Closer Readings Commentary

A Whale of a Reading!

Pursuing Melville: “A Dead Whale or a Stove Boat”

"I have swam through libraries and sailed through oceans."

—Herman Melville, Chapter 32, Moby-Dick

On January 3, 1841, twenty-one year-old Herman Melville boarded the Acushnet, a New Bedford whaler, bound for the South Seas and the Pacific whaling grounds. He would spend 18 months on the Acushnet, learning to be a whaler. This would also be his coming-of-age passage and an education. As he later wrote about his character, Ishmael, "... a whale ship was my Yale College and my Harvard." On this voyage, Melville would take part in all aspects of the hunting, harvesting, and processing of whale oil aboard the ship. He would absorb the lore of the veteran seamen who made up the Acushnet's diverse and colorful crew. His first-hand experiences on this and several subsequent voyages would percolate to become the basis for his later seafaring novels, most notably his masterpiece, Moby-Dick.

4chaplins_0031Take part in the 18th annual Moby-D ick Marathon, the longest continually running readathon of Herman Melville’s literary masterpiece at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

The first watch begins Saturday January 4th at 12 noon EST and continues through the night to Sunday January 5th at 1:00PM EST. Follow along the reading live streamed here: Moby-Dick Marathon Livestream 2014 | New Bedford Whaling Museum New Bedford Whaling Museum. A portion of the reading will be conducted across the street at the Seaman’s Bethel which is featured in the novel.

Students will enjoy a virtual excursion through the museum by taking the Jacobs Family Gallery Audio Tour to learn about the whale skeletons, and how Herman Melville describes them in the novel, Moby-D ick.

NEH funded multimedia presentation, From Pursuit to Preservation: The History of Human Interaction with Whales | New Bedford Whaling Museum New Bedford Whal…, offers an audio Gallery Tour which explains and explores the human fascination with whales and the history of whaling in New Bedford in a global context