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Map of the voyage of the Pequod, during Captain Ahab's obsessive chase around the world.








'Moby-Dick;' or, 'The Whale' is an 1851 novel by American writer Herman Melville. The book is the sailor, Ishmael's, narrative of the obsessive quest of Ahab, Captain of the whaling ship Pequod, for revenge on Moby Dick, the giant albino (white) sperm whale that on the ship's previous voyage bit off Ahab's leg at the knee.


A contribution to the literature of the American Renaissance, Moby-Dick was published to mixed reviews, was a commercial failure, and was out of print at the time of the author's death in 1891. The writer has given one and a half of the best creative years of his life to developing this story. Melville was devastated.


Its reputation as a "Great American Novel" was established only in the 20th century, after the centennial of its author's birth. William Faulkner said he wished he had written the book himself, and D. H. Lawrence called it "one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world" and "the greatest book of the sea ever written".


Its opening sentence, "Call me Ishmael", is among world literature's most famous.

Melville began writing Moby-Dick in February 1850, and finished 18 months later, a year longer than he had anticipated. Melville drew on his experience as a common sailor from 1841 to 1844, including several years on whalers, and on wide reading in whaling literature, with a passion for collecting accounts of real whale sinkings - of which there were several reports.


The white whale is modeled on the notoriously hard-to-catch albino whale Mocha Dick, and the book's ending is based on the sinking of the whaleship Essex in 1820, where the bull sperm whale in that account smashed the rowing boats and slapped its tail as a weapon to dispatch the whalers who had been throwing harpoons, so disarming them in an intelligent manner, that would have got the sailors thinking they'd met a devil adversary.


The book inspired Warner Brothers to make a film with John Barrymore in 1930, followed by another production with Gregory Peck in 1956. Plus a couple of TV series. The book partly inspired Jameson Hunter to develop a story where a humpback whale is pushed to retaliating. Hence this website.


The sinking of the Essex was made into a film in 2015, featuring cannibalism, one of the taboos that kept the story from being told as a movie for so long. This film is very true to life as far as the attack on the whaling ship. It is not overly dramatised, but rather plays the event down, such that audiences are left feeling wanting - rather like the sailors must have felt when they were forced to abandon ship.






Herman Melville





Melville's literary influences most obviously include Shakespeare and the Bible, thus incorporating both Biblical and Shakespearian phraseology. The detailed and realistic descriptions of whale hunting and of extracting whale oil, as well as life aboard ship among a culturally diverse crew, are mixed with exploration of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of God. As one might expect from a middle class man forced to work on ships to support his family.


In addition to narrative prose, Melville uses styles and literary devices ranging from songs, poetry, and catalogs to Shakespearean stage directions, soliloquies, and asides. It is the stage directions that struck us as being script like and very effective.


In August 1850, with the manuscript perhaps half finished, he met Nathaniel Hawthorne and was deeply moved by his Mosses from an Old Manse, which he compared to Shakespeare in its cosmic ambitions. This encounter may have inspired him to revise and expand Moby-Dick, which is dedicated to Hawthorne, "in token of my admiration for his genius".






The book was first published (in three volumes) as The Whale in London in October 1851, and under its definitive title in a single-volume edition in New York in November.


The London publisher, Richard Bentley, censored or changed sensitive passages; Melville made revisions as well, including a last-minute change to the title for the New York edition and an extra chapter to explain how it came to be that Ishmael survived to tell the tale.


The whale, however, appears in the text of both editions as "Moby Dick", without the hyphen. Reviewers in Britain were largely favorable, though some objected that the tale seemed to be told by a narrator who perished with the ship, as the British edition lacked the Epilogue recounting Ishmael's survival - hence the revision. American reviewers were more hostile. About 3,200 copies of the book were sold during the author's life.




Though not a re-telling of the classic tale, in that the protagonist John Storm is trying to save Kulo Luna, the $Billion Dollar Whale, the concept of a whale sinking a whaling ship is at the heart of the Jameson Hunter story development, such that it may please readers who are familiar with the original work of Herman Melville.







'Call me Ishmael.' So begins Herman Melville's masterpiece, one of the greatest works of imagination in literary history. As Ishmael is drawn into Captain Ahab's obsessive quest to slay the white whale Moby-Dick, he finds himself engaged in a metaphysical struggle between good and evil. More than just a novel of adventure, more than an paean to whaling lore and legend, Moby-Dick is a haunting social commentary, populated by some of the most enduring characters in literature; the crew of the Pequod, from stern, Quaker First Mate Starbuck, to the tattooed Polynesian harpooner Queequeg, are a vision of the world in microcosm, the pinnacle of Melville's lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humour, Moby-Dick is a profound, poetic inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.






















