That very night, Ahab smelled a Sperm Whale. We have it on Melville's expert authority that Sperm Whales exude a peculiar odor. Ahab altered the Pequod's course so as to follow the odor in the darkness, and at daybreak a "long sleek" -- a track on the sea -- was observed. "Man the mast-heads! Call all hands! T'gallant sails -- stunsails! alow and aloft, and on both sides!" With all canvas in the wind, Ahab commands that he be hoisted aloft; on the way up he shouts, "There she blows! --- there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick! The doubloon is mine. I only; none of ye could have raised the White Whale first. Stand by the braces! Hard down the helm! ['Hard down' or 'Hard a'lee' with the tiller stops the ship so they can lower the whaleboats.] Boats! Boats!" Three boats -- all but Starbuck's -- are dropped and away they go, Ahab and all, after Moby Dick at last!
"Not the white bull Jupiter swimming away with Europa; not Jove, not that great majesty Supreme did surpass the glorified White Whale as he so divinely swam. No wonder there had been some among the hunters, allured by all this serenity, who had ventured to assail it, but fatally found that quietude but the vesture of tornadoes. The tall but shattered pole of a recent lance projected from the White Whale's back, and at intervals, one of the cloud of birds that hovered over the fish would silently perch and rock on this pole. The wretched hideousness of Moby Dick's jaw remained hidden. Then, warningly waving his bannered flukes in the air, the grand god revealed himself, sounded [dove], and went out of sight."
Ahab predicted that they would be waiting an hour for Moby Dick to come up again, but "'The birds! -- the birds!' cried Tashtego." The hovering birds could see that Moby Dick was coming up from a very great depth, heading right for the underside of Ahab's boat! Ahab, who was steering, called to Fedallah to change places, and so went to the bow of the boat and took up the blood-tempered harpoon. But Moby Dick did not allow it to be used.
The White Whale opened its huge jaw and took the boat in its mouth. "In this attitude it now shook the slight cedar boat as a mildly cruel cat her mouse. Ahab, helpless in the very jaws he hated, seized the long jaw with his naked hands, and wildly strove to wrench it from its grip. As he now thus vainly strove, the jaw slipped from him. The frail gunwales bent in and snapped as both jaws, like an enormous shears, bit the craft completely in twain. Ahab fell flat-faced upon the sea." Moby Dick began to swim in furious, ever tightening circles, the center of which was the old man's head. Only by steering the large Pequod itself between the splintered boat and the maddened whale was it possible to rescue Ahab, Fedallah, and the Parsee boat crew. The first thing bedraggled Ahab asked when pulled out of the water was, "The harpoon -- is it safe?" Stubb assured him that it was.
Back on the Pequod, the pursuit of Moby Dick continues. The two pieces of Ahab's wrecked boat are salvaged on deck. When Starbuck calls it an ill omen, he gets a dressing down, and Stubb is unfairly called a poltroon (coward) by the frenzied captain.
At the doubloon nailed to the mast: "'Men, this gold is mine, but I shall let it abide here until the White Whale is dead. And then, whosoever of ye first raises him upon the day he shall be killed, this gold is that man's. And if on that day I shall again raise him, then ten times its sum shall be divided among all of ye! Away now!"
Well, then! They'll keep their mouths shut and let Ahab have the honor, won't they?