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New Bedford, Massachusetts, the setting for the opening of Moby Dick, had an enormous whaling fleet that numbered over three hundred ships. In fact, Herman Melville actually sailed from the port on a whaling trip before writing the novel. One kind of whale oil was collected from the rendered fat of whales and was used to make margarine and cooking oil. Another substance, spermaceti, was taken from sperm whales and made high-quality, odorless candles that burned slowly and brightly in addition to perfumes and soaps. This substance was highly prized even though the sperm whales were very dangerous to hunt. Because so much of this priceless substance went through its ports, New Bedford is described as the "city that lit the world" in Moby Dick.
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