Moby Dick (1956)

115-116 mins | Adventure, Drama | 30 June 1956

Director:

John Huston

Producer:

John Huston

Cinematographer:

Oswald Morris

Editor:

Russell Lloyd

Production Designer:

Ralph Brinton
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HISTORY

The title card reads: “Herman Melville’s Moby Dick .” John Huston’s onscreen director credit reads: “Produced and directed by John Huston who wishes to express his sincere thanks to The Mystic Seaport Marine Historical Association, The Old Dartmouth Historical Society, The British Institute of Oceanography and the Whalermen of Madeira for the great help they gave.” The voice-over narration of Richard Basehart, who portrays “Ishmael,” is heard intermittently throughout the film. After the opening credits, Basehart’s narration begins with the famous opening words from Melville’s novel: “Call me Ishmael.”
       Although modern editions of Melville’s work, which is now considered a classic of American literature, are titled simply Moby Dick , the original 1851 edition was called Moby-Dick; or: The Whale . Warner Bros. had made three previous films based on the book, two starring John Barrymore as “Capt. Ahab." The 1926 silent film, The Sea Beast , was directed by Millard Webb, and a 1930 production, Moby Dick , was directed by Lloyd Bacon. The studio also made a German-language version of the 1930 film entitled Dämon des Meeres , which was directed by Michael Curtiz and starred Wilhelm Dieterle and Lissy Arna (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ). These films portrayed Ahab competing with a duplicitous brother for the hand of a minister’s daughter and settling down happily with the woman after killing both the whale and his brother. Also, unlike the 1956 film, those films explored Ahab’s first encounter with Moby Dick, when the whale “crippled him in mind and body.”
       In a Nov 1955 LAT ... More Less

