Why was the first whale-catching attempt unsuccessful in Moby Dick? Did Ishmael and Queequeg feel disappointed?

Quick answer:

The first attempt to catch a whale takes place in chapter 48 of Moby Dick. It is unsuccessful largely because those in Starbuck's boat don't properly guess where the whale will surface. It comes up under the boat and swamps it, nearly causing it to overturn. After this, the little boat is set far off its course and far away from the Pequod. All those in the boat feel "despairing."

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The first attempt to catch a whale happens in chapter 48 of Moby Dick. There are various reasons why it may have been unsuccessful, beginning with the fact that it is not well planned—the man set to spot for whales is too short to see out into the ocean without standing on another man's shoulders, for one thing. Once the small boat sets off, Starbuck is keen to pursue the whale, but perhaps his keenness is at the expense of care, because the whale actually comes up exactly beneath the boat. The result of this is that the boat almost capsizes, which is something that could have spelled disaster.

In the event, the inhabitants of the boat are not hurt, but the boat is swamped. This means that the men have to swim around and pick up their oars, and then are unable to properly bail out the boat because of the conditions at sea. The whale itself is barely grazed by Queegqueeg's harpoon. We aren't told how Queegqueeg and Ishmael feel about this specifically, but we can imagine that they were disappointed, and we know that they felt "despair" at being adrift on the ocean in a swamped boat.

The outcome of the boat's swamping and the subsequent storm is that the ship Pequod is far away now from the little boat, so it is a miserable crew who have to find their way back towards the vessel that will rescue them.

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