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by Herman Melville

Moby-Dick Chapter 59: Squid Summary

  • The Pequod continues sailing northeast toward Java (Indonesia).
  • One morning, Daggoo, who is on lookout duty, calls out that he’s sighted Moby Dick! It’s a full red alert and everyone to action stations.
  • Everyone scurries to the boats and launches as soon as they see something in the distance.
  • The creature rises up in front of the boats—it’s a "vast pulpy mass, furlongs in length and breadth, of a glancing cream-color" (59.4), and it has a bunch of strange undulating tentacles. Then it submerges itself again.
  • Starbuck is disturbed and wishes it had been Moby Dick instead of what it is—a giant squid.
  • So they all have to sail back to the ship. No hunt today. False alarm.
  • Whalemen are deeply superstitious about squids, which they don’t understand very well and which they believe to be the prey of the sperm whale (this, according to a diorama we saw at the New York Natural History Museum, appears to be true), which sometimes vomits up severed squid arms in front of observers. Ick.

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