The 18th of October heralded the 161st Anniversary of the publication of Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’. A classic that has become iconic and proved an enormous reading challenge.
“It will be a strange sort of book, tho’, I fear; blubber is blubber you know; tho’ you may get oil out of it, the poetry runs as hard as sap from a frozen maple tree; — & to cook the thing up, one must needs throw in a little fancy, which from the nature of the thing, must be ungainly as the gambols of the whales themselves. Yet I mean to give the truth of the thing, spite of this.”
Herman Melville on ‘Moby Dick’ in a letter (1 May 1850)
I have tried to read it, but I must say I did not succeed. It is a difficult, ponderous read, rather slow and I think far more ungainly than the gambols of the whales themselves, that is, to a modern reader.
This is Willow a white Hump Backed Whale. Sighted in the waters of Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago. Willow is the second white Hump Back to be recorded, the first is Migaloo, a humpback who’s made several cameos off Australia’s east coast. Migaloo means “white fella” in one of the Aboriginal languages.
The albino whale in Melville’s “Moby Dick” and the creature’s true-life inspiration, Mocha Dick, are not humpbacks, but Sperm Whales. Mocha Dick, so called since his pale form was first spotted near the island of Mocha, off the coast of Chile, in the early 19th century. He is reputed to have survived near to 100 sea battles with whaling ships, taking down 20 of them before he met his downfall.
I hope Willow does not gain such notoriety but remains a beautiful, elusive creature stirring our imaginations and adding a bit of wonder to our jaded world.