Which type is the big Squid in Moby-Dick?

WhiteKiboko

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i wasnt suggestung about the popularity of melville's work in his own time...i knew nothing about it.... i was merely trying to say that reading was a more integral part of culture... plus since it was fiction, it was for pleasure, and (at least in my mind) similar to what passes for pop culture today.... however this seems like a moot point since the forum was already renamed... :|
 

MobyDick

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But to get back to the issue, is there any clue in the chapter that Melville did write on a Colossal Squid? And how long have Giant Squid been identified?
 

Clem

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Moby,

There's little in Chapter 59, "Squid" to indicate which species of teuthid Ishmael and the crew of the Pequod observe. "A vast pulpy mass, furlongs in length" is all we get for measurements, and what measurements: a furlong is 1/8 of a mile, or 201 meters. The squid's color is described as being "a glancing cream-color," which may be said of any squid whose skin has been rubbed off. No details of the arms or tentacles are to be had, other than their being "innumerable" and prone to "curling and twisting like a nest of anacondas, as if blindly to clutch at any hapless object within reach." (That Melville/Ishmael makes no mention of a giant squid's dramatic eyes is peculiar. The mega-squid described must have lost them in whatever struggle deprived it of its skin and diving capability.) As for locale, the squid is spotted by Daggoo as the Pequod sails north-east towards Java (Indonesia) from the Crozet Islands, placing the encounter in the middle of the Indian Ocean. That's the right latitude for the giant squid (Architeuthis) but too far north of the known range of the colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis).

Melville/Ishmael cites the whalemen's belief that these mega-squid use their arms to root themselves "to the bed of the ocean; and that the sperm whale, unlike other species, is supplied with teeth in order to attack and tear it." The image of the squid as a benthic tree was likely suggested by the belief that the word "kraken" derived from an old Norwegian word for "uprooted tree." Some squid, such as Histioteuthis and Mastigoteuthis have been filmed "standing" on the sea-bed, but we've no reason to think that Architeuthis or Mesonychoteuthis make a habit of it. On the other hand, it's churlish to fault Melville for not getting it right. Moby Dick was published in 1851; Architeuthis was named (by Japetus Steenstrup) in 1856. 150 years later, we're still guessing about its habits, though the size issue has largely been resolved.

As for Melville's mile-wide squid, this exaggeration must have been a knowing one. Chapter 59 concludes with a brief acknowledgment of Bishop Erik Pontopiddan, who included kraken lore in his 1755 text Natural History of Norway. Melville/Ishmael correlates the Bishop's krake with the "white ghost" he observes, with the caveat that "much abatement is necessary with respect to the incredible bulk he assigns it." A squid "furlongs in length" obviously warrants some abatement itself, so I suspect that Melville was winking at Ishmael, suggesting that his narrator might not be entirely reliable.

:roll:

Clem
 

MobyDick

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Clem,

Thanks very much for your insights. That really clarifies matters for me. So kraken is just another word for squid, if I understand it right.
 

Clem

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Moby,

Kraken is just another word for "sea monsters." It's the plural of krake. Modern Norwegians use the word blekksprut to describe octopus and squid; kjempeblekksprut is a giant squid.

Kraken rolls off the English tongue nicely, though. If I'm ever menaced by a big squid in a Norwegian fjord, I'm not gonna waste time trying to pronounce kjempeblekksprut. I'm gonna yell Kraken.

:heee:

Clem
 

Tintenfisch

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We won't ask what you'd yell if you encountered a giant jellyfish. :)

In(k)identally, Germans also use the word Krake, mostly for octopus (though I have heard different definitions from different Germans), but also in the context of Riesenkrake, any enormous ceph (of necessity, mostly squid).

And blekksprut translates literally as 'ink-spitter.'

:mrgreen:
 

Clem

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Moby,

Would you happen to know where Melville's whaling trips took him to?

If we could figure out where he went when he crewed with whalers, we could at least eliminate some of the big species. It is just possible that Melville saw pieces of Mesonychoteuthis coughed out of a sperm-whale, since the colossal comprises a hefty percentage of physeter's squid intake. His chances would have improved had he sailed south of New Zealand, and his ship taken a sperm whale fresh from Antarctic seas.


Tintenfisch said:
And blekksprut translates literally as 'ink-spitter.'
I thought it meant "200kg squid falling onto a concrete floor."

:heee:

Clem
 

Tintenfisch

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Clem said:
I thought it meant "200kg squid falling onto a concrete floor."
There are words for this in several languages but unfortunately none are printable. ;)
 

MobyDick

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Great sighting of a white whale, tonmo. If you submit Moby Dick as a search term to Google News, one of the result news items contains a picture of this albino whale.

As for Melville's whaling route, he sailed on a whaler called the Acushnet. The most up-to-date research on this must be the first volume of Hershel Parker's biography Herman Melville (1819-1851), published in 1996. Parker also prints a list of the crewmembers, so I guess he must have tracked down the route as well.

I will borrow this book again when I find the time.
 

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