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Chapter 66: The Shark Massacre.


When in the Southern Fishery, a captured Sperm Whale, after long and
weary toil, is brought alongside late at night, it is not, as a general
thing at least, customary to proceed at once to the business of cutting
him in. For that business is an exceedingly laborious one; is not very
soon completed; and requires all hands to set about it. Therefore, the
common usage is to take in all sail; lash the helm a'lee; and then send
every one below to his hammock till daylight, with the reservation that,
until that time, anchor-watches shall be kept; that is, two and two for
an hour, each couple, the crew in rotation shall mount the deck to see
that all goes well.

But sometimes, especially upon the Line in the Pacific, this plan will
not answer at all; because such incalculable hosts of sharks gather
round the moored carcase, that were he left so for six hours, say, on a
stretch, little more than the skeleton would be visible by morning.
In most other parts of the ocean, however, where these fish do not so
largely abound, their wondrous voracity can be at times considerably
diminished, by vigorously stirring them up with sharp whaling-spades,
a procedure notwithstanding, which, in some instances, only seems to
tickle them into still greater activity. But it was not thus in the
present case with the Pequod's sharks; though, to be sure, any man
unaccustomed to such sights, to have looked over her side that night,
would have almost thought the whole round sea was one huge cheese, and
those sharks the maggots in it.

Nevertheless, upon Stubb setting the anchor-watch after his supper was
concluded; and when, accordingly, Queequeg and a forecastle seaman
came on deck, no small excitement was created among the sharks; for
immediately suspending the cutting stages over the side, and lowering
three lanterns, so that they cast long gleams of light over the turbid
sea, these two mariners, darting their long whaling-spades, kept up an
incessant murdering of the sharks,* by striking the keen steel deep
into their skulls, seemingly their only vital part. But in the foamy
confusion of their mixed and struggling hosts, the marksmen could not
always hit their mark; and this brought about new revelations of the
incredible ferocity of the foe. They viciously snapped, not only at each
other's disembowelments, but like flexible bows, bent round, and bit
their own; till those entrails seemed swallowed over and over again by
the same mouth, to be oppositely voided by the gaping wound. Nor was
this all. It was unsafe to meddle with the corpses and ghosts of these
creatures. A sort of generic or Pantheistic vitality seemed to lurk in
their very joints and bones, after what might be called the individual
life had departed. Killed and hoisted on deck for the sake of his skin,
one of these sharks almost took poor Queequeg's hand off, when he tried
to shut down the dead lid of his murderous jaw.

*The whaling-spade used for cutting-in is made of the very best steel;
is about the bigness of a man's spread hand; and in general shape,
corresponds to the garden implement after which it is named; only its
sides are perfectly flat, and its upper end considerably narrower than
the lower. This weapon is always kept as sharp as possible; and when
being used is occasionally honed, just like a razor. In its socket, a
stiff pole, from twenty to thirty feet long, is inserted for a handle.

"Queequeg no care what god made him shark," said the savage, agonizingly
lifting his hand up and down; "wedder Fejee god or Nantucket god; but de
god wat made shark must be one dam Ingin."