Tuesday, July 3, 2012

More from Melville

I am still reading my way through Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick or The Whale.  Awhile back I shared a bit about weaving (March 21, 2012).  Last night I read a bit about rope.  Here are two paragraphs from Chapter 60, “The Line”:

“With reference to the whaling scene shortly to be described, as well as for the better understanding of all similar scenes elsewhere presented, I have here to speak of the magical, sometimes horrible whale-line.”
“The whale line is only two thirds of an inch in thickness.  At first sight, you would not think it so strong as it really is.  By experiment its one and fifty yarns will each suspend a weight of one hundred and twenty pounds; so that the whole rope will bear a strain nearly equal to three tons.  In length, the common sperm whale-line measures something over two hundred fathoms.  Towards the stern of the boat it is spirally coiled away in the tub, not like the worm-pipe of a still though, but so as to form one round, cheese-shaped mass of densly bedded ‘sheaves’, or layers of concentric spiralizations, without any hollow but the ‘heart’, or minute vertical tube formed at the axis of the cheese.  As the least tangle or kink in the coiling would, in running out, infallibly take sombody’s arm, leg, or entire body off, the utmost precaution is used in stowing the line in its tub.  Some harpooneeers will consume almost an entire morning in this business, carrying the line hight aloft, and then reeving it downwards through a block towards the tub, so as in the act of coiling to free it from all possible wrinkles and twists.”

I would like to think that I store my yarns equally carefully, although I do not fear that my yarns will ever “take somebody’s arm…off”.

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