Shard Protest

51° 30' N, 0° 7' 5.1312'' W

Chapter 1

Arctic Melt

580 W, 750 N

Chapter 4

Sydney Australia

330 S, 1510 E

Chapter 6

Bat Cave

330 20’S, 1520 E

Chapter 8

Whale Sanctuary

200 N, 1600 W

Chapter 10


330 N, 1290 E

Chapter 13

Solar Race

200 N, 1600 W

Chapter 14

Darwin to Adelaide

130 S, 1310 E – 350 S, 1380 E

Chapter 15

Six Pack

200 N, 1600 W

Chapter 16

Whaling Chase

240 N, 1410 E

Chapter 20

Empty Ocean

200  N, 1600 E  (middle of Pacific)

Chapter 24

Billion Dollar Whale

250 N, 1250 E

Chapter 26

Rash Move

140 N, 1800 E

Chapter 27

Off Course

150 N, 1550 E

Chapter 28

Shark Attack

100 N, 1650 E

Chapter 29

Sick Whale

100 N, 1650 E

Chapter 30

Medical SOS

100 N, 1650 E

Chapter 31

Whale Nurse

100 N, 1650 E

Chapter 33

Storm Clouds

150 S, 1550 E

Chapter 34

The Coral Sea

150 S, 1570 E

Chapter 36

Plastic Island

20 S, 1600

Chapter 39

Media Hounds

170 S, 1780E

Chapter 40

Breach of Contract

200 S, 1520 E

Chapter 42

Fraser Island

250 S, 1530 E

Chapter 43


250 S, 1530 E
















The graphic novel translation of Kulo Luna, omits many of the above chapters (in grey) entirely, and condenses others, aiming for a lively visual read. The length of Moby Dick is one reason for it's commercial failure, generating umpteen concise editions - and even those can be daunting. A gentler way of getting into Herman Melville's Mob-Dick is via one of the many graphic novel versions that are now in print, numbering at least six as we write.









Scene 1

Climate Change (optional)

1st Chapter

Scene 2

Sydney Australia

Scene 3

Bat Cave

Scene 4

Aleutian Islands

Scene 5





Scene 6

Solar Boat Race

2nd Chapter

Scene 7

Darwin to Adelaide

Scene 8

Six Pack




Scene 9

Whaling Chase

3rd Chapter

Scene 10

Empty Ocean

Scene 11

$Billion Dollar Whale

Scene 12

Rash Move




Scene 13

Off Course

4th Chapter

Scene 14

Shark Attack

Scene 15

Sick Whale

Scene 16

Medical SOS

Scene 17

Whale Nurse




Scene 18

Storm Clouds

5th Chapter

Scene 19

The Coral Sea

Scene 20

Plastic Island

Scene 21

Media Hounds

Scene 22

Breach of Contract (optional)

Scene 23

Fraser Island

Scene 24










The revenge of a whale or an accidental tragedy? A dramatic retelling of the story that inspired Herman Melville's classic novel will be hitting our screens on BBC One this Sunday - but do whales really attack humans intentionally?

Sperm whales are relatively placid mammals and very few incidents in modern times suggest otherwise. They mainly feed on squid and rarely attack, apparently only when mistaking other mammals for seals or prey.

In his 1839 book about the natural history of sperm whales, Thomas Beale, a surgeon aboard a whaleship, described them as "a most timid and inoffensive animal readily endeavouring to escape from the slightest thing which bears an unusual appearance".

But Dr Richard Bevan, a zoologist and lecturer at Newcastle University, suggests that a sperm whale may remember if it was previously attacked.

"I have no doubt that an individual would remember being harpooned and might respond aggressively if it thought that it was threatened," he said.

"On the other hand a large vessel like a whaling boat would probably look like a very large threat, even to a full grown sperm whale, so I'd have thought it more likely to have moved away."

But 19th century literature seems to suggest otherwise, with numerous stories of sperm whales attacking ships on purpose. But were they fuelled by threat, hunger or, as in Melville's classic novel, even revenge?




Whale Oil - Used to lubricate machinery and provide illumination by burning it in lamps.

Spermaceti Oil - Found in the skull. Prized and highly regarded oil. Waxy and commonly used in making candles. Candles made of spermaceti were considered the best in the world, producing a bright clear flame without an excess of smoke.

