by Herman Melville


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486432151
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 08/29/2003
Series: Dover Thrift Editions
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 316,084
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)
Age Range: 11 Years

About the Author

Herman Melville (1819–1891) found early success with stories inspired by his adventures in the South Seas. His fortunes declined with the 1851 publication of Moby-Dick, now recognized as a masterpiece but scorned by Melville's contemporaries. The author was obliged to work as a New York City customs inspector and died in obscurity, three decades before the critical reassessment of his work.

Date of Birth:

August 1, 1819

Date of Death:

September 28, 1891

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

New York, New York


Attended the Albany Academy in Albany, New York, until age 15

Read an Excerpt

Call me Ishmael. This resonant opening of Moby-Dick, the greatest novel in American literature, announces the narrator, Herman Melville, as he with a measure of slyness thought of himself. In the Scriptures Ishmael, a wild man sired by the overwhelming patriarch Abraham, was nevertheless the bastard son of a serving girl Hagar. The author himself was the offspring of two distinguished American families, the Melvilles of Boston and the Gansevoorts of Albany.

Melville's father cast something of a blight on the family escutcheon by his tendency to bankruptcy which passed down to his son. Dollars damn me, the son was to say over and over. When he sat down in the green landscape of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to compose Moby-Dick he was in debt, the father of one son, and another to be born a few days after the publication of the novel in England.

Melville had published five novels previous to Moby-Dick; the first two did well, and then with the capriciousness of the public the subsequent novels failed to please. He was a known literary figure with a fading reputation. How he came upon the courage to undertake the challenging creation of the epical battle between a sea creature, a white whale called Moby Dick, and an old captain from Nantucket by the name of Ahab is one of literature's triumphant mysteries. Add to that, as one reads, that he was only thirty-two years old.

Ten years before, in 1841, he had signed up as a common seaman on the whaling vessel Acushnet bound for the South Seas. Young Ishmael was drawn by the lure of the sea and by the wonder of the whale itself, the Leviathan, the monarch of the deep, "one grand hooded phantom, like asnow hill in the air." Until the discovery of petroleum oil in 1859 and Thomas Edison's invention of the incandescent lamp in 1879, whaling was a major commercial occupation in New England. Fortunes were made, grand houses were built, often with a "widow's walk" on the roof that testified to the great dangers of the enterprise. For the crew, service on a whaler was a drastic life of unremitting labor; foul, crowded quarters; bad food in scanty servings; contractual terms for years at miserable wages; brutalized companions picked up from all the ports of the world; tyrannical captains practicing a "sultanism" which Melville abhorred. A ship afloat is after all a prison. Melville was on three whalers in his four years at sea and from each, as we read in Typee and Omoo, the struggle is to escape, as he did when the boats anchored near exotic islands. He wrote about the misery of the whaling life, but not about whaling itself until he came to Moby-Dick. His imaginary whaler, the Pequod, death bound as it is, would be called, for an ordinary seaman, an agreeable berth. Ahab has no interest left beyond his internal struggle with one whale.

Still, there is whaling, the presumption of it. When a whale is sighted small boats are detached from the main vessel and the men engage in a deadly battle to try to match, with flying harpoons, the whale's immense strength and desperation. If the great thing is captured, the deck of the main ship becomes an abattoir of blood and guts. The thick blubber is to be stripped, the huge head to be drained of its oils for soothing ambergris, for candles; the bones of the carcass make their way into corsets and umbrellas and scrimshaw trinkets. Moby-Dick is a history of cetology, an encylopedic telling of the qualities of the fin-back, the right whale, the hyena whale, the sperm whale, the killer whale, classified by size in mock academic form as folio, octavo, and so on.

