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Chapters 81 - 85

Chapter LXXXI: The Pequod Meets the Virgin

Back to the story, as the Pequod encounters yet another ship, a German vessel called the "Jungfrau," or Virgin. The ship's captain, Derick de Deer, rows to the Pequod holding a pot - he seems to be offering Stubb and Starbuck some coffee (I guess that's where they came up with that name). Ahab, of course, has one thing on his mind, but the captain makes clear in broken English that he hasn't seen the white whale. Indeed, the ship's name is appropriate, because it hasn't seen any whales, and is completely clean of oil; de Deer's pot is not coffee at all, but rather an empty oil pot that he'd like filled. As soon as the crew of the Pequod obliges, whales are spotted. The men of the two ships race against each other in an attempt to reach the whales first. The Virgin's boat has the lead, but one of its oars is pinched by a crab, slowing them down. The Pequod's men catch up, and finally Queequeg, Tashtego and Daggoo throw their spears in unison - beating the Virgin to the whale. Ishmael offers another vivid description of wounded whale, finally killed by Flask's spear. Strangely, the corpse does not float as dead Sperm Whales usually do - despite the crew's best efforts to tie it to the Pequod, the carcass finally sinks beneath the surface. Meanwhile the hapless and inexperienced Virgin sets her boats to begin chasing another spout ... which the men of the Pequod know to be a fin-back, and not a Sperm Whale at all.

Chapter LXXXII: The Honor and Glory of Whaling

Ishmael continues to ponder the subject of whaling. Having looked at the whale in history, science, literature and art, he now considers the whale's place in myth. "Demigods and heroes, prophets of all sorts," he proclaims, Perseus, St. George, Hercules, Jonah and "Vishnoo" [sic], have all been whalers.

Chapter LXXXIII: Jonah Historically Regarded

Some Nantucketers, apparently, object to the Biblical story of Jonah on specific grounds. They point out that most "illustrated" Bibles show his whale with two spout holes on top - a characteristic only of Right Whales, whose throats are too small to swallow a man. Ishmael replies that the Bible nowhere says that Jonah was swallowed, and that he might have spent his captivity in the mouth of the Right Whale. Similar objections involve the impossibility of Jonah's arrival in an inland town after being expelled from the whale, etc. Unable to answer these latter difficulties very confidently, Ishmael concludes that "faith" dictates that we believe the Bible story, and only "foolish pride of reason" comes up with such doubts.

Chapter LXXXIV: Pitchpoling

Another whale hunt occurs, leading Ishmael to describe the practice of "pitchpoling." This is the impossibly difficult task of launching a lance at a speeding whale from the prow of a speeding boat. Since the lance is lighter than the harpoon, the pitchpoler can stand on the boat, balance the entire lance vertically on the palm of one hand, and launce it high and far toward the whale.

Chapter LXXXV: The Fountain

The whale's blow-hole, more carefully examined. Ishmael proposes a question: does the whale spout water or mist? He goes into great detail about the whale's respiratory system, which allows it to breathe only once in a great while and remain submerged the rest of the time. But whether he blows water or mist is something that has puzzled sailors for years. Ishmael argues for mist in a very strange way: he says that the whale is a "ponderous and profound" being, and that the heads of most other such beings -- "Plato, Pyrrho, the Devil, Jupiter, Dante," and so on - all produce "a certain semi-visible steam while thinking deep thoughts." He even claims to have looked into a mirror himself while thinking about Eternity and seen a faint steam appear above his own head. Try it!

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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
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Chapters 71 - 75
Chapters 76 - 80
Chapters 81 - 85
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Chapters 91 - 95
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Chapters 101 - 105
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Chapters 121 - 125
Chapters 126 - 130
Chapters 131 - 135


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