Moby Dick Chapter 16: The Ship (summary)

Ishmael chooses the Pequod for their upcoming voyage. There, he meets two of its captains.

This is Moby Dick Chapter 16: The Ship (summary).
Vocabulary Words found in this chapter: Moby Dick Chapter 16: The Ship (Vocabulary Words)
This is Moby Dick Chapter 16: The Ship (summary).

Previous Chapter: Chapter 15: Chowder (summary)

While they were laying on their bed, Queegqueg told Ishmael that he had been consulting his own black little god, Yojo. This idol instructed him two or three times over, that Ishmael should be the one to choose a ship for their next voyage.

Queegqueg’s been pretty confident with Yojo because it was able to foretell many surprising things in the past. And, he considered it as a very good god.

Before Ishmael left, he saw Queegqueg praying to Yojo, while offering to it a sacrificial fire with some shavings. Ishmael took part of it several times, but he admitted that he can’t master these rituals. Hence, Ishmael went out of the hotel to choose a ship.

Ishmael learned that there were three ships: the Devil-dam, the Tit-bit, and the Pequod. He didn’t know where the Devil-dam came from; he knew where the Tit-bit came from; and an Indian tribe owns the name “Pequod.”

From the Devil-dam, he hopped over to the Tit-bit, and then went aboard the Pequod. He peered and looked around in each ship for a while. Finally, he chose the Pequod.

He says that one could never find such a rare ship as this one. It’s old-fashioned; its old hull’s complexion is like that of a French grenadier who fought in Egypt and Siberia. Additionally, its bows looked bearded; the masts were cut somewhere along the Japan coast; they stood stiffly like that of the three kings of Cologne.

The three kings of Cologne in Moby Dick Chapter 16 Summary.
The three kings of Cologne.

Peqoud’s decks were like that of the flag-stone in the Canterbury Cathedral; its bulwarks were like the sperm-whale’s long sharp teeth found in its jaws. Lastly, Captain Peleg is one of the principal owners of the Pequod. He’s the designer of the Pequod.

Now Ishmael looked at the quarterdeck. Nobody was there, until he saw a wigwam. Inside it, he saw someone seated on his oaken chair, who seemed to have some kind of authority.

Like most old seamen, he’s muscular and suntanned, and he had a Quaker’s hairstyle. The strong wind at mid-sea may have caused the muscles around his eyes to compress. Thus, leaving those noticeable wrinkles around his eyes. 

Ishmael asked the old man if he is the current captain of the Pequod. Instead of answering that, he asked Ishmael about his whaling experience, and also about his motive, his purpose, and his intention in sailing the Pequod. In reply, Ishmael admitted that he has no experience. Turns out, this old man is distrustful of Nantucketers, unless he came from Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard.

Next, he wanted Ishmael to convince him to take him in the ship. In answer, he wanted to see more about whaling, and he wanted to explore the world. Finally, he asked Ishmael if he had talked with Captain Ahab. He said he hadn’t met him yet.

That implies that this old man is not the main captain of the Pequod because Captain Ahab is. However, he mentioned himself as “Captain” Peleg, and that “Captain” Bildad is with him. So, there are three captains in the Pequod, and each of them is part owner and a part agent of the same ship.

Captain Ahab only has one leg, and Captain Peleg told Ishmael to see him. Ishmael learned that a monstrous whale had devoured and chewed that other leg of Captain Ahab. Ishmael said that the story might be a little exaggerated.

Peleg said Ishmael’s too soft for this journey, even though he already told him that he’d been on four voyages aboard a merchant ship. Still, he interrogated Ishmael if he was still willing to go. And then he asked him if he would stick a harpoon on a live whale’s throat and jump afterwards. Ishmael quickly answered yes he would, if he needs to.

Next, Peleg confirmed that Ishmael simply wants to go to see whaling and to also see the world. Ishmael said that’s correct. So, Peleg ordered him to stand at the bow, and then come back to Peleg to state what he saw. Ishmael didn’t know how to take this strange request, but he obeyed anyway. 

Later, Ishmael came back to Peleg and stated that he saw not much, but only the open ocean, the horizon, and a squall coming up. Captain Peleg then told him that he could just simply stand there, and see the world without going on a voyage. 

Still, Ishmael remained firm and determined to go whaling, Peleg saw that in him. So he expressed his willingness to help Ishmael and led the way below deck into the cabin.

Ishmael sees Captain Bildad seated on the transom. He is one of the largest owners of the Pequod. And he just found out that the people of Nantucket invest their money on whaling vessels. So technically, each of these people owns a part of a ship, such as a plank, or a nail.

