Study Guide

Moby-Dick Chapter 101: The Decanter

By Herman Melville

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Chapter 101: The Decanter

  • Ishmael recounts some stories connected with the Enderby family, the first major English whaling family which has been sponsoring voyages since 1775—although he’s careful to assert that the American families based in the Nantucket area were hunting whales for 50 years before the English (since 1726).
  • In 1788, the Enderbys launched a ship called the Amelia, which was the first to round Cape Horn and hunt whales in the South Sea, opening that whole area to ships of whaling and exploration.
  • The Enderbys also sent the first European whaling ship, the Syren, commanded by a Nantucketer, into the waters near Japan.
  • The ship called the Samuel Enderby, which the Pequod has just encountered, is an excellent ship.
  • Ishmael tells us that, at some point long after his voyage on the Pequod, he boarded the Samuel Enderby for a wild Gam, in which everyone drank a lot and, when a storm hit, accidentally caught their clothes in the rigging while trying to reef the sails.
  • The men on the Samuel Enderby were generous with the food at this Gam—even though the beef was tough, the dumplings rock-solid, and the bread full of weevils or maggots.
  • Ishmael thinks that the unfailing good cheer and hospitality of English whaling ships are due to the fact that English whalers take their cue from the Hollanders, Zealanders, and Danes, instead of from English merchant ships.
  • Ishmael pores over a (supposed) list of provisions from a Dutch whaling ship; he’s smacking his lips as he thinks about the tens of thousands of pounds of meat and cheese—and especially as he considers the more than 10,000 barrels of beer.

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