Information about a vanished world is one thing, but, above all else, this astonishing book is a human tragedy of almost supernatural suspensiveness, written in a rushing flow of imaginative language, poetical intensity, metaphor and adjective of consuming beauty. It begins on the cobbled streets of New Bedford, where Ishmael is to spend a few days before boarding the Pequod in Nantucket. The opening pages have a boyish charm as he is brought to share a bed with a fellow sailor, the harpooner Queequeg, an outrageously tattoed "primitive" who will be his companion throughout the narrative. Great ships under sail gave the old ports a rich heritage of myth, gossip, exaggeration, and rhetorical flights. Ishmael, on a Sunday, visits a whaleman's chapel to hear the incomparable sermon by Father Mapple on Jonah and the whale, a majestic interlude, one of many in this torrential outburst of fictional genius.

As Ishmael and Queequeg proceed to Nantucket, the shadows of the plot begin to fall upon the pages. The recruits are interviewed by two retired sailors who will struggle to express the complicated nature of Captain Ahab. We learn that he has lost a leg, chewed off by a whale, and thus the fated voyage of the Pequod begins. Ahab has lost his leg to a white whale Moby Dick and is consumed with a passion for retribution. He will hunt the singular whale as a private destiny in the manner of ancient kings in a legendary world. However, Ahab is real and in command. The chief mate, Starbuck, understands the folly of the quest, the danger of it, and, as a thoughtful man longing to return to his wife and children, he will speak again and again the language of reason. "Vengeance on a dumb beast that simply smote thee from the blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous."

