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tun 8
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heidelburgh 6
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great 4
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been 3
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upper 3
know 3
end 3
length 3
has 3
forehead 3
quoin 3
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spermaceti 2
internal 2
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solid 2
embraces 2
substance 2
feet 2
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middle 1
baling 1
horizontally 1
curious 1
quoins 1
tapped 1
plane 1
divide 1
sideways 1
whereof 1

Chapter 77: The Great Heidelburgh Tun.


Now comes the Baling of the Case. But to comprehend it aright, you must
know something of the curious internal structure of the thing operated

Regarding the Sperm Whale's head as a solid oblong, you may, on an
inclined plane, sideways divide it into two quoins,* whereof the lower
is the bony structure, forming the cranium and jaws, and the upper an
unctuous mass wholly free from bones; its broad forward end forming the
expanded vertical apparent forehead of the whale. At the middle of the
forehead horizontally subdivide this upper quoin, and then you have two
almost equal parts, which before were naturally divided by an internal
wall of a thick tendinous substance.

*Quoin is not a Euclidean term. It belongs to the pure nautical
mathematics. I know not that it has been defined before. A quoin is a
solid which differs from a wedge in having its sharp end formed by the
steep inclination of one side, instead of the mutual tapering of both

The lower subdivided part, called the junk, is one immense honeycomb
of oil, formed by the crossing and recrossing, into ten thousand
infiltrated cells, of tough elastic white fibres throughout its whole
extent. The upper part, known as the Case, may be regarded as the great
Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale. And as that famous great tierce is
mystically carved in front, so the whale's vast plaited forehead forms
innumerable strange devices for the emblematical adornment of his
wondrous tun. Moreover, as that of Heidelburgh was always replenished
with the most excellent of the wines of the Rhenish valleys, so the tun
of the whale contains by far the most precious of all his oily vintages;
namely, the highly-prized spermaceti, in its absolutely pure, limpid,
and odoriferous state. Nor is this precious substance found unalloyed
in any other part of the creature. Though in life it remains perfectly
fluid, yet, upon exposure to the air, after death, it soon begins to
concrete; sending forth beautiful crystalline shoots, as when the
first thin delicate ice is just forming in water. A large whale's
case generally yields about five hundred gallons of sperm, though from
unavoidable circumstances, considerable of it is spilled, leaks, and
dribbles away, or is otherwise irrevocably lost in the ticklish business
of securing what you can.

I know not with what fine and costly material the Heidelburgh Tun
was coated within, but in superlative richness that coating could not
possibly have compared with the silken pearl-coloured membrane, like the
lining of a fine pelisse, forming the inner surface of the Sperm Whale's

It will have been seen that the Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale
embraces the entire length of the entire top of the head; and since--as
has been elsewhere set forth--the head embraces one third of the whole
length of the creature, then setting that length down at eighty feet for
a good sized whale, you have more than twenty-six feet for the depth
of the tun, when it is lengthwise hoisted up and down against a ship's

As in decapitating the whale, the operator's instrument is brought close
to the spot where an entrance is subsequently forced into the spermaceti
magazine; he has, therefore, to be uncommonly heedful, lest a careless,
untimely stroke should invade the sanctuary and wastingly let out its
invaluable contents. It is this decapitated end of the head, also, which
is at last elevated out of the water, and retained in that position by
the enormous cutting tackles, whose hempen combinations, on one side,
make quite a wilderness of ropes in that quarter.

Thus much being said, attend now, I pray you, to that marvellous and--in
this particular instance--almost fatal operation whereby the Sperm
Whale's great Heidelburgh Tun is tapped.