Dick in the dock - a courtroom conservation drama
"Call me, Ishmael!" So I whispered to my friend before my earthly body sank into the deep. And who am I? Call me Kiwi. The name I gave Ishmael, which he mangled to Queequeg, his American ear not suited to the syllables of Aotearoa.
When my new body was fashioned I found myself facing the warriors of the Ngati Porou, the hapu I had left behind a life time ago. I was like many disaffected Maori youths of the time, descendent of a chief but destined never to become one. Too common for rangatira, too chiefly for a common warrior. I drifted among the Poverty Bay Pakaha, finally taking ship on an inshore whaling vessel to Kororareka.
The whalers of this frontier town were a rough people; not rough in the romantic fashion weaved in tales as Ishmael's friend Herman painted them, not rough like a kindly grand-dad rubbing his whiskers against the child on his lap. No, their roughness is more in the fashion of a barnacle-encrusted hulk, the jagged points of which would scrape and gouge the unfortunate who was keel-hauled over them.
Kororareka at that time was as barbarous a place as ever this Earth had known. Murder, mayhem and racial tensions ran high, and I shipped on a whaling boat to Nantucket to escape. Staring death in the face while driving my lance into a great whale several times my size somehow seemed less damaging to my health than continuous nights of debauchery and drunken brawling in Kororareka; this showing what manner of godless place I had escaped.
I had with me some Maori tiki, which to the Pakeha had a hideous and almost demonic visage; these giving rise to the rumour spread by Herman that I was peddling shrunken heads. The other embellishments woven by Herman from the warp of my own culture; the negroid idol I worshipped, my primitive and childlike religious rituals, and my tales of cannibalistic feasts, were all inventions, mostly dreamed up by myself to shock my friend Ishmael in jest.
Which subject recollects me to my present predicament. The Ngati Parou have traditionally revered the whale, the legendary 'whale rider', Paikea Ariki Moana being a respected tipuna of our iwi. The people of Aotearoa New Zealand have a renewed understanding of these beasts. The great whales and their smaller cousins the dolphins, which in previous generations were valued solely in terms of how much oil their carcass contained are now deemed as beautiful and protected beings. Thus spoke the rangatira of my hapu when I found myself facing him.
"You have brought dishonour on us all." I was seated outside the wharenui, the elders and kuia sitting inside, dressed in an incongruous fashion in their feather cloaks and Pakeha suits. The koro spoke to me in English, knowing my knowledge of Te Reo, my mother tongue, had stagnated and decomposed in the foetid scuppers of the whale ships. Such is my shame, but also my salvation in a world that had no use for my whakapapa or knowledge of my own place.
I hung my head "I am sorry," I said. "I ran away from my own whanau to seek the Pakeha fortune." My English was fluent and colloquial. It was another trick of Herman's to ascribe a pidgin dialect to all non-European seamen, and to render us all as unlettered, whereas most of the harpooners he looked down on as 'savages' were at least bi-lingual, and some can speak several languages. It is the monoglot American, English and New Zealand Pakeha who have trouble getting their tonsils around any sounds but their own.
"Many of us Maori are seeking their fortune in the Pakeha world, and some have done well." said the koro. "You were simply one of the first, and for this we do not blame you. But what a profession you chose. To chase away the sacred tohoraha, hound him like a common kahawai, drill him for oil like a coconut, and eat him by his own light, that is something we find shameful.
"If you were a Pakeha, or one of the inland Maori tribes that forsook the sea ages past we would find this less reprehensible. But you are from the Ngati Porou, a descendant of Paikea Ariki Moana. The blood of our tipuna is in your veins and you should have known better."
"It is true." I bowed my head further. "What am I to do?"
"You have been denied your rest until you have made restitution to the whales you have persecuted. For know that the entire nation of Aotearoa New Zealand is in the forefront of the drive to protect the whale and the dolphin. Maori and Pakeha fishers drove the Maui's dolphin to extinction in 2015. The worship of money and arrogant dominion over nature was paramount to the Wellington bureaucrats and to Maori fishery companies. The glint of gold in their eyes blinded them to the spiritual realities of their own ancestors, and their own Christian God, who praised the Leviathan in the book of Job.
"You are to remain here until your shipmates come for you. Their destiny, like yours, is tied up in the whale, the one you call Moby Dick, but here we call Te Tohoraha A Paikea, the whale that Paikea rode while our tribe was yet young."
When the white whale, showing an intelligence once diabolical in its perceptiveness, sank the Pequod, as providence would have it I was far from the maelstrom effected by the sinking ship, having been thrown into the shark infested waters from Ahab's boat. The sharks, perhaps knowing from providence I was to be spared, the better to be tormented by the trials to come, left me unmolested. When the broken ship had finally vanished beneath the waves, and the concavity made by its passing had been plastered over by the ever callous sea, I perceived a single living figure, a bobbing head some four furlongs distant.
Making as much headway as I could in the swell, with my clumsily shaped coffin as a craft, I eventually perceived it to be Queequeg.
"Queequeg," I shouted, for I could see that the savage's normally hardened visage was a weak remnant of its former self. "What ails you. Can ye hear me?"
I was answered by a groan. I perceived with some horror that the sea around my friend was stained with crimson, the scarlet tendrils spreading like a malevolent octopus. I noticed the harpoon sticking out of Queequeg's midriff, and my friend as fast to the cruel barb as any sperm whale.
"It hurts," he groaned. "It is fate. I do not have long for this world. I rely on you to meet me in the next one. Call me, Ishmael."
With those last words my friend's eyes glazed over. At that moment a fin carved the water. My eyes had just enough time to behold a set of flashing teeth, before the shark had torn the body of my friend away from me and carried it into the deep to keep company with the Pequod.
As my erudite friend Herman has recorded, I drifted a day and a night on the indifferent sea before the Rachel picked me up. I had expected some measure of human compassion and fellow feeling from the crew of the whale ship, the commiserations that all sailors will have towards their own, suffering a misfortune that may befall them at any time. But to my grave consternation, the captain and crew alike showed no countenance but a grim one, looking after my bodily needs but failing to succor my spiritual wants.
The reason for this hostility was apparent from the moment I gave the name of my ship. The captain frowned at me, and the waiting sailors stopped their bantering amongst themselves and became silent
"The Pequod, you say." said the captain. "And what has happened to your shipmates?"
"The white whale was it?"
"The same white whale took my son. For know ye this; that two days from the time your mad captain spurned my request for assistance my son was found; his body still warm, but just as dead as if he were cold as the Arctic ice caps. Had your captain been of a mind to assist with our search, he would be alive now."
"I am sorry for your loss," I said, "as I am for the loss of my shipmates. Yet it is more fit that you place the blame where is lies. The cursed whale; he that is called Moby Dick, who has with such malice caused your grief and mine."
"I can tell by your speech you are an educated man," said the captain. "More shame you for letting such putrescent nonsense escape your mouth. Know that the white whale has nought but the brute instincts of its kind, the one of which is to defend itself from attack; aye as you yourself would do.
"My own right hand has killed more whales than I can count and each time I cast my harpoon I know that the whale may claim my life or my limbs as surely as I claim his. How then can I take revenge on such a brute beast, and in doing so neglect my duty to my fellow man, and endanger the life of my own crew in the process."
I was silent at this outburst. I had no wish to argue with a man mired in the despond of his own grief, but still I knew he was wrong. For did not God give man the dominion over all the land and oceans. And just as the corn has its swollen ears for man's sustenance, why then if the object of the whale was not to light the way for man, did the good Lord make them out of oil. The whale that fights back at its attacker is an abomination, as if an ear of corn should bite the hand that shucks it, or a negro slave should rail at the overseer.
The captain turned away and gave orders that I be given water, rest and dry clothes, then afterwards I must work my passage back to Nantucket. Nor, since I was a shipwreck, would I expect any wages. My days and nights aboard were miserable; I was shunned by all and sundry, from the captain on his quarterdeck, to the cabin boy who served the food; every man's hand was against me.
My solace during those times that the Rachel made her way back to Nantucket were my dreams; almost nightly did the honest face of my friend appear to me, in each case making the same appeal, "Call me, Ishmael."
I was cast ashore on the tide at Nantucket like foam, owning no more than the clothes on my back. I repaired at once to the office of Captain Peleg, owner of the Pequod. The Pequod was no more and its oil was sunk to the bottom of the deep, so his payment of one three hundredth of a lay would be one three hundredth of nothing at all. Yet I was hoping that by some measure of Christian charity, and mindful of the tribulations visited upon me from following the commands of his captain, yet he would at the least provide me with the fare to New Bedford where I could perchance find work suiting to my station.
Alas, that guardian of the purse made surety to pay what I was owed and nothing more, save when I pointed out my parlous state as lacking even the price of a meal and a night at an inn he provided me free of charge with the soundest advice; that the whaler fleet provided food and lodging and they were always seeking crew.
I bethought that I had suffered a surfeit of the whaling life, yet realizing I had little choice I repaired to the dock with a heavy heart. There as luck would have it a merchant ship had just lately arrived from New York and was seeking deckhands.
The merchant fleet is full of danger, from the sea, land and air and the most when the three elements conspire among themselves to blow the ship upon the hidden reefs, then dash the sailors against the rocks. Yet after the dangers of the whaling life, where to these elements is added the capricious leviathan, the life appeared one of ease and comfort. So much so that I spent the next twenty years in the merchant service, working my way up to second mate of a merchantman.
I saw a great many whales during my journeys, and hard it was for me at the look out not to sing out "thar she blows," but the crew were indifferent to these vast oil resources save for the vulgar pleasures of watching them with some admiration as the two large objects sailed past each other.
I left the merchant fleet when wood and sail gave way to iron and steam, and retired to New York. There I met my friend Herman, who set my adventures on the Pequod into print the better that all men may honor the whaler. While staying in New York I took on some work as a scrivener. At that employment I felt such melancholy as I had not experienced since my first desire to go to sea, that I walked to the Brooklyn bridge and sat upon a girder, the better to throw myself from it, when lo! as my eyes scanned the horizon I beheld the white fluke of the whale that had carried off my shipmates, and felt the white hot anger hold me, and drag me down.
"There she blows!" I shouted to the wind. "Man the boats! Queequeg, where is your harpoon?" So saying a fit came upon me and I fell down insensible.
"Call me Wiremu," I said to Ishmael. "It is my baptismal name, which I have now claimed back." The two of us were shouting as we walked on the promontory, the sea dashing round the rocks, the sheep like white daisies on the hillside.
"Why have I been summoned here?" said Ishmael, "and where is this place?"
"We are back on my marae, in a different age, a different place, where whales are revered not reviled, as are Captain Ahab and the crew of the Pequod."
"Oh joy!" my friend exclaimed, "then they are all alive. How I long to see them all. Stern Ahab, and humorous Starbuck, the timid Flask and the brave Mr Stubbs. And is little Pip and Doughboy among the crew? Great will be my rejoicing at the reunion."
"They are all alive, in the same way as you and me."