The title card reads: “Herman Melville’s Moby Dick .” John Huston’s onscreen director credit reads: “Produced and directed by John Huston who wishes to express his sincere thanks to The Mystic Seaport Marine Historical Association, The Old Dartmouth Historical Society, The British Institute of Oceanography and the Whalermen of Madeira for the great help they gave.” The voice-over narration of Richard Basehart, who portrays “Ishmael,” is heard intermittently throughout the film. After the opening credits, Basehart’s narration begins with the famous opening words from Melville’s novel: “Call me Ishmael.”
       Although modern editions of Melville’s work, which is now considered a classic of American literature, are titled simply Moby Dick , the original 1851 edition was called Moby-Dick; or: The Whale . Warner Bros. had made three previous films based on the book, two starring John Barrymore as “Capt. Ahab." The 1926 silent film, The Sea Beast , was directed by Millard Webb, and a 1930 production, Moby Dick , was directed by Lloyd Bacon. The studio also made a German-language version of the 1930 film entitled Dämon des Meeres , which was directed by Michael Curtiz and starred Wilhelm Dieterle and Lissy Arna (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ). These films portrayed Ahab competing with a duplicitous brother for the hand of a minister’s daughter and settling down happily with the woman after killing both the whale and his brother. Also, unlike the 1956 film, those films explored Ahab’s first encounter with Moby Dick, when the whale “crippled him in mind and body.”
       In a Nov 1955 LAT article, Huston stated that he tried to make the film “very faithful to the spirit of Melville’s novel.” In the 1956 version, Ahab has no romantic interest and women appear briefly only in the New Bedford sequences near the beginning of the film. Although Huston’s intention, according to a Sep 1946 LAT news item, was for the script to follow the book more closely, the story had to be telescoped and condensed into two hours, thus he eliminated the character “Fedallah,” who was Ahab’s servant in the book, and merged the character with that of “Queequeg.” The film's sequence in which Ishmael convinces Queequeg not to commit suicide by reminding him of the promise he gave of lasting friendship is not in the book. As noted in the SatRev review, in the film, Queequeg’s coffin was built at his request, because he had a sense of foreboding. In the book, however, it was built because Queequeg was near death from a fever. According to a modern source, Huston placed the final battle between Ahab and the whale at Bikini Atoll, where, in the 1950s, a century after the novel's setting, the atomic bomb was tested. According to the source, there is no evidence in the book that Melville’s story was set at that location.
       Huston's Moby Dick had a long production history: In Sep 1946, according to the LAT news item, Warner Bros. announced that Henry Blanke would produce a new version of Moby Dick using Huston’s screenplay. According to modern sources, Warner Bros. agreed to the film on the stipulation that a “big name” was cast in the lead role. A Mar 1949 DV news item announced that Errol Flynn was being considered as the “successor” to Barrymore for the role of Ahab, and also named Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster, John Wayne and Gregory Peck as being under consideration. A Feb 1952 HR news item reported that Marlon Brando would star, and a Mar 1954 NYT news item reported that Montgomery Clift was interested in the role of Ishmael. According to Sep 1946 and Nov 1955 LAT news items, Huston’s personal choice for that role had been his father Walter, who died in 1950.
       Warner Bros. failed to re-register the title and temporarily dropped plans to make the film upon learning that six other companies had priority over Warner Bros. for the property, a Jun 1953 Var news item later reported. Dec 1952 news items announced that Warner Bros. would release the production being financed by Eliot Hyman, who also backed Huston’s 1953 Moulin Rouge (See Entry). According to modern sources, brothers Harold and Marvin Mirisch also put up money from Moulin Rouge profits and Warner Bros. agreed to provide money in return for worldwide distribution rights. News items announced at this time that Peck had been cast as Ahab and that shooting would begin in France in 1953. A Jul 1953 HR news item reported that Marvin Mirisch, vice-president of Moulin Productions, announced that production on the film would begin in 1953 in England. In Feb 1954, the involvement in the film of Associated British Pictures was announced by Alfred Crown, Moulin’s president, in a HR news item.