The necessity of Starbuck's human distance from the implacable imperative of Ahab's quest illustrates the brilliant formation of this harrowing tale. But it is Ahab's story, his destiny, and, if on the one hand, he is a shabby, sea-worn sailor long mesmerized by mercurial oceans, he too has a wife at home and a child of his old age. We learn, as the story proceeds, that on a time ashore after his terrible wounding, he had fallen and by way of his whalebone leg been unmanned. He has suffered an incapacity not to be peacefully borne by one who in forty years had spent only three on land. Ahab knows the wild unsuitability of his nature, his remove from the common life.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1Loomings17
Chapter 2The Carpet-Bag22
Chapter 3The Spouter-Inn26
Chapter 4The Counterpane41
Chapter 5Breakfast45
Chapter 6The Street47
Chapter 7The Chapel50
Chapter 8The Pulpit53
Chapter 9The Sermon56
Chapter 10A Bosom Friend65
Chapter 11Nightgown69
Chapter 12Biographical71
Chapter 13Wheelbarrow73
Chapter 14Nantucket78
Chapter 15Chowder80
Chapter 16The Ship83
Chapter 17The Ramadan97
Chapter 18His Mark103
Chapter 19The Prophet107
Chapter 20All Astir111
Chapter 21Going Aboard113
Chapter 22Merry Christmas117
Chapter 23The Lee Shore121
Chapter 24The Advocate122
Chapter 25Postscript127
Chapter 26Knights and Squires128
Chapter 27Knights and Squires131
Chapter 28Ahab136
Chapter 29Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb139
Chapter 30The Pipe142
Chapter 31Queen Mab143
Chapter 32Cetology146
Chapter 33The Specksynder159
Chapter 34The Cabin-Table162
Chapter 35The Mast-Head168
Chapter 36The Quarter-Deck, Ahab and All174
Chapter 37Sunset182
Chapter 38Dusk184
Chapter 39First Night-Watch185
Chapter 40Midnight, Forecastle186
Chapter 41Moby-Dick193
Chapter 42The Whiteness of the Whale203
Chapter 43Hark!212
Chapter 44The Chart213
Chapter 45The Affidavit218
Chapter 46Surmises227
Chapter 47The Mat-Maker230
Chapter 48The First Lowering233
Chapter 49The Hyena243
Chapter 50Ahab's Boat and Crew. Fedallah245
Chapter 51The Spirit-Spout248
Chapter 52The Albatross252
Chapter 53The Gam254
Chapter 54The Town-Ho's Story259
Chapter 55Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales279
Chapter 56Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, etc.284
Chapter 57Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; etc.288
Chapter 58Brit290
Chapter 59Squid293
Chapter 60The Line296
Chapter 61Stubb Kills a Whale300
Chapter 62The Dart305
Chapter 63The Crotch306
Chapter 64Stubb's Supper308
Chapter 65The Whale As a Dish316
Chapter 66The Shark Massacre318
Chapter 67Cutting In320
Chapter 68The Blanket322
Chapter 69The Funeral325
Chapter 70The Sphynx327
Chapter 71The Jeroboam's Story329
Chapter 72The Monkey-Rope335
Chapter 73Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale, etc.340
Chapter 74The Sperm Whale's Head-Contrasted View345
Chapter 75The Right Whale's Head-Contrasted View350
Chapter 76The Battering-Ram353
Chapter 77The Great Heidelburgh Tun355
Chapter 78Cistern and Buckets357
Chapter 79The Praire361
Chapter 80The Nut364
Chapter 81The Pequod Meets the Virgin366
Chapter 82The Honor and Glory of Whaling378
Chapter 83Jonah Historically Regarded381
Chapter 84Pitchpoling383
Chapter 85The Fountain385
Chapter 86The Tail391
Chapter 87The Grand Armada395
Chapter 88Schools and Schoolmasters408
Chapter 89Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish411
Chapter 90Heads or Tails415
Chapter 91The Pequod Meets the Rose-Bud418
Chapter 92Ambergris425
Chapter 93The Castaway428
Chapter 94A Squeeze of the Hand432
Chapter 95The Cassock436
Chapter 96The Try-Works437
Chapter 97The Lamp442
Chapter 98Stowing Down and Clearing Up443
Chapter 99The Doubloon446
Chapter 100The Pequod Meets the Samuel Enderby of London452
Chapter 101The Decanter459
Chapter 102A Bower in the Arsacides464
Chapter 103Measurement of the Whale's Skeleton468
Chapter 104The Fossil Whale471
Chapter 105Does the Whale's Magnitude Diminish?475
Chapter 106Ahab's Leg479
Chapter 107The Carpenter482
Chapter 108Ahab and the Carpenter485
Chapter 109Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin489
Chapter 110Queequeg in His Coffin492
Chapter 111The Pacific498
Chapter 112The Blacksmith499
Chapter 113The Forge502
Chapter 114The Gilder505
Chapter 115The Pequod Meets the Bachelor507
Chapter 116The Dying Whale510
Chapter 117The Whale Watch512
Chapter 118The Quadrant513
Chapter 119The Candles516
Chapter 120The Deck523
Chapter 121Midnight-The Forecastle Bulwarks524
Chapter 122Midnight Aloft526
Chapter 123The Musket526
Chapter 124The Needle530
Chapter 125The Log and Line533
Chapter 126The Life-Buoy536
Chapter 127The Deck540
Chapter 128The Pequod Meets the Rachel542
Chapter 129The Cabin546
Chapter 130The Hat548
Chapter 131The Pequod Meets the Delight552
Chapter 132The Symphony554
Chapter 133The Chase-First Day558
Chapter 134The Chase-Second Day567
Chapter 135The Chase-Third Day576
Criticism and Context
Herman Melville: A Biographical Note590
Moby-Dick and Its Contemporary Reviews607
Moby-Dick and Its Modern Critics619
from Herman Melville619
"Seven Moby-Dicks"629
"The Tragic Meaning of Moby-Dick"645
from "Herman Melville's Moby-Dick"654
"The Fire Symbolism in Moby-Dick"662
Recommended Reading668

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Winner of the 2012 Fifty Books/Fifty Covers show, organized by Design Observer in association with AIGA and Designers & Books

Praise for Penguin Drop Caps:

“Vibrant, minimalist new typographic covers…. Bonus points for the heartening gender balance of the initial selections.”
—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

"The Penguin Drop Caps series is a great example of the power of design. Why buy these particular classics when there are less expensive, even free editions of Great Expectations? Because they’re beautiful objects. Paul Buckley and Jessica Hische’s fresh approach to the literary classics reduces the design down to typography and color. Each cover is foil-stamped with a cleverly illustrated letterform that reveals an element of the story. Jane Austen’s A (Pride and Prejudice) is formed by opulent peacock feathers and Charlotte Bronte’s B (Jane Eyre) is surrounded by flames. The complete set forms a rainbow spectrum prettier than anything else on your bookshelf."
—Rex Bonomelli, The New York Times


"Classic reads in stunning covers—your book club will be dying."