"What are we all spirits? And if so for what purpose were you and me brought back from the dead? And the Pequod too? Is it a spirit boat to sail the seas forever like the ancient mariner?"
"What difference does it make to you or me? Suffice they are alive as you and I are alive, and you will meet them all anon. For even now the trial begins. I am charged to convey you to Tauranga where the High Court is assembled at the water front, the Tauranga Moana being the only gaol large enough to contain the great whale Moby Dick as he lies in remand."
"Moby Dick is on trial! I hope he is condemned to death. How did it happen though that a mere brute is accorded the human dignity of a trial. Surely he must simply be disposed of as we would hang an erring slave."
"The story is complex. Perhaps I should begin at the beginning."
"Please do," said Ishmael.
So we sat in the sun in front of the marae, and I told my shipmate all that had occurred since I found myself back in Aotearoa.
"As I heard it from my shipmates, the Pequod had risen from the waves soon after it had sunk beneath them and then the lookout had espied the great white whale. It appeared none of them had any memory of their ordeal, for straight away Ahab gave the command to chase the whale. Though I was not present I can hear Ahab's curses as he rails against the mammal who has swept away his best harpooner, as well as his first mate and his able seaman. 'Curse and confound thee, may the devil take thee to Hell. How darest thou turn upon my men who only meant thee harm.'"
"Pon my word, Wiremu," said my friend, "you have narrated Ahab's tone to perfection. Though why do you call the fish a mammal, as though you raise it to near equality with you and I. But you narrate like a master story teller; 'tis better perhaps that you set down this tale instead of my friend Herman."
"Listen then for the story to unfold. For know that the Pequod chased the whale for several weeks through the Pacific Islands, and the whale keeping tantalisingly out of range, almost as though it were leading and not fleeing from us.
"This was not the only strange portent of that voyage. As the Pequod approached New Zealand, the crew beheld a vessel made totally of iron, a wisp of steam escaping its funnel like a Hudson River steamboat, and a noise like that of a beehive humming from its vitals. The whale turned towards the vessel, calling out in a deep booming voice, almost as if it were speaking to it. Then even stranger, the iron shipseemed to answer, with the same booming sounds coming from inside it.
"'There is some devilry here,' muttered Ahab, and Tashtego fingered the idol around his neck.
"Then the crew of the Pequod heard a voice even across the half mile of ocean that still separated them from the iron ship. 'Ship ahoy. What is your business in New Zealand waters?'
"'It is sorcery,' muttered Tashtego. 'How could that man's voice carry that far?'
"'It is no man,' growled Ahab. As the iron ship altered course straight for them he ordered the Pequod to heave to, and for all sailors to arm themselves with whatever weapons were handy.
"A small boat fairly fizzed through the water between the ships, the sea frothing in its stern. In the bow of the boat was a dark skinned woman in her thirties, the one who had called. Two men sat at the stern, one holding the tiller.
"'Permission to come aboard,' called the woman.
"'Aye,' answered Ahab.
"The three boat crew hauled themselves on deck. Their uniforms were crisp, the men were clean shaven, their hair cut short, and all appeared abashed to see the rough whiskered sailors of the Pequod grasping their makeshift weapons.
"The woman wrinkled her nose 'May I speak to your captain?' she said. Ahab pushed forward.
"'I am the captain of the Pequod, girl. And I in turn would like to talk to your commanding officer.'
"'That's me. Lieutenant Jessica Te Aroha, commander of the Te Kereru, New Zealand Navy.'
"'Don't jest with me girl. It is your commander I must speak to. I must have the white whale that you are sheltering. You must stand aside or face our wrath.'
"'I am the commander of the Te Kereru. Your threats do not scare me. You are in New Zealand waters and the whale has claimed sanctuary under our laws.'
"'Oh pinch me, Flask,' moaned Ahab. 'Now I have seen everything. A woman - nay a mere girl commands a naval vessel. And a mere brute, and one moreover with the devil in it, responsible for crippling me, for killing divers of my shipmates, such criminally malevolent brute is accorded protection. What do you mean, young lady, by claiming these waters for your nation? This is the high seas, not New Zealand.'
"'Is your knowledge as antiquated as your vessel?' asked the young commander. 'You are within one hundred kilometres of Auckland, and therefore in New Zealand waters as stipulated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The whale tells me you are searching him to kill him.'
"'So you speak the devil's language do you? What if we are?' said Ahab. 'He deserves to die. He took my leg, and has killed four of my crew.'
"'What were you doing to him at the time?' Jessica asked Ahab.
"'Why I was hunting him for oil, as is my God given right. I want you to stand aside so I can do justice upon this beast.'
"'You speak of justice, yet you come armed into our waters and threaten a naval officer. Under our laws, the Amendment to the Marine Mammals Protection Act passed in 2018, this whale is under the protection of New Zealand and you are not allowed to harm him. And furthermore...'
"'What year did you say it was?' cried Ahab. 'I see now you are not bewitched. It is us. I have hunted Moby Dick across the seven seas and now it seems I have hunted him across time as well. It is the will of God. Stand aside woman, or face our wrath.'
"'Your talk of wrath is tedious. You speak glibly of the will of God, yet God made the whale as he made you, and in this advanced age we have learned to converse with them. The whale has been invested with legal personhood and protected from poachers like yourself. If you have a grievance against Moby Dick, it must be sorted out through the courts. You must not act as executioner yourself.'
"The naval commander gave Ahab to understand that he had the choice of having his ship impounded until the whale could escape, or to accept the justice of the New Zealand courts regarding his accusations against Moby Dick. After some consultation, the crew took the prudent approach and chose the latter. And thus it is that the first ever trial of a cetacean under New Zealand law is to take place at the High Court in Tauranga, and the whole world awaits the verdict.
"Moby Dick is to be defended by Mere Akariki, the celebrated human rights lawyer, who has offered to defend him pro bono, knowing the mana that will come her way with the world watching her. Come, you must accompany me to Tauranga to give evidence."
Wiremu drove me to Tauranga through dense native bush that required a woodsman's ax to create a proper pastoral scene. I was surprised therefore when Wiremu said the forest was what he called tapu, as though it was God's will for mankind to live in a tangled jungle.
The Tauranga waterfront was packed with people, engines, and all sorts of contrivances of a type I had never beheld, but still rejoiced at, showing as it did the superiority of man over nature. The sun was sparkling on the waters of the harbor and the people were arrayed in a shocking state of semi-undress around the waterfront, and outside the taverns on the street opposite. Various music from portable music makers drifted over the scene, competing with the buzz of the small boats keeping sightseers away from Moby Dick the great white whale, lounging indolently in the shallow harbor.
A tier of bleachers faced partly out to sea and partly to land; which place the officials of the court were starting to convene. Verily it seemed more like a holiday or carnival than a solemn occasion, and then I beheld my shipmates singly, or in groups of two or three along the waterfront looking very awkward among these strange dressed locals, most of which appeared on the side of the whale, and there was angry muttering and filthy glances at our shipmates. One large group in colorful costumes were grasping a banner, "save the whales", calling themselves Greenpeace - a ridiculous sounding name, but many of the surrounding people seemed to treat them seriously, sitting outside the taverns cheering them on.
After Wiremu and I had concluded our joyful reunion with the rest of our shipmates, I followed Wiremu to the bleachers. The judge was sitting on the highest of these, and the teams from the two lawyers were ranged below, chatting together. At a signal from the judge they separated into two groups and started wrangling at that worthy, a rather mild looking middle aged man in a wig that slipped over his eyes, requiring him to often stop what he was doing and push it up.
"More like a university debating club than a solemn court of law," I muttered, put out by the obvious show of friendliness among the adversaries, and by the frivolous antics of the judge, who was looking at the television cameras while he spoke, seeming less like a stern dispenser of justice than a cheery publican hailing his customers.
The two lawyers were arguing over the composition of the jury. The defense attorney, a young Maori woman with a tattoo like my friend's on her chin, was petitioning the judge for a quota of whales on the jury. "After all, Your Honor," she clamored, "if my client is considered fit to stand trial because he is a legal person, then he deserves all the other rights of legal personhood, including a jury of his peers."
"Your case appears just, Mere," replied the judge. "But in pure practical terms, how will we find twelve whales willing to come into the harbor and pass judgment on their fellow?"
"Of course, my learned colleague is talking nonsense," said the prosecutor. "As well as the impracticality, there is no precedent for a jury being made up of the same group as the accused. May as well ask for a jury of men, a jury of women, or a jury of Maori or Pakeha. The jury are selected randomly according to a well established legal precedent."
"True Bill," said the judge. "But random selection can ensure at least some representatives from the race or sex of the accused. There is no chance of finding a whale on a jury, using our current selection process. This is something that I will direct parliament to consider changing if we are going to be making a habit of trying whales."
While the judge sat and pondered, Bill and Mere started to debate amongst themselves, pondering such weighty legal matters as the inability of Bill to hold his liquor, and the inability of Mere to hold a tune, "or even approach it without it running away screaming".
Eventually the judge banged a gavel and asked the two lawyers to approach the bench, this lacking somewhat in decorum being nothing but the top bleacher. "I have decided that in the interests of compromise, two of the jury can be chosen from the Greenpeace supporters. You, Mere, go and bring them over here."
After some argument among themselves as to who would stand on the jury, a middle aged woman in a bright scarf and a young man with a wispy beard were brought up to the jury benches and sworn in. The whale was now being formally charged with three offenses; grievous bodily harm of one Captain Ahab, willful murder of one Fedora, employee of the same, and the willful sinking of the Pequod, causing death.
"Moby Dick, how do you plead?" The judge's words were picked up somewhere in the harbor where Moby Dick was slowly moving his fins, and then he gave a deep sonorous booming sound. One of the electronic boxes next to the judge spoke. "Not guilty your honor." The trial of Moby Dick had began.
I have little time for the law as an institution, preferring the more rough and ready sailor justice, but one entertaining interlude early in the court proceedings has to be recorded here. The trial started in the traditional manner with both lawyers giving long winded speeches, rendered longer by the necessity of translation. Moby Dick had taken exception to something the prosecutor said, and the next moment, without warning, a fine mixture of spray and spittle drenched the entire water front, soaking the judge, jury, lawyers and everyone else close to the sea.
There was a cacophony of screams as people rushed away from the shower, followed by groans and cries of "gross" and "yuk" as they discovered just what it was they were covered with.
The crew of the Pequod being used to the ways of the whale, had stepped under cover before Moby Dick had provided his free shower. The judge adjourned the court while the officials retired to clean themselves, and the court staff fixed some of the electrical devices.
We sailors had a good laugh over the incident, then we withdrew into one of the drinking establishments, where Wiremu, the only one of our number with local currency, bought drinks for all of us.
It was at this time that the television crew approached us. They were part of an international news team, based in a heathen Arab country, and some of the more pious among our crew baulked at talking to them. But then as I put it, we have been friends and shipmates with Wiremu, Tashtego and Fedellah, and had bonded together with them in divers dangerous missions, often depending upon each other for our very lives, that is seemed to me a wretched act to thus spurn our friends and brothers from the Araby countries.