       A Sep 1953 DV news item announced that science fiction and fantasy writer Ray Bradbury would write the screenplay and that his family would sail to Europe where he would work on the script with Huston. According to a modern source, Bradbury and Huston met after Bradbury, an admirer of Huston’s films, sent an inscribed copy of his book The Martian Chronicles to Huston, who then discussed the idea of filming that story. Huston and Bradbury continued to correspond, and Bradbury would send copies of his newly published works. When Huston offered Bradbury the opportunity to write the script for Moby Dick , the author had approximately twelve hours to decide whether to write what would be his first screenplay. The modern source adds that Bradbury, after consenting, read the book for the first time on the sea voyage—he had a fear of flying—during which he experienced a hurricane.
       Both Bradbury and Huston are credited onscreen with the screenplay. A modern source adds that Roald Dahl and John Raymond Godley, Lord Kilbracken, did some reworking of the script. According to a modern source, Huston considered Kilbracken, who was his neighbor in Ireland and not an actor, for the role of Ishmael and a Dec 1953 Var news item reported that Kilbracken was planning to come to Hollywood for a screen test. Modern sources report that Kilbracken played one of the sailors in the film and was Basehart’s stand-in at one point during the production.
       According to a Nov 1955 DV article, shooting of background material began in late spring 1954. A Sep 1956 AmCin article reported that location shooting began in Jul 1954 in Youghal, Ireland, the town used to portray New Bedford, MA, where the harbor departure sequences were filmed. According to an Aug 1954 NYT article, the town’s “rundown” harbor had to be dredged to allow the ship used as the story’s Pequod to be able to enter. Fishing sequences were shot off the coast of Fishguard, Wales, according to various contemporary sources. According to contemporary news items, English actors and Welsh and Madeira Island fishermen played the whalers.
       The actor and Austrian count Frederich Ledebur, who, according to modern sources, was a fellow sportsman and friend of Huston, appeared in the film as “Queequeg.” Modern sources state that Ledebur was not told beforehand that his head would be shaved for the role. A modern source adds that Ledebur’s wife, Iris Tree, appeared in the film as the woman who gives Bibles to the sailors.
       The Var review misspells Ledebur’s character name as “Queenqueg” and, in the cast, erroneously lists “Peter Coffin as Tavern Owner.” The character “Peter Coffin” was the owner of the “Spouter Inn” tavern, and was played by actor Joseph Tomelty, whose name was omitted from the Var cast list. Although a Jun 1954 HR news item reported that Robert Morley was cast, he did not appear in the picture. A Mar 1954 NYT article reported that James Hayter was cast as “Flask” and that Francis de Wolff would play Peter Coffin; however, de Wolff was cast in the film as “Capt. Gardiner,” Dublin drama critic Seamus Kelly portrayed “Flask,” and Hayter did not appear in the film.
       A modern source adds Arthur Mullard and A. L. Bert Lloyd to the cast. Modern sources also add the following people to the crew: Alfred Kirschner ( post-synchronization director ), Ernst Haas ( stills photographer ); Bob Penn ( stills and publicity photographer ), Jean-Pierre Steimer ( assistant editor ), Jeanie Sims ( Huston’s production assistant ), and Lorrie Sherwood ( Huston’s secretary ).
       In Oct 1954, Var and NYT articles announced that bad weather and cast injuries had caused shooting delays. To these problems, a modern source adds that damage to the ship serving as the Pequod also caused delays, and the schedule was set back by three months. Moulin Productions increased the budget by $1,000,000 to extend players’ contracts and allow the troupe to move to a warmer area off the coast of Madeira, Spain, where background shots had already been filmed. A Jun 1956 LAT article reported that whaling sequences and much of the storm sequences were shot there. A Nov 1954 Var news item reported that, because scenes to be filmed called for several cast members to be immersed in the ocean for long periods, the company would instead film in waters off of South Africa. No other mention of this location has been found. According to several contemporary articles and news items, final winter shooting was completed in the waters around Las Palmas, Canary Islands. A Mar 1955 NYT article reported that the filming of the sequences during which the whale was killed and Ishmael floats on the coffin were shot there.
       Despite Huston’s wish to film everything at sea, the company then moved to Elstree studios for its final few weeks shooting close-up action sequences. There, a replica of the Pequod ’s deck was built and, according to the AmCin article, cameras were hung from the studio roof, where they were swung to get the motion of a ship in a storm. The sequence of Ahab lashed to the whale was shot in a tank in the studio and the interior of the whalemen’s chapel, in which actor Orson Welles as “Father Mapple” appears, were also shot at Elstree.
