An entertaining explanation of how whalers meet at sea, taking advantage of any opportunity to share information. But Ahab's monomania regarding Moby Dick leads him to a lack of interest in the general commercial facts that other whalers find of practical interest.
CHAPTER 53. The Gam.
Ahab ... cared not to consort, even for five minutes, with any stranger captain, except he could contribute some of that information he so absorbingly sought. ... whaling-vessels when meeting each other in foreign seas, and especially on a common cruising-ground.
... two whaling vessels descrying each other at the ends of the earth ... come into still closer, more friendly and sociable contact. ... For the long absent ship, the outward-bounder, perhaps, has letters on board;... in return for that courtesy, the outward-bound ship would receive the latest whaling intelligence ... one of them may have received a transfer of letters from some third, and now far remote vessel; and some of those letters may be for the people of the ship she now meets. Besides, they would exchange the whaling news, and have an agreeable chat. ...of all ships separately sailing the sea, the whalers have most reason to be sociable—and they are so. ...pirates straightway steer apart, for they are infernal villains on both sides, and don't like to see overmuch of each other's villanous likenesses.
But look at the godly, honest, unostentatious, hospitable, sociable, free-and-easy whaler! What does the whaler do when she meets another whaler in any sort of decent weather? She has a "GAM," a thing so utterly unknown to all other ships that they never heard of the name even; and if by chance they should hear of it, they only grin at it, and repeat gamesome stuff about "spouters" and "blubber-boilers," and such like pretty exclamations. Why it is that all Merchant-seamen, and also all Pirates and Man-of-War's men, and Slave-ship sailors, cherish such a scornful feeling towards Whale-ships; this is a question it would be hard to answer. Because, in the case of pirates, say, I should like to know whether that profession of theirs has any peculiar glory about it. ... GAM. NOUN—A SOCIAL MEETING OF TWO (OR MORE) WHALESHIPS, GENERALLY ON A CRUISING-GROUND; WHEN, AFTER EXCHANGING HAILS, THEY EXCHANGE VISITS BY BOATS' CREWS; THE TWO CAPTAINS REMAINING, FOR THE TIME, ON BOARD OF ONE SHIP, AND THE TWO CHIEF MATES ON THE OTHER. ...the whale-boat has no seat astern, no sofa of that sort whatever, and no tiller at all. ...there have occurred instances, well authenticated ones too, where the captain has been known for an uncommonly critical moment or two, in a sudden squall say—to seize hold of the nearest oarsman's hair, and hold on there like grim death.
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Re: Moby Dick Chapter 53 The Gam
This may have nothing to do with the word 'gam' - but here in Gambia we have 'gamos' which is a very important all night vigil, where everyone attends from miles around - children, teenagers, adults, all in their best dress, and been looking forward to it for ages. We had a big one here last night in the village, and even the President sent representatives. There were bulls killed, and the food distributed. People came from as far afield as Senegal and Guinea Bissau. All night praying, discussing the Koran, etc. Sounds like fun! http://s768.photobucket.com/albums/xx33 ... %20Brufut/
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