Wednesday, September 14, 2022

SearchResearch Challenge (9/14/22): Can you find the characters from Moby Dick in other places?

 Some names are distinctive... 

... if you hear names like Captain Ahab, Starbuck, or Queequeg, your mind immediately opens the Moby Dick chapter, and you're transported to the epic battle on the high seas between Ahab and the white whale.  

But at the same time, one wonders in what OTHER works those names have appeared.  This isn't totally crazy--some characters appear in more than one work of fiction.  Merlin, the wizard, appears in scores of books, as do other fictional characters from history.  

Having a character with a distinctive name (Starbuck, Queequeg) might be seen as a direct allusion to the earlier work.  For such uncommon names this is probably intentional, but if you're a writer, you want to be sure to not accidentally use a name that has overtones and allusory power of which you're blind.   

So... this makes me wonder how often these names from Moby Dick appear as characters in other works of fiction. Let's assume this cross-pollination is intentional.   

1. Can you find a way to identify other major works of fiction (leaving out fan-fiction for the moment) in which the names of "Starbuck" and "Queequeg" appear (either independently or together)?  

I've found a way to do this that I believe does a pretty good job of finding the answer to this Challenge.  Big hint: My method is pretty non-obvious, so I hope you'll stick around for the solution in next week's big reveal!  

Search on! 


  1. having failed, I await next week… (I tried all the 'oblivious' methods I could think of… btw, where is the breaching print from?)
    wailing while pseudo-whaling…
    "The Pequod meets The Goney, a ship named for the enormous white bird, the albatross. Ahab bellows out to ask if they’d encountered the white whale Moby Dick, but The Goney, speeds away from The Pequod “at the first mere mention of the White Whale’s name.”"
    …one thing led to another… & the query remained elusive as the white minnow…
    Rockwell Kent - see pg.141
    much diversion
    Barry Moser
    B. Moser, Moby - Cmd-F; Queequeg & Starbuck
    the joe tie…
    Starbuck, the Quaker
    Kokovoko, Queequeg
    Queequeg's Coffin - a couple "Es" & he could have been coffee too
    fwiw —
    no whales about… did you attend?
    another diversion

    1. I love Rockwell Kent and Barry Moser's works. Nice find. Nice analogies.

    2. The rocket sled photos are of John Stapp, reputedly the uncle of one of my high school friends. We had Physics together.

      Those photos are in a book entitled Mathematics from the Life Science Library. My mother gave me that inspiring book when I was about 13 and it set me on my path. Thanks for reminding. I incorporated the book into a talk I gave and a woman in the audience told me she had the exact same experience.

  2. I am searching and the first issue is avoid getting so much results about the famous franchise. I even tried wit ["Starbuck" "Queequeg" ] and adding |

    Then thought about movies in general and Disney's characters. And tried the word cameo.

    With that I found Starbuck in Galactica and also a connection with the coffee franchise. One article even mentions that they wanted to use ship name as name but St names works better.

    I know cameo is a different thing. Not what we are looking for.

    Another idea to try is N-gram. The problem is that we will get all Starbuck. That is as name, not just character.

    Also thinking in using, for example: [Starbuck -Starbucks character fiction works ] I guess that will show Moby Dick. So, maybe adding - Moby Dick

    1. With [Queequeg name used in other novel ]

      Wikipedia Queequeg's article. (Posted by Remmij.) In Cultural references mentions were name has been used too

    2. Today, related to novels, found that Freelancer was a retrospective term introduced in Ivanhoe. A novel by Walter Scott, published in 1819. Source: Susie Dent's book.

    3. Interesting and not related to Challenge. However, related to books, traditions and the passing of Queen Elizabeth.

      Today, I read that bees were informed. In a tradition of centuries.