Furthermore, the crew were willing to pay us good money, and such was my power of my eloquence, or else the power of necessary coin that the crew were almost to a man won over to my side. But then coming through the door I espied the prosecuting attorney, who clapped Ahab on the shoulder, turned him about and whispered "A word, Captain, if I may."
I don't know what the two were talking about, heads together, but when they returned to our table, Captain Ahab addressed the men. "Men of the Pequod, I forbid you to talk to this infernal talking box, or to the newspapers until such time as the trial has completed. Mr Brown has told us that sufficient income can be generated from showing people around our Pequod that there is no need for us to talk to the heathen press, and it will only prejudice our case. Mr Brown has agreed to pay an advance on earnings."
This announcement from our captain caused much heated discussion amongst us; the chief objection being that it would be unseemly to display our ship, which was after all our home, to the curious stares of strangers.
In the end though, after our worthy legal friend had provided detailed accounting of the amount we would obtain from such employment, our scruples were largely overcome and Ahab bid the television crew goodnight. As they turned away from us, in a state of disappointment, Wiremu spoke to them. "I will talk to you," he said, "on behalf of the whale rider and the Ngati Porou.
"You will do no such thing," thundered Ahab, his wooden leg making a drumming thud on the floor. "You are still under my command as crew of the Pequod and you must follow my orders."
"Consider me a deserter then. My loyalty is now to the Ngati Porou and to my tipuna, no longer to the Pequod or those who sail in her."
"Damn you, you ignorant savage." Ahab turned purple and his leg tapped out like a woodpecker. "I never want to see your ugly tattooed face again, do you hear!"
I hurried out of the tavern to remonstrate with my friend, but several hands held me back. "let the traitor go," said Ahab. "As the lawyer has told us, anything he says will prejudice our case against the white monster in the harbor. What sort of heathen world have we landed in?"
Ahab hunched over his beer and his shoulders shook. The rest of us tried to have a good time, ordered another round with the funds the lawyer had gave us, and Flask started to spark with a young woman who appeared interested in our group. But the captain's gloom affected us, our cheerful singing died away to a gurgle, and Flask's girl got bored and moved off to a nearby table of young men from an office drinking party. Soon we said goodnight and trailed off the rooms the lawyer had prepared for us.
I was surprised and disconcerted at the outburst from Ahab. It was time for me to realise a truth I had hidden from myself for several years. The man was not only monomaniacal, but his madness had a tinge of evil. How else could one account for his obsession not only to destroy the whale, but to risk the life of his crew and refuse help to the Rachel, fellow sailors in distress.
My new young friends introduced themselves as Imran and Salma from Al Jazeera. They told me that the world was watching the trial of Moby Dick with great interest.
"I suppose it is the first time an animal has been put on trial," I said.
"That's not true," said Imran. "In the Middle Ages, hundreds of animals were put on trial, bulls for goring humans, horses for kicking them, even locusts for eating crops. There was a totally insane double standard. When we wanted to abuse animals they were mindless objects to use how we liked, but if they did anything to humans, then they were sinful beings. What is a world first is that the animal can actually defend himself in court, and have his point of view listened to."
"And furthermore," put in Salma, "the whalers are also subjects of curiosity. How for example did your entire crew and the whale manage to transfer to this century. There are religious leaders who are claiming that Captain Ahab and his crew are spirits, doomed to sail on until they atone for the deeds they have done."
"This would fit in well with my beliefs," I said. "The Ngati Porou believe the whales are tapu, ever since our ancestor rode one to come to Aotearoa. None of my iwi are the least bit surprised that the persecuted whale has travelled to this century in spirit form."
"That's interesting," said Salma. "Perhaps you could come to the studio and discuss this with our Japanese physicist, Professor Ezaki.
My new friends walked with me the short distance to their sumptuous hotel room in central Tauranga, now a cat's cradle of looping wires, screens and other devices that I would not even attempt to make sense of. They sat me in a comfortable chair while they adjust their equipment and then out of the screen I saw a distinguished looking oriental gentleman, but dressed in a Pakeha suit - more Pakeha than the Pakeha.
It appeared as if he and my two Arab friends were communicating. Such is the technology of this wondrous new world, that what would once have taken several weeks beating against the trade winds of the Indian Ocean, could now be achieved instantly.
"Can you hear me, Professor Ezaki?" asked Salma.
"Perfectly," replied the professor.
Salma made a signal to the camera operator and continued. "Professor, as you know, the whole world is watching Tauranga for the first ever trial of a whale under new legislation passed by New Zealand giving cetaceans legal personhood. Now quite apart from the legal and philosophical problems posed, there has been a great deal of speculation about the origins of the whaler crew. Apparently the crew, the whale and boat they sailed in come from the mid nineteenth century, yet they passed through both time and space to take part in this momentous event.
"Many religious leaders are saying that the whale and the crew of the Pequod are spirits; some that they are destined to wonder forever in this world until they find peace. Now professor, you have some studies that you say could shed some light on these strange events."
"It's true. Our laboratory team at Kyoto university have discovered a type of sub-atomic particle that we call laterons. It seems that a flood of these particles can cause a warp in the space time continuum and propel anything nearby into a parallel universe. We worked this out from theoretical equations but had no real means to test this until the discovery that the synthetic element hawkingum, first manufactured two years ago, decays using low energy delta waves that emit laterons. The low energy decay allows us to place objects in a particle accelerator and not have them ripped apart by radiation.
"We prepared a particle accelerator device that allowed objects to be bombarded with laterons from the nuclear decay of hawkingum, and we were very pleased when these objects disappeared totally, to reappear a few minutes later. Hawkingum is expensive to make and we only had enough for a few minutes decay. The results seemed to vindicate our hypothesis that the objects were disappearing into a parallel dimension, one with an alternative history, which lasts only as long as the laterons are produced.
"Our next experiment was to determine whether a living human could be transported. First we tested a dead body, one of our Buddhist adherents who had willed his body to science. After chanting the appropriate sutras giving thanks to our donor and the Goddess of Mercy, we strapped the body to the accelerator and pressed the switch. What happened next convinced us that we could not continue our experiments in Kyoto."
"Why was that?" asked Salma.
"As we had hoped, the body disappeared, then reappeared again thirty seconds later. Furthermore, there appeared to be no damage to the tissues. But it was what came back with the body that decided us.
"As I was about to step forward and examine the body, I heard a massive roar. Looking around, I saw what I can only describe as a vision from a B grade Samurai drama charging towards me, leaping over the laboratory benches. It was a Samurai from the Edo period, complete with pastel shaded kimono, padded coat, a queue in his hair, and what was particularly worrying, a very genuine looking katana, which he was brandishing above his head, all the while crying 'banzai!'
"He stopped in front of me, in a crouch, his sword in front of him, and then he yelled something. I recognised what he was saying as Japanese, but that was about as much as I could understand of the classical language.
"The figure seemed to interpret my incomprehension as defiance, because all at once he stepped back and the sword swished through the air. I could hear it whistling - it was real all right. Then it seemed to pass right through me, and the figure suddenly vanished. I was afraid to move my head in case it came off. I just stood there, mouth open, gaping stupidly, until one of my assistants guided me out of the lab.
"'Did you see it?'" I called to him as he led me away. He nodded dumbly.
"When I had recovered from my shock I called colleagues who were working on similar lateron studies. Someone from the University of Auckland told me that there was an isolated area in the Ureweras where the ghost of a Maori warrior could still be seen by people of Tuhoe descent, brandishing his mere and sticking out his tongue in challenge. My colleague told me there was a scientific explanation for the supposed presence of spirits, based on the propensity for laterons to accumulate in places where violence had been done in the past. The flood of laterons allowed the warrior to somehow manifest itself in the present, though in a less than perfect material form."
When I heard about the ghost of the warrior I gave a start. "That is Te Mate," I said. "He is a fearsome Tuhoe warrior, so frightening even his own chiefs daren't look him in the eye. He has no name; he is just Te Mate - the death. The year I was born my hapu met him in battle in the Urerewas and we were totally routed. Te Mate was a monster. His warriors were not particularly brave or skilful, but when Te Mate came out to meet us, his tiaha in his hand, cracking heads and laughing maniacally, our weapons could not get near him, and even the muskets of the pakeha seemed to misfire when we aimed at him. We ran away in sheer terror, and I heard soon afterwards that his own people had murdered him because of his brutal tyranny.
"Of course when we heard of the death of their leader we rushed to do battle with the Tuhoe. But nothing went right for us. The scouts that we send ahead came scampering back, refusing to march any further. These were seasoned men, veterans of many battles, and the rangatira could not understand their display of cowardice, especially when they would not even give a reason.
"The rangatira then marched to the field of battle himself, accompanied by his best warriors, and as he described the scene it made my hair curl, even several years later in the shelter of our own marae. How it felt at the site of the battle ground, I cannot imagine. It was a crisp cold winter evening; the sinking sun accentuating the shadows from the tangled vines of the bush and the shadow lurking amongst them, chanting a ghostly aka, 'ka mate ka mate' - you will all die.
"The rangatira was a brave man, but nobody can fight a spirit, and our entire army ran in the opposite direction, blundering accidentally into the Tuhoe army who were running for the same reason. One positive feature of our shameful cowardice is that we were able to make peace with our enemies on that occasion; at least until the next time.
"But don't tell me Te Mate is a scientific projection; he is real. As real as I am, also standing here before you over a hundred years ahead of my time."
I had been standing up and shaking my fists at the vision of the dapper Japanese scientist. At first Salma and Imran had looked at me with their mouths open. Imran made a move as if to restrain me, then seemed to change his mind, instead motioning to the cameraman, who turned his camera onto me.
When I had finished my piece I sat down; feeling calmer. The camera swung to Salma again, who spoke.
"That was Wiremu, one of the Pequod'screw and a member of Ngati Porou, descendent of the legendary whale rider. Professor Ezaki, what do you think of Wiremu's assertion that he and the ghost of his enemy are real?"
"I never said they weren't real. The samurai who tried to cut my head off was certainly very real, and so was his katana. If the lateron cascade had not projected him back to his own time just before his swing connected, my body would be in two parts in the cemetery.
"But I was about to say that the New Zealand scientists had discovered that laterons flooding naturally after violent events have a future spin, allowing past events or persons to move into the future. That is what must have happened during our experiment. We Japanese like to think of ourselves as peaceful, and both the Buddhist and Shinto tradition is one of co-existence, but there have been periods in our past where the streets of Kyoto have literally run with blood.
"Japan is a very crowded country with a long history, and so it would not be possible to find anywhere that violence has not occurred at some period. We therefore asked our funders to arrange for our research team and our equipment to find a place on a research vessel, that was sailing into the Indian Ocean to do plankton samples.
"After some political wrangling we managed to secure a place. I was glad to leave Kyoto. The cleaning staff were complaining about ghostly noises yelling 'banzai' at irregular intervals and were refusing to clean the laboratory. It appears de-materialisation takes several weeks to complete. Needless to say we were very unpopular with the university administration.