S. Mattheson

Responsible to misshapen forces of his age as only men of passionate imagination are, even Melville hardly be aware of how symbolic an American hero he'd fashioned in Captain Ahab...he is the embodiment of his author's most profound response to the problem of the free individual will in extremis.

Reading Group Guide

1. What is the significance of the whale? What do you think Melville intends in developing such a vicious antagonism between Ahab and the whale?

2. How does the presence of Queequeg, particularly his status as a "savage, " inform the novel? How does Melville depict this cultural clash?

3. How does whaling as an industry function metaphorically throughout the novel? Where does man fit in in this scenario?

4. Melville explores the divide between evil and virtue, justice and vengeance throughout the novel. What, ultimately, is his conclusion? What is Ahab's?

5. What do you think of the role, if any, played by religion in the novel? Do you think religious conventions are replaced or subverted in some way? Discuss.

6. Discuss the novel's philosophical subtext. How does this contribute to the basic plot involving Ahab's search for the whale? Is this Ishmael's purpose in the novel?

7. Discuss the role of women in the novel. What does their conspicuous absence mean in the overall context of the novel?

Customer Reviews

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Moby Dick 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 233 reviews.
Jesop More than 1 year ago
The greatest novel in American literature, Moby Dick is as massive and inscrutable as the White Whale of the title. This is a book with the primal logic of a dream and the timelessness of myth. The characters themselves have become legend; the restless sailor Ishmael, the noble savage Queegueg, stalwart first mate Starbuck, and Captain Ahab, a man of fearful determination and charisma. Ahab stands as one of the great tragic heroes and he is characterized with the emotional grandeur and raw force of Hamlet or Lucifer. I will note that no one says or does anything that remotely resembles what a normal person would do or say. The dialogue and narrative is instead presented in complex, stately, refined, and operatic terms. It is clear that Melville intended this to be an epic. The characters are appropriately larger than life. I will say that this book is not for everyone, and many complain that it is boring and ponderous. Be forewarned that Herman Melville spends half the chapters describing the minutiae of life on a 19th century whaling ship. Yet even these plot-less chapters on such topics as rendering blubber to oil contain philosophical depth and striking grace. Have patience and you will be rewarded. It seems Melville sought to encompass everything in his novel; all of humanity can be found on board the Pequod. We drift through our days and nights on the immense unknowable sea of life, driven forth by those in power, hunting elusive goals for reasons we cannot define, all of us doomed men. It should be noted that this review covers the Modern Library hardcover edition of this book. I cannot praise it enough. It is simply and handsomely presented, sturdy, and contains all of Rockwell Kent's striking and detailed 1930 line drawn illustrations. This book is a fine edition to any personal library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading the previous reader reveiws, I'll be brief and to the point. This book should not be read by eighth graders or other persons who are not at the top of their game with regard to their ability to read dificult text. I am over 50 years old and chose to read it for myself, although I found it very intimidating to start. The importance of the detail is when one considers Moby as God or nature the details are an attempt to understand the whale aka God and it can't be done. Now do you get it? Nobody can understand God and consequently nobody can understand the symbol of God as portrayed in this miraculous novel. I will indeed miss reading it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We have all heard the story of the infamous encounter between Captain Ahab and his nemesis Moby-Dick. I understood it to be a classic and began to read it even though I already saw the movie. The first few chapters had that ominous feeling (Melvilles' brilliant foreshadowing) and purported to promise better things to come. Well, they didn't. Instead Melville drolls on frivolous topics for countless chapters; he literally fills 3/4 of the book with chapters the reader can skip over and still not lose any of the story plot. It took me months to get through his book and it was not until the last three chapters that I realized why this book was a classic. The ending had such a profound impact on me that I have decided to reread Moby-Dick...though not for a long while.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is perhaps one of the best I have ever read. If for sheer style alone this book is awe inspiring. The narative talent of Melville is like that of Hugo, supurfluous yet strikingly beautiful. An emotionally compelling read there is so much depth to be found within these pages and so much to learn of human nature, and put so eloquently. Melville truely does have a silver pen!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seems silly to comment on a classic, but it's nostalgic to re-read something like this and see how great writing remains great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book is full of detail and i love how it was written my favorite charecter in this book is captain ahab once you read the book from start to finish you will see why i love and cherish this book that is a great work of art
