Given all the attention I’m giving to the Morgan, it’s a great time to plug this fantastic PBS documentary – which gives a very detailed look at the history of American whaling, what conditions were like on vessels, and also the story of the wreck of the Essex (the tragedy on which the climax of Moby Dick was based). Occasionally, this is available to stream online (though not at this writing).
“Moby-Dick is the great American novel. But it is also the great unread American novel. Sprawling, magnificent, deliriously digressive, it stands over and above all other works of fiction, since it is barely a work of fiction itself. Rather, it is an explosive exposition of one man’s investigation into the world of the whale, and the way humans have related to it. Yet it is so much more than that. It is a representation of evil incarnate in an animal – and the utter perfidy of that notion. Of a nature transgressed and transgressive – and of one man’s demonic pursuit, a metaphorical crusade that even now is a shorthand for overweening ambition and delusion.
The Moby Dick Big Read is an online version of Melville’s magisterial tome: each of its 135 chapters read out aloud, by a mixture of the celebrated and the unknown, to be broadcast online in a sequence of 135 downloads, publicly and freely accessible.”
“In such a silent flight, the sperm whale could not be outdistanced. More than any other marine mammal, it is a master of the sea. Using its muscle-bound tail, it can power its way thousands of feet below, its paddle-shaped flippers tucked into its flanks as neatly as an aeroplane’s undercarriage. And once below, it can stay down for up to two hours. To achieve this feat, a whale must spend much of its time breathing at the surface – its ‘spoutings out’. as the sailors called them – taking some sixty to seventy breaths in ten or eleven minutes.”
“…the Sperm Whale only breathes about one seventh or Sunday of his time” – The Fountain, Moby Dick
Following along at the Moby Dick Marathon, New Bedford MA
The Moby Dick Marathon at the Whaling Museum, New Bedford MA