What type of whale is Moby Dick?

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Moby Dick is, first of all, a fictional or ficticious whale, invented by Melville as part of his novel, as an antagonist to Captain Ahab.  He is also a symbolic whale, standing for all kinds of things depending on the reader’s interpretation, from Ahab’s ego to Ahab’s pride to Ahab’s search for meaning, to Ahab’s sin against God, etc.  But given Melville’s background and sources for his story (especially his own experiences aboard the whaler Acushnet), Moby Dick is probably a combination of several whales culled from the innumerable whale-hunting stories told in the whaling communities of New England and Canada.  Nautically, he is probably modeled after the Great White Whale, a biological species whose habitat includes the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South America, a favorite whaling destination.  This species of whale was a special prize for whalers because of it size (and therefore value), and was considered a particularly difficult, dangerous, and elusive catch, not only because of its size but also because of its feeding, mating, and breeching habits.

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What type of whale is Moby-Dick?

The whale in the novel Moby-Dick was actually based on a notorious albino sperm whale killed off the southern coast of Chile near Mocha Island who was called Mocha Dick. The whale was notorious for attacking whaling ships. At the time of its publication, whaling was a very prosperous industry in the United States and whalers traveled all over the world in search of whale oil for lamps and valuable ambergris for perfume. Although the right whale was considered the most valuable, the sperm whale was also prized for its ambergris. The sperm whale could also be quite aggressive and many whalers lost their lives,as a wounded whale could become vengeful at sea.

The story Moby-Dick was inspired by the real-life account of George Pollard, captain of the whaling vessel Essex which was attacked in the Pacific Ocean by a sperm whale. Pollard and his crew had to endure months at sea facing starvation, dehydration, and cannibalism.

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