Baleen - A bone-like substance used in women's corsets, hairbrushes, buggy whops, collar stays and various other products. Sometimes called the 'plastic of the 1800's'.

Ambergris - Found in the bowels. Extremely rare and valuable, worth its weight in gold. Used as a perfume fixative, and was a profitable business for colonial exports.



In 1820, a giant sperm whale, apparently 85 feet long (the average is 50ft) attacked a whaleship named the Essex, causing her to sink. Her crew were left adrift in three whaleboats (lighter boats used in the capture of whales) thousands of miles from land.

Alone in the middle of the Pacific Ocean the men had to decide whether to head for the nearest islands, a thousand miles downwind to the west, or set out on an epic journey of almost three thousand miles to reach the South American mainland.

Fear of cannibals forced them to choose South America, but they never made it.

Of the 21 crew members aboard The Essex, just eight members of the crew were rescued after more than 80 days at sea; with an incredible tale of starvation, dehydration and unfathomable, mortal desperation to tell.

Two members of the crew wrote accounts of the failed voyage. First mate Owen Chase's account was a widely circulated story of the time, published just months after his return home. The other, written by cabin boy Thomas Nickerson 50 years later, was not published, but, remarkably, was discovered in an attic in 1960, 80 years after Nickerson's death.

Their accounts differ in places, but what is indisputable is that they both recall exactly how their supposedly "lucky" ship sank. It was stove by a giant whale.

Herman Melville heard this story, met with the captain of the Essex and was inspired to write his classic novel Moby Dick.





Moby Dick was actually named after a real whale, Mocha Dick, first spotted by sailors in the 19th century near the island of Mocha, near southern Chile. Whales were often given pet names by sailors, Tom and Dick were common - though there are no accounts of a Harry.

Mocha Dick was an albino whale, described by explorer Jerimiah N Reynolds as "an old bull whale of prodigious size and strength… white as wool". Legend has it that it killed 30 men and was covered in scars and punctured with spears from previous attempts to harpoon it; before eventually being slaughtered in 1838.

Sometimes described as Leviathans, sperm whales truly are creatures of mythical proportions. They have the largest teeth of any whale and live to be more than 60 years old. They can dive deeper than any other sea mammal (around 3km) in order to catch their favourite deep sea food, the elusive squid.

But it is the fact that they have the largest brains on Earth, ones that are more complex - in certain ways - than those of humans, that is perhaps most surprising. Their cerebral cortex is much more convoluted than the human cortex, and they are social creatures with strong bonds, staying in stable social groupings and keeping constant companions throughout their lifespan.

Dr Lindy Weilgart, a research associate in the department of biology at Dalhousie University in Canada, believes that in order "to remember all their complex social relationships (families, more distantly related kin, non-related group members), they require a good memory".

In fact, remembering traumatic past incidents could well have been the trigger for the whale that rammed the Essex.

"Briefly, I do believe a sperm whale is capable of the aggression necessary to attack a ship, especially a mother if her young was threatened," Dr Weilgart says.

"I know whalers in general often harpooned calves but kept them alive so as to attract the rest of the family group which came in aid of the calf."

"They then harpooned those adults", she says, a practice that was "particularly cruel".





However, Dr Bevan suggests that while "the cetaceans do have large brains… this is linked to their ability to process sound rather than being linked to what we regard as intelligence".

Whether they can feel emotions like vengeance, is in dispute. It is possible that the whale changed course underwater at the last minute and unwittingly collided with the ship.

Dr Per Berggren, a lecturer in marine science at Newcastle University and specialist in marine mammals, believes this to be nearer the truth.

"It is perhaps more likely that the ship accidentally hit the whale and sustained a leak large enough to sink the vessel."

But what is remarkable in the case of the Essex sinking, is that the whale came back to strike a second time.

First Mate, Owen Chase recalled: "I turned around and saw him… directly ahead of us, coming down with twice his ordinary speed… with ten-fold fury and vengeance in his aspect.

"The surf flew in all directions about him with the continual violent thrashing of his tail. His head about half out of the water, and in that way he came upon us, and again struck the ship.

"The ship brought up as suddenly and violently as if she had struck a rock and trembled for a few minutes like a leaf."





Latest research shows that whales are self-aware, sentient and more intelligent than previously thought. They can feel pain and suffering and therefore potentially a level of cognitive function; it is also now thought they can even experience feelings of love.

Sperm whales do not have many predators, killer whales (orcas) are known to have attacked sperm whales and occasionally sharks; but since the early 1700s by and large the most serious predator of sperm whales has been homo sapiens.

