Which type is the big Squid in Moby-Dick?

MobyDick

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I read some news items on the web on the Colossal Squid, all saying that the species was first discovered in 1925 and that the new find is only the second capture of this squid at all (no article provides information on the first encounter).

I am wondering whether this could be the type of squid that is depicted by Herman Melville in chapter 59 of Moby-Dick, simply called "Squid." You can easily find the chapter online by using "Melville" and "Squid" as keywords. Going by the size of the squid being described in the chapter, I would guess that it must either be the Colossal or the Giant Squid. This should be of some interest to Melville scholarship, since it appears to me that not much scientific knowledge was available to Melville when he wrote the book, so if his description is accurate, he may have seen a Squid himself when he was whaling.

In chapter 59, the crew almost forgets Moby Dick, as they now gazed "at the most wondrous phenomenon which the secret seas have hitherto revealed to mankind. A vast pulpy mass, furlongs in length and breadth, of a glancing cream-color, lay floating on the water, innumerable long arms radiating from its centre, and curling and twisting like a nest of anacondas, as if blindly to clutch at any hapless object within reach."
 

Melissa

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Moby Dick, this is so exciting! and makes me want to reread Moby Dick. I named an enormous, deaf, white cat Moby after the whale. He never did answer.

The chapter describes whale egest including 20 foot arms!

"At times, when closely pursued, he will disgorge what are supposed to be the detached arms of the squid; some of them thus exhibited exceeding twenty and thirty feet in length."

Can Tintenfisch and Steve tell us whether squid arms have been found this way? Do whales vomit? :yuck:

Melissa
 

WhiteKiboko

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i believe the first confirmed knowledge of the giant squids came from whalers because in their death throes, the whales do indeed vomit up squid pieces.... i dont know if they do it other times.. but i think getting harpooned would probably make me lose my lunch too....
 

Tintenfisch

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Melissa said:
Do whales vomit? :yuck:
They do. Under duress of being harpooned / thrashing about in their death throes, sperm whales frequently disgorge their stomach contents, which have on many occasions included recently ingested giant squid (and possibly colossals) in reasonable condition.
 

Melissa

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Thank you both, White Kiboko and Tintenfisch.

WK is right, being stuck with a harpoon would make me sick too.

Melissa
 

Octomatt

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Don't whales vomit something called "Ambergriss" (pardon the spelling) that is actually used in some perfumes?

No kidding, a book I read in grade school made reference to this point, and it's always stuck with me. Anyone know for sure?

Octomatt
 

Clem

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It's true. Ambergris is a grey, waxy substance that forms in the gastro-intestinal tract of sperm whales (sometimes around clumps of squid beaks). It was used as a fixative in cosmetics. I don't know which end of the whale it comes out of.

Somebody around here will hopefully give you a better, more detailed explantion of the stuff's composition and function.

:yuck:
 

Melissa

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Matt,

Ambergris was used in perfumes, but I don't remember it being vomited. I don't think it is used this way any longer, but I'm unsure. There is a section of Moby Dick in which Melville describes flensing and other procedures, including a description of ambergris. I don't remember more but now I'm going back to the original to find it! You may get a more scientific answer, but I'll post where to look for the literary clues too.

Melissa
 

Melissa

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Here is a url for chapter 92 of Moby Dick,

http://www.literaturepage.com/read/mobydick-425.html

which describes ambergris and says

"Who would think, then, that such fine ladies and gentlemen should regale themselves with an essence found in the inglorious bowels of a sick whale! Yet so it is."

Matt, literature says you are right, and I'm going to keep looking for the vivid descriptions of blubber.

Melissa
 

MobyDick

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Talking about "a more scientific answer," Melissa, it seems that Melville's answers are just about as scientific as they could get in 1851. His information on whaling is usually correct.

The most important books about whales and whaling that Melville used as sources are discussed in Howard P. Vincent, The Trying-Out of Moby-Dick, still the major book on the subject despite being half a century old.
 



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