Chapters 79-81 Summary

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Last Updated on March 15, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 295

Ishmael explains the physical characteristics of the whale. He notes that the sperm whale doesn't have a visible nose, which makes it even more impressive. Its forehead also adds to its majestic appearance, giving it a "noble and superior god-like" aura. According to Ishmael, the sperm whale is suitable to be worshiped by pagans.

He compares the whale’s head to a human skull, which has evolved to house and protect the brain. Similarly, the whale has a large hump that rises over one of its biggest vertebrae, which is a sign of the sperm whale's incredible strength and resilience.

Ishmael’s assessment of the whale’s unconquerable spirit is made evident in the subsequent whale hunt, which involves both the Pequod and the Jungfrau, which is captained by a man named Captain Derrick De Deer. As the Jungfrau approached the Pequod to request Ahab lend them some lamp oil, scouts on both ships sighted a group of whales. 

An aged bull whale—blind and disabled—lags behind the rest of the group. The crew of Derrick's four boats and the Pequod's three boats strive to catch this enormous whale. Queequeg, Tashtego, and Daggoo are the first to spear the whale, killing it. Successful, the crew excitedly hauls the slain whale onto the Pequod, but the weight of the carcass causes the ship to tilt and begin to sink. Queequeg, always the quick-thinker, intervenes by slicing through the chains attaching the tail to the ship. The Pequod rights itself, but the whale sinks to the ocean floor, victorious even in death. 

Derrick and his crew pursue a finback whale under the false impression that it is a sperm whale. However, the finback is too swift and nimble to be captured, and the hunt ultimately fails.

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