Call Me Ishmael

‘Call me Ishmael’ is from Moby Dick or The Whale, from whence the name of this site ‘myleviathan‘  comes, the leviathan being the family of the whale, or (myth of) cetology, in which this sea-faring allegorical novel about the mad Captain Ahab’s search to kill (his great white whale) takes place.

Weaving contempory accounts and his own experience as a whaler, Melville created his American masterpiece.

Born in 1819, author Herman Melville grew up during the peak of American dominance of the whaling industry, roughly the period between 1828 and the start of the civil war, 1861.

The young Melville was famously inspired by the story of George Pollard, captain of the whale-ship, Essex. While on a two year whaling expedition crisscrossing the Pacific, the Essex was rammed by a sperm whale. Pollard and his crew were at sea for 93 days after the attack, and were eventually rescued off the coast of Peru, by a ship named Dauphin, after having to resort to cannibalism because of sickness and starvation.

The name of the whale was also inspired by real life events. In 1839 Melville read a story about an albino sperm whale famed for its deadly attacks on whaling ships trying to hunt it down. This whale, killed off the coast of Chile near Mocha Island, was called Moby Dick.

Melville writes: ‘How then me writing of this leviathan? For in the mere act of me penning my thoughts of this leviathan…as if to include the whole circle of sciences, and all the generations of whales, and men…past present and to come, with all the revolving panoramas of empire on earth, and throughout the whole universe…they weary me…and make me faint.’

But we are thankful for Melville, for the epic adventure of Moby Dick is more than a book, it stands as a document of man’s quest to conquer, with Ishmael as witness to the seas of which the conquest remains never-ending, ‘for there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men’

<a href=””>Call Me Ishmael</a>


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