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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 59: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Chapter 48: The First Lowering

“Meantime, Ahab, out of hearing of his officers, having sided the furthest to windward, was still ranging ahead of the other boats; a circumstance bespeaking how potent a crew was pulling him. Those tiger yellow creatures of his seemed all steel and whalebone; like five trip-hammers they rose and fell with regular strokes of strength, which periodically started the boat along the water like a horizontal burst boiler out of a Mississippi steamer. As for Fedallah, who was seen pulling the harpooneer oar, he had thrown aside his black jacket, and displayed his naked chest with the whole part of his body above the gunwale, clearly cut against the alternating depressions of the watery horizon; while at the other end of the boat Ahab, with one arm, like a fencer’s, thrown half backward into the air, as if to counterbalance any tendency to trip; Ahab was seen steadily managing his steering oar as in a thousand boat lowerings ere the White Whale had torn him. All at once the outstretched arm gave a peculiar motion and then remained fixed, while the boat’s five oars were seen simultaneously peaked. Boat and crew sat motionless on the sea. Instantly the three spread boats in the rear paused on their way. The whales had irregularly settled bodily down into the blue, thus giving no distantly discernible token of the movement, though from his closer vicinity Ahab had observed it.”




I had to leave this entire passage intact because it paints such a picture. Can’t you just see it all happening right before your eyes?


So now we know Ahab has a secret crew on board and one of the crew is called Fedallah. Fedallah, apparently, has a nice chest and looks striking on the boat. We can surmise that Ahab brought these men aboard the Pequod to help him catch Moby Dick. In this chapter, Moby is not the whale they are after, but I guess Ahab is testing his crew out. Anyway, we know the game now. Stubb says I told you so. Ishmael remembers seeing the crew the first night he came on board, and Starbuck thinks it’s all weird, but it’s his duty to make money and obey the captain’s orders.


We also learn that Ishmael is in Starbuck’s boat when it comes to hunting whales. All the men seem to have this idea that Ahab’s crew is awful and frightening, but oh well – what can be done about it now? The men seem to feel this voyage and all that comes with it is their fate.


It’s an action-packed chapter though!

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