"Once in the middle of the ocean I strapped myself into the particle accelerator as the first human volunteer. The first stimulus I registered was a splash. Of course the alternate reality I had entered was one without a ship, and I had materialised suspended above the water. As the accelerator started to sink with me inside it, my next impression was just how much life was bursting in, on, and through the water. Even in that instant before my eyes sunk under the water level, I beheld whale spouts from every point of the compass, flocks of squawking birds and a water surface green with teeming life. As I sunk, knowing I had to hold my breath for thirty seconds before I was transported back to my own dimension, I saw so many wondrous looking small creatures swimming and writhing around me that I wished I had studied zoology and not physics so I could identify them all.
"I had made an obvious miscalculation that should have occurred to me. I thought I would re-materialise where I had left, but of course the accelerator had been sinking with me. If the transition from a living pulsating green sea to a dead blue one I had not been so sudden I might have kept falling until it was too late.
I reappeared ten meters below the water. I unstrapped myself from the accelerator and shot to the surface, flailing and spluttering, where I was grabbed and hauled aboard by one of the sailors.
"I lay face down on the deck, lungs heaving, floundering like a drowning mullet. While my body was recovering from my ordeal, my mind was firing patterns in all directions, mostly relating to the wondrous place I had seen. What sort of parallel world was it? One perhaps where man had not spread his urge for dominion over all the seas, or maybe one where man had never appeared. The whales in that ocean were as common as daisies in a field. The world I found myself back in seemed dull and drab by comparison.
"With our expensive accelerator and even more expensive lump of hawkingum lost to the depths, our experiment came to an ignominious end, and we slunk into Kyoto a few weeks later to face a scolding by our funding partners and university administration. Our funders refused to give us the money for another accelerator so our research is now moving in different directions. I would have thought no more of our experience, except when we compared the research ship's log with that of the Pequod published on the internet, we found that we were almost exactly in the spot that the whale Moby Dick supposedly collided with the ship."
"So what are you saying?" asked Imran. Salma was gesturing me to be quiet.
"Only that even though we sailed out into the middle of the ocean to avoid any places tainted with previous violent events, we were unable to avoid them. It is quite likely that the huge flood of laterons released by teleporting me to another dimension has drawn the victims and perpetrators of the violence into the future, as it did with the ghost of the Maori and Samurai warriors."
There was silence - a planned dramatic pause, then Salma beckoned to the camera, and it turned to
face her. "Well that sounds like an incredible story - a 19th century whaling crew wrenched into the 21st century through violence to and by a whale. Perhaps it is fitting that the whale is now being tried in a court of law. Because even though it is Dick in the dock, the public are already mentally trying the sailors of the Pequod for their brutal treatment of his kind."
Salma must have noticed me fidgeting, because she then continued. "Lets see what Wiremu, harpooner of the Pequod, has to say."
"I don't think the distinguished professor has thought this all through," I said, once I had been gestured to speak. "If he had, then how does he account for my presence here. I was speared by my own harpoon; poetic justice if you will, but I will allow nobody but myself to say it. Then I felt myself dragged through the water and saw in a vision the faces of my ancestors, the whale rider and the whale she rode in on; looking very much like Moby Dick, though smaller and less battle scarred.
"Then I woke up and found myself on my marae, the same one I had left to go whaling years before. How do you account for me professor? I am not a living human transported into the future through some scientific mumbo-jumbo, but have come here to atone to my tipuna for my deeds."
"Professor?" Salma gestured to the man at the other side of the screen.
"Obviously I don't know everything." said the professor. "It is possible that the laterons act in a way that none of us can predict with our present knowledge of the world. A way that would seem as wayward as magic to those with our limited understanding. This may have been part of what pulled Wiremu back from the dead, and also pulled in the other surviving crew member."
The Japanese professor waffled on in a similar vein, trying to justify the essentially inexplicable through his membrane-thin veneer of science. I had turned away by this point, knowing only that my ancestors had called me forward, as I had called Ishmael.
In the room of that strange inn called the motel, similar to the sailor's lodging, but with the motor car replacing the ship, and solitary diversions replacing the communal lounge, our shipmates watched Wiremu on the television. I was pleased to see he had mentioned nothing concerning the trial itself, the television announcers being more interested in the phenomena of our being present at all; for which I did not blame them.
Captain Ahab may therefore make his peace with Wiremu, knowing that his case had not been prejudiced in any way. Yet knowing how long he could hold a grudge I yet miscalculated the breadth of his wrath. Ahab betook himself to solitary drinking in the bar, growling and cursing to anyone who came near of the blackguard Maori harpooner.
The next morning we beheld our Pequod moored in the harbor and the queue of tourists moving up the gangplank, agog to glimpse a whaling vessel and look into a way of life that their own pampered upbringing had spared them. The steady stream of coin from the Pequod was paying for our board and lodging, and more besides, so we could not complain; all save Ahab, who shook his fist at the crowds as they passed; which behavior seemed to amuse rather than discommode.
The trial was to start with a summing up by the judge of the events that had led to its ignominious recess the day before. His Honor looked as stern as he could, his wig now placed on straight, his eyes glaring out to the harbor where the low tide was forcing Moby Dick to rolling on his side, his ventral fin in the air.
"Mr Dick," he began. There was a pause while the translator boomed the judge's words through the water. "I have been on the bench for thirty-five years, and in that time I have got used to any number of lawyers spouting off all sorts of nonsense in my courtroom." There was a faint titter from some of the legal teams present.
"But this is the first time that such spouting has resulted in the entire court being drenched with spittle. If this behavior is repeated then I am warning you I will have to hold you in contempt."
There was a pause while the whale boomed a response. An interpretor whispered the message to Mere the defense counsel. "Your Honor", she said. "My client would like to apologize to the court, to your good self and to the people of Tauranga for his unseemly drenching of your distinguished personages."
"Apology accepted," snapped the judge. "Go on."
"My client also points out that his spouting is a natural physiological response to stress, in the same way that oral or anal eructations would be to a human.
"Humans belch and fart, Your Honor," she continued, as the judge and other officials looked at her blankly.
"What of this?" said the Judge. "We do not drench the entire waterfront with our emissions." At this stage, one of the hairy Greenpeace banner wavers nearby was heard to call out, "no, we just pollute the entire planet with them."
"Silence," the judge's booming voice lost some of its effect as his wig slipped over his forehead again. "What you telling me, appears to be that your client should be allowed to continue spouting as long as the rest of us continue to break wind. Is that what you are trying to say?"
"That's right Your Honor. My client would like leave to be cross examined outside the harbor so that he is far enough from the waterfront not to drench anyone."
"I will have to consider this request. As you know Mr Dick is on remand, and the Tauranga Harbor is his jail. If he is allowed outside the harbor, what guarantee do we have that he won't simply swim away."
"We'll catch him if he does." Ahab waved his crutch in the air, a poor substitute, but the closest object he could find to a harpoon.
"A word with both of you." The judge beckoned both lawyers over to his bench, turned off his microphone and the three of them whispered together.
"Why is that judge taking the monster's claim seriously?" I cried to my shipmate Bulkington, "surely he can see it's just a ploy to allow him to escape."
My worthy friend stayed silent, head down, then spoke slowly. "I guess it is a judge's job to be fair, no matter what he thinks. If the Cap'n's cause is just, he will get satisfaction from this judge. If it isn't, and I am too close to Cap'n Ahab to know, then the whale will go free."
The judge had by now moved back to his 'bench', and the two lawyers to their places. "We have determined that Mr Dick shall be not be allowed into the open ocean where he could easily escape justice. He will however be allowed in the north harbor where he will be sufficiently distant from this court and the City of Tauranga for him to do harm. It will be quite possible for him to be cross examined without him being in sight, though I acknowledge is is less than ideal."
Well I normally have an equable temperament, but when the judge said these words I felt an anger that I had never felt before. The whale was a common criminal; though Ahab would have been a better man if he had let Christian charity take the place of his vengeful actions, yet the whale was not blameless and should not be treated as one already innocent of any wrongdoing.
I mentioned this to Bulkington who shook his head. "My old grandpa studied the law," he said. "Always said to me, innocent 'til proved guilty, that's the law. Don't matter whether the man's found with an ax in his hand on a mountain of corpses - must respect the law, and the law says he's innocent 'til the jury made their verdict."
I shook my head. The law seemed a pointless waste of time to me. Even the lawyers weren't taking it seriously. Moby was being escorted by small boats to the upper harbor, and I concentrated on what the first witness was saying. The witness was a scientist, from the University of Massachusetts no less, its campus in New Bedford.
The professor was spouting at least as vigorously as the whales she defended, telling the judge and the watching people throughout the world how the sperm whale had been "ruthlessly exploited" throughout the seas through the actions of those "monsters of Nantucket," the whalers, who "would not rest" until the great sperm whale went the way of the dodo. "If it were not for fossil fuels making whale oil obsolete," she went on, "the sperm whale would be as extinct as the moa." A quite ridiculous statement. How could she possibly know this?
The Maori lawyer Mere, looking more like an eager schoolgirl sucking up to a teacher, than a dignified member of the legal profession, asked this worthy professor about the thought process of the whale. The professor described their intelligence and sociability, then told us more than I at any rate needed to know about their sex lives. Since we have learned to talk to them they have described their pleasurable sensations with the shameless immodesty of a New York whore, and why the court had to know the intimate details of how some grunting beast procreates itself is beyond my comprehension.
With further prompting from Mere she described in a detail that was equally indecent in its gruesome nature how the whales suffer "terrible agony" from the barbed harpoon tearing into their subcutaneous fat. What is more, she said, the whales feel not only "intense terror," but members of the group mourn each other when one of them is killed.
I hoped the judge, or at least Ahab's own lawyer would have stopped such blasphemous flow; as if a dumb beast with no immortal soul could even understand death, let alone mourn it. Sometimes I have been present in a calm scene where whales were suckling their young. But such a scene was vouchsafed to us as an illusion of peace, a gift to the hard working whaler from the Prince of Peace, not something intrinsic to the nature of these savage beasts.
At last the pseudo-academic posturing had come to an end, and the prosecutor had his turn to cross examine. I imagined our own lawyer demolishing this pathetic parody of New England womanhood; for she probably started her career of spreading lies through her inability to find a good man. She can go back to Massachusetts chastened and saddened, and knowing never again to malign her honest country men.
Imagine then my consternation, when instead of attacking her incredibly weak and emotive rant, taking her to task for her immodesty in describing the sex life of the monsters in a public forum, he instead started on a rambling and quite inconsequential line of questioning himself.
"Dr Beaver," he said. "You have told the court that the sperm whale is a peaceful creature. Can you tell me of any occasions where sperm whales have attacked human beings unprovoked?"
What sort of bizarre question was that. The monster had already admitted to doing so. What was the attack on the Pequod if it was not unprovoked?
