Ishmael hears quite a bit of lore about Captain Ahab, but it is a long time before he actually sees the man himself. When he does, he notices that Ahab looks both old and strong. He has gray hair and seems bronzed, like a statue. He has a white scar running down the side of his face and neck, which Ishmael likens to the scar formed when lightening strikes a tree.
Ishmael is at first so powerfully riveted by the "grim" appearance of Ahab that he doesn't notice his false leg. When his eyes travel there, he notes it is made of the "polished bone of the sperm whale’s jaw."
Although Ahab says nothing, Ishmael finds him an intimidating figure, standing silent on the deck, his false leg fitted into a hole made to hold it. He looks both willful and as if he is suffering, and the crew is uneasy being under his watchful eye. In fact, he is a bit terrifying. Ishmael writes of him:
There was an infinity of firmest fortitude, a determinate, unsurrenderable willfulness, in the fixed and fearless, forward dedication of that glance.