"My dear sir, in this world it is not so easy to settle these plain things. I have ever found your plain things the knottiest of all. And as for this whale spout, you might almost stand in it, and yet be undecided as to what it is precisely."
Musing: In reading Moby-Dick, sometimes it is hard to know who Ishmael is talking to, or if Melville has forgotten Ishmael is the narrator and simply speaks to us himself. This is one of those times. We are getting a series of chapters about the history of whale-men. Melville is setting up the history so the events soon to come will put Moby-Dick into that roll call of history. In this chapter, we are standing on the spout of the whale. What purpose does the spout serve, Melville asks? And though it seems "plain," you have his answer here. Sometimes it is the easiest questions that turn out to be the most difficult to solve.