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Chapters 126 - 130

Chapter CXXVI: The Life-Buoy

The Pequod travels down toward the equator, guided only by Ahab's compass and Ahab's log and line.

One night, they hear an unearthly cry - mermaids? The ghosts of dead sailors? Ahab has a more prosaic explanation: the ship is passing a breeding ground for seals. The next morning, the sailor watching for the White Whale falls overboard - and his cry as he plummets into the ocean sounds exactly like the previous night's noise. The life-buoy is sent in after him, but something astonishing happens: the buoy sinks to the bottom, the sailor with it. (Is the power of the White Whale deadly enough to kill even those who watch for him?) Starbuck asks the carpenter to make a new life-buoy out of Queequeg's coffin, adding to the growing list of equipment that has been mysteriously destroyed and remade out of darker materials.

Chapter CXXVII: The Deck

Ahab and Pip encounter the carpenter and the coffin-buoy. The captain is dismayed by this object at first, but concludes that a coffin is "but an immortality-preserver" anyway. Speaking to himself as he gazes at the coffin, Ahab reiterates the fact that he is "gone ... in the dark side of the earth." He goes back to his cabin with Pip to discuss immortality and eternity.

Chapter CXXVIII: The Pequod Meets the Rachel

The next-to-last episode of encounter in the novel is also the most disturbing. The Pequod, in search of Moby Dick as always, meets another Nantucketer. The captain of this ship, the Rachel, gives a surprising response to Ahab's question: he saw the White Whale "yesterday." He tells Ahab the whole story: the day before, his ship had spotted a shoal of whales. While the boats were out in pursuit, Moby Dick appeared. One of the boats harpooned the White Whale, who then swam off towing the boat with it. The Rachel's captain sorrowfully concludes his story with the confession that the missing boat contained his young son among its crew. "For God's sake," he begs Ahab, "let me charter your ship" to search for the missing men. The old Manx sailor on the Pequod responds, cheerily, that the men are drowned - "I heard ... their spirits." But the Rachel's captain persists with his request (Ishmael tells us that in fact the captain had lost two of his sons, though he only mentions one to Ahab). Ahab meanwhile listens "like an anvil," and finally states coldly, "Captain Gardiner, I will not do it. Even now I lose time, Captain, good bye." It is a moment of almost unimaginable cruelty.

Chapter CXXIX: The Cabin

Ahab finally tells the dutiful Pip to leave him alone as he grows nearer to Moby Dick. Although Pip cries and pleads to remain with his captain, Ahab insists that he remain below deck for the rest of the hunt. Pip begins to imagine himself in his master's place as captain, but all the while continues his usual refrain: he, Pip is "missing," lost at sea.

Chapter CXXX: The Hat

Over the next few days Ahab's purpose intensifies, and this intensity affects the rest of the crew. No one expresses any emotion; instead, they move about the Pequod like machines, fearing the gaze of their mad captain. The eerie, silent Fedallah attends the whale with Ahab day after day, night after night, neither man sleeping at all. Though he commands other sailors to man the watch as usual, Ahab silently vows, "I will have the first sight of the whale myself." He climbs to the top of one of the masts, but as soon as he arrives a sea hawk swoops down and takes his hat. Ishmael notes that such a theft happened to the Roman emperor Tarquin. The replacing of his hat by the bird was seen as a good omen, marking him for future glory. Ahab's hat, however, is not returned.

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Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapters 1 - 5
Chapters 6 - 10
Chapters 11 - 15
Chapters 16 - 20
Chapters 21 - 25
Chapters 26 - 30
Chapters 31 - 35
Chapters 36 - 40
Chapters 41 - 45
Chapters 46 - 50
Chapters 51 - 55
Chapters 56 - 60
Chapters 61 - 65
Chapters 66 - 70
Chapters 71 - 75
Chapters 76 - 80
Chapters 81 - 85
Chapters 86 - 90
Chapters 91 - 95
Chapters 96 - 100
Chapters 101 - 105
Chapters 106 - 110
Chapters 111 - 115
Chapters 116 - 120
Chapters 121 - 125
Chapters 126 - 130
Chapters 131 - 135


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