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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMoby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 77 The Great Heidelburgh Tun.
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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 77 The Great Heidelburgh Tun. Post by :colttech Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :3415

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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 77 The Great Heidelburgh Tun.

Now comes the Baling of the Case. But to comprehend it aright, you
must know something of the curious internal structure of the thing
operated upon.

Regarding the Sperm Whale's head as a solid oblong, you may, on an
inclined plane, sideways divide it into two quoins,* whereof the
lower is the bony structure, forming the cranium and jaws, and the
upper an unctuous mass wholly free from bones; its broad forward end
forming the expanded vertical apparent forehead of the whale. At the
middle of the forehead horizontally subdivide this upper quoin, and
then you have two almost equal parts, which before were naturally
divided by an internal wall of a thick tendinous substance.

*Quoin is not a Euclidean term. It belongs to the pure nautical
mathematics. I know not that it has been defined before. A quoin is
a solid which differs from a wedge in having its sharp end formed by
the steep inclination of one side, instead of the mutual tapering of
both sides.

The lower subdivided part, called the junk, is one immense honeycomb
of oil, formed by the crossing and recrossing, into ten thousand
infiltrated cells, of tough elastic white fibres throughout its whole
extent. The upper part, known as the Case, may be regarded as the
great Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale. And as that famous great
tierce is mystically carved in front, so the whale's vast plaited
forehead forms innumerable strange devices for the emblematical
adornment of his wondrous tun. Moreover, as that of Heidelburgh was
always replenished with the most excellent of the wines of the
Rhenish valleys, so the tun of the whale contains by far the most
precious of all his oily vintages; namely, the highly-prized
spermaceti, in its absolutely pure, limpid, and odoriferous state.
Nor is this precious substance found unalloyed in any other part of
the creature. Though in life it remains perfectly fluid, yet, upon
exposure to the air, after death, it soon begins to concrete; sending
forth beautiful crystalline shoots, as when the first thin delicate
ice is just forming in water. A large whale's case generally yields
about five hundred gallons of sperm, though from unavoidable
circumstances, considerable of it is spilled, leaks, and dribbles
away, or is otherwise irrevocably lost in the ticklish business of
securing what you can.

I know not with what fine and costly material the Heidelburgh Tun was
coated within, but in superlative richness that coating could not
possibly have compared with the silken pearl-coloured membrane, like
the lining of a fine pelisse, forming the inner surface of the Sperm
Whale's case.

It will have been seen that the Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale
embraces the entire length of the entire top of the head; and
since--as has been elsewhere set forth--the head embraces one third
of the whole length of the creature, then setting that length down at
eighty feet for a good sized whale, you have more than twenty-six
feet for the depth of the tun, when it is lengthwise hoisted up and
down against a ship's side.

As in decapitating the whale, the operator's instrument is brought
close to the spot where an entrance is subsequently forced into the
spermaceti magazine; he has, therefore, to be uncommonly heedful,
lest a careless, untimely stroke should invade the sanctuary and
wastingly let out its invaluable contents. It is this decapitated
end of the head, also, which is at last elevated out of the water,
and retained in that position by the enormous cutting tackles, whose
hempen combinations, on one side, make quite a wilderness of ropes in
that quarter.

Thus much being said, attend now, I pray you, to that marvellous
and--in this particular instance--almost fatal operation whereby the
Sperm Whale's great Heidelburgh Tun is tapped.

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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 78 Cistern and Buckets. Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 78 Cistern and Buckets.

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Nimble as a cat, Tashtego mounts aloft; and without altering hiserect posture, runs straight out upon the overhanging mainyard-arm,to the part where it exactly projects over the hoisted Tun. He hascarried with him a light tackle called a whip, consisting of only twoparts, travelling through a single-sheaved block. Securing thisblock, so that it hangs down from the yard-arm, he swings one end ofthe rope, till it is caught and firmly held by a hand on deck.Then, hand-over-hand, down the other part, the Indian drops throughthe air, till dexterously he lands on the summit of the head.There--still high elevated above

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Ere quitting, for the nonce, the Sperm Whale's head, I would haveyou, as a sensible physiologist, simply--particularly remark itsfront aspect, in all its compacted collectedness. I would have youinvestigate it now with the sole view of forming to yourself someunexaggerated, intelligent estimate of whatever battering-ram powermay be lodged there. Here is a vital point; for you must eithersatisfactorily settle this matter with yourself, or for ever remainan infidel as to one of the most appalling, but not the less trueevents, perhaps anywhere to be found in all recorded history.You observe that in the ordinary swimming position of the SpermWhale,