"The sperm whale is a carnivorous toothed whale of prodigious appetite," said the professor. "They will attack squid and large fish with characteristic viciousness, but what has been quite surprising among sperm whales, and among the cetaceans as a whole is the way they leave humans alone. The so-called killer whales, now called orcas, are one of the most aggressive carnivores ever to inhabit the planet. They show no mercy to seals, but in spite of a number of encounters, have never attacked a human. It is as if they have the same tendency as our own species to differentiate between food and friends. So just as humans will befriend a cat but slaughter a cow, so will the sperm whale, orca and dolphin befriend humans and slaughter other animals."
I made the sign warding off the devil. How could this professor compare members of our own species, made in the image of God Almighty himself to a mere fish like the whale. My amazement at this woman's utterances were rendered the more startling when I looked around the people on the waterfront and found that apart from our own sailors, nobody was taking the slightest notice of such intemperate language, not even the prosecutor's team.
Ahab turned puce. He had been drinking somewhat more than was good for him in spite of his strict Quaker upbringing, bringing his fitness to command our ship's company into dispute. Thus is was that the second mate Stubbs had assumed the mantle of acting command. At a nod from Stubbs, our two harpooners grabbed our captain and Daggoo clapped his massive black hands over the mouth of our one time commander, so that the bellow he was about to utter trickled incontinently into a grunt.
"Then would you agree that the attack by the accused on the Pequod with the aim of sinking it, was particularly abhorrent behavior, and one not typical of his species." The lawyer was smiling now as though he had scored some sort of point against the defense, though I could not see it myself.
"I would agree that is atypical. Not because it is abhorrent, but because it shows a high degree of intelligence, in associating the smaller whale boats that were harassing him with the larger vessel they came from. I therefore classify the attack on the Pequod as a provoked attack, and so my earlier answer still stands."
"Thank you Dr. Beaver, no further questions." Bill turned to the jury. "We have heard from Dr. Beaver that this is atypical behavior and cannot be excused as being base instinct but must be willful malice."
The lawyer stuck out his chest, then sat down, looking pleased with himself, though I could not see why.
I turned to my shipmate Bulkington. "The whale is a brute beast of no understanding," I said, "and one moreover that has no claim against mankind at all. For know that the world is the Lord's and everything inside it, and he has given it over to man for its keeping."
"As for him having no understanding," replied my shipmate. "Did he not show a quite considerable understanding in his knowledge that to destroy the annoyances buzzing around them his energies must move in a totally different direction from the obvious? And as for the Earth belonging to mankind, have you never considered how strange it is that most of it is inaccessible to us."
"What do you mean?" I cried with some feeling now, this quiet seaman discommoding me more than somewhat. "Mankind has climbed the highest mountains and conquered the deserts, the jungles and the frost covered northern wastes. What is there left for him to spread his dominion over."
"The seas. In our time, we can sail on top of the seven seas; I have sailed more of them than most. But consider the depths that our adversary can dive to; the monsters that have been dragged from his maw, and you will know that more than three quarters of the earth is open to him yet closed to us. Mankind may be master of the land, but in the realm of the ocean, the leviathan is undisputed master, and we encroach on his territory, those who go to the sea in ships."
I backed nervously from my shipmate. First Wiremu, now Bulkington, were they all deserting to the Enemy. Those of us still in control of our reason would have to stick together and proclaim our sanity over a whole world gone mad. A plan occurred to me, and I edged towards diverse groups of my shipmates to sound them out for its execution.
Mere started her cross examination by asking the whale whether he had committed any of the atrocious acts he was accused of. A clever ploy to ensure that the jury hear this first, and then later are taken step by step through the justification.
"Did you bite off the leg of Captain Ahab?" she asked. Here the camera focused on Ahab, still pinned between Flask and Stubbs, and as I followed the camera round, I noticed that Ishmael was sidling up to him, ready to engage him in conversation.
"You must forgive me," replied Moby "I have been scarred with more of those lances than I can count, and when defending myself I have lopped of any number of appendages. It is quite possible that grizzled human male belonged to one of them, but you really can't expect me to remember them all."
"Very well, can we establish at least that you have been responsible for the dismemberment of a number of humans on divers occasions?"
"Now think back. On any of those occasions, were your attacks unprovoked?"
"On all the occasions where limbs have been severed, I was fighting for my life."
"What was the nature of this fight?"
"It began when I left my mother. We of necessity spend most of our time below the water, where nothing more terrible than the sharks and the giant squid assail us. But sometimes we must surface to breath, and in this period we are at the most danger. If we surface at night, all is well. Sometimes we see the winking lights of the manlet ships, adding insult to injury by burning our own essence. Many is the time I and my companions have felt the need to make a concerted attack on these ships, batter them to pieces and let them sink to the depths to be food for the squid and the kraken. Yet wiser heads than myself, with the brave capacity for tolerance of all earthlings, have always prevailed upon us to desist.
"The manlets swarm over the seas, never content until they have devoured all they can. Not only my own compatriots, but the fish schools that we feed on, especially those near the land, have been decimated to such an extent that it needs for us to go deeper into the offing if we are to feed. As one of the fighters of the pod, I was continually on the watch, and constantly contending with these manlets."
"Think carefully. Did you ever deliberately injure one of these creatures once he had spilled from the whale boat?"
"Mostly I left them alone, once the horrid barbed things had vanished to the depths. Once I remember I was crazed with pain and lashed out at one of them who had stuck me. I think I bit him in two; I can't remember. The sharks finished him off fairly quickly. But usually I don't touch them. They are such a bunch of pathetic floundering creatures once they have been ejected from their element and into mine, that my anger mostly dissipates and all I feel is pity - or sometimes mirth."
"Can I take you back to one particular time around ten years ago when Ahab attacked you, and he says that you overturned the boat and snapped his leg off like so much matchwood."
"Well I don't know what matchwood it, perchance it is some land object, but now you mention it, I did snap off an appendage, I can tell you that. It was after I had left the pod to find my own lady friend to breed with. The manlet you spoke of had stuck me several times with that foul lance, mauling my pectoral muscle so I could hardly swim for months afterwards, scratching my side and wounding me right through my protective blubber, so the cold seeped into me when next we travelled to our northern fishing grounds. And the worst cut of all, one that causes me to see stars even now, he prevented me from ever breeding. My search for my lady and my own pod came to an end even then.
"The creature would not desist even after I had overturned his boat. Usually that is sufficient for them to abandon chasing and pull each other into the remaining boats. But on this occasion the manlet was so full of irrational rage that he even then swam towards me and made another lunge with the lance. I acted instinctively, swatting him as I believe you landlings swat some of the flying creatures that similarly annoy you.
"So you are telling me it was self defence, and you had no choice."
"I suppose I could have had a choice. I could have swum away. But consider my state of mind. I had just been hounded, harried, poked and finally emasculated by that tiny monster, and one who furthermore was coming at me to give me more. Perhaps I was not thinking straight, but I can tell you if he had left me alone at that point, I would even then have spared him."
"Thank you Mr Dick. That is a very moving account. The court appreciates the candid nature of your responses. Perhaps we could now move forward to a time just a few days before you claimed protection from this man Ahab under New Zealand law. Can you describe the way that the Pequod chased you."
"I will never forget it. The battle lasted three days. The first day, four boats bore down on me like stingrays, their black forms silhouetted against the rising sun. I smashed the first boat and left its contents floundering in the sea. I could have picked them off and swallowed them as a breakfast snack, were the fatty taste of land creatures not too strong for my taste, so instead I swam around them, thrashing and writhing fit to lash up a wave-storm for my own protection.
"It was then I beheld the larger ship, running as fast as I could swim, its sharp, barnacle-encrusted prow pointing like a harpoon in my direction. I broke away to one side. The ship missed me by some several yards but, some manlets had helped their fellows into another boat and were even now pursuing me with vigour.
"I have lived a long time and I am no stranger to the habits of these bloodthirsty manlets. Often have I swam off shore from one of their settlements and have recoiled in disgust at the sticky fatty globules of blood, running from their shoreline rivers, detectable even several leagues into the offing, from their mass slaughter of the other creatures they share the land with. But even I was surprised at the single minded spite evinced by these crazed land parasites.
"Fortunately their boat was low in the water and about as seaworthy as a slug, so I could evade it easily, in spite of my mounting exhaustion and the pain in my fins. The manlets in the end repaired back to their mother ship to give chase.
"I had a start on the ship and it was not too hard to keep ahead of them. Fortunately for me for I was now exhausted and could no more dive than fly in my present state. For the first time since I suckled my mother's breast I gave more than a fleeting thought to total destruction. It would be no moral offence to batter their ship to pieces to stop the pursuit. It would be a kindness to my own aching fins, not to mention those of my compatriots it would otherwise slaughter.
"I made such haste as I could for the first part of the night, then rested for the second so I could dive, and by doing so evade my tormentors ere daybreak. As ill luck would have it, they had been chasing a pod of dolphins in the mistaken belief that it was my spout they were seeing, so imagine my consternation when I surfaced from the deep, my lungs still heaving with the effort of the dive, only to see the ship not three hundred yards from me, with the black shark-like boats even now making their way towards me.
"I felt the blood pounding in my brain. 'This is the last time they will hound and harass me,' I thought, as I turned around and charged straight towards them. I felt agonising stinging pains through my blubber as their harpoons pricked my side, but I just didn't care. I swung from side to side, thrashing, biting and sweeping the water around me to foam and spume, and smashed two of their craft to plankton.
"The manlet in the third boat, the one you showed me earlier, had cut the ropes binding me. I felt immediate relief from pain as the barbs stopped tearing at my flesh, but it meant I was unable to drag down the last boat. Instead I surfaced on top of it, flinging it in the air like an ungainly albatross until it smashed back on the waves disintegrating into long planks.
"My momentum had carried me a long way from the floundering manlets. That and my exhaustion gave them a reprieve from my wrath, for at I was preparing myself to swim in amongst them and finish them off in spite of their foul fatty taste. Stop the torture, the continuous unrelenting chase.
"I could see the ship to leeward, but had no mind to move. My fins were aching and my body beset with shooting pains. My exhaustion was complete. Had the manlets come then they would have taken me easily, but it seems even they had a surfeit of violence for that day. When evening came, and once more their hideous lights lit up the sky I had recovered sufficiently to make a slow swim away from the ship, made more difficult by a heavy figure dragging me from the ropes that still bound me.
"Before the sun could rise and find me in the same spot I dived, staying motionless under the sea, hoping to outwit the manlets and have them leave me behind. I felt an overwhelming despair, for it seemed to me the ship was destined to find me, and one or both of us must die in the final encounter. The ship appeared at that time to be filled not with creatures of flesh and blood, but spirits of evil, so remorseless they were in their desire for my demise.
"When I surfaced the next day, it was just as I had feared, the three dark shapes sliding towards me. Once more I charged into them, stoving two of the boats, but in the process exposing my flank to a harpoon. I winced as I imagined the iron tearing through my blubber into the flesh, the barb biting and stirring my muscles to paste as it dragged against them.
