Chapter 48 The First Lowering

        Melville has created a father figure to hate, and his name is Captain Ahab. The author's life experiences are writ large on the pages of Moby Dick. At the time of crisis -- when the very first time comes for the crew to face death in the hunt for sperm whales -- it is then they look to "the old man", the one who knows what to do, how to do it. They look to their Captain for guidance and protection, and what do they see? They see that their "father" has hidden a boat crew he can trust -- a crew of yellow devils, the Parsees stowed away until now; a crew led by one Fedallah, tall and swart with one white tooth evilly protruding from his steel-like lips. This represents the devil himself, clad in black, but strangely crowning his blackness was a glistening, white-braided turban made of his living hair, coiled round and round upon his head. [Note Melville's propensity to use the color white to symbolize evil -- read into this what you will.]

        "All ready there, Fedallah?" asked Ahab, as his private boat crew gathered at the captain's whaleboat.

        "Ready," hissed the Parsees chieftain.

        "Lower away then, d'ye hear? Lower away there, I say!" thundered Ahab.

        And four whaleboats dropped from the Pequod's davits, and four boat's crews leaped like mountain goats from the ship's railing into the tossing boats far below. It was to be Ahab/Fedallah, Starbuck/Queequeg, Stubb/Tashtego, and Flask/Daggoo as principals in this sortie, with our narrator Ishmael just a sailor pulling an oar in Starbuck's boat. As the boats row to the whales, the mates attempt to reassure the suspicious sailors:

        "Never heed yonder yellow boys, Archy," cries Flask, perched on the stern of his whaleboat, steering with a long steering-oar, as his crew rows with their backsides to the whales.

        "Oh, I don't mind em, sir," says Archy. "I knew it all before now. Didn't I hear 'em in the hold that night? They are stowaways, Mr. Flask."

        "Why don't you break your backbones, my boys?" says Stubb to his crew, as he balances on the pitching boat. "Never mind the yellow boys. Pull then, do pull -- five more hands come to help us. Devils are good fellows enough."

        "A sad business, Mr.Stubb," says Starbuck, steady at his steering-oar. "Smuggled on board, somehow, before the ship sailed. Never mind. (Pull, my boys!) Sperm's the play! Duty and Profit, and that's what ye came for. (Pull, my boys!)"

        "Aye, aye," soliloquized Stubb, "and the White Whale's at the bottom of it."

        As for Ishmael, he says, "I silently recalled the mysterious shadows I had seen creeping on board the Pequod during that dim Nantucket dawn, as well as the enigmatical hintings of the unaccountable Elijah." As for Ahab, his words are unmentionable.

        As a blinding squall comes up, Starbuck says, "Thou, Queequeg, stand up and give it to him!" Queequeg, harpoon in hand, stands up, and darts the iron into the hump of the nearest whale. The next thing they know, the whale upsets Starbuck's boat and swamps it. The other boats find their way back to the mother ship, but Ishmael, Queequeg, Starbuck & crew are lost all night, forlornly sitting waist-deep in a swamped whaleboat in a howling gale. In the gray fog of dawn, the Pequod runs right over the boat, but rescues the shivering men.