A false alarm was sounded with the familiar 'There she blows', and though it proved not to be Moby Dick, it was enough to get Stubb all exercised with the excitement of the hunt; and so, too, the whole crew -- except for steady, misgiving Starbuck. The rigging was full of men on the lookout. But this time it was not to be the whale's spout that revealed him. No, this time Moby Dick defiantly shot up in the air like a flying fish.
"'There she breaches! there
she breaches!' was the cry, as in his immeasurable bravadoes the
White Whale tossed himself salmon-like to Heaven."
"'Aye, breach your last to the sun,
Moby Dick!' cried Ahab, 'thy hour and thy harpoon are at hand!
The boats! Lower away! Mr. Starbuck, keep the ship near. Lower
"'Aye, breach your last to the sun, Moby Dick!' cried Ahab, 'thy hour and thy harpoon are at hand! The boats! Lower away! Mr. Starbuck, keep the ship near. Lower away, all!'"
This time Moby Dick charges directly into the midst of the three whaleboats, attempting to smash them. Three harpoons are darted into him and stick fast, creating a terrible tangle of lines, loose harpoons, and loose lances -- a tangle that becomes worse and worse as the whale crosses and recrosses, so that in so doing he pulls the boats nearer and nearer to him. With a blow of his mighty tail, Moby Dick smashes the boats of Stubb and Flask. Then the furious whale dives down deep and disappears -- and it is deja-vu all over again:
"Ahab's yet unstricken boat seemed drawn up from Heaven by invisible wires as, arrow-like, shooting perpendicularly from the sea, the White Whale dashed his broad forehead against its bottom, and sent it turning over and over into the air, till it fell again -- gunwale downwards -- and Ahab and his men struggled out from under it, like seals from a sea-side cave."
Back aboard the Pequod they scramble as before. This time it's Ahab's ivory leg that's been snapped off! The enchanted harpoon's stuck into Moby Dick and lost! Bad enough! but Fedallah-the-Parsee's missing -- caught and dragged under in the tangles of Ahab's line! Oh woe! Remember Fedallah's prediction -- "I shall go before thee, thy pilot."
Starbuck is at wit's end: "Great God! never, never wilt thou capture him, old man -- In Jesus' name no more of this, that's worse than devil's madness. Two days chased; twice stove to splinters. Shall we keep chasing this murderous fish till he swamps the last man? Oh, -- Impiety and blasphemy to hunt him more!"
Resolute and unmoved, Ahab answers: "Ahab is forever Ahab, man. This whole act's immutably decreed. `Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fates' lieutenant; I act under orders. Look thou, underling! that thou obeyest mine." Thus, in delusions of grandeur, the chase continues.