Moby Dick

Melville's exciting sea-tale relates the adventures of the Pequod, a

Nantucket whaler, in pursuit of the great white whale, Moby Dick, the

terror of the sea. Ahab, the captain of the Pequod, a grim and

grizzled old fellow, was half crazy with rage against the monster, who

in a previous voyage had shorn off his leg at the knee. On each side

of the Pequod's deck an auger-hole was bored, where the skipper could

steady his artificial leg of whale ivory. At the beginning of the

voyage Ahab nailed to the mast a Spanish gold doubloon, promising it

to the man who should raise "a white-headed whale with a wrinkled brow

and crooked jaw, with three harpoon holes punctured in the starboard

fluke." Ahab's three mates, Starbuck, Stubb and Flask, were Nantucket

whalers. But the rest of the crew obeying this crazy captain was a

miscellaneous collection of half-savages. Three chief harpooners were

Tashtego, an American Indian, Daggoo, a gigantic coal-black negro, and

Fedallah, a mysterious East Indian. The Pequod sailed from Nantucket,

rounding Cape Horn to the Pacific, where Captain Ahab expected to meet

his enemy somewhere in his favorite feeding-grounds along the Equator.

They killed many whales, and had many wild adventures; but they were

continually on the watch for Moby Dick, and sought tidings of the

monster from every ship they met. Gradually the news became more

definite and recent, until they met a whaler which on the previous day

had encountered the great white whale, losing five good men thereby.

Immediately Captain Ahab became wild with excitement, and ordered

everyone to keep constant lookout. The story of "The Chase" begins at

this point.