that this is an injustice.

pg. 225: Why it is that all Merchant-seamen, and also all Pirates and Man-of-War's men, and Slave-ship sailors, cherish such a scornful feeling towards Whale-ships; this is a question it would be hard to answer. Because, in the case of pirates, say, I should like to know whether that profession of theirs has any particular glory about it. It sometimes ends in uncommon elevation, indeed; but only at the gallows. And besides, when a man is elevated in that odd fashion, he has no proper foundation for his superior altitude. Hence, I conclude, that in boasting himself to be high lifted above a whaleman, in that assertion the pirate has no solid basis to stand on.

Take that, piracy.

But what is a Gam, you ask?

pg. 225-226: GAM. Noun–A social meeting of two (or more) Whale-ships, generally on a cruising-ground; when, after exchanging hails, they exchange visits by boats' crews: the two captains remaining, for the time, on board one ship, and the two chief mates on the other.

Seems simple enough.

Chapter 54: The Town-Ho's Story, in which Ishmael tells a story about this one time when he told a story.

Ishmael really, really wants to tell us the story of the ship the Town-Ho, but in order to do that, he has to tell it to us the way he told it to some dudes in Spain. Which means he has to tell us about the dudes in Spain first, and then tell us the real story, interrupted every once in a while by reminders that he is really telling it to two dudes in Spain.*

The story is as follows:

Once upon a time, aboard the whaling ship Town-Ho there was a guy named Steelkilt and a mate named Radney. Steelkilt was charming and handsome, while Radney was not. This means Radney was the bad guy.

STEELKILT: My but I am feeling charming and handsome today.
RADNEY: Swab the deck, asshole.
STEELKILT: Lol, no.
RADNEY: Do it or I will hit you with this hammer.
STEELKILT: Dude, seriously?
RADNEY: [hits STEELKILT with the hammer]
STEELKILT: [punches RADNEY in the jaw]

So Steelkilt gets in big big trouble with the captain, to the point where he gets locked in the hold and flogged and all that fun stuff. Some time later, the Town-Ho encounters Moby Dick and gives chase. During the chase, Radney gets eaten by Moby Dick. This is supposed to be cosmic revenge for being a huge dick to Steelkilt.

I would care more if this story did not take 22 pages to tell, with plenty of backstory on what the Eerie Canal is, and what the Great Lakes are like, and so on and so forth and dear God, Ishmael, shut up.

Before he shuts up, Ishmael does say one very weird thing.

pg. 278-279: I trod the ship; I knew the crew; I have seen and talked with Steelkilt since the death of Radney.

Jiffynotes.com has a handy explanation for why this is so weird.

"[After Radney is eaten by Moby Dick] The Town-Ho abandons the hunt and reaches Tahiti, where Steelkilt deserts with most of the crew. The Town-Ho that the Pequod encounters, then, is manned almost wholly by Tahitians, who replaced Steelkilt's followers."

So... when, exactly, did Ishmael talk to Steelkilt and hear this story?

*The two dudes are not named Miguel and Tulio. Tragically.

---

Other adventures in Moby Dick include:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight
Part Nine
Part Ten
Part Eleven
Part Twelve
Part Thirteen
Part Fourteen
Part Fifteen
Part Sixteen
Part Seventeen
Part Eighteen
Part Nineteen
Part Twenty
Part Twenty-One (You Are Here)
Part Twenty-Two
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ambrmerlinus

February 2012

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