Chapter 111: The Pacific

There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath; like those fabled undulations of the Ephesian sod over the buried Evangelist St. John. And meet it is, that over these sea-pastures, wide-rolling watery prairies and Potters’ Fields of all four continents, the waves should rise and fall, and ebb and flow unceasingly; for here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumberers in their beds; the ever-rolling waves but made so by their restlessness.

—The Pacific

The briefest of chapters for the hugest of oceans, Chapter 111 was included as a narrative location that could not be denied. Melville’s short and haunting description of ‘the great South Sea’ is reminiscent of his earlier geographic reveries of Chapter 14: Nantucket, though here the dark billows of Ahab’s madness are heard echoing through the ship as these ‘final waters’ are reached.

Queequeg’s augmented strength is meant as a sort of ‘home-waters’ advantage, and the general increase in whale strength to hammer home the point that you are now in the great South Seas, where whaling fleets from every part of the world congregate to their terrible purpose—it is here where the whales are largest and most dangerous.