Chapters 101, 102, 103, 104, and 105 “The Decanter”; “A Bower in the Arsacides”; “Measurement of the Whale’s Skeleton”; “The Fossil Whale”; “Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish?”
Ishmael spends some time describing whaling history and anatomy. Samuel Enderby was the name of the whaling firm that fitted the first English sperm whale ship in 1775. Their ships are extremely well made, but New England whalers were on the seas by 1726. Once Ishmael dissected a whale so he knows them from the inside out. Even more important was his experience with Tranquo, king of Tranque, one of the Arsacides. This king made a temple of a whole whale skeleton, filled with trees inside the bones and vines and flowers. The whale was deified as their “weaver god” who wove life and death. Excavations world-wide have shown whales have been here since prehistoric times, and they are so mighty that it is not likely they will become extinct from over-hunting like the buffalo.
Analysis Chapters 101, 102, 103, 104, and 105
Tranquo’s temple of the whale skeleton to the “weaver god” combines the imagery of life and death, the constant dual nature of life at sea. The natives’ whale god is deaf, so there is no appeal to it, as Ahab has no appeal to Moby Dick in meeting his fate. Ishmael concludes that “the whole world is the whale’s,” and he is “king of creation” (104.452); therefore, there is no worry of hunting him to extinction. He has always been there and always will be. This is of course a tragic misprediction, as many species of whale became endangered and neared extinction as hunting techniques became more sophisticated.