       For the ship Pequod , Huston found a one-hundred-year-old, three-masted, topsail schooner, the Rylands , at Scarborough, England. According to a Dec 1954 NYT article, the ship, which was then being used as a tourist attraction, had served as the Hispaniola in the 1950 Disney film Treasure Island (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). In the 1800s, the Rylands carried coal and other goods from Newcastle to other parts of the British Isles. In keeping with Melville’s novel, Huston had the ship refitted with a tiller made from the skull of a killer whale and a jawbone of a sperm whale. While the actors and crew filmed topside, a crew of real sailors, captained by Allan Villiers, controlled the ship from below.
       The whale “Moby Dick” was an 85-foot-long, steel-reinforced, rubberized construction, according to a Mar 1955 LAT article, which added that a partial whale was constructed for the close-up scenes shot at Elstree. According to modern sources, even though two full models were made, costing approximately $30,000 each, both were lost at sea during shooting, necessitating a third to be built for the sequences shot in the Canary Islands. Modern sources add that another near-disaster happened when the towline of the third whale broke during filming and sailed into a fog with Peck on its back. According to the LAT article, during filming Peck, who did not use a double, injured his kneecap, Basehart broke his ankle while jumping into a longboat and British actor Leo Genn, who portrayed “Starbuck” in the film, slipped a disk and caught pneumonia before shooting had finished.
       According to the AmCin article, Huston and director of photographer Oswald Morris agreed that “an orthodox modern [color] style would be at odds with the film’s period mood and subject matter.” Morris was quoted as saying that “what we wanted was something which suggested that this is how the film would have been shot if it could have been made in 1840—a classic color style to match a classic original.” To accomplish their vision, according to Warner Bros. studio production notes, the film was shot in Technicolor from which two negatives were made, a color and a black-and-white. The final print was made from the two negatives superimposed over each other.
       The article added that, according to Morris, the process had been done for books and magazines, but never before for film, and it “toned down” the Technicolor to achieve a 19th century look and a certain mood. Although a Feb 1954 HR news item reported that there were plans to film in CinemaScope, and the HR review and Colliers article listed the film as a CinemaScope production, the process was not credited onscreen. The MPH review stated that the film “was not photographed expressly for wide screen exhibition” and the distributor was recommending that “it be shown with an aspect ratio no greater than 1.75 to 1.”
       The NYT review “devoutly recommended [ Moby Dick ] as one of the great motion pictures of our time” and the MPH review considered “Ahab” one of the best performances of Peck’s career. Comparing Peck’s Ahab with Barrymore’s, the HR review reported, “whereas Barrymore enacted the role with fiery hatred and a certain amount of swashbuckling, Peck plays it more in a brooding smoldering vein, but none the less intensely and dynamically.” Peck, who appeared in the film bearded and wearing a tall hat, was often compared with Abraham Lincoln in reviews. The NYT review described him as “towering, gaunt…markedly Lincolnesque,” but the Var review criticized that “the star not infrequently suggests a melancholy Abe Lincoln."
       Other reviewers found Peck’s performance lacking, such as a Nov 1956 Film and Filming , which criticized that “the handicap of being too young for Ahab undermines our belief [in Peck’s performance].” Huston, in his autobiography, felt that contemporary audiences were expecting an Ahab like Barrymore’s and predicted that “the next generation will appreciate it more than the last.”
       In his autobiography, Huston wrote that Moby Dick was “the most difficult picture I ever made.” The film cost over $4.5 million and took three years to produce, which, as pointed out by a modern source, was longer than Ahab’s quest for the whale. Although the New York Film Critics and the Motion Picture National Board of Review each cited Huston as Best Director for that year, the film was a box-office disappointment.
       In 1954, NBC-TV broadcast a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, Moby Dick , which was produced and directed by Albert McCleery and starred Victor Jory and Hugh O'Brian. In 1998, Franc Roddam directed a television film, Moby Dick , starring Patrick Stewart and Henry Thomas, and featuring Peck as “Father Mapple.” Although a 2001 Fox News online site reported that Brian Helgeland had written a screenplay of Moby Dick , in which he intended to cast actors from his 2001 film, A Knight’s Tale , as of Jun 2005 that project had not come to fruition.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Sep 56
