Ishmael wanders through the streets of New Bedford, looking at all the unusual foreign-looking people near the docks.
There are lots of South Sea Islanders.
Ishmael thinks about the way that docks everywhere always have the most surprising people in any country—and how, in India, it’s the American Yankees who are the weird foreigners. A little bit of cultural relativism for you, there.
Even more amusing than the foreign traders, to Ishmael, are the naive country folks from Vermont and New Hampshire, who are in New Bedford trying to make their fortunes.
Lots of these rural folks are decked out in ridiculous clothing that they think is the last word in whaling high fashion.
Ishmael notes that all of New Bedford’s wealth comes from the whaling industry; that’s what made this place a nice little town instead of just a bit of scrub on the Massachusetts shore.
Even the women in New Bedford, according to Ishmael, are the most beautiful in America. Of course, we haven’t seen any women in the novel yet, and Ishmael doesn’t seem all that interested anyway.