December 14, 2017

Whaling Museum’s annual Moby-Dick Marathon will draw international audiences

22nd anniversary celebration of all things Moby-Dick and Melville – January 5-7, 2018

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. – One of the world’s best known live readings of Herman Melville’s iconic American novel Moby-Dick returns to the New Bedford Whaling Museum, January 5-7, 2018. The 22nd annual Moby-Dick Marathon will draw readers and enthusiasts from around the globe to the Museum’s campus and to the livestream reading online. Obsessive literary aficionados, local school children, and everyone in between, will travel back in time to accompany narrator, Ishmael, on the epic whaling journey and hunt for the elusive white whale. The event is free and open to the public. Full details are available at

The Whaling Museum has marked the anniversary of Melville’s 1841 departure from the Port of New Bedford and Fairhaven aboard the whaleship, Acushnet, with this mid-winter tradition since 1997. Melville would later pen Moby-Dick, publishing the famous novel in 1851. Moby-Dick Marathon weekend features the main 25-hour readathon - fueled by caffeine, warm local soups, theatrical performances, and a fondness for the author’s artistry – as well as two mini-marathons on January 6: a Portuguese-language reading of Tiago Patricio’s abridged Moby-Dick; and a children’s version by Classic Starts.

Activities begin on Friday, January 5 at 5:30 p.m. with a reception and dinner well-suited for hungry sailors, followed by Call Us Ishmael, a documentary film by David Shaerf. This film is an intimate look at the world’s obsession with Moby-Dick and its cultural legacy. The Melville Society Cultural Project will conclude the night with a lively discussion of the film. Tickets for Friday evening’s dinner, film, and discussion are $40 for Museum members and $50 for non-members. The film screening is part of the ticketed event. To reserve call (508) 997-0046 x 100 or visit 

Each year the Museum invites a special guest to launch the marathon. Alan Burdick, an author and staff writer at The New Yorker, will read the classic opening excerpt from Moby-Dick in 2018, beginning with the famous line, “Call me Ishmael.”

The reading will move through multiple settings in the Museum, as well as the Seamen’s Bethel, made famous by Melville in Moby-Dick as the “Whalemen’s Chapel.” The event begins with readers and audience members nestled alongside the world’s largest whaleship model – the Lagoda. Marathoners sit amongst the sails, lines, and whaling tools of the time while experiencing the first chapters. The next section of the book, beginning at chapter 7 – The Chapel - is read, appropriately, at the Seamen’s Bethel. Melville attended a service there shortly before he shipped out and heard a sermon by the chaplain, Reverend Enoch Mudge, who was the model for Father Mapple. Melville’s pew in the Bethel is marked to this day.

The remainder of the book is read non-stop in a gallery with 180-degree views of the fishing fleet and other vessels lining New Bedford Harbor. The only exception will be Chapter 40, Midnight Forecastle, which will be performed in the Museum’s Cook Memorial Theater by Culture*Park.

The entire marathon is peppered with fun Melville-inspired activities, including opportunities to chat with scholars from the Melville Society Cultural Project (MSCP) and even a chance to “stump” the scholars by testing their Melville knowledge. The Whaling Museum, in collaboration with The Melville Society, is the established home of the MSCP and the Melville Society Archive, which is housed in the Museum's Research Library. The archive constitutes one of the best collections of Melville scholarship and resources anywhere in the world.

The few hardy souls who brave the voyage by staying awake through all 136 chapters of the great American epic—from Etymology to Epilogue – will receive a prize when the marathon comes to an end on Sunday.

The main marathon program highlights are below. Times are approximate and are dependent upon the reading pace of the marathon. All Saturday and Sunday events are free and open to the public. Guests may come and go as needed through the Museum’s main entrance.

Friday, January 5

  • 5:30 – 9:00 p.m. Pre-marathon dinner, film, and discussion (Ticketed event)

Saturday, January 6

  • 10 a.m. Stump the Scholars - Audience brings their most challenging Melville-related questions and tries to stump Melville scholars.
  • 10 a.m. Children’s Mini-Marathon: abridged version of Moby-Dick by Classic Starts
  • 11:30 a.m. Extracts read by the Melville Society Cultural Project
  • 12:00 p.m. Main Marathon begins
  • 2:30 p.m. Chat with Melville scholars
  • 3:00 p.m. Portuguese Marathon: Tiago Patricio’s abridged version of Moby-Dick in Portuguese
  • 3:00-5:00 p.m. “Above it All” Artist Demonstration: See art in action at the National Whaling Historical Park as artist, Peter Michael Martin, pulls a large-scale woodblock print, designed for the Moby-Dick Marathon.
  • 4:00-5:00 p.m. Artist Jacob Mark signs copies of the poster he designed for the marathon
  • 5:00–9:00 p.m. Cousin Hosea’s Chowder House and the Decanter Taproom: Re-charge and warm up with New Bedford’s finest chowders and soups from local restaurants – Destination Soups, Freestone’s City Grill, Tia Maria’s European Cafe, and Quahog Republic Whaler’s Tavern. Moby-Dick Brewery will be serving up local brews in the Decanter Taproom.
  • 7:00-7:30 p.m. Culture*Park’s performance of Midnight, Forecastle (chapter 40)

Sunday, January 7

  • 8:00 a.m. The 20th-hour Feast – a tasty morning treat to fuel readers in the home stretch
  • 9:30 a.m. Chat with Melville scholars
  • 1:00 p.m. Epilogue and prizes for the hearty souls that stay awake make it through the entire voyage

The entire marathon will be broadcast via livestream in a couple of venues within the Museum, as well as online, so enthusiasts around the globe can follow along. Visit for more information.

For high-resolution images contact:
Tina Malott
Director of Marketing
New Bedford Whaling Museum
508-997-0046 Ext. 140


A snow storm during the 2017 Moby-Dick Marathon drew volunteer readers closer together. The New Bedford Whaling Museum was aglow and busy with activity in the wee hours of the morning.


The 2017 Moby-Dick Marathon kicked off with Herman Melville’s great great grandson Peter Whittemore reading the most famous opening line in American literature, “Call me Ishmael.” From the moment those words are uttered again in 2018, until approximately 25 hours later, more than 200 participants will read a short passage from Moby-Dick.


The first readings from Moby-Dick take place in the Whaling Museum’s Bourne Building, which houses a half-scale model of the whaleship Lagoda (world’s largest ship model).


Father Mapple’s rousing sermon from Moby-Dick is read each year in the Seamen’s Bethel, across the street from the Whaling Museum. Because whaling was so dangerous, many whalemen felt the need to attend services at the Bethel prior to shipping out on whaling voyages. Among those so inclined was Herman Melville. While he was here, he attended Bethel services and the pew where he sat is marked.

About the New Bedford Whaling Museum

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world's most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of human interaction with whales through time, and the history and culture of the South Coast region. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city's historic downtown. Museum hours: January through March, Tuesday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.; April through December, daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Museum is open until 8 p.m. every second Thursday of the month. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Admission is: Free for Museum members and children aged three and under; adults $17, seniors (65+) $15, students (19+) $10, child and youth $7. For more information, visit