pp. 534-35, 555-56.
Box Office
30 Jun 56
p. 16.
Box Office
7 Jul 1956.
---
Colliers
4 Mar 1955
pp. 70-73.
Daily Variety
31 Mar 1949.
---
Daily Variety
3 Dec 1952.
---
Daily Variety
2 Sep 1953.
---
Daily Variety
27 Jan 1955.
---
Daily Variety
3 Nov 1955
p. 3.
Daily Variety
27 Jun 56
p. 3.
Film Daily
27 Jun 56
p. 6.
Films and Filming
Nov 1956
p. 23.
Hollywood Magazine
Jul 1956.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 1952
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 1952.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 1954.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jun 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 1954.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1954
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 1954
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jan 1955
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 56
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jul 1956
p. 9.
Life
25 Jun 1956.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
16 Oct 1955
p. 14.
Los Angeles Examiner
3 Jul 1956.
---
Los Angeles Mirror
3 Jul 1956.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Sep 1946.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Mar 1955
Part IV, p. 1, 3.
Los Angeles Times
27 Nov 1955.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Jun 1956.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Jul 1956
Part I, p. 12.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
7 Jul 56
p. 963.
New York Times
28 Mar 1954.
---
New York Times
15 Aug 1954.
---
New York Times
24 Oct 1954.
---
New York Times
5 Dec 1954.
---
New York Times
6 Mar 1955.
---
New York Times
5 Jul 56
p. 18.
New Yorker
14 Jul 1956.
---
Saturday Review
9 Jun 1956.
---
Variety
17 Jun 1953.
---
Variety
30 Dec 1953.
---
Variety
20 Oct 1954.
---
Variety
24 Oct 1954.
---
Variety
17 Nov 1954.
---
Variety
27 Jun 56
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
Asst dir, Spanish speaking
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp
Cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup created by
Chief hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv on whaling
Prod mgr
Casting dir
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col style created by
Col style created by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Moby-Dick
or: The Whale by Herman Melville (New York, 1851).
SONGS
"Ribs and Terrors in the Whale," words by Herman Melville, music by Philip Sainton
various sea chanteys, traditional, arranged by Philip Sainton and Louis Levy.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Herman Melville's Moby Dick
Release Date:
30 June 1956
Premiere Information:
New Bedford, MA opening: 27 June 1956
Los Angeles opening: 2 July 1956
New York opening: 4 July 1956
Production Date:
15 July 1954--early March 1955 at Associated British Picture Corp. Studios, Elstree, England
Copyright Claimant:
Moulin Productions, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
30 June 1956
Copyright Number:
LP8642
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
gauge
1.75:1
Duration(in mins):
115-116
Length(in reels):
12
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17465
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1841, merchant sailor Ishmael, having spent too much time on land, restlessly heads for the sea and arrives in New Bedford. At the Spouter Inn run by Peter Coffin, he takes a room after agreeing to share a bed with a harpooner. Coffin informs Ishmael that he needs “permission” to go whaling and, Stubb, another sailor, explains that the sea belongs to the men of New Bedford. When asked if he disputes this claim, Ishmael answers no and so is accepted by the other sailors. Through the window, Ishmael sees a lone man with a peg leg and is told that the man is Capt. Ahab. Later, after Ishmael is in bed, a man carrying a harpoon enters, sets down a human head, and takes off his hat and clothes, revealing a bald head and elaborate body tattoos. When the man, Queequeg, realizes the bed is not empty, he threatens to kill Ishmael. Responding to Ishmael’s frantic call for help, Coffin comes in and calms them. Although Ishmael now realizes that his bedmate is a cannibal, he decides, “better a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian” and settles in for the night. The next day, Ishmael attends service at the “whalemen’s chapel,” where the walls are lined with tombstones of local men lost at sea. The reverend, Father Mapple, climbs a rope ladder to a pulpit built like the bow of a ship and preaches a stirring sermon to the sailors and their families about Jonah and the whale. Afterward, Ishmael finds Queequeg in their room, fascinated by the many pages of his books. The exotic man, whose father was ... +


