Not long into Captain Ahab’s search for the Great White Whale, one of the Pequod’s longboats is attacked, the sailors escape the immediate peril of the vengeful whale, but are “tossed helter skelter into the white curdling cream of the squall”.
They find themselves “drenched through, and shivering cold, despairing of ship or boat” and are left adrift throughout the night.
After escaping the “jaws of death” Ishmael reflects upon the perilous life a whaler leads, a life in which “squalls and capsizing in the water and the consequent bivouacks in the deep are a matter of common occurrence.”
With these dangers in mind, Ishmael finds solace in the preparation of his estate plan. Instead of seeking camaraderie with his fellow crewmates, retiring to peaceful isolation in his quarters, or partaking in any number of religious rituals, Ishmael first tends to the terms of his Will.
Upon ensuring that his testamentary wishes are in order, Ishmael describes his satisfaction. “after the ceremony was concluded upon the present occasion, I felt all the easier, a stone was rolled away from my heart.”
Herman Melville 1851.