Study Guide

Moby-Dick Chapter 105: Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish? – Will He Perish?

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Chapter 105: Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish? – Will He Perish?

  • Ishmael ponders whether whales have grown smaller over the ages, but decides, based on the fossil record, that they are actually slowly getting larger.
  • Of course, the whales of Ishmael’s time are still much smaller than some of the sea monsters described by ancient Roman naturalists, but Ishmael doesn’t trust these accounts.
  • Next, Ishmael explores the possibility that the whale could be hunted to extinction. He compares schools of whales to the herds of North American buffalo that have been decimated by the mid-nineteenth century.
  • However, Ishmael believes that the ratio of hunters to killed whales is small enough that the whale population isn’t radically decreasing.
  • Ishmael admits that whaling ships used to find more whales more easily, but he thinks this is because the whales used to roam in many smaller groups, and now they move around in a few large ones.
  • The other reason Ishmael thinks whales won’t become extinct is that there are two places they go— the North and South poles—where hunters can’t follow.
  • He admits that around 13,000 whales are slaughtered each year by the Americans alone, but he says that far more elephants than this are killed in hunts every year and have been since ancient times, and they’re not endangered yet. (Oh, wait…)
  • Taking all these things into account, Ishmael considers the whale virtually immortal.

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