In 1841, merchant sailor Ishmael, having spent too much time on land, restlessly heads for the sea and arrives in New Bedford. At the Spouter Inn run by Peter Coffin, he takes a room after agreeing to share a bed with a harpooner. Coffin informs Ishmael that he needs “permission” to go whaling and, Stubb, another sailor, explains that the sea belongs to the men of New Bedford. When asked if he disputes this claim, Ishmael answers no and so is accepted by the other sailors. Through the window, Ishmael sees a lone man with a peg leg and is told that the man is Capt. Ahab. Later, after Ishmael is in bed, a man carrying a harpoon enters, sets down a human head, and takes off his hat and clothes, revealing a bald head and elaborate body tattoos. When the man, Queequeg, realizes the bed is not empty, he threatens to kill Ishmael. Responding to Ishmael’s frantic call for help, Coffin comes in and calms them. Although Ishmael now realizes that his bedmate is a cannibal, he decides, “better a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian” and settles in for the night. The next day, Ishmael attends service at the “whalemen’s chapel,” where the walls are lined with tombstones of local men lost at sea. The reverend, Father Mapple, climbs a rope ladder to a pulpit built like the bow of a ship and preaches a stirring sermon to the sailors and their families about Jonah and the whale. Afterward, Ishmael finds Queequeg in their room, fascinated by the many pages of his books. The exotic man, whose father was an island king, tells Ishmael how he stowed away on a passing ship many years ago and vows to be Ishmael’s lifelong friend. The next day, they choose to sail together on the Pequod , the ship captained by Ahab. Quakers Peleg and Bildad, who represent the ship owners, hire Ishmael, but are at first reluctant to sign on the heathen. Queequeg demonstrates his prowess with the harpoon by shooting a keg, thus proving his usefulness, as an expert harpooner is vital to the success of catching whales. Later, at the harbor, Ishmael and Queequeg encounter Elijah, a raggedy man who tries to warn them about the danger of sailing with Ahab. When the sailors take no heed of him, Elijah foretells that, on the day their shipmates smell land where there is none, Ahab will go to his grave, then “rise within the hour” and beckon, after which “all, save one, will follow.” Leaving their women behind, the Pequod departs on a three-year voyage with a crew from all over the world. Starbuck, the first mate, is reliable, courageous and wise. The jolly Stubb is the second mate. For many days, Ahab remains in seclusion, coming out only at night to walk the deck. Then, one day, he emerges, nails a Spanish doubloon to the mast and explains that the first crewman to spot a certain white whale, called Moby Dick, will be rewarded with it. When Starbuck asks if Moby Dick was the whale that took his leg, Ahab says, “It tore my soul and body until they bled into each other.” Following an old sailors’ custom, Ahab rouses the crew to vow to chase the whale across the world until they kill it. When a whale is spotted, the shipmates ride out in longboats to harpoon the first capture of the voyage. They boil its blubber to oil, which will later be sold for profit. Ahab shows Starbuck a logbook containing the knowledge of many old whalers, which notes times and places various types of whales were sighted. Although Starbuck realizes the logbook can be used to track down whales “in record time,” thus increasing the ship’s profits, Ahab explains that their “bigger business,” that of killing Moby Dick must be their priority. Reckoning by the logbook, Ahab expects that the whale will be in the area of Bikini Island in April and plans to meet him there. Knowing that the men stand behind Ahab, Starbuck makes no plans to oppose him, but believes that killing an animal in vengeance is blasphemous. Ahab orders the ship south, where the crewmen soon encounter a school of whales. The men are busy capturing one, when a ship approaches, its captain having recently lost a hand to Moby Dick. Confirming through the captain that his nemesis is heading toward Bikini, Ahab orders his men to cut loose their prey, so that they lose no time in pursuing Moby Dick. Forced to sacrifice the potential profit from the school of whales and fearing God’s wrath, Starbuck suggests to Stubb and the other mates that they mutiny, but gives up when the men remain loyal to Ahab. At Bikini, eager to be the first to spot the whale, a lookout falls into the sea and his body is lost. The death seems like a bad omen for the men, who wait many days for the whale in hot sun and windless sea. While divining with bones, Queequeg foretells his own death and instructs the ship’s carpenter to build a waterproof coffin. He then takes up a trance-like position and waits to die. Although Ishmael tries to convince him to eat, Queequeg remains still, prompting Ishmael to remind him of his oath of lasting friendship. When, in mischief, a sailor cuts patterns on Queequeg’s chest with a knife, Queequeg makes no move, but Ishmael fights to stop the man. Seeing his friend in danger, Queequeg comes to Ishmael’s aid, just as Moby Dick is spotted in the distance. As there is no wind, Ahab orders that longboats tow the ship toward the whale. When the whale outpaces them, Ahab announces that he will give the crew his ten percent profit in the voyage when Moby Dick is dead. The ship Rachel , which lost a longboat full of sailors in a bout with the whale, sails nearby. Capt. Gardiner, whose twelve-year-old son is on the missing longboat, asks for the Pequod ’s help in finding the men, but Ahab refuses, unwilling to deter from his quest. The sailors of both ships are shocked by this breach of mariner etiquette, but Ahab entrances his men with a speech that revives the Pequod crew’s fervor to catch the whale. Later, the crew risks their lives fighting a typhoon, but Ahab considers its wind “heaven-sent” and orders the men not to drop the sails. In fear of capsizing, Starbuck prepares to chop the sails’ ropes, prompting Ahab to threaten to kill him. The spear Ahab holds glows green from St. Elmo’s fire and the crew watches in awe. Soon the typhoon dissipates and the crewmen, except for Starbuck, marvel that Ahab “called the typhoon’s bluff” and “grabbed St. Elmo’s fire by the tail.” As the day turns sunny and mild, Starbuck struggles with his conscience whether to shoot Ahab with a pistol, but when he finds he is unable to pull the trigger, Ahab explains that they are “tied together,” their mission “immutably decreed.” The sailors then smell land, reminding Ishmael of Elijah’s prophecy. Seeing Moby Dick in the distance, Ahab and the crew row out to meet him. The sailors harpoon the whale, which pitches, causing the boats to overturn. Grabbing the harpoon ropes, Ahab climbs onto the whale’s back and, with his spear, jabs at the whale. In retaliation, Moby Dick dives underwater and remains there. When the animal emerges, the drowned Ahab, entangled in the ropes, seems to beckon to the sailors as his arm flails in the sea. Stubb and the other sailors admit defeat, but Starbuck now feels compelled to kill the whale and orders them forward. Moby Dick, however, overturns the longboats and jumps over them, crushing the men with his tail. He then swims to the ship, crashing into it, beating it until it sinks. The airtight coffin of Queequeg emerges from the bits of the ship and Ishmael, the only survivor, takes refuge on it. There he lies until the Rachel , still in search of its longboat, rescues him.

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