      Searched for the book [Telling the Bees and Other Customs] and more links provided

  3. I'm not looking this up just yet, since I'm kind of busy today. But, as I read "Moby Dick" a couple of times a few years ago and did a lot of reading into that book at the time, I'll share a few things I did learn about it then, along with sources I used just now to double-check these points. It's not strictly relevant to the search query, but it seems interesting to me, plus I thought it might interest you:

    * Ishmael and Ahab are from the Bible. (Other sources: and
    * Starbuck was the basis of the coffee chain "Starbucks." (Other source:
    * The whale "Moby Dick" was inspired in part by Mocha Dick, a famous albino sperm whale who regularly eluded whalers until he ran into one ship too many. (Current sources: and . As well, you can read this public domain narrative of when that whale was finally caught:
    * The sinking of the Pequod was based on the sinking of the whaler Essex, which was rammed by a sperm whale one day while it was whaling. (The version of that narrative that Melville used is in the public domain, and can be found at Project Gutenberg, though there's a more recent version that's under copyright. That, or you could watch "In the Heart of the Sea," since it's about that doomed ship, the whale ramming incident, and how the crew survived.)

    There was a lot of hammering going on when the whale rammed the Essex (which Melville copied when he wrote about Moby Dick turning and ramming the Pequod), plus sperm whale communication has several sounds, such as knocking and clicking ( So, for all anyone knows, their hammering might have been a threat or an insult to the whale.

  4. I tried searching for “Queequeg” using Google Books but could not figure out how to restrict the search to fiction only and to exclude the original work, Moby Dick.

  5. have you seen Dan's tip sheet on operators?… tried the following, little success, but a few amusing finds & interpretations…
    whalers, what can one do… can't live with them, can't harpoon them…
    used [Queequeg -moby dick -nonfiction], got this:
    attempted minus operator SERP…
    Dan's sheet - Google Advanced Search Operators
    mopey dick - ha… wait, that could be self-descriptive
    not the Queequeg we were looking for…
    Queequeg’s arm

    1. Hi Remmij. Thanks for Dr. Russell 's sheet. That one is new for me. And it's very helpful.

      I think we need to search with [Queequeg -"moby dick" -nonfiction]

      I am probably wrong but with yours you eliminate from searching moby and nonfiction not the famous novel.

      Btw, just read that Herman Melville, was famous in his day with Typee. This because people wonder how he lived among cannibals.

    2. Thank you for reminding me of the operators. I do have that sheet.

      I wonder if the search engine knows that –moby dick means to exclude that particular book and if it can distinguish a work of fiction from one of non-fiction. Some of your results seem to be satirical, but still fiction so I suppose they fit the challenge.

      I tried searching Google Books for another name “Claire Randall” and got some interesting results. Some were as expected, some a bit odd. For example:

      “It was so hard to stay patient with Claire. Randall was much better…” [quotation marks mine]
      “What do you mean, Claire?” Randall demanded… [ quotation marks in text]
      “Eau Claire's Randall Park neighborhood…” [quotation marks mine]

      I have been taught that quotation marks are used if and only if a phrase/sentence is verbatim. Since I don’t speak Latin, I consulted the OED which told me that verbatim means “using exactly the same words as in the original; in the exact words.” By that definition, the first two seem legitimate, but I would not consider the third to be a match because it contains the extra letter s, not the same word.

  6. After reading what others had written (Mathlady's tactic of using Google Books was one I had not thought of before, so thanks), I decided to try this on my own.

    * Search term: fiction intext:queequeg - By looking at the SERP, I saw that that name had appeared in both "Aquaman" (comics) and "Futurama."
    * Search term: fiction intext:starbuck - By looking at the SERP, I saw that that name had appeared in "Battlestar Galactica" (Lieutenant Starbuck), "The Starbuck Chronicles" (historical fiction series), and, by clicking on a link there (to the Broadway play "The Rainmaker."
    * Search term: fiction intext:starbuck - Results (on the SERP) were irrelevant to what I was searching for.

    At this point, I switched from Google to Google Books, and repeated the first search
    * Search term: fiction intext:queequeg) - The results were all from "Moby Dick," so I decided to modify it.
    * Search term: fiction -"Moby Dick" -"Melville" intext:queequeg - I found a few more results (including in a 2006 science fiction anthology), though most of them were related to "Moby Dick"