Like Peleg, Captain Bildad is also a Quaker. Particularly, Quakers are the most bloodthirsty and the murderous of all sailors. Both Bildad and Peleg got their names from the Bible. And Nantucketers commonly name their children from the Scriptures.

Both of these captains retired in whaling. In comparison, Peleg doesn’t care much about serious things, while Captain Bildad was educated according to the strictest teachings of Quakerism. 

Captain Bildad rose from a mere cabin-boy into a harpooneer, into a boat header, into a chief-mate, then into a captain, and finally, into a shipowner. But he retired at the age of sixty, being content of having a well-earned income in a more relaxing way of living.

Captain Bildad had the reputation of being a hard-task master. They told Ishmael in Nantucket, that upon arriving home from a voyage, most of Bildad’s crew were sent to the hospital because of sore exhaustion. Moreover, a single look at his furious eyes will make a sailor go to work because of nervousness.

Bildad has been reading and studying his Bible for the last thirty years. Peleg introduced Ishmael to Bildad while he was reading his Bible. With great surprise, Bildad had accepted him. After that, Peleg opened up his chest, and then seated himself at a little table with a pen and ink. 

In the whaling business, they don’t offer you a specific salary. Instead, they only give you a share of the profits they call “lay”. Additionally, lays depend on how significant a man is to the ship’s company. 

Ishmael, as green hand, expects nothing large from the profits they will gain. Honestly, he expects at least the 275th lay, which many seamen would call “long lay” because it is of small value. It may be a poor way to make money, but Ishmael does not desire for princely fortune. 

Now, Peleg asked Bildad about Ishmael’s lay. As Bildad reads the account of Matthew 6:19 in an undertone manner, he replied: ‘the 777th.’ Ishmael complained about this very long lay quietly inside his mind.

“A hundred and seventy-seventh” may sound big. But when the profits got divided with this number, oh you’ll understand how Ishmael felt when he heard this number.

Peleg told Bildad not to swindle Ishmael. Yet again, Bildad said: “seven hundred and seventy-seventh,” without lifting his eyes from the Bible. Fortunately, Peleg fought for the cause of Ishmael and insisted on giving him the 300th lay.

On the other hand, Bildad reasons that the widows and orphans are the other owners of the Pequod. He said that giving Ishmael such a large amount of share is like taking the bread of those widows and of those orphans. Ishmael stepped aside from the door as the two continued to quarrel. 

Surprisingly, after a few moments, Bildad sat very quietly back on the transom. He’s already used to the unrepentant Peleg and his ways. Peleg also sat down like a lamb, after letting off all his rage to Bildad. 

At last, Peleg took his pen, and declared that Ishmael may have the 300th lay. Ishmael said he’d like to bring Queegqueg along tomorrow, and added that this friend of his has killed more whales than he can count.

Ishmael had not yet walked far when he thought about Captain Ahab. He turned around and asked Peleg about the whereabouts of Ahab. Captain Peleg expresses that he won’t be able to see him today because he is sort of sick—he ain’t sick, but he isn’t well either. And he added that Captain Ahab is an odd captain, but he is a good one. 

Furthermore, he’s not like Peleg or like Bildad. Peleg referenced the wicked king Ahab from the Bible, whose own blood was licked by the dogs after he was slain.

But Peleg sincerely warned Ishmael not to speak about that Bible reference anywhere, especially aboard the Pequod. He said Ahab’s mother was a fool to name him after a wicked Bible character. Tistig at Gayhead, says that this Bible account might happen to Captain Ahab, too.

Nevertheless, Ahab’s a good, yet swearing, man. But ever since he had lost his leg, he’s been a kind of desperate moody, and savage sometimes. Ahab has a wife and they had a child. Finally, Peleg said farewell to Ishmael. 

As Ishmael walked away, his head was full of thoughts concerning Captain Ahab. He felt pain, sympathy, sorrow, and awe for Ahab. Ishmael didn’t know what that feeling was exactly. But later, his thoughts of Ahab passed away.

End of Moby Dick Chapter 16: The Ship (summary).

Next chapter: Chapter 17: The Ramadan (summary)

End of Moby Dick Chapter 16: The Ship (summary).

This article was written by Zeddrix Fabian

Zeddrix Fabian became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses on February 21, 2016, and started regular pioneering last March 2020. His goal is to be able to volunteer at Bethel. After going to both private and public school for 10 years (Grade 1 to 8 in private; Grade 9 and 10 in public school), their family tried out homeschooling when he leveled up to Grade 11 last 2019. (Continue reading on the ABOUT ZEDD menu.)