19th Annual Moby-Dick Marathon 2015

Friday, January 2 – Sunday, January 4, 2015

Schedule  |  Dinner  |  Lecture  |   Reading Timetable   |   Mini-Marathon   |   Reader List


“Shipmates, have ye shipped in that ship?” is the seemingly innocent, yet portentous, question offered by Elijah at the beginning of Chapter 19, The Prophet, in Moby-Dick.  Chapter 19 of the Moby-Dick Marathon began on a much more positive note when Whaling Museum President, James Russell, called for eight bells at exactly 12:00 noon on Saturday, January 3, 2015. As many of you will recall, it was January 3, 1841, when a 21 year old Herman Melville (who was born in 19th year of the 19th century) sailed on the Acushnet, out of New Bedford Harbor. That key date in literary history provided the basis for when we held our annual 25 hour, non-stop reading of what the Oxford Companion to English Literature has called “the closest approach the United States has had to a national prose epic”.

However, the Moby-Dick Marathon is more than just a book reading. A variety of related activities were scheduled throughout the weekend, beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, January 2, with a ticketed buffet dinner.

Following the dinner, Melville enthusiasts were encouraged to attend a free presentation by author Philip Hoare. His presentation focused on his BBC film, The Hunt for Moby-Dick.

Saturday, January 3, from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. brought the return of Stump the Scholars, a quiz game designed to test the breadth of knowledge of members of the Melville Society Cultural Project. Visitors were invited to write down their most challenging Herman Melville related questions. These questions were read by the Whaling Museum’s Senior Maritime Historian Michael Dyer to the two three-person teams of Melville Scholars. Any question that rendered our experts answerless earned its author an I Stumped the Scholars pin.

Our Melville Society Cultural Project colleagues then took their places at the podium in the Bourne Building, by the stern of the Lagoda, the world’s largest ship model, at 11:30 a.m.  They read the 85 “Extracts” found at the beginning of Moby-Dick, between “Etymology” and Chapter 1. These quotes, poetic excerpts and lyrics, greeted our audience members and readers as they prepared themselves for the start of the Marathon proper. At noon, our story began with the most famous opening line in literature, “Call me Ishmael.”

In keeping with tradition, chapters 1- 6 was read in the Bourne Building. We then walked over to the Seamen’s Bethel for the reading of chapters 7 – 9, including the rousing sermon of Father Mapple, read by Reverend David Lima, Executive Director of the Inter-church Council of Greater New Bedford. We also tried to duplicate the success of the group singing of ‘The Ribs and Terrors in the Whale’ in chapter 9. Ably led by members of the New Bedford