    At this point, I returned to Google and continued my search (while opening Google up in a separate tab to look up promising things I found on the SERP):
    * Search term: fiction -"Moby Dick" -"Melville" -"Ishmael" -"Ahab" intext:queequeg - I got better results, and saw that the name appeared in the novel "Stations of the Nightmare," book 11 of the series "A Series of Unfortunate Events," and the science fiction anthology "Up the Bright River."
    * Search term: fiction -"Moby Dick" -"Melville" -"Ishmael" -"Ahab" intext:starbuck - The results were similar to the ones before, though I saw that another name for "The Starbuck Chronicles" was "The Nathaniel Starbuck Chronicles."
    * Search term: books OR tv OR movies fiction -"Moby Dick" -"Melville" -"Ishmael" -"Ahab" intext:starbuck - I found out about the "Luke Starbuck" series, the "Shawn Starbuck" series, and the 2011 movie "Starbuck" (the name refers to the main character's pseudonym), along with the other results I'd listed.
    * Search term: books OR tv OR movies fiction -"Moby Dick" -"Melville" -"Ishmael" -"Ahab" intext:queequeg - The results appeared to be the same as before.

    Search terms I used for this:
    * intext:, with the name immediately after that (no space), to tell the search engine "look in the text for this word." (I put it at the end.) Using this was the main one.
    * Quote marks around exact titles (e.g. "Moby Dick") and names (e.g. "Ishmael"), to tell it to search for that exactly as written. This helped narrow my results down, to be more useful for my purposes.
    * The NOT operator (- in Google) and the OR operator. This helped narrow my results down, to be more useful for my purposes.

    Using them all together gave me even more relevant results for the question Dan posed.

    1. Great results. I originally intended to extend your successful strategies to the issue of Starbuck and Queequeg appearing together in a work of fiction. First, I tried to replicate your results.

      [fiction intext:queequeg]

      yielded non-fiction works such as Encyclopedia Britannica and a character analysis of Queequeg. Non-fiction reviews can list fiction works even if the fiction works are not exactly found. Results were not necessarily fictional, but about fiction. Aha! Now I know what “fiction” in the query really means.

      Using [wikipedia queeqeg] and [wikipedia starbuck] gave your results and maybe a few additional ones.

      [fiction -"Moby Dick" -"Melville" -"Ishmael" -"Ahab" intext:queequeg intext:starbuck]

      started off with numerous crossword clues. The names of Moby Dick’s characters must be common crossword solutions. The query resulted in few relevant results. How do I know if there are things out there that I am not finding?

      I did learn that Dana Scully’s childhood nickname was Starbuck and she had a dog named Queequeg. After he met a tragic end, Agent Scully used “Queequeg” in her email address and the password for her home alarm system.

      Interesting, but irrelevant: There is a Mount Queequeg in Antarctica.

      Google Books, which has been an invaluable research tool for me so many times, did not appear to be so useful here, which seems ironic because many of the desired results would be books.

    2. Mathlady: Good points about the sources those results appeared in (though I was only looking at the SERP). And, I guess I should've gone further down the list of results (it doesn't do much good to have 50 results there if I don't look at most or all of them), to see if there were others, like you did. Had I done so, I would've also noticed what you pointed out, namely that Queequeg and Starbuck also appeared in "The X-Files."

      Too, that was an interesting point about how Mt. Queequeg is in Antarctica. So, I did some looking and found out that there's a glacier in Antarctica named after "Moby Dick's" Starbuck ( I kind of doubt there are any Starbucks there--though, if there were, I imagine they would have excellent iced coffee.

    3. I found going through the results of these searches somewhat tedious. It was difficult for me to cull the relevant matches. I wanted an orderly list, so I tried prefacing some of our searches with “list of” and the results were not what I wanted. I got a list of works by Anthony Starbuck, etc. I’m guessing that we have not yet found Dr. Russell’s “non-obvious” method. I have high hopes for that.

      Also irrelevant, there is a glacier and station in Antarctica with my grandmother’s family name. If you have any interest in Antarctica, check out Mikolaj Golachowski. Great scientist, greater human being.

    4. Agreed on how it would be tedious. (More Starbucks, please?)

      Your idea of prefacing the search with "list of" seemed intriguing, so I tried it. And, after tweaking it a couple of times (list of characters named "Starbuck" "Queequeg" -"Moby Dick" -"Melville"), I got some promising results after looking through the entire SERP's first page (thanks again for the reminder): Though it still featured "Moby Dick" characters, I also saw references to "Battlestar Galactica," "The X-Files," and "Aquaman."

