“If the White Whale be raised, it must be in a month and a day, when the sun stands in some one of these signs. I’ve studied signs, and know their marks; they were taught me two score years ago, by the old witch in Copenhagen. Now, in what sign will the sun then be? The horse-shoe sign; for there it is, right opposite the gold. And what’s the horse-shoe sign? The lion is the horse-shoe sign—the roaring and devouring lion. Ship, old ship! my old head shakes to think of thee.”

—The Doubloon

Shipkeeper. A constant shipboard character throughout the work, the old Manxman is a native of the British Isles, an old salt, and a reader of portents. Whenever Melville or Ishmael needs a shipmate to speak the oft unspoken interpretation of such malignant and prophetic signs, he puts that elucidated language in the mouth of the Manxman.

This reading of signs awards the Manxman one of the more valuable negations, and his consultation can save you from the disaster of a BATTERING-RAM.

Original Image Courtesy of The New Bedford Whaling Museum.