I mentioned the whaling ship “Bachelor” in Moby Dick in an earlier post. Curious about my memory, I looked it up on Google Books. It turns out it was not refered to as “that happy ship of good fortune”- that must have been in some essay I read about the book.
The Bachelor has had an incredibly successful whaling trip, and every available receptacle is filled with the valuable oil of the sperm whale, or sperm for short- the Bachelor is packed, jammed, filled to the gills with sperm. I laughed when I read this- it’s a very clever double entendre. These days we would think of a fellow full of sperm as being unhappy, unlucky, even desperate. I think in Melville’s day sperm was thought to hold vitality, and sex thought to drain this away, so to be fully charged with sperm would be a good thing.
This Bachelor is no loser though- as part of the partying, dancing, fiddle playing and general happiness, they even have some Polynesian women on board, although apparently only for the higher ranking crew members. Ahab refuses the captain’s invitation to lighten up and party- he only wants to know if he’s seen the white whale. The captain of the Bachelor not only hasn’t seen the white whale, he doesn’t even believe it exists! This is truly an untroubled man.