Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wednesday Search Challenge (Nov 2, 2011): How much did you understand when you first read Moby Dick?

If you're like me, you probably read Moby Dick at some point in your life.  Maybe in high school, maybe for general reading later on in life.  Regardless of when you read it, you probably have a pretty good mental image of the story, right?  Captain Ahab and the search for the great white whale... maybe something about the inherent qualities of mankind, some ideas about man vs. nature, madness and a bunch of characters, the likes of which would never enter a Starbucks, but would prefer their grog on the open sea.  

Whenever it was that you read Moby Dick, how much of it did you understand?  Let's test your level of understanding:  You know what a right-whale is, you probably remember the difference between a top-sail and a stun-sail, and you remember the characters of Starbuck, Queequeg and Ishmael, right? 

Bu what about the ship itself?  Most of the book takes place aboard ship, and in some ways it's as memorable a character as the people.  

So let's see if you can answer this question:  

     Captain Ahab's ship had a very strange design
     that made the upper deck seem like a whale's mouth. 
     What was it that made this striking appearance?  

Tomorrow I'll talk about how I figured this out, and how you might do the same. 

By the way... If you're enjoying these weekly search challenges, you might ALSO enjoy where I run a daily version of these search problems.  

Search on! 


  1. Knowing that the ship was called the Pequod, searching that name turned up the Wikipedia page for the ship, including a quote: The bulwarks of the Pequod were adorned with the teeth of sperm whales.

  2. It's been years since I've read Moby Dick and couldn't remember how to spell Pequod (in my head I had two e's). So first step for me was to search for captain ahab's ship. Pequod popped up and then another google search for pequod upper deck. That brought up a lot of Upper Deck baseball card hits. Changed my search to simply pequod. And the Wikipedia link came up on top.

    In the description section this appears "she has been ornately decorated, even to the whale teeth set into the railing that now resemble an open jaw."

  3. I had to look up the name of the ship, but then the wikipedia article made it easy.

  4. In addition to the teeth serving as pins for the ropes, don't forget that the ship's tiller was carved from the lower jaw of a sperm whale:

  5. Chapter 16: She was a thing of trophies. A cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies. All round, her unpanelled, open bulwarks were garnished like one continuous jaw, with the long sharp teeth of the Sperm Whale, inserted there for pins, to fasten her old hempen thews and tendons to. Those thews ran not through base blocks of land wood, but deftly travelled over sheaves of sea-ivory. Scorning a turnstile wheel at her reverend helm, she sported there a tiller; and that tiller was in one mass, curiously carved from the long narrow lower jaw of her hereditary foe.

    Google search "Pequod whale ship"

  6. google: "ahab ship deck plan"
    led me to: (study guide)
    I searched on site for "deck" but found nothing worthwhile.

    Further down the Google results:

    "The Pequod is an older ship that has already been on a lot of whaling voyages. It has a lot of character, and is decorated with sea-ivory – whalebone and teeth."

  7. first i searched "captain ahab ship" since i never read Moby dick.

    I found that link:

    i found the name of the boat: the Pequod.

    Then i searched

    "The Pequod descrition Moby Dick"

    Then the wikipedia link...