CHAPTER 74. The Sperm Whale's Head--Contrasted View.


Here, now, are two great whales, laying their heads together; let us
join them, and lay together our own.

Of the grand order of folio leviathans, the Sperm Whale and the Right
Whale are by far the most noteworthy. They are the only whales regularly
hunted by man. To the Nantucketer, they present the two extremes of all
the known varieties of the whale. As the external difference between
them is mainly observable in their heads; and as a head of each is this
moment hanging from the Pequod's side; and as we may freely go from one
to the other, by merely stepping across the deck:--where, I should like
to know, will you obtain a better chance to study practical cetology
than here?

In the first place, you are struck by the general contrast between these
heads. Both are massive enough in all conscience; but there is a certain
mathematical symmetry in the Sperm Whale's which the Right Whale's sadly
lacks. There is more character in the Sperm Whale's head. As you behold
it, you involuntarily yield the immense superiority to him, in point
of pervading dignity. In the present instance, too, this dignity is
heightened by the pepper and salt colour of his head at the summit,
giving token of advanced age and large experience. In short, he is what
the fishermen technically call a "grey-headed whale."