21st Annual Moby-Dick Marathon

January 6–8, 2017

Schedule of Events  |  Reader Programpdf icon  |  Marathon Reading Timetablepdf icon  |  Melville Society Exhibit   |  Livestream   |  Marathon Brochurepdf icon  |  Marathon Museum Mappdf icon 

21st annual moby-dick marathon logo

The 21st annual reading of America’s most iconic novel, Moby-Dick took place January 6-8 at the Museum. Visitors were invited to listen to the opening line, “Call me Ishmael” and stay for 25 hours of action-packed adventure!


A letter by James Russell, President & CEO
New Bedford Whaling Museum
During this past weekend’s blizzard 240 zealots and scores of volunteers descended on New Bedford for the 21st Moby-Dick Marathon. All day, late into the night and through the wee hours of the morning, Ishmael’s of all stripes showed up to read Herman Melville’s masterpiece in English and Portuguese. What made this year exceptional? It was the whiteout that froze most of us in place. The intimidating tome is a rite of passage at the best of times. This was the worst. What it became was an exercise in dogged determination, grit and tenacity. The marathoners braved the storm, faced tremendous odds and thus the event mirrored the book. The readers, like Ahab, pursued their goal with abandon. It was a testament to the attractive power of great literature, for great art transcends. This expressive act made people do extraordinary things. As in the lines of Hollywood’s Jurassic Park, “life will find a way”, so too will art. In particular, high anxiety preceded the abbreviated Moby-Dick reading in Portuguese. Unlike the 25 hour slog of the full edition, outlasting any storm nature could hurl at us, the reading in Portuguese was scheduled during the very worst of it. Yet, readers forged ahead, prompting the Portuguese Consul to quote Oliver Wendell Homes: “We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it—but sail we must, not drift, not lie at anchor.” The solidarity of readers, plowing through ponderous texts, united in common cause, was inspiring. In this sense, the Read-a-thon is a metaphor and an encouraging sign as we start the new year.


Moby-Dick Marathon – 25 hour Read-a-Thon
Portuguese Moby-Dick Marathon – 4 hour Read-a-Thon
Children’s Moby-Dick Marathon – 2 hour Read-a-Thon

Important changes were made this year! Due to the Seamen’s Bethel’s limited seating, we conducted a drawing for reserved seats. Preferences were given to our brave readers. Marathon guests could view the sermon and singing of “The Ribs and Terror in the Whale” hymn via livestream in the Cook Memorial Theater.


Schedule of Events

FRIDAY, January 6 – 5:30 pm
Melville Society Exhibit Opening Dinner, Lecture & Discussion

Dinner guests joined Melville Society Cultural Project members in the San Francisco Room as they unveiled their newest donations to the collection. Everyone enjoyed a meal well-suited for hungry sailors followed by a lecture titled Melville and Religion: Insights from the Melville Society.


The Marathon Experience

10 am Saturday, January 7 to 1 pm Sunday, January 8

SATURDAY, January 7
10 am  Stump the Scholars
Your knowledge of Moby-Dick tested and attempts to “Stump the Scholars” with questions for Melville Society Cultural Project members.

10 am  Children’s MiniMarathon
Children of all ages read a section of an abridged version of Moby-Dick by Classic Starts. The fun continued until every child has an opportunity to read!

11:30 am  Moby-Dick Extracts
Readings by Melville Scholars and remarks by James Russell.

12 pm  The Main Attraction
The 21st Moby-Dick Marathon reading began in the Bourne Building  amongst the sails, lines, and whaling tools of the world’s largest whaleship model. Next, the marathon continued in the Seamen’s Bethel for Father Mapple’s rousing sermon. Readings continued in the Harbor View Gallery, with the exception of Chapter 40, “Forecastle-Midnight” in the Cook Memorial Theater with Culture*Park.

2:30 pm Chat with Melville Scholars

3–7 pm  Moby-Dick Marathon in Portuguese
The second annual reading of Tiago Patricio’s abridged version of Moby-Dick in Portuguese.

Junte-nos para a segunda leitura anual de versão abreviada de Tiago Patricio de Moby-Dick em Português.

Special thanks to the Azorean Maritime Heritage Society and the Portuguese Consulate of New Bedford.

Um agradecimento especial ao Azorean Maritime Heritage Society e ao Consulado de Portugal em New Bedford.

4 pm  Book talk and signing with Editor Kenneth R. Martin: Around the World in Search of Whales: A Journal of the Lucy Ann Voyage 1841-1844. Learn more about the book.

5 pm  Cousin Hosea’s Chowder House
Visitor’s recharged and warmed up with New Bedford’s finest chowders from local restaurants.

7 pm  Midnight on the Fo’c’sle (Chapter 40) Performance by Culture*Park

8 pm  Toast for Marathon’s 21st Birthday!
Did you know Herman Melville was 21 when he went a-whaling? Fellow MDM ’21 crew enjoyed a beverage in honor of the Marathon’s “coming of age.” Sponsored by the Pour Farm Tavern.

SUNDAY, January 8
8 am  20th-Hour Feast
A hearty breakfast fueled readers on the home stretch! (Readers only)

9:30 am  Chat with Melville Scholars

1 pm  Epilogue A few souls suffering from hypnophobia were richly rewarded for impressively staying up all night.


This event was shared with #mdm21, #HermanMelville#readathon, and #MobyDick


Call me Ishmael phon photograph


New this Year: Call me Ishmael phones
Visitors could listen to stories from their fellow Melville aficionados on our Call me Ishmael phones, located in the Nye Lubricants Learning Lab/Snack Room on the main level.



The Herman Melville Room is dedicated in partnership with the Melville Society Cultural Project (MSCP). On exhibit is Mapping Ahab’s “Storied Waves”: Whaling and the Geography of Moby-Dick.

Herman MelvilleLearn more
Was there a real Moby Dick?


Thank you to our sponsors!


Allen Smith Logo


Empire Loan Logo


pidalia logo

The Pour Farm Tavern logo

Azorean Maritime Heritage Society logo


Consulate of Portugal in New Bedford logo

Call Me Ishmael logo 



Chowder Sponsors

Chowder provided by Destination Soups, Freestone’s City Grill, Tia Maria’s European Cafe and Whaler’s Tavern.