The Cutting In
(chapters 52–68), etching
The etching is named after the pattern in which the skin of the whale is cut, depicted to the right in red, over a black-and-white photograph of whale-cutters. To the right, we have the knives that the whale-cutters use both for whale-cutting, and to defend themselves against the sharks that are attracted to the bloodbath; hence, the jawbone of a shark, which is depicted in the centre of the picture. In the oval, we see a whale hunter with a dead sperm whale and, underneath, we find krill, the feed of baleen whales. To the far left, there is a whaleboat and an inscription for Osiris from an Egyptian Book of the Dead, in reference to Melville’s comparison of the scars on the head of a whale to hieroglyphics.
Near the Îles Crozet in the Indian Ocean (the realm of the flying fish, in the bottom right), The Pequod has a rendezvous with two ships, The Albatross – Reuvers depicts this vessel with the wavy flight of an albatross – and The Town Ho. In his account of the history of The Town Ho, Melville speaks of ‘Canallers’, sailors who navigate the Grand Erie Canal. An old chart of this region is depicted in the background at the bottom right.
The crew of The Pequod is reminded of Moby Dick’s most horrific feature – its whiteness – when an impressive squid suddenly emerges from the depths of the sea, and then disappears again with a low sucking sound. For the image of the giant squid, Reuvers chose a picture from the collection of the father of Prince Reinier of Monaco.