At the beginning of the 21st Century monsters still roam the remote, and sometimes not so remote, corners of our planet. It is our job to search for them. The Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ] is - we believe - the largest professional, scientific and full-time organisation in the world dedicated to cryptozoology - the study of unknown animals. Since 1992 the CFZ has carried out an unparalleled programme of research and investigation all over the world. Since 2009 we have been running the increasingly popular CFZ Blog Network, and although there has been an American branch of the CFZ for over ten years now, it is only now that it has a dedicated blog.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

MOBY DICK

Moby Dick
Probably the most famous whale ever to grace a novelist's page is Moby Dick, who appeared in Herman Melville's novel of 1851.  Many consider him to be a white whale, but in fact in the story his skin is white with some gray intermingling.  He has become so famous that his name is known by thousands who have never opened Melville's book.  He is, however, quite fictitious - or is he?

Melville says that sperm whales can attain a length of ninety feet and Moby Dick was the longest of any of them.  However, no sperm whale of quite that length is to be found in the record book.  The book is named after the whale as the pursuit of the whale is the theme of the story, even though the creature appears in only three chapters of the work.  He is, however, the work's focus.

However, almost as monstrous as the whale himself in a way is Captain Ahab, who pursues him in his ship the Pequod.  Ahab does not appear when the ship sets sail, but lurks in his cabin, unseen but present, like some Lovecraftian monster sleeping at the bottom of the sea.  When he finally appears he cuts an eerie figure, with a false leg made from the bone of a whale.  He is obsessed with Moby Dick and the prime aim of his grim voyage is to slay the mighty cetacean.  He makes a speech worthy of Demosthenes in which he enlists the support of the crew for his purpose.  He is supported by some shadowy figures whom he has smuggled onto the ship.  A Zoroastrian named Fedallah utters dire prophecies about the outcome of the voyage.  He hangs about Ahab like a shadow.

While Ahab has no real life prototype, there was a whale on which Melville based Moby Dick.  This was an actual fully white whale called Mocha Dick, which lived in the South Pacific.  Mocha Dick was generally of tractable bent, often swimming peacefully alongside vessels.  Whalers who tried to kill him, however, soon found he could be both ferocious and crafty, generally able to hold his own against them.  He was finally killed in 1838.  A year later Jeremiah N. Reynolds chronicled his career.



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