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't actually ready this particular copy, edition or what have you. It was one I grabbed for the cover for my e-library. I read Moby Dick awhile back in hard cover form from the local library. I never read it in school and always prided myself for getting out of reading book assignments.(so many regrets) Moby Dick is a great book. It is a bit long, and I always joke you could take 200 pages out and still have a good story. It is a famous classic that will live on forever. There are some great quotes in the book. Two of my favorate have even made it into Star Trek shows and movies. Gene Roddenberry was a fan of the book and references to Moby Dick are found thoughout the Star Trek universe. If you've never read it, read it. If you haven't got time or patients read an abridged version. Melville can be a bit wordy but then with out words books would be just blank paper. The characters are good and there has been much discussion about some of the scenes and what if any thing Mevlille was implying.
Anonymous 4 months ago
She lay on a giant rock on her back her stomach facing the sun. She sighed happily as she sunbathed.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Is this still active?
Anonymous 5 months ago
Hey all. Im here
Anonymous 5 months ago
She walks in her dark red locks hanfing around her waist in curls, she wears a black shirt, blue jeans and black converse she looks around with piercing blue eyes. She fiddles with a purple crystal around her neck
Amzzz on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I was engaged at the start but the many chapters on whaling definitely turned me off!
andy_21 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
This book is about a captain that is coming for revenge named ahab. He goes to the ocean for the search of the great spearm whale named moby dick. One day he went to the ocean and he been attacked by this whale his boat was attacked and the whale bit the captains leg off. So he goes to the ocean with a sailor named Ismael. Ismeal does not know that ahab is going for revenge. Soon they found the big whale and Ismael got the big harpoon ready and he waited for the right moment. Then he had the shot and he did not shoot because he felt guilty so he let her go. Then ahab found out that he came for only that reason and he got mad. I think that this was a great book and I liked this book.
usnmm2 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Melvilles masterpiece Should be read just to admire the pure poetry of his writing and all the bilical referances, from "Call me Ishmael" to the whaler Rachal weeping for her lost child. And don't forget "Peter Coffin save me". Melville was admired by Charles Dickns and was promoted by him on his American tours.
jackichan on LibraryThing 7 months ago
You don't read Moby-Dick because you want to read a book. You read Moby-Dick because you want to read Moby-Dick. Enormous in scope, prose, vocabulary and philosophy it is much like taking on a whale. I enjoyed most the actual story and subtle descriptions of the characters and the love for the simplest of things; like chowder. Although it isn't my favorite book, it is one of the few that I know I will be re-reading in the future. One of the most fascinating aspects of Moby-Dick is that though it is fiction, Melville is quite factual in the descriptions of most all things in the book. And a many times I decided to look up a word in the dictionary that I wasn't familiar with thus walking away with many new points of knowledge. And lastly Melville's comparison of Christianity and cannibalism is refreshing and impressive for a work written in 1851.
neurodrew on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I read this sometime in 1997, probably the fall, but I cannot be certain it was early, or even possibly in the summer. So another memory unrooted in time is formed, and I will have a vague impression of having read the book sometime in my forties, with older kids around.I never realized, before reading Moby Dick, how it is so much about the whale. Long chapters of the history of whaling, of the biology and anatomy of whales, of the behavior of whales. Ahab seems insubstantial by comparison, and he is not exactly central, but seems more to hang over the book menacingly.Long chapters of the history of whaling, of the biology and anatomy of whales, of the behavior of whales. Ahab seems insubstantial by comparison, and he is not exactly central, but seems more to hang over the book menacingly. From the vantage of a year later, I can recall only being thoroughly caught up in the 19th century atmosphere and attitudes of the book, and I was most impressed with the descriptions of whaling and the whales, rather than with the characters. Ishmael and Queegog and Starbuck are the famous actors, but I think Melville reserves his true enthusiam for the whale.