"Then I realised I was out of danger, well out of range. For some reason, the manlet in the boat had desisted from throwing the harpoon when he saw his drowned colleague; for such I now realise it was that was entangling me and slowing me down. My respite was to be short lived, as the boat still pursued me, and this time for real, I felt the agonising cold steel rip into my body. As the agony surged into my brain, something seemed to boil in my mind and I prepared myself for one last charge, bursting forth towards the hateful ship, which I saw now had most of the manlets on its decks.
"Even as the pain became too great to bear it was suddenly relieved. The rope attaching the harpoon snapped off and I dimly perceived manlets thrown into the sea. 'I hope the sharks tear you apart,' I thought with viciousness made wilder with pain, before I smashed my head straight into the ship, which I now knew was the source of all my persecutions. The blow was enough for me to lose consciousness, and I thought that I would never wake from it again. The ship might sink with the force of my blow, but there were still the manlets in the boats, who would spitefully spear me in my vitals until I died, before the sun and thirst finished them off.
"But when I came to, there was nothing to be seen in the ocean but a few floating pieces of wood, and a manlet or two thrashing about in the water, which bodies even now the sharks were removing from the scene. I backed away to escape the sticky man-blood crimson trails that were creeping through the sea."
"Thank you, Mr. Dick," continued Mere. "Would you agree that you were persecuted beyond endurance, and that you firmly believed that only removing the Pequod from the sea would you be able to be rid of your tormentors."
"That is quite correct," continued the whale. "The rest of the tale is easy to tell. I rested the next day, scratching, scraping and writhing to get rid of the iron in my person and the rope abrading my outside, and then imagine my horror when I surfaced and beheld the ship once more. It must be a ghost; a spirit out to persecute me for some wrong I had done in this life. But I had been well rested for the full day, and for some reason all my hurts had left me, and I was able to keep it well behind me for the several days it continued the chase.
"At this time I sometimes heard the echo of strange throbbing, like that of my pod mates but deeper and more sinister. Then as I swam towards Aotearoa there was the unmistakable voice of another sperm whale. The accent was strange and harsh to my ear, but the meaning was clear. It was a call to come to New Zealand waters and an invitation to tell my tale so the manlets could protect me.
"As you may imagine I had no particular faith in the human species, but I thought that perhaps there are individual differences amongst them, as there are amongst us. If some had taken the trouble to learn my language then perhaps they would protect me from the predators. I swam towards the source of the voice, and soon came within sight of the New Zealand naval vessel. The rest of my story, how I claimed sanctuary and how I accepted this trial in return for protection, is familiar to you."
I listened to the whale's emotional rant with loathing. It meant nought to me that the white whale had suffered from the goads of the harpoons. He had only himself to blame by kicking against the pricks; rebelling from the purpose God had made him for. The belchings of the whale, turned into human speech by some devilry, would in itself be of no concern save idle curiosity were not my shipmates ensnared by its sophistry.
My one time friend Bulkington in particular was spreading round his shame to anyone who could listen - and such was the popularity of this handsome example of New England manhood that there were plenty who would. Captain Ahab was finding himself shunned by more than half of his shipmates.
I sidled up to the Captain, still being gripped on both sides by Flask and Stubbs. "A word in your ear if I may, Captain," I said.
The Captain turned around. "Aye," he said.
"Mr Stubbs, Mr Flask," I said. "Will you permit me to take the Captain for a walk. Once he is out of earshot of this attack on his honor by the serpentine fish, perhaps he will desist with his raving and listen to me."
The two of them conferred and then Flask said to me. "Very well. It is such exhausting work for us to keep the restraints that we will gladly release him to your care. But it will fall on your head if that tyrannical judge arrests him for contempt as he has threatened to do."
Ahab agreed readily enough to walk, and we repaired down the strand towards Dive Crescent, the commercial center of Tauranga during the halcyon days when New Zealand was a proud whaling nation, not yet sold itself to the devil worship of nature, as though the glory of man was of no account.
"Captain Ahab," I said. "Are you still of the mind to hunt down the whale?"
"Aye," said he. "But I gave my word I would submit to the justice of the authorities, and though now it galls me to do so, yet I must keep to my word."
"But how is such a promise to be binding, my Captain, when it depends upon justice being meted; that justice which even now slips through your fingers like a halliard in a hurricane. This entire court is set up like a circus performance, the best to show off the grandiosity of the performers, and no justice will be served by obeying its dictates."
"It appears to be even so," Ahab bowed his head as we continue walking. "Yet there is little we can do. The whale will be acquitted and escorted from New Zealand waters with naval escort. Our own Pequod will be impounded until such time as the whale has too good a start on us."
By now we had halted outside the display of the ceremonial 46 foot Maori waka, the symbol of the City of Tauranga. "As you can see," I said, "the Pequod is not the only seaworthy craft at our disposal. This craft, built by fine native shipbuilders, will cleave the water like a plow. A single well flung harpoon and lance in the enclosed water of Tauranga Harbor where the whale can neither dive nor swim clear should be sufficient to bleed all the life from him. But I fear he is so well guarded it needs we dispatch him with haste."
"Aye it is a handsome seaworthy craft, and worth greater honor than resting on the dry dock, but how are we to remove it? As you can see the boathouse is locked with a heavy chain."
"Our blacksmith has a way with iron, as you know from the way he fashioned your leg. And he is no more enamored of the white whale and his deceit than you are."
"It could work, but surely as good Christian men we are bound to pray for those who lead us, and do the will of the government of whatever nation we find ourselves beholden to. The more so, since I submitted willingly to the authority of the court."
"How willing was that, Captain Ahab? To submit to justice is one thing, but to submit to the gunboat of a naval vessel; that may certainly be prudence, but is it justice? And the same good book that exhorts us to obey our earthly governments also tells us to obey not man but God. And it needs be that God's rule is for the dragon that speaks through this monster to be destroyed the better to be thrown in the Lake of Fire."
"It is even so," said Ahab after some thought. "Wherefore let us engage this plan of yours. Let us but first listen to the prosecutor's case. At present all is in favor of the defense, but as in chess someone must make the first move, though in this case it is Black. Wait to see whether when our own White pieces make their move it will be to checkmate their devilish king."
"And if our cause is to be defeated, shall we carry out our plan?"
Ahab nodded. "Aye," he said.
With the delays from translation, malfunctions of the equipment, and the multitudinous interjections and cheers from the crowd at the waterfront, it took the best part of a day to complete the cross examination of Moby Dick. The judge then ordered the court to recess until the next day.
As the people dispersed, some to the taverns, some to their homes, I noticed a knot of sailors gradually make their way to one of the drinking establishments, where they would no doubt spend their time in pleasant companionship before repairing to their hotel. I spied my once friend Ishmael among them as he spoke some earnest words to Ahab and the two mates.
It was a sad day when Ishmael spurned my friendship yet I could do nought about it; beholden as I now was to my tipuna, and the noble descendants of the whale she rode in on. I had considered the Oriental professor's explanation for our presence, and it seemed to me that perchance we were both right. It may be that there is a providence guiding our movement, which, seeing an injustice to be righted, made sure that the Pequod crew could be shown the error of their ways.
Yet just as any course correction requires participation by both captain and crew; the former to plot the course and the latter to trim the sails, so the sail trimmer in this particular case must be the flood of particles that also catapulted the tipuna of both Nippon and Aotearoa into the modern era. Starbuck was left behind, and who knows where, because he no longer required correction. Both Ishmael and myself had been separated from the Pequod, I by death and he by the Rachel, requiring a separate trim for the two of us.
Would that I could remonstrate with my friend, for I feared that he and Ahab were plotting for ill, yet there was little I could do but pray to Eo and my tipuna that the divine course would be held, regardless what storms of pride assail it.
The next day, the naval commander Lieutenant Jessica Te Aroha was telling the court how Ahab had admitted hunting down the whale for his oil, then pursuing him over the seas for revenge. "He told me it was his 'God given right', and threatened me if I would not stand aside and let him kill the whale."
This last revelation caused a buzz among the people watching, and a frantic scribbling from the journalists. Mere then proceeded to call the crew of the Pequod, one at a time, starting with Doughboy, saving the officers and captain for last, so the impressionable deckhands would not be influenced by that testimony. Mere was so thorough with her cross examination, that it was half an hour later before Doughboy was dismissed from the witness stand, having confirmed the whale's story; that he had been hunted down for three days, but had damaged no crew member save the Parsee Fedellah, whose death was in the nature of an accident, drowning while tangled in the ropes that were thrown to snare the whale.
When Pip was then called to the stand and I realised the exact same questions would be asked in the exact same manner, I betook myself to explore this new town, collaring Bulkington to accompany me as an anodyne to loneliness. My shipmate agreed heartily enough, so having checked with the court clerk that it was unlikely we would be called until the next day, we took ourselves off by motor driven omnibus to examine the historical site of the battle of Gate Pa, where united iwi from this area had, through linking together, defeated the pakeha, and for the first time shown that numbers and technology could be beaten by courage and conviction.
The site of the battle had been tastefully arrayed with artistic carvings, showing the range of contenders for this historical occasion; which according to local iwi was the first time an agreement had been made to treat non-combatants with respect, heal their injured and not fire on retreating armies. It may have been so that this was the first written account, yet in the years before I started my own dissolute wondering I knew of at least one battle with neighbouring Tuhoe where the chiefs met for powhiri before hand, taking care of such weighty matters as the rules for battle, treatment of prisoners, and - most importantly, when to break for kai.
I mentioned this to Bulkington, who told me of similar agreements made with the Indians by his New England forebears; methinks a bit of truth stretching has been indulged for the sake of puffing the reputation of a particular iwi. Wars have always been brutal, but always too have been tinged with mercy.
There was a tastefully decorated church next to the battle site and memorial, built in the colonial style, and Bulkington and I repaired inside to offer our prayers and thanks to the God who made us all, Maori, pakeha and whale.
I spent the day listening to the court as my shipmates were called up to bear witness against Ahab, or to the whale, depending on their disposition and the pureness of their character. Doughboy it was who was first called; his pasty face quivering with fear. So it was that he gave a lamentable exhibition painting Ahab as a monomaniacal tyrant, bent on taking the white whale with no consequence to the sensibilities of those around him or to human feeling.
At one point he mentioned the Rachel, and the lawyer seized on this with the alacrity of a harpooner upon an exposed flank.
"Are you telling me that the Captain of the Rachel ignored a cry of distress from a fellow mariner?"
"I... The Captain... He told the Rachel captain he wouldn't help."
"He wouldn't help." The lawyer paused for dramatic effect. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the code of the sea, that requires mariners to help each other in distress, is one of the most sacred of precepts. Nations may plunder nations on land, but the obligation to assist a fellow mariner is one aspect of the Golden Rule that has held firm among all seafaring cultures; the Polynesian as much as the Nantucket whaler is bound by its edicts. At the time that the captain of the Rachel made his request, heartlessly turned down by Ahab, ..."
"Objection, your Honor." The fat lawyer appeared to be raising the objection for form's sake only. "Captain Ahab is not the one on trial."
