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Free Study Guide-Moby Dick by Herman Melville-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapters 100 - 104

Summary

As Ishmael watches the English vessel sail away in the distance, he recalls the famous whaling and shipping company, which had the same name - Samuel Enderby. According to Ishmael, this company built the first English sperm whale ship in 1775. Although the American (New England) whalesmen were already sailing in the North and South Atlantic since 1726, it was the Enderby’s which first sent a whaling ship to the Pacific. Later, it also discovered the whaling ground near Japan. Ishmael remembers have had a fine sailing expedition on one of the Enderby's ships, because of its excellent facilities.

Ishmael now tells the reader about the "inside workings" of the sperm whale. Ishmael explains that he knows about the insides of a whale because he has once cut into a baby sperm whale which was brought on a ship. Besides, he had spent a vacation with the Chief of Tranque, one of the Arsacides isles in the Pacific. On this island, he comes across the skeleton of a whale, which had become a shrine for the local people. Ishmael spent some time studying and measuring this skeleton. The measurements taken, he says, are tattooed on his arm so that he does not forget them.

According to Ishmael, this skeleton on the Arsacides isles was 72 feet long. In other words, a live whale with such a long skeleton would measure 90 feet in length and weigh around 90 tons. While a third of the whale’s length consists of a huge skull, the backbone tapers to form the tail. It has ten ribs on each side, and the middle ribs are curved, with a length of 8 feet.


Ishmael goes on to relate several exaggerated measurements of the whale cited in stories. He says that such measurements such as 700 feet long whales are all false.

Finally, he states that whales like the buffalo in the U.S. will never become extinct. This is because while being hunted, the whale has the vast depths of the sea to hide in. He concludes that the whales ruled the seas even before man appeared on earth, and that it continues to rule the watery world as the largest animal of the planet.

Notes

By talking about the largeness of the whale, the author reveals the risks and difficulties involved in the whaling industry. Also, he seems to suggest that just as the massive whale will never disappear, so the problems and complexities of life will never disappear. In other words, all the problems thrown up in this complex world cannot be solved completely by man.

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