Although the novel itself is fictional, it’s based on a combination of real-life happenings: Melville’s own experiences as a cabin boy, sailor, harpooneer, and even mutineer on board merchant and whaling ships; a story that Melville read about a real New Zealand native named Tupai Cupa, who became the basis for Queequeg; and a series of famous whaling incidents, especially the 1820 sinking of the Essex and the 1830 slaughter of an albino sperm whale known as Mocha Dick.
Melville dedicated Moby-Dick to his pal Nathaniel Hawthorne, whom you may have encountered as the author of The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance, and other works. Although their friendship only lasted a few years (Hawthorne was much older than Melville, and they drifted apart), while it lasted, these two great American novelists felt an intense connection. (Source)
Dana Scully on The X-Files was called Starbuck by her father, and Starbuck is also the nickname of a character (Kara Thrace) on the Sci-Fi channel’s Battlestar Galactica. Clearly, the science fiction industry collectively loves Starbuck best of all the Pequod’s mates.