"Overruled," said the judge. "Your learned colleague is establishing Captain Ahab's state of mind and his motive when confronting the accused. You may continue, Ms. Akariki." Bill sat down, not appearing too concerned.
"As I was saying," continued Ms. Akariki, "when Ahab turned down the request from the Rachel, the law of providing assistance had not been codified into international admiralty law, but it was no less binding for all that. Yet Ahab ignored this sacred charge, leaving several men to die, in order to pursue this whale for private revenge. Remember what sort of man we are dealing with when it comes to giving your verdict."
Doughboy was dismissed, and little Pip took his place. I watched him and three other shipmates provide positively mutinous reports on Ahab. Jake Williams, a seaman from Nantucket, seemed reluctant to say anything against his captain, preferring to remain silent under the questioning. It was only when the judge reminded him that he had to answer the questions or be held in contempt, that he reluctantly volunteered information regarding his impressions on the Captain's state of mind. "Mad as a meat-ax," was his muttered verdict.
My own turn at interrogation came towards the end of the day. I was in some trepidation as to the outcome, for though it needs I must always tell the truth, especially under oath, yet also I must remain steadfast to my captain, who as a God-fearing man himself, must take the place of God aboard any ship.
When I was summoned to the witness stand, the clerk of the court staggered up to me with an armful of books.
"Will you take the oath or affirmation, Sir," he asked me.
"What is this," I replied.
"The oath is a sworn upon a Holy Book, sir, for those who believe its doctrines. The affirmation is a simple sworn statement requiring no such accouterments."
"Such a heathen promise, not sworn in the presence of God Almighty would have no substance." I was hot and bothered now, perspiring under my jerkin. "Do you offer a lending service that you have so many Holy Books?"
"No sir," he replied. "I do but offer choice. This book is the Christian Bible for those who choose to swear by it. I also offer the Holy Koran, the Torah, the Book of Mormon, the Vedic Scriptures, the Sayings of Confucius, and the writings of our own Maori prophet Tamaki."
"What heathen nonsense is this?" Are you telling me God is split himself in so many parts, hiding each inside a book, that you offer so many?"
"I don't know about that, sir. I am just here to offer you the oath or affirmation."
"I will take the oath on the Holy Scripture," I said.
The clerk handed me the Holy Bible, instructed me to place it in my right hand and repeat the oath.
"I swear that the evidence I will give before this court shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God."
The Maori lawyer took me through all my experiences, from that first fateful day at New Bedford when I had in mind to go to sea, to the time I met Queequeg at the inn, and when I signed on as a deckhand on the Pequod.
"And what were your views on Captain Ahab?" she asked me.
"A fine gentleman and a first class navigator," I said.
"Did you ever say that Captain Ahab was a monomaniac?"
The lawyer picked a book and continued her questions.
"I have here an account by one Herman Melville, in which he narrates some of your adventures, I believe after you worked with him in New York. Is that right?"
"Mr Melville recounts that you believed your captain to be a 'monomaniac' who acted with 'wild vindictiveness' in his single minded pursuit of the whale. Do you deny that you told him this?"
She had me there. "I.. I can't recall." I said.
"No further questions."
The other lawyer stood up to cross examine. "Mr Ishmael," he said. "What was your reaction on meeting your captain again in Tauranga after so many years apart."
"I was totally overjoyed."
"Have you once again put yourself under the command of Captain Ahab?"
"You came ashore at Nantucket I believe and were treated in a very shabby fashion by the ship's owners. Is that correct?"
"Sir, the ship's owners paid me everything I was owed." I saw the face of the lawyer fall at this point. I can't think why.
"How much did the owners pay you, when you presented yourself to them, penniless and destitute, having just served on their ship for three years?"
Ah, now I could see where this was leading. "Nothing," I said.
"And yet, in spite of being turned away by the owners, you rejoined with the captain, placing yourself under his command, as soon as you were able."
"That is correct."
"No further questions."
I was stood down and made my way back to my shipmates. I was not quite sure what point the lawyer was making, but Ahab slapped me on the back and called me a good lad, so I must have done well.
The following morn, Bulkington and I were lounging at the quayside, listening to the cross examinations. Some of the sailors remained loyal to Ahab, one being my former companion Ishmael. The two officers, Flask and Stubbs, painted a picture of a one time decent man tormented by madness, and then it was the turn of Ahab himself.
After some more arguments over the Holy books - Ishmael had also made the same nit-picking objections, Ahab took the oath and stood facing Mere.
"Captain Ahab," she began. "Was it Moby Dick, the whale currently on trial and held on the upper harbour, who bit off your leg."
"Aye, you know it was."
"And what were you doing at the time that the accused allegedly committed grievous bodily harm on your person."
"I don't know what you mean by alleged - I had two pins and now I have one. 'Twas my leg been lost, nothing alleged about it."
"Please answer the question, Captain Ahab."
"I was running down the whale in my boats, ready to strike with my harpoon."
"Would it be accurate to say you were attempting to kill Mr Dick at the time?"
"Of course I was trying to kill it. We don't render whales alive."
"And was it the whale Moby Dick who allegedly murdered your crew member Fedellah?"
"Again, I don't see no allegings. The Parsee was wrapped around the whale's body like washing on a line."
"And by 'the Parsee' are you referring to Fedellah?"
"Yes of course I am, woman."
"It would be as well to say so then. You say that Fedellah became entangled in the whale's body. Can you describe to the court how this happened?"
"We was all pumping the whale full of iron." Ahab's voice became more animated and he started gesturing as he described the throw. "It was stuck like a porcupine, yet still it wouldn't go down. As it ran out to sea, it was fair sizzling them ropes and we had to cut them free. Curse him." Here Ahab shook his fist.
"So would it be fair to say that these ropes that entangled Mr Dick were in fact placed around his body by your crew members."
"Aye. Of course. Ye can't bring in the whale unless it be fast tied to a rope."
"So, Captain Ahab. You stated that the ropes were placed by your crew members, and that it was the ropes that entangled Fedellah. Could it therefore not be reasonably inferred that in fact it was your own crew members who entangled Fedellah, and thus caused his death."
"'Twas the whale, I tell ye. The whale. If he had gone down like he should of and not kept fighting like the devil, Fedellah would be alive now."
"Captain Ahab, the crime of murder, or even of manslaughter, requires more than an association of events, which when placed together cause a death. It could just as easily be argued that had you not refrained from hunting the whale that day, Fedellah would be alive. Is that right?"
"Aye, you could say that, but 'tis in the nature of the whaler to hunt the whale."
"Is it not in the nature of a cornered animal to defend himself?"
"Aye, any dumb beast can defend isself. But cutting my leg showed a vicious streak which I meant to avenge."
"Mr Ahab, I am a bit confused about one thing. You say that the whale is a 'dumb' beast. Is that right?"
"Aye. Just acts on pure instinct"
"And yet you yourself saw the whale seek the protection of the New Zealand Navy, you have heard him being cross examined in this courtroom and explaining himself most eloquently."
"I heard a series of grunts and bellows from the whale, and the same from some contraptions ye used. I never heard him talking."
"Are you therefore of the opinion that the interpretors are simply making up what the whale is saying"
"I never said that, lass, but if you want to believe it I shan't argue."
I heard some members of the jury give in a sharp intake of breath. "Lets leave that for now. If the beast is dumb as you say, can you explain to the court how it makes sense to take revenge."
Ahab seemed at a loss for words, finally saying "Would you not seek to avenge someone who wronged you?"
"Against someone, possibly. The concept of utu - revenge - is strong among traditional Maori, though many of us have now embraced the Christian faith that holds forgiveness to be a higher calling than revenge. But according to you, the whale acts solely on instinct. Surely in your view that makes him something, and as well take revenge on a rock for dislodging from a mountain and severing your leg."
"Not the same thing at all. That whale has animal cunning."
"So Captain Ahab, let me get this straight. You are now telling me that this dumb beast, which you tell me just acts on instinct has some cunning?"
"Aye, that's what I said."
"Intelligence, in other words."
"Of a sort, yes."
"Would you like to elaborate to the court what you mean by 'of a sort'"
"Just that they are intelligent enough to be vindictive."
"So if the whale is intelligent, then doesn't he have the right to defend himself. If someone was attacking you, Captain Ahab, and continued to do so even after you had taken evasive action, would you not consider defending yourself by all means possible, including rendering the attacker harmless."
"You may think that lass, but the Quaker teaching is to offer the other cheek to one who strikes you."
"Is it not also the Quaker teaching not to seek revenge?"
Ahab was silent.
"We will leave the matter of Captain Ahab's leg for the moment," said Mere. "I would like to now explore the third charge, the destruction of the Pequod. Captain Ahab, is it true that at the time my client attacked the Pequod he had been hunted unmercifully for the past three days."
"Don't know why you use the word unmercifully as though a brute beast was deserving of mercy, but it is true we were hunting it, yes."
"And is it true that for the three days the whale was hunted, he made no attempt to kill anyone floundering in the water, in fact spending most of his energies running away?"
"Aye most of the time he ran from us, like the scurvy knave he is."
"Do I detect in this turn of phrase a disapproval? You would rather he not run. But nor can he fight. What can he do?"
"Why, accept the fate God has provided for it. Oil for our lamps, the better we can read God's word. God's word, mind, not the words of these heathens you have in your books here."
Mere rolled her eyes at the jury. "No further questions."
I waited to see whether the prosecution would cross examine. Judging by the muted muttering of the jury, it appeared as if Captain Ahab had condemned himself. Strange therefore it was to see the prosecutor look at Ahab with loathing, and snap "no questions."
The foreman of the jury, an elderly part Maori, part Pakeha man, asked the judge for leave to speak. "Your honour," he said. "We have reached a verdict. Do we have to prolong this trial any further?"
"Justice demands that the trial continue until both sides have had their say." said the judge. "If we fail to do so it could lead us open to legal challenge at the Court of Appeal."
I noticed the two lawyers were whispering together. Then Mere spoke. "Your Honour," she said. "We have come to an agreement not to call any more witnesses. We would like the opportunity to make our summing up speeches and then the jury can consider their verdict. We request an adjournment until tomorrow to give us time to sum up."
"Mr Jones, are you in agreement?" The judge turned towards the prosecutor.
"Perfectly, your honour."
"Very well, the court will adjourn until tomorrow, when a verdict will be reached."
The judge banged his gavel and the crowd dispersed. There was an air of excitement. Journalists were talking on their phones, and teenagers were busy writing texts. In this amazing century, it would only take a few minutes for the world to know that the first verdict in this historical trial of a cetacean was only hours away.
I could not believe my ears when the jury foreman announced his readiness to deliver his verdict. Surely such an announcement after the shameful and disrespectful cross examination of our captain meant only one thing. It is a dark day indeed for justice.
The speed of the verdict meant a change in plan. The blacksmith had studied the lock on the waka housing and determined it was too complex for his lock picking tools, so instead we had decided to remove the keys from the middle aged security guard patrolling the waka.
