OK everyone, back up. Way back to Chapter 32. You remember – it’s the chapter where Melville decides to throw out the whole classification system invented by Carolus (Carl) Linnaeus. Back in biology class we all learned the classification system he invented, starting with KPCOFGS. (Yes, that’s Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species, or whatever mnemonic device you used to remember the order such as King Phillip Came Over For Good Supper.) Now, I know he wasn’t perfect (after all, who really wants to remember long scientific “genus species” names in Latin???), but I’d say he is pretty near genius, considering most of what he proposed almost 300 years ago still holds true today. There is a reason he is called the “Father of Taxonomy.”
Apparently Melville wasn’t convinced. He decides that whales are not really mammals, but instead fish (that spout and have a horizontal tale). Following this rather audacious comment, he proceeds to produce a very LONG chapter with three “folios” of whale-fish with multiple “chapters” each. Melville? What about live birth? What about nursing? What about body hair? Warm-blooded? Sorry. I’m with Linnaeus. I realize you know almost everything possible there is to know about whales (and thanks to this TOME, I now know more than I ever wanted to know about them), but this is one area in which you should have stuck with the experts.
And while I’m ranting, here’s another area where you and I disagree, Melville. Polar bears. Yep, polar bears. An object of terror? Ghastly? Staggering courage? Intolerable hideousness? A brute? (Descriptions from Chapter 42) I happen to like them. I happen to think they are beautiful, majestic and powerful. Yes, I wouldn’t want to cozy up to one, but neither would I want to cozy up to a black or grizzly bear. So there.