A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Ed Popko
Date: 2019 Jan 10, 08:23 -0800
What you say about Melville is quite true and that navigation (technique at least) was probably kept a secret to prevent mutiny. However, Melville seemed to take note the few times Ahab was on deck prior to their spotting Moby Dick. And besides, even if you keep navigation technique a secret, you still have to be on-deck for much of it. Ahab's presence would have been noted by all deck hands.
There are only three or four navigation references in the whole book. The most famous is the moment Ahab throws his sextant down, breaking it in anger - it only tells me where I am, not where the whale is. I think Lunars was mentioned once. I don't remember the first mate performing any navigation duties. Aside from a few references to the ship's compass, how did they find their way on such a long voyage?
Yes, navigation is not the core story but given the details of other ship activities, the ship layout and the amazing background on the whaling industry and the biology and habits of whales, it's seems odd to me that navigation is hardly mentioned at all.
PS: I still think Queequeg, the tattooed cannibal South Seas harpooner should have survived the Pequod's sinking.