After dark, Ahab, Flask, Tashtego and myself, with a dozen seasoned sailors walked in single file towards the waka. As the sailor with the most book learning, I lead our little group in a prayer to God for our success. The crowd was dissipating, and the hubbub of the nearby pubs was a distant chatter. As planned, two of the sailors jumped out to overpower the guard as he approached. Then things happened very quickly, and not according to our plan.
The sailors had the brawn one would expect from honest toil at sea. At the same time, their legs did not move as quickly on land as one used to it. As the two stepped out at the guard, he launched himself on them. One of the sailors doubled over in agony as a knee hit his groin. The other joined him two seconds later, his nose smashed into a mass of shards and blubber.
"What the fuck do you think you are doing, jumping out on me like that, armed with that lethal weapon?" yelled the guard. "Get away from here immediately!" He had pulled out a square communication box and I knew he would be calling the police, the nearest of which was patrolling just a few hundred yards away in the busy part of the Strand.
Tashtego the harpooner transformed himself in front of me. His civilized veneer fell away, revealing the savage underneath, as he launched his harpoon at the guard. Its passage was a blur as it buried itself in the guard's solar plexus, too quickly for him to scream. The guard gave a gurgling groan and collapsed on the ground, his lungs punctured, the barb of the harpoon protruding through his body and out his back. Miraculously he was still alive, as Tashtego reached over his collapsed body and took the keys from his belt.
I reached the bushes and retched, suddenly cognizant of what I had done. I saw the widening pool of blood, heard the groan of the guard and I remembered the other violence I had witnessed; Queequeg's body pierced with a harpoon, the sharks turning the water red in their feeding frenzy on injured whales, the whales' spouting now sounding like what it was; shrieks of agony.
Then Ahab said, "we need the harpoon." Tashtego nodded, put his foot on the prostrate man, and pulled hard. The harpoon came loose with a grinding tearing sound, a gurgling scream from the victim and a spray of blood and flesh as the barb ripped back the way it had come.
"Got it," the harpooner said, waving the harpoon above his head, the barb still coated with unidentifiable bone and cartilage. The pool of blood below the guard was widening, and some of the sailors stepped through the gore in their eagerness to get inside the waka cage. The guard was lying still, his viscera scattered on the ground.
At that moment I realized the true nature of my captain. He could not hide behind the comfort of insanity. He was not mad but evil. Pure evil. Spots appeared before my eyes and I fell in a dead faint.
As the judge adjourned the court for the day, Bulkington and I headed to one of the pubs towards the end of the Strand, where we would chat over the day's events and take our evening meal. At the marae I had taken advantage of a young Maori woman, flesh dark as berries, firm breasts and thighs, but I had partaken no enjoyment in that direction since my visit to Tauranga. Accordingly, when one of the barmaids had smiled and flirted, I made sure I attended the same pub each evening, gradually working my way up to a courtship.
Maria had just gone off duty. I called her over to our table and was making my moves, when my shipmate rushed into the tavern.
"Wiremu," cried Ishmael. "Thank God you are here. Ahab has run amok, murdered a constable and is heading off to the harbour to harpoon Moby Dick!"
"What do you expect me to do?" I cried to him. "I have no boat, no harpoon, no waka. It is the police you must call."
"I have called them too," said Ishmael. "But maybe you can dissuade Ahab. You are a harpooner after all. He may listen to you."
"If you have alerted the police you have done all you can do," I said. "But what a turn around! You who was Ahab's man through and through to now turn against him and give the alarm."
"I know now what sort of man he is. When I saw him countenance the murder of another human being as though he were a cockroach, because he is in his way. His defence in court was so much devious sophistry; in essence saying I can do what I like to any creature and they must not resist my tyranny. Oh, help me save Moby Dick, I fear for his life."
"The Tauranga Harbour is shallow, especially at low tide," said Maria, who had joined in the conversation. Your whale would be floundering, unable to swim into the deep, and unable to defend himself."
"Let us go and rescue him." I leapt up out of the chair.
"In what?" cried Bulkington.
"The Pequod of course. Is it not ours? Will the harbour master not release it for us to sail to the upper harbour. Come, let us hurry."
"I have a car," said Maria. The four of us hurried out of the pub, and crammed ourselves into Maria's small car as we sped over the harbour bridge to the marina where the Pequod rocked in its moorings. We ran into the ship, to be met by the stern features of a security guard in the alcove that used to house the rendering vats, now converted to a ticket office.
"The Pequod is closed to visitors." he said. Behind him in the hold I could see two other figures emerging from the shadows.
"We are part owners," said Ishmael. "Come to take her for a sail."
"Nothing like that in my orders," said the guard.
I saw now who the other figures were. One was an additional security guard, but the other was the blacksmith of the Pequod, a shipmate whose visage I knew as well as my own, after three years at sea in the same cramped quarters.
"Charlie," I said. "Let us go, we need to save Moby Dick."
"Save Moby Dick?" he sneered, flexing his blacksmith's muscles. "I have spent most of my life on whalers hammering the iron to tear into the guts of the likes of he. Why then should I want to save him? Captain Ahab has gone ahead to consummate revenge against the beast that took his leg of flesh, supported by the leg of iron, lovingly crafted in my forge."
Just then the boat shook, and a throbbing noise drowned out any reply we could make. A powerful launch, red light flashing, had roared past.
"Police launch," said Maria. "Out to rescue Moby Dick no doubt. Maybe we can leave things to the police. They will get there much faster than we can on this sailing boat."
"The police may need backup," I said. "And who better than the descendent of the whale rider, to rescue the companion of the whale she rode, as a means of redeeming the Pequod and her crew. Stand aside, Charlie. We are taking this vessel."
Charlie had snatched a cutting in spade; a sharp object with a blade that could slice a head in two. I had my own weapon handy; a mere made from pounamu that my tipuna had fought with. Before I withdrew it, the correct rituals had to be performed. I went into a crouch and yelled the words of the war dance; the haka, performed by the All Blacks before a rugby game, but going back to a time when the battles were fiercer and there was more at stake than a leather ball.
"Ka mate! ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!" I roared as I slapped my chest and thighs as hard as I could.
The two security guards ran off the ship in a panic. Ishmael meantime had released the painter. The Pequod was under way.
Charlie that blacksmith was of my century, a Nantucket native, used to a hard life and hard knocks. He was not to be intimidated even by a war dance of warriors, but instead started circling around me, making stabs with the cutting spade as I looked for an opening to use my mere.
Meantime, Ishmael, Bulkington and Maria were hoisting the sails and the Pequod was creeping out of the marina and into the harbour. The boat lurched as the sails filled with wind. I had anticipated this and lunged at Charlie hoping to hit him full in the chest. Charlie was a sailor like me, and leapt back in time.
The Pequod was out in the water now, the lapping of the waves clearly audible, and the tang of salt in the air. I sniffed it with some degree of rapture. Tauranga Harbour was surrounded on all sides by land, but landlocked as I had been since I stepped back into Aotearoa, it was almost like being on the open sea.
Bulkington re-entered the alcove, leaving Ishmael to steer the ship. He snatched up a harpoon. Charlie dropped his spade. "Aye, you have me there, two against one. What are you going to do to me?"
"Why nothing at all, Charlie. You and me are shipmates. We won't force you to turn against your captain. But if you do not promise that you will offer us no hindrance to our own aims of saving Moby Dick, then we must confine you in irons in the brig."
"I give my word I will not impede you. Though nor will I turn my hand against my captain."
With that, the blacksmith sat on the chair in the ticket office, and Bulkington and I went on deck to sail the ship. We could see the police launch ahead of us by the glare of of its own lights, then ahead of that the waka, pulled by the mighty oars of the whaling crew, and no Maori warrior could match them for stamina.
The police launch pulled up to the waka. Moby Dick was floundering in the shallow water, and the mud churned around his fin, as he made for the open water between Matakana Island and Bowentown.
The waka altered course to cut off his escape. Then we beheld the arm of Tashtego draw back, and the harpoon sizzled from his hands, straight into the inboard motor of the launch.
There was a grinding sound, a terrifying tearing of metal, then a flash of sparks, and the two crew members of the launch were bailing water into the stern of the boat, where a fire was spreading. The launch fell behind the waka. Tashtego already had another harpoon at the ready, this time with the line attached, designed this time for flesh, not metal.
Just then the waka crew espied the Pequod, which had sailed past the floundering police launch. Moby Dick was flailing towards the deeper water, his flank exposed to the harpoon. Tashtego was crouched in the bow of the waka, harpoon in hand, waiting to throw. Why did I ever consider hunting whales to be a romantic and noble occupation? Where is the nobility in gratuitous violence, blood and gore, and rotting corpses?
The Pequod was by now on the port bow of the waka, set to ram it and spoil Tashtego's aim. Ishmael the experienced merchantman at the helm, Bulkington at the sails, ably assisted by Maria, who seemed to have some experience in sailing boats even in this age of metal and machinery. I grabbed a harpoon and ran to the bow.
We would not save Moby by intercepting the waka. Already Tashtego had him in his sights. He had drawn his right arm back, when I let go my own lance. It struck the waka on the hull just above the waterline, a clean hit, and I felt the barb bite into the hardened rimu hull.
"Hard a port!" I screamed at Ishmael as the harpoon rope tautened. Ishmael swung the Pequod around, Bulkington and Maria pulled on the sail sheets and the waka jerked to port, spoiling the aim of Tashtego, who had just launched his harpoon.
The harpoon struck short, missing its target. Tashtego uttered a curse, before winding in the rope for a second throw. Ahab, sitting in the bows of the waka, shook his fist at me. Moby was still straining to get out to the Bowentown channel, the harbour turning brown around him as he frantically stirred up the bottom with his gyrations.
The Pequod caught a gust of breeze and started pulling the waka round. But already one of the sailors had drawn a knife and cut the rope free. Tashtego had pulled in his dart and was readying for a second throw. Moby Dick had almost struggled free of the harbour but was caught on the sandbar, and was writhing in panic, unable to either run or defend himself, caught in the worst situation for a whale.
There was only one thing to do. "Hard a starboard!" I yelled. Ishmael turned the wheel and I gave a hand with the sails, pointing into the wind, on a collision course with the waka, putting the Pequod firmly between the waka and the whale.
The paddlers in the waka were pulling as hard as they could, and as the breeze freshened, the Pequod also gathered speed. There was a crunch of timbers as the two craft collided. The waka was made of hardwood rimu, and the hard prow ripped through the hull of the Pequod with a tearing sound like a tree falling in a forest. The Pequod flooded with water and immediately took on a list. The waka was flipped on its side, spilling all its sailors, and spoiling Tashtego's second throw, which went wide again. At the same time, Moby Dick gave a massive wrench, turning the harbour speckled brown with his exertion, and as the wind freshened further and waves washed into the harbour mouth from the offing, he was free.
As the Pequod sunk under me for the second time, and I floundered round in the water, searching out my shipmates and holding on to a spar, I saw his spout disappear on the horizon.
"Haere ra, Moby!" I shouted. "Ka kite ano!"