Whaling in the 19th century was a lucrative business as whale oil became immensely valuable for lighting oil lamps and making candles and soaps. More than 900 whaleships were out to sea in the mid-1800s, hailing mainly from American ports, with an average voyage length of three or four years.

By the mid 19th century, whale numbers were depleting rapidly. But with the discovery of petroleum in Pennsylvania in 1859, the American whaling industry had almost completely disappeared by the start of World War I.





Whale hunting is now illegal in most parts of the world (though still practised by some nations such as Norway and Japan) and concerns about the welfare of whales in captivity are currently making waves in the news.

The documentary film Blackfish, about an orca in captivity at SeaWorld Orlando that was involved in several deaths, has recently caused controversy for the theme park. The documentary suggests that keeping the whales in captivity may be causing them to behave psychotically.

Acts including Willie Nelson and Barenaked Ladies have recently cancelled performances at the park in the wake of the film's release. But SeaWorld has issued a detailed rebuttal of claims in the film.

When First Mate Starbuck declares to Captain Ahab that "Moby Dick seeks thee not. It is thou, thou, that madly seekest him!" it's likely he was telling an awful and haunting truth.

Whether or not the sperm whale that attacked the whaleship Essex on the night of 20 November 1820 did so on purpose, we will never know. But the fascinating and undying rumour of his revenge certainly lives on.

The Whale was shown on BBC One on Sunday 22nd December 2013 at 9pm.


By Rebecca Coxon - BBC History






THE ESSEX - This three-masted ship was made from white oak, especially known for its strength, measuring 87 feet (26.5 metres) and just 239 tons displacement. There were 21 men on board, including first-time captain, George Pollard, Jr.

On the 20th November 1820, a huge male sperm whale was spotted close to the ship. It was estimated to be 85 feet long where a typical male was no bigger than 65 feet.

The whale may have thought that the ship was another whale invading its territory. Whatever its reason, the whale began speeding toward the Essex, ramming the port side. After passing under the ship, the animal resurfaced and appeared stunned. It then resumed its attack “with tenfold fury and vengeance,” striking the bow and causing catastrophic damage before disappearing.

The Essex capsized. The crew rowed for land, many of whom were cannnibalized by the others over an 89 day voyage. Only two survived.

First Mate Owen Chase wrote: 'Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-ship Essex' in 1821. Thomas Nickerson, a cabin boy on the Essex, later wrote his account of the sinking and rescue, but the notebook was lost and not published until 1984. Chase's work inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, published in 1851.





 - A very expensive waxy substance found in sperm whale intestines

Ann Alexander - A whaling ship rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in 1851

Arrowhead - One of Herman Melville's homes, now a monument to the writer

Bartleby the Scrivener -

Benito Cereno - Spanish slave ship revolt

Berkshire Historical Society - Based at Arrowhead

Bildad - Retired captain and half owner of the Pequod

Billy Budd - A Royal Navy sailor is wrongly accused of mutiny and court martialled

Blubber - The skin of a whale typically reduced to oil

Bulkington - A sailor in the Spounter Inn and Pequod crew member

Captain Ahab - The obsessive commander of the Pequod

Captain Boomer - Commands the Samuel Enderby of London

Captain Gardiner -

Card Game - Moby Dick adaptation using cards, dice and tokens

Carpenter - A member of the Pequod's crew

Cleaner Ocean Foundation - a not for profit conservation & research organisation

Chapel - New Bedford

CNN - 200 years old yet Moby Dick is very 2019 by David Shaerf

Cock A Doodle Doo! -

Daggoo - African harpooneer

Daily Mail Online - October 2013, Two films shipwrecked crew cannibals, Essex 1820

Dollars - Spanish pieces of eight

Doubloons - Originally a gold coin from Spain, but also from Portugal and Equador 

Dough Boy - The Pequod's ship's steward

Elijah - Dockside preacher

Elizabeth Shaw - Wife of Herman Melville from August 1847

Elizabeth Swann - Clean queen of the seas

Encantadas, The -

English Heritage - 25 Craven St, Charing Cross, London, WC2N 5NT, Westminster City

Essex - 1821 real life sinking of a whaling ship

Father Mapple -

Fedallah - Harpooneer and guru

Films - 1926 The Sea Beast, silent movie Warner Bros, John Barrymore

        - 1930 Moby Dick, Vitaphone & Warner Brothers movie, John Barrymore

        - 1956 Moby Dick, Warner Brothers & MGM's  Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab

        - 2010 Moby Dick Asylum movie production, monster sinks a modern battleship

       - 2015In the Heart of the Sea, sinking of the Essex, starring Chris Hemsworth

Flask- Third mate on the Pequod, nicknamed 'King Post'

Gaff - A large hook on a stick for landing whales

Guardian, The - 6 reasons why Moby Dick is a novel of our times

Guardian, The - Top 100 novels Jan 2014: Moby Dick (17)

Harpoons - Hand held and explosive weapons for whaling

Herman Melville - Quotes

Independent, The - Book reviews: In Northern Waters by Ian McGuire 2016

International Whaling Commission - IWC

Ishmael - Narrator of Moby Dick: "Call me Ishmael"

Israel Potter - Fifty Years of Exile

Jeremiah N. Reynolds - Published account of Mocha Dick

Kraken - The, deep sea monsters thought to be real by sailors

Kulo Luna - An ocean awareness campaign in graphic novel form

Lansingburgh Historical Society - Guardians of Melville's New York home

Lansingburgh, Troy - Herman Melville's New York home, Renssalaer County

Leviathan - An exceptionally large whale

Longboats - The boats used by whalers to chase and harpoon whales

Manxman - Pequod's oldest crew member from the Isle of Man

Mardi - And a voyage thither, Pacific Ocean sailing adventures (fiction)

Migaloo - Australian white humpback whale

Moby Dick - A fictional bull sperm whale based on Mocha Dick - Free to Read Online

Moby-Dick - Graphic novels, easy read classic comics

Moby Dick - Illustrated children's book by Moppet Kinderguides

Mocha Dick - A real life old bull sperm whale, The White Whale of the Pacific

Mystic Seaport - A Connecticut museum about the history of sailing and the location

Nantucket, Massachusetts - Whaling county

Nathaniel Hawthorne - Writer and friend of Herman Melville

New Bedford, Massachusetts - The Whaling Museum

New York Times - Celebrating 200 years of Herman Melville obituary

New Zealand Tom - A sperm whale also known as NZ Jack

Omoo - Herman Melville's Adventures in the South Seas

Owen Chase - First Mate's account (1821) of the Essex sinking 1820

Paradise of Batchelors and the Tartarus of Maids -

PBS - The life of Herman Melville, American Public Broadcasting Service

Peleg - Captain (retired) half owner of the Pequod

Pequod, The - Captain Ahab's ship

Peter Coffin -

Piazza Tales, The - Collection of short stories by Herman Melville

Pierre Glendinning - The Ambiguities

Pip - The cabin boy

Poetry Foundation - Herman Melville, Poet

Pulpit -

Queequeg - Harponeer aboard the Pequod

Quohog - Large edible chowder clam

Quotes - Herman Melville's

Redburn - His first voyage from New York to Liverpool, England

Rorqual - Baleen whales with pleated throats that expand for catching krill and fish

Sermon - Father Mapple

Ships Carpenter -

Sperm Oil - A superior lubricant and illuminant

Sperm Whales - Mocha Dick, Timor Tom

Spermaceti - A waxy substance found in sperm whale heads

Spouter Inn - A public house in New Bedford

Starbuck - First Mate on the Pequod

Stubb - Pequod's 2nd mate

Tashtego - Harpooneer aboard the Pequod

Television Mini Series - 1998 American Zoetrope & Nine Network Australia, Patrick Stewart

                               - 2011 TV mini-series by Tele München Gruppe, William Hurt

The Bell Tower - Piazza Tales short story

The Confidence Man - Mississippi river steamboat trip to New Orleans

The Lightning Rod Man - Piazza Tales short stories collection

The Melville Society -

The Piazza - One of the 'Tales' short story collection

Thomas Beale - Sketch of a South Sea Whaling Voyage 1839

Thomas Nickerson - Cabin boy on the Essex in 1820

Timor Tim - A famous whale also known as Timor Tom and Timor Jack

Typee - A peep at Polynesian life among the cannibals where humans are food


Vava’u - Kingdom of Tonga, whale watching area

Vitaphone - A film company involved in an early production of Moby Dick

Whalers - Whaling sailors and ships

Whales - Blue, Gray, Minke, Killer, Humpback, Right, Sperm

Whaling History - Online data resource: Mystic Seaport & New Bedford Museum

White Jacket - USS Neversink Naval Frigate man of war 1843

White whale of the Pacific Ocean - Mocha Dick

William B Whitecar - Four Years Aboard the Whaleship 1864


Yankees -






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