This is probably the most action-packed chapter so far. Having spotted their first whales, the crew of the Pequod springs into action. Captain Ahab and each of the three chief mates (Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask) descend into the ocean in smaller boats, each with its own harpooner, to give more immediate chase. Ahab shocks everyone because the crew of his smaller boat is a group of mysterious, foreign-looking stowaways whom no one has seen yet. The leader of these strange fellows, Ahab’s personal harpooner, is a tall, turbaned fellow named Fedallah.
As the boats are giving chase to the whales, a mighty mist and white squall suddenly descends upon everything. The Pequod is so violently tossed that many crew members are hurled into the sea, including Ishmael. For a time, no one can see anything. It’s really scary—this could be the end of their whole endeavor. Starbuck, in his small boat, hands a lamp to his harpooneer Queequeg. Melville writes: “There, then, he sat, holding up that imbecile candle in the heart of that almighty forlornness. There, then, he sat, the sign and symbol of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in the midst of despair.” Finally, the squall lifts, and everyone, amazingly, makes to back to the Pequod, safe and sound. It was a close call, and they had not captured the whale.