      So, I modified it further based on using both "list of" and the intext: operator (list of characters -"Moby Dick" -"Melville" -"Ishmael" -"Ahab" intext:("Starbuck" OR "Queequeg")), and got even better results, including two "Battlestar Galactica" characters with the callsign Starbuck, a character in the Vonnegut novel "Jailbird," a character in the puzzle game series "Professor Layton," "The Starbuck Chronicles," a character from the first "Mad Max" movie, a character from the "Lone Star" series, and an NBC detective show called "J.J. Starbuck." It wasn't complete (there was no mention of "The X-Files"), but it was longer than before.

      I had only gotten results for Starbuck, so I removed that and searched for just Queequeg (list of characters -"Moby Dick" -"Melville" -"Ishmael" -"Ahab" intext:Queequeg). And, I got the following results: A villain from "Aquaman," a character from the TV series "Voltron," a character in "Age of the Dragons" (which was a fantasy based on "Moby Dick"), a dog in "The X-Files," a "Metal Gear Solid" character, a submarine in "The Grim Grotto" (book 11 of the series "A Series of Unfortunate Events" / listed in season 3 of that TV series), and a minor character in the game "Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge."

      Were either of these complete? I doubt it. But, they gave the best results I'd gotten so far. And, I'm looking forward to the technique Dan shares.

      The scientist you mentioned (Mikolaj Golachowski) seems like a really interesting person, and like a book about his time in Antarctica and studying elephant seals would be a must-read. I also found out that the station he was stationed at (Henryk Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station) was named after a Polish meteorologist who came up with the concept of wind chill, who has several places in Antarctica named after him, and who has a medal awarded by the National Academy of Sciences named after him. Too, he fortunately left Poland in 1939 for a conference in the U.S. before Germany and the USSR invaded, so he missed out on the subsequent Nazi occupation (and the Soviet one that followed). Sadly, though, he was never able to return home.

    5. Found without a search engine: Some time ago someone gave me a paper and ink book, The Science of the X-Files. I looked in the index and found an entry for “Queequeg”. I found a reference for “sweet little Queequeg in ‘Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose’”. Then I resorted to an online search and it appears the epithet “sweet” was a bit of irony and Queequeg’s sad end was perhaps poetic justice.

    6. I not only enjoy the specifics of an sRs challenge, but I like the unexpected things & directions that bubble up…
      there is the "chaff from the wheat" thing, but the road less taken, or seen, is engaging too… causes less silo thinking…
      how many ants can I count at the insectary during this multi-year, covid funds, funded study…? it's making me want to cry uncle…
      far ant
      not aunts
      mulling tedium while in a snit

      Q was a dog…"dog, Queequeg, who didn’t last even a season in The X-Files universe before he was eaten by a creature during an investigation …"
      X - Repose
      ant trail —
      "" "Scully had called her father "Ahab" and he had called her "Starbuck."
      fwiw, R.I.P. - "Queequeg was tragically killed and eaten by an alligator in 1996." & Peter Boyle – one of the greats
      was it science or REAL science?

    7. bone tag
      "In 2018, Scully's password to deactivate her house alarm is revealed to be Queequeg."
      moments before the plesiosaur-like creature encounter? or a white gator?… ambiguity
      "Despite having been aware of the potential craziness that a dog being killed on television would probably elicit in viewer response, The X-Files' team of writer/producers have since joked that they brought Queequeg back in "Quagmire" just so they could have him be killed in a grisly fashion." as the South Park crew might say — ' they killed Queequeg - those bastards'

    8. mateojose1 - I never thought of using list of characters- brilliant! I suppose I was thinking of the SERP as a list of sources but it is really the characters we are wanting to identify. Actually, the challenge asks us to find works of fiction but the characters seem to lead to that discovery.

      I was privileged to spend two weeks (virtually) with Miko last year and he is one of my heroes. Not just as a scientist but the reverence he has for the animals and the land he studies. He told us about the horrors of the whaling industry and then that there are whales alive today who remember it and they forgive us as their fellow mammals. Miko took us on a tour of the Arktowski station. He has been going to Antarctica for 20+ years.

      A famous chef did a show from there. It does have a coffee house.

      Not totally off topic since Antarctica and the Southern Ocean have come up in previous challenges.

    9. I thought it was 's Euro/GB HQ… am easily confused
      enjoyed the piece by Bourdain… such a waste, but he must have believed it was time…
      "“It is no short hop to Antarctica, and no easy thing to see it the way it should be seen. The last un-fucked-up place on Earth.”"
      short & long questions

      Golachowski, whales post
      Trophic cascades
      mortality play

    10. remmij - That’s the book. According to the author’s web site: “I am a writer, editor, scientist, and teacher. I began my professional life as an astrophysicist and mathematician, teaching astronomy at Michigan State University and Cornell University, and working in the Astronaut Training Division at NASA's Johnson Space Center.”

      Her Facebook page contains some gardening advice: “When you bury a body cover it with endangered plants so it’s illegal to dig it up.”

      And a joke: “A man walks up to a librarian and asks, ‘Do you have any books on Pavlov’s dogs and Schrodinger’s cat?’ The librarian replied, ‘It rings a bell, but I’m not sure if it’s here or not.’”

      She looks like someone I should get to know better.

    11. clever humor — thanks - led to a new reading list? and database… (btw, I used dwarf mistletoe, poor choice)
      science book a day
      math girls… leave it to the Japanese
      Jeanne Cavelos
      wonder where this one is headed?…
      "ANOTHER APPEAL FOR HELP: I'm also looking for more experts in the fields of biotech, genetics, embryology, and obstetrics. If you're willing to answer various novel-related questions, please contact me."
      The Internet Speculative Fiction Database
      …not on the ground, nor suitable for actual dwarfs — WK?

    12. Here is the ultimate “math girl”.

      Barbie Katherine accompanied me to a math conference. She was a big hit. After my talk, several attendees took photos of her. I told them, “Barbie used to have a convertible and a boyfriend. Now she has a good job.”

    13. instructional & inspirational…
      Newport News, Va., precise trajectories,2016 -“Hidden Figures”
      “I couldn’t wait to get to high school to take algebra and geometry,” Mrs. Johnson told The Associated Press in 1999.
      "summa cum laude in 1937 with a double major in mathematics and French"

      Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility

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  8. off subject, for mathlady
    at the bottom - Sample questions from the GCHQ maths entrance test
    example, all very British… written by David BOND
    "Q2 — 353, 46, 618, 30, 877, 235, 98, 24, 107, 188, 673 are successive large powers of an integer x modulo a 3-digit prime p. Find x and p (without using a computer)."

    1. I’ve never really studied number theory but – this one seems hard. I computed the differences between the consecutive powers and looked for a pattern or commonality, considering whether the change was positive or negative. Then I thought of the number of three-digit primes and seemed daunted. On second glance, if I understand the problem, p > 877. A little better.

      Thanks, but I don’t think I’ll be applying for a position there.

  9. I have a general comment about this challenge. Since I mostly didn’t know what I was doing and got a lot of results with extraneous and irrelevant information, knowing to use the CTRL F key was a great help in finding the good stuff. That might seem obvious to most of you but I didn't know about it until a few years ago.

  10. Good morning everyone,

    I’m replying to the original post due to the fact that I didn’t redo my search based on the Wikidata hint.

    I initially searched for various combinations of [find character name fiction] or [search character books fiction]. Many of the suggestions refer to how to find a book title when you don’t remember the name such as “I know the cover was green and it had someone named Hagrid.” Those suggestions are great when looking
    for a specific title but not so much looking for a list of other works with the same character name.

    One result pointed out that a tool we have repeatedly used in the past has an advanced search with a ‘character’ operator - WorldCat

    Drilling down with the parameters of their Fiction Finder gave me the results of 207 books with a character named Starbuck
    A problem arose when I tried to search for a character named [Queequeg]. It returned zero results. Not even Moby Dick. That’s when I realized that it worked from summaries of the books and not the entire text.

    Rethinking about a new strategy, I went back to previous challenges we had looking for database search strategies. Google Public Data Explorer wasn’t helpful. Neither was this post “SearchResearch
    (11/4/20): Looking for data? Here are 3 Google data set sources

    This distracted me to just how many challenges have been about “Moby Dick