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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMoby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 84 Pitchpoling.
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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 84 Pitchpoling. Post by :bigmarketing Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :2787

Click below to download : Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 84 Pitchpoling. (Format : PDF)

Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 84 Pitchpoling.

To make them run easily and swiftly, the axles of carriages are
anointed; and for much the same purpose, some whalers perform an
analogous operation upon their boat; they grease the bottom. Nor is
it to be doubted that as such a procedure can do no harm, it may
possibly be of no contemptible advantage; considering that oil and
water are hostile; that oil is a sliding thing, and that the object
in view is to make the boat slide bravely. Queequeg believed
strongly in anointing his boat, and one morning not long after the
German ship Jungfrau disappeared, took more than customary pains in
that occupation; crawling under its bottom, where it hung over the
side, and rubbing in the unctuousness as though diligently seeking to
insure a crop of hair from the craft's bald keel. He seemed to be
working in obedience to some particular presentiment. Nor did it
remain unwarranted by the event.

Towards noon whales were raised; but so soon as the ship sailed down
to them, they turned and fled with swift precipitancy; a disordered
flight, as of Cleopatra's barges from Actium.

Nevertheless, the boats pursued, and Stubb's was foremost. By great
exertion, Tashtego at last succeeded in planting one iron; but the
stricken whale, without at all sounding, still continued his
horizontal flight, with added fleetness. Such unintermitted
strainings upon the planted iron must sooner or later inevitably
extract it. It became imperative to lance the flying whale, or be
content to lose him. But to haul the boat up to his flank was
impossible, he swam so fast and furious. What then remained?

Of all the wondrous devices and dexterities, the sleights of hand and
countless subtleties, to which the veteran whaleman is so often
forced, none exceed that fine manoeuvre with the lance called
pitchpoling. Small sword, or broad sword, in all its exercises
boasts nothing like it. It is only indispensable with an inveterate
running whale; its grand fact and feature is the wonderful distance
to which the long lance is accurately darted from a violently
rocking, jerking boat, under extreme headway. Steel and wood
included, the entire spear is some ten or twelve feet in length; the
staff is much slighter than that of the harpoon, and also of a
lighter material--pine. It is furnished with a small rope called a
warp, of considerable length, by which it can be hauled back to the
hand after darting.

But before going further, it is important to mention here, that
though the harpoon may be pitchpoled in the same way with the lance,
yet it is seldom done; and when done, is still less frequently
successful, on account of the greater weight and inferior length of
the harpoon as compared with the lance, which in effect become
serious drawbacks. As a general thing, therefore, you must first
get fast to a whale, before any pitchpoling comes into play.

Look now at Stubb; a man who from his humorous, deliberate coolness
and equanimity in the direst emergencies, was specially qualified to
excel in pitchpoling. Look at him; he stands upright in the tossed
bow of the flying boat; wrapt in fleecy foam, the towing whale is
forty feet ahead. Handling the long lance lightly, glancing twice or
thrice along its length to see if it be exactly straight, Stubb
whistlingly gathers up the coil of the warp in one hand, so as to
secure its free end in his grasp, leaving the rest unobstructed.
Then holding the lance full before his waistband's middle, he levels
it at the whale; when, covering him with it, he steadily depresses
the butt-end in his hand, thereby elevating the point till the weapon
stands fairly balanced upon his palm, fifteen feet in the air. He
minds you somewhat of a juggler, balancing a long staff on his chin.
Next moment with a rapid, nameless impulse, in a superb lofty arch the
bright steel spans the foaming distance, and quivers in the life spot
of the whale. Instead of sparkling water, he now spouts red blood.

"That drove the spigot out of him!" cried Stubb. "'Tis July's
immortal Fourth; all fountains must run wine today! Would now, it
were old Orleans whiskey, or old Ohio, or unspeakable old
Monongahela! Then, Tashtego, lad, I'd have ye hold a canakin to the
jet, and we'd drink round it! Yea, verily, hearts alive, we'd brew
choice punch in the spread of his spout-hole there, and from that
live punch-bowl quaff the living stuff."

Again and again to such gamesome talk, the dexterous dart is
repeated, the spear returning to its master like a greyhound held in
skilful leash. The agonized whale goes into his flurry; the tow-line
is slackened, and the pitchpoler dropping astern, folds his hands,
and mutely watches the monster die.

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