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In this chapter, Ishmael describes the measures taken by the Pequod to make sure its hard-won whale isn’t completely devoured by the sharks before the crew has had a chance to remove its blubber. Queequeg and another sailor stand on “cutting stages” hung over the side of the ship and, “darting their long whaling-spades, kept up an incessant murdering of the sharks, by striking the keen steel deep into their skulls, seemingly their only vital part.”

Ishmael tells us in a footnote that

The whaling-spade used for cutting-in is made of the very best steel; is about the bigness of a man’s spread hand; and in general shape, corresponds to the garden implement after which it is named; only its sides are perfectly flat, and its upper end considerably narrower than the lower. This weapon is always kept as sharp as possible; and when being used is occasionally honed, just like a razor. In its socket, a stiff pole, from twenty to thirty feet long, is inserted for a handle.

You can read more about whaling spades at