Moby Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville? I first read it while enjoying a lazy summer between semesters. At the time my coin collection was Lincoln Wheat Cents and Jefferson Nickels from circulation. So, not surprisingly, these passages were unremarkable and went relatively unnoticed. 35+ years later, I am now slowly re-reading Moby Dick and these same passages stood out like, well, like a White Whale! from Chapter 36... When the entire ship’s company were assembled, and with curious and not wholly unapprehensive faces, were eyeing him, for he looked not unlike the weather horizon when a storm is coming up, Ahab, after rapidly glancing over the bulwarks, and then darting his eyes among the crew, started from his standpoint; and as though not a soul were nigh him resumed his heavy turns upon the deck. With bent head and half-slouched hat he continued to pace, unmindful of the wondering whispering among the men; till Stubb cautiously whispered to Flask, that Ahab must have summoned them there for the purpose of witnessing a pedestrian feat. But this did not last long. Vehemently pausing, he cried:— “What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?” “Sing out for him!” was the impulsive rejoinder from a score of clubbed voices. “Good!” cried Ahab, with a wild approval in his tones; observing the hearty animation into which his unexpected question had so magnetically thrown them. “And what do ye next, men?” “Lower away, and after him!” “And what tune is it ye pull to, men?” “A dead whale or a stove boat!” More and more strangely and fiercely glad and approving, grew the countenance of the old man at every shout; while the mariners began to gaze curiously at each other, as if marvelling how it was that they themselves became so excited at such seemingly purposeless questions. But, they were all eagerness again, as Ahab, now half-revolving in his pivot-hole, with one hand reaching high up a shroud, and tightly, almost convulsively grasping it, addressed them thus:— “All ye mast-headers have before now heard me give orders about a white whale. Look ye! d’ye see this Spanish ounce of gold?”—holding up a broad bright coin to the sun—“it is a sixteen dollar piece, men. D’ye see it? Mr. Starbuck, hand me yon top-maul.” While the mate was getting the hammer, Ahab, without speaking, was slowly rubbing the gold piece against the skirts of his jacket, as if to heighten its lustre, and without using any words was meanwhile lowly humming to himself, producing a sound so strangely muffled and inarticulate that it seemed the mechanical humming of the wheels of his vitality in him. Receiving the top-maul from Starbuck, he advanced towards the main-mast with the hammer uplifted in one hand, exhibiting the gold with the other, and with a high raised voice exclaiming: “Whosoever of ye raises me a white-headed whale with a wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw; whosoever of ye raises me that white-headed whale, with three holes punctured in his starboard fluke—look ye, whosoever of ye raises me that same white whale, he shall have this gold ounce, my boys!” “Huzza! huzza!” cried the seamen, as with swinging tarpaulins they hailed the act of nailing the gold to the mast. from Chapter 99... But one morning, turning to pass the doubloon, he seemed to be newly attracted by the strange figures and inscriptions stamped on it, as though now for the first time beginning to interpret for himself in some monomaniac way whatever significance might lurk in them. And some certain significance lurks in all things, else all things are little worth, and the round world itself but an empty cipher, except to sell by the cartload, as they do hills about Boston, to fill up some morass in the Milky Way. Now this doubloon was of purest, virgin gold, raked somewhere out of the heart of gorgeous hills, whence, east and west, over golden sands, the head-waters of many a Pactolus flows. And though now nailed amidst all the rustiness of iron bolts and the verdigris of copper spikes, yet, untouchable and immaculate to any foulness, it still preserved its Quito glow. Nor, though placed amongst a ruthless crew and every hour passed by ruthless hands, and through the livelong nights shrouded with thick darkness which might cover any pilfering approach, nevertheless every sunrise found the doubloon where the sunset left it last. For it was set apart and sanctified to one awe-striking end; and however wanton in their sailor ways, one and all, the mariners revered it as the white whale’s talisman. Sometimes they talked it over in the weary watch by night, wondering whose it was to be at last, and whether he would ever live to spend it. Now those noble golden coins of South America are as medals of the sun and tropic token-pieces. Here palms, alpacas, and volcanoes; sun’s disks and stars; ecliptics, horns-of-plenty, and rich banners waving, are in luxuriant profusion stamped; so that the precious gold seems almost to derive an added preciousness and enhancing glories, by passing through those fancy mints, so Spanishly poetic. It so chanced that the doubloon of the Pequod was a most wealthy example of these things. On its round border it bore the letters, REPUBLICA DEL ECUADOR: QUITO. So this bright coin came from a country planted in the middle of the world, and beneath the great equator, and named after it; and it had been cast midway up the Andes, in the unwaning clime that knows no autumn. Zoned by those letters you saw the likeness of three Andes’ summits; from one a flame; a tower on another; on the third a crowing cock; while arching over all was a segment of the partitioned zodiac, the signs all marked with their usual cabalistics, and the keystone sun entering the equinoctial point at Libra. Before this equatorial coin, Ahab, not unobserved by others, was now pausing. from Wikipedia... Known in the numismatic world as a "Moby Dick Coin", the Ecuadorian 8 Escudos doubloon, minted in Quito, Ecuador, between 1838 and 1843, is the one ounce of gold "sixteen dollar piece" Captain Ahab nails to the mast of the Pequod, promising it to the first man who "raises" Moby-Dick. The novel was written in the mid 1800's, published in 1851. More info about the coin can be found at Numista. Country Ecuador Period Republic (1830-date) Type Standard circulation coin Years 1838-1843 Value 8 Escudos (128) Currency Real (1822-1871) Composition Gold (.875) Weight 27.064 g Diameter 35 mm Shape Round Orientation Coin alignment ↑↓ Demonetized Yes References KM# 23 The White Whale Captain Ahab was obsessed with tracking down and killing The White Whale (aka Moby Dick) and the term has become one of the more widely used metaphors for one's obsession or a goal that you chase but are unlikely to attain. I know I have a few White Whale coins that I want but will likely never obtain! What coins are your White Whales?