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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 69: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

CHAPTER 59. Squid


“As with a low sucking sound it slowly disappeared again, Starbuck still gazing at the agitated waters where it had sunk, with a wild voice exclaimed—“Almost rather had I seen Moby Dick and fought him, than to have seen thee, thou white ghost!”

“What was it, Sir?” said Flask.

“The great live squid, which, they say, few whale-ships ever beheld, and returned to their ports to tell of it.”

But Ahab said nothing; turning his boat, he sailed back to the vessel; the rest as silently following.

Whatever superstitions the sperm whalemen in general have connected with the sight of this object, certain it is, that a glimpse of it being so very unusual, that circumstance has gone far to invest it with portentousness.”




In the last chapter we saw Right whales eating Brit and looking like rocks or elephants. In this chapter we see a giant white mass Daggoo takes to be Moby-Dick. What we see is a giant squid and the description ain’t pretty: “A vast pulpy mass, furlongs in length and breadth, of a glancing cream-color, lay floating on the water, innumerable long arms radiating from its center, and curling and twisting like a nest of anacondas, as if blindly to clutch at any hapless object within reach. No perceptible face or front did it have; no conceivable token of either sensation or instinct; but undulated there on the billows, an unearthly, formless, chance-like apparition of life.” These unattractive members of the ocean community (remember the last chapter?) also happen to serve as food for Sperm whales. Are we getting closer to Moby? Oh, shipmates, ‘tis a long, long book! 


I looked up some information on the squid Ish speaks of, to see if he was fudging what he knows again, and guess what? We know pretty much the same thing about giant squid today as we did then. They are elusive little suckers.


What this chapter does is show a few things. How quickly Ahab springs into action when he thinks Moby-Dick has been sighted. That Ish was correct about whalers and seamen being incredibly superstitious, and that we have just been given some foreshadowing.


Starbuck says he wished what he had seen had been the white whale because whalers who have seen the giant squid rarely return from a journey to tell the story of the squid! Okay, so seeing the giant squid is bad luck and the Pequod has seen the giant squid. Sheesh. Still, some people have returned to tell the tale. I mean, we know Ishmael did. If, indeed, his name is Ishmael. Next chapter please.

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