CR Episode 183: Moby Dick, Part IX

Moby Dick: The Monkey-Rope, by Rockwell Kent
Moby Dick: The Monkey-Rope, by Rockwell Kent

Download Link: Released on 10 July 2023

The panel discuss chapters 72–81 and focus particularly upon Ishmael’s connexion (literal and figurative) to Queequeg, and the analogous, fated and willed relationships between the Pequod, the crew, Captain Ahab, and across humanity more generally.


  1. I think I’m good in the raw milk candle department 🤣 Prefer lavender 😅

    Is the whaling in US completely shut down? Even for food?
    We still catch whales here for the meat. You can get it in most grocery stores. Apparently the quota for 2023 in Norway is 1000 whales. Only one kind it seems though. Apparently it’s called minke whale in English?

    Here I am googling whale facts. Melville takes us on a historical ride which suddenly take a sharp turn into existential questions and then he turns again and we find ourselves in the middle of a play!

    I have no real suggestions for the chapter, but I definitely think it has meaning. Would be interesting to hear if you get any ideas.

  2. I’m on a googling trip. Had to see a picture of a sperm whale. They are huge! Or they look it. They remind me of submarines.

  3. Hi Dr. C. and Dr K.,

    Thoughts on why two whale heads were hung on the Pequod –

    My thought is that Melville just couldn’t resist giving Ishmael an opportunity to pontificate on the heads of the two types of whales that are hunted for oil. The right whale couldn’t be processed normally (i.e. removing the lips and tongue in order to harvest the baleen) as that would ruin comparing their facial features. Melville worked the hanging of the heads into the plot by having Fedallah tell Ahab that this will keep the ship from capsizing. Like all of Fedallah’s other predictions, Ahab also misinterprets this one. As Dr. C. mentioned, “capsize” signifies that a ship is overturned. The Pequod is not overturned but sinks straight down with its masts upright. It is interesting that “capsize” may come from from the Spanish “capuzar” which means to “sink a ship by the head” – maybe this is where Melville got this idea.

    No whales were harmed in the coronation of King Charles –

    Ambergris was used in the oil for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, but King Charles decided that no animal products would be in the oil used for his anointing.

    Are we becoming sperm whales?

    Ishmael’s description of the sperm whale head reminds me of someone walking with their head down looking at their cell phone. Just as the whale may need to multitask by processing what each eye is seeing separately, the person is also multitasking – and the distractions may lead them both to a “perplexity of volition”. In addition, the person presents a blank front to the world (i.e. the top of their head) and the constant looking downwards is causing people to develop a hump in their spine.

    O< O< O<


  4. Starbuck knows Ahab is insane yet he freely chooses to go along. Does he make this choice based on his Hamlet like indecision? Does he figure Ahab will die trying to get Moby Dick and that will be the end? How do you deal with a commander that is out of his mind? Starbuck’s dilemma is fascinating.

  5. More thoughts on The Virgin

    The triumph of the three Pequod harpooneers over Derick and his Jungfrau crew would undoubtedly be a popular lecture by the post-Pequod traveling Professor Ishmael. He would probably also include a harpoon throwing demonstration – because how could Ishmael resist not telling the audience everything he knows about whaling?

    The three harpoons whistling over Derick’s head would also be an epic scene in the much awaited Guillermo del Toro Moby Dick movie (from this podcast to the ear of a studio executive! – fingers crossed). How is it possible that no Moby Dick movie has shown this?

    Also – thank you for the excellent article on Moby Dick and the Wrath of Khan. Captain Kirk should have known better than to send Khan to a planet named Ceti (which could be a plural form of cetus).

    Finally – for listeners who want even more of Moby Dick, especially when read aboard a real whaling ship, the Mystic Seaport Moby Dick Marathon in Connecticut starts at noon on July 31 and ends at noon on Melville’s birthday August 1. There will be cake.

    O< O< O<


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