It was Willie, a
fellow crewman, with the quick soft smile and the pin-striped railroad shirt
under a light bluejacket.
"Is that a
whale?" I asked.
over in the ice."
Then the rumbling
"Will we go
"I don't know.
That's up to Joe and Abe. We couldn't get him unless he came out of the
Joe and Abe stood
aside, conversing and shaking their heads and looking across the water to the
ice pack, three or four hundred yards away.
be two of them," Willie said.
I listened. A
heavy rumble. Thick. Full. Powerful. An animal noise, no doubt about it, and I
had to wonder why Melville insisted, even after Linnaeus had declared
otherwise, why Melville, after obviously hearing this mammalian sound, had
insisted on calling the whale "a spouting fish with a horizontal tail."
There was nothing fishlike about the sound. It reminded me of the big cats at a
distance, their rumblings reverberating off the cool cement zoo cages. Or a
hippo gurgling mud. A little like distant rolling prairie thunder; a peculiar
drainlike wallowing sound, part animal, part steel. The sound of something
huge, powerful, something unknown. My God, something alive. A gut sound, the
bowels of the ocean in distress. But a fish? No, certainly not a fish.