the_unnamable on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Any time I mentioned to someone that I was finally tackling the book of the whale, I would get eye-rolls or declarations of boredom. But I actually got sucked further and further in, as pulled by some leviathan's great wake.Ishmael's tale of Ahab's dark revenge is not a typical narrative. If one's looking for a well-paced action yarn, don't read it. It's a story of character asides and the sea and the secrets of the whale physical and metaphysical. Ishmael concerns himself chiefly with the unfolding sublime (in Burke's sense) rather than the mundane.Images and old-sea phrases will doubtless rattle around in my head for decades to come.
hamredb on LibraryThing 7 months ago
There are of course so many versions, including illustrated and children's versions. I think it is imperative to read Melville's original classic version. the depth and complexity of the prose makes you feel the heat and smoke of the lard kilns and the spray of seawater on your face. I can't do this all the time, but a novel like this is a wonderful occasional break from some of the modern day more mindless books of entertainment.
kenzie12368 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
This is a very challenging book to read, even for a 5th grader like me. I recommend this book to 6th graders, and up, but maybe some 5th graders my age can read it. Even though the language was confusing and there was some minor killing, I have to say the book was awesome.
pbandy on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Perhaps the most amazing novel in American literature. The thousands of pages of literary scholarship are enough to prove the book's seemingly endless amount of unturned rocks. For a casual reader a daunting task, for an eager reader a feast of gluttonous proportions. The relationships on board the Pequod can be interpreted any number of ways, from psychological to religious. The peaceful savage Queequeg is the blueprint for a literary spirit guide. Although the novel does drag in many places, there does seem to be a bit of method to Melville's sluggish style, namely in the satirical cetology chapters. Melville's novel may have been considered a failure by his contemporaries, however he created one of the most rich and enthralling works of all time. 'Moby-Dick' explores the deepest recesses of the human soul and creates a fantastically maniacal character in Ahab. Warning: do not pick up this book expecting to follow an exceptionally vigorous plot speeding along allegorical tracks in a few short sittings. Expect to devote many hours exploring complex characters and unraveling intense social, political, religious and psychological commentary.
upsidedown on LibraryThing 8 months ago
There are plenty of overrated, canonized books. I had been going along assuming this was one of them-- a book as long as Anna Karenina, but written by an American? Guffaw. Unreadable! I had also been under the assumption that this was an Old Man and the Sea kind of overplayed metaphor-- yes, yes, a man wishes to kill a particular whale. This must be about the eternal struggle between, er, man and nature, or man and his other. This must be a boring rumination about the useless of, er, revenge?Instead, I have been astonished by how experimental this "novel" book turned out. The first few chapters are beautifully captivating and narrative-driven. We have an affable narrator as our presumed main character. He finds a dear friend, Queequeg, in a series of blundered misunderstandings. And then we are introduced to his challenge-- to survive his first whaling voyage. Melville must have bored easily of such narrative devices. Our narrator/main character disappears soon after, as easily replaced by an omniscient point of view. The particularity of these characters is equally unimportant. Instead, this is an encyclopedia of whaling, a philosophy on travel, a history of the Eastern US and much else of the world, a commentary on commercialism, and an elegy to hope. What I found so relentless about the narrative was its disjointedness, its inability to stay with the story, as though it too were tossed fitfully in the wake of an enormous whale.
e.pur on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Okay so I didn't finish but despite that fact I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the first half, which is as far as I got. What surprised me about this classic are the funny characters, such as the moody Captain Ahab to the peculiar harpooner Queequeg. I found myself laughing out loud a LOT. Highly recommend this book, even if you have to read it in parts;)
mausergem on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A book which is read 150 plus years after its published is almost always good. This book describes an occupation which went out of vogue some time ago. Its afirst hand experience of an whaleman. It is an in depth and comprehensive narrative of whalers. Some emotional aspects add additional flavor . All in all a good book