"In the distance, a great white mass lazily rose, and rising higher and higher, at last it gleamed before our prow like a snow-slide, new slid from the hills . Thus glistening for a moment, slowly it subsided and sank. Then once more it arose, and silently gleamed.
It seemed not a whale; and yet is this Moby Dick? thought Daggoo. Again the phantom went down, but on its reappearing once more, with a stentorian yell that startled every man from his nod, the giant negro cried out -- "THERE! THERE AGAIN! THERE SHE BREACHES! RIGHT AHEAD! THE WHITE WHALE, THE WHITE WHALE!"
Captain Ahab is seen immediately perched upon the bowsprit [the pole that sticks out in front of the ship]. At the very next sighting of the whitish blob, he give the order -- and four whaleboats hit the water, crews and all.
"The four boats were soon on the water; Ahab's in advance, and all swiftly pulling towards their prey. Soon it went down, and while, with oars suspended, we were awaiting its reappearance, lo! in the same spot where it sank, once more it slowly rose. Almost forgetting for the moment all thoughts of Moby Dick, we now gazed at the most wondrous phenomenon which the secret seas have hitherto revealed to mankind. A vast pulpy mass, furlongs [1/8 of a mile!] in length and breadth, lay floating on the water. Innumerable long arms radiated from its centre, curling and twisting like a nest of anacondas [strangling snakes], as if blindly to catch any hapless object within reach. No perceptible face or front did it have; but it undulated there on the billows, an unearthly, formless, chance-like apparition of life.
"With a low sucking sound it slowly disappeared again. Starbuck with a wild voice exclaimed, 'Almost rather had I seen Moby Dick and fought him, than to have seen thee, thou white ghost!'
"'What was it, Sir?' said Flask.
"'The great live squid, which -- they say -- few whaleships ever beheld and returned to their ports to tell of it.'"
The sight of the giant squid, so rarely is it beheld, is enough to fill the superstitious whalemen with convictions of its portentousness. Although they know little or nothing about the giant squid, they are convinced that it is the sole source of food for the sperm whale. All other whales may be seen feeding at the surface; no other whale is provided with teeth -- fang-like, stout spikes of ivory in his lower jaw only -- that fit into bony sockets in his upper jaw. At times when pursued, sperm whales will disgorge the detached arms of the squid, some of them twenty and thirty feet in length. The sperm whale is capable of diving to great depth in the ocean where it attacks the squid, tearing it limb from limb with its boat-crushing jaws. The squid is unable to do much harm to the sperm whale, which has evolved an enormous battering-ram forehead that keeps the animal's eyes and other vulnerable spots far astern. Ships beware!