In the distance, a great white mass lazily rose, and rising higher and higher, and disentangling itself from the azure, at last gleamed before our prow like a snow-slide, new slid from the hills. Thus glistening for a moment, as slowly it subsided, and sank. Then once more arose, and silently gleamed. It seemed not a whale; and yet is this Moby Dick? thought Daggoo. Again, the phantom went down, but on reappearing once more, with a stiletto like cry that startled every man from his nod, the negro yelled out. "There! there again! there she breaches! right ahead! The White Whale! The White Whale!"
Upon this, the seamen rushed to the yard arms, as in swarming time the bees rush to the boughs. Bare headed in the sultry sun, Ahab stood on the bowsprit, and with one hand pushed far behind in readiness to wave his orders to the helmsman, cast his eager glance in the direction indicated aloft by the outstretched motionless arm of Daggoo.
Whether the flitting attendance of the one still and solitary jet had gradually worked upon Ahab, so that he was now prepared to connect the ideas of mildness and repose with the first sight of the particular whale he pursued; however this was, or whether is eagerness betrayed him, whichever way it might have been, no sooner did he distinctly perceive the white mass, than with a quick intensity he instantly gave orders for lowering.
The four boats were soon on the water; Ahab 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 of hitherto revealed to mankind. A vast, pulpy mass, furlongs in length and breadth, of a glancing cream-color, lay floating on the water, innumerably long arms radiating from its centre, and curling and twisting like a nest of anacondas, as if blindly to catch at any hapless object within reach. No perceptible face or front did it have; no conceivable token of either sensation or instinct, but undulated there on the billows, an unearthly, formless, chance-like apparition of life.
As with a low sucking sound it slowly disappeared again, Starbuck still gazing at the agitated waters where it had sunk, 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 whale ships ever beheld, and returned to their ports to tell of it."
But Ahab said nothing; turning his boat, he sailed back to the vessel; the rest as silently following.