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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMoby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 62 The Dart.
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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 62 The Dart. Post by :TheVirtualOne Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :1734

Click below to download : Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 62 The Dart. (Format : PDF)

Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 62 The Dart.

A word concerning an incident in the last chapter.

According to the invariable usage of the fishery, the whale-boat
pushes off from the ship, with the headsman or whale-killer as
temporary steersman, and the harpooneer or whale-fastener pulling the
foremost oar, the one known as the harpooneer-oar. Now it needs a
strong, nervous arm to strike the first iron into the fish; for
often, in what is called a long dart, the heavy implement has to be
flung to the distance of twenty or thirty feet. But however
prolonged and exhausting the chase, the harpooneer is expected to
pull his oar meanwhile to the uttermost; indeed, he is expected to
set an example of superhuman activity to the rest, not only by
incredible rowing, but by repeated loud and intrepid exclamations;
and what it is to keep shouting at the top of one's compass, while
all the other muscles are strained and half started--what that is
none know but those who have tried it. For one, I cannot bawl very
heartily and work very recklessly at one and the same time. In this
straining, bawling state, then, with his back to the fish, all at
once the exhausted harpooneer hears the exciting cry--"Stand up, and
give it to him!" He now has to drop and secure his oar, turn round
on his centre half way, seize his harpoon from the crotch, and with
what little strength may remain, he essays to pitch it somehow into
the whale. No wonder, taking the whole fleet of whalemen in a body,
that out of fifty fair chances for a dart, not five are successful;
no wonder that so many hapless harpooneers are madly cursed and
disrated; no wonder that some of them actually burst their
blood-vessels in the boat; no wonder that some sperm whalemen are
absent four years with four barrels; no wonder that to many ship
owners, whaling is but a losing concern; for it is the harpooneer
that makes the voyage, and if you take the breath out of his body how
can you expect to find it there when most wanted!

Again, if the dart be successful, then at the second critical
instant, that is, when the whale starts to run, the boatheader and
harpooneer likewise start to running fore and aft, to the imminent
jeopardy of themselves and every one else. It is then they change
places; and the headsman, the chief officer of the little craft,
takes his proper station in the bows of the boat.

Now, I care not who maintains the contrary, but all this is both
foolish and unnecessary. The headsman should stay in the bows from
first to last; he should both dart the harpoon and the lance, and no
rowing whatever should be expected of him, except under circumstances
obvious to any fisherman. I know that this would sometimes involve a
slight loss of speed in the chase; but long experience in various
whalemen of more than one nation has convinced me that in the vast
majority of failures in the fishery, it has not by any means been so
much the speed of the whale as the before described exhaustion of the
harpooneer that has caused them.

To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooneers of
this world must start to their feet from out of idleness, and not
from out of toil.

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