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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMoby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 66 The Shark Massacre.
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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 66 The Shark Massacre. Post by :Sunshine Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :1350

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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 66 The Shark Massacre.

When in the Southern Fishery, a captured Sperm Whale, after long and
weary toil, is brought alongside late at night, it is not, as a
general thing at least, customary to proceed at once to the business
of cutting him in. For that business is an exceedingly laborious
one; is not very soon completed; and requires all hands to set about
it. Therefore, the common usage is to take in all sail; lash the
helm a'lee; and then send every one below to his hammock till
daylight, with the reservation that, until that time, anchor-watches
shall be kept; that is, two and two for an hour, each couple, the
crew in rotation shall mount the deck to see that all goes well.

But sometimes, especially upon the Line in the Pacific, this plan
will not answer at all; because such incalculable hosts of sharks
gather round the moored carcase, that were he left so for six hours,
say, on a stretch, little more than the skeleton would be visible by
morning. In most other parts of the ocean, however, where these fish
do not so largely abound, their wondrous voracity can be at times
considerably diminished, by vigorously stirring them up with sharp
whaling-spades, a procedure notwithstanding, which, in some
instances, only seems to tickle them into still greater activity.
But it was not thus in the present case with the Pequod's sharks;
though, to be sure, any man unaccustomed to such sights, to have
looked over her side that night, would have almost thought the whole
round sea was one huge cheese, and those sharks the maggots in it.

Nevertheless, upon Stubb setting the anchor-watch after his supper
was concluded; and when, accordingly, Queequeg and a forecastle
seaman came on deck, no small excitement was created among the
sharks; for immediately suspending the cutting stages over the side,
and lowering three lanterns, so that they cast long gleams of light
over the turbid sea, these two mariners, darting their long
whaling-spades, kept up an incessant murdering of the sharks,* by
striking the keen steel deep into their skulls, seemingly their only
vital part. But in the foamy confusion of their mixed and struggling
hosts, the marksmen could not always hit their mark; and this brought
about new revelations of the incredible ferocity of the foe. They
viciously snapped, not only at each other's disembowelments, but like
flexible bows, bent round, and bit their own; till those entrails
seemed swallowed over and over again by the same mouth, to be
oppositely voided by the gaping wound. Nor was this all. It was
unsafe to meddle with the corpses and ghosts of these creatures. A
sort of generic or Pantheistic vitality seemed to lurk in their very
joints and bones, after what might be called the individual life had
departed. Killed and hoisted on deck for the sake of his skin, one
of these sharks almost took poor Queequeg's hand off, when he tried
to shut down the dead lid of his murderous jaw.


*The whaling-spade used for cutting-in is made of the very best
steel; is about the bigness of a man's spread hand; and in general
shape, corresponds to the garden implement after which it is named;
only its sides are perfectly flat, and its upper end considerably
narrower than the lower. This weapon is always kept as sharp as
possible; and when being used is occasionally honed, just like a
razor. In its socket, a stiff pole, from twenty to thirty feet long,
is inserted for a handle.


"Queequeg no care what god made him shark," said the savage,
agonizingly lifting his hand up and down; "wedder Fejee god or
Nantucket god; but de god wat made shark must be one dam Ingin."

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It was a Saturday night, and such a Sabbath as followed! Ex officioprofessors of Sabbath breaking are all whalemen. The ivory Pequodwas turned into what seemed a shamble; every sailor a butcher. Youwould have thought we were offering up ten thousand red oxen to thesea gods.In the first place, the enormous cutting tackles, among otherponderous things comprising a cluster of blocks generally paintedgreen, and which no single man can possibly lift--this vast bunch ofgrapes was swayed up to the main-top and firmly lashed to the lowermast-head, the strongest point anywhere above a ship's deck. The endof the
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That mortal man should feed upon the creature that feeds his lamp,and, like Stubb, eat him by his own light, as you may say; this seemsso outlandish a thing that one must needs go a little into thehistory and philosophy of it.It is upon record, that three centuries ago the tongue of the RightWhale was esteemed a great delicacy in France, and commanded largeprices there. Also, that in Henry VIIIth's time, a certain cook ofthe court obtained a handsome reward for inventing an admirable sauceto be eaten with barbacued porpoises, which, you remember, are aspecies of whale. Porpoises, indeed,
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