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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 75: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

CHAPTERs 66 and 67. The Shark Massacre and Cutting In


“This done, a broad, semicircular line is cut round the hole, the hook is inserted, and the main body of the crew striking up a wild chorus, now commence heaving in one dense crowd at the windlass. When instantly, the entire ship careens over on her side; every bolt in her starts like the nail-heads of an old house in frosty weather; she trembles, quivers, and nods her frighted mast-heads to the sky. More and more she leans over to the whale, while every gasping heave of the windlass is answered by a helping heave from the billows; till at last, a swift, startling snap is heard; with a great swash the ship rolls upwards and backwards from the whale, and the triumphant tackle rises into sight dragging after it the disengaged semicircular end of the first strip of blubber. Now as the blubber envelopes the whale precisely as the rind does an orange, so is it stripped off from the body precisely as an orange is sometimes stripped by spiralizing it.”




I don’t care what anybody says, there are times the book goes into great detail about the act of whaling and it is cool stuff. So there. I’ve said it.


Chapter 66 is about the sharks going crazy at night eating the whale while the great body is in the water. At times, the harpooners must kill the sharks so as to have some part of the whale body left in the morning. Gross stuff all around, but interesting nonetheless.


Chapter 67 is the next morning when they hook the whale and prepare to hoist in onto the ship. The ship, a female, one of the few female figures in the book, puts up a fight. The weight of the whale is great. The ship leans and we almost lean ourselves into the text and into the story.

As the crew strips the blubber off the whale, the ship rights itself. Melville sees it as an orange being stripped of its rind.

I’ll never be aboard a whaling ship, wouldn’t want to be, but I feel like I had a glimpse of the goings on when reading these chapters. It’s the adventure of it all. A step back from the mystery and the philosophy and the history and sheer enjoyment of being somewhere I will never be. Read the whaling parts of the book when you read Moby-Dick. It’s worth it!

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