Moby Dick - Mocha Dick

Moby Dick - Mocha Dick

Online Magazine

Moby Dick - Mocha Dick

Out at Sea 

Moby Dick - Mocha Dick

Moby Dick - Mocha Dick

Moby Dick - Mocha Dick
Moby Dick - Mocha Dick
Moby Dick - Mocha Dick

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Moby Dick - Mocha Dick

 By Erik Tierney

Moby Dick - Mocha DickMocha Dick, "the stout gentleman of the latitudes, the prodigious terror whale of the Pacific, the redoubtable white sperm whale that fought and won a hundred sea battles against overwhelming odds" - such was the reputation in the extravagant language of the time of the whale Herman Melville immortalized as Moby Dick. There is no doubt about it: Mocha Dick was a real whale. Dick was probably first fought in 1819, the year Melville was born, and he was still terrorizing whalemen when the author was writing Moby Dick in 1850.

Melville probably first read about Mocha Dick in a piece by Jeremiah N. Reynolds in the May 1839 Knickerbocker Magazine. Reynolds told how Dick was sighted and fought off the coast of Chile near the conical peak of Mocha Island, from which the white whale took his name. Undoubtedly, though, he had heard of him before in the fo"c'sles of the ships he sailed. The last mention in history of Mocha Dick is dated August 1859, when, off the Brazilian banks, he is said to have been taken by a Swedish whaler. Measuring 110 feet in length, he weighed more than a ton for each foot. The whale that Melville and other believed caused the 1819 Essex sinking, which formed the basis for Moby Dick, was captured without much of a struggle. The Swedish whaler's log discloses he was dying of old age, blind in his right eye, his head a mass of scars, eight teeth broken off and the others all worn down.

But no one would ever remember him this way. He had already become legend when Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick. Melville changed his first name to Moby, probably to suggest his amazing mobility and to avoid association with the "color" mocha. Melville had made Dick something more than a whale. Mocha Dick, in the words of one writer, "had been absolved of mortality . . . Readers of Moby Dick know that he swims the world unconquered, that he is ubiquitous in time and place.


 
 
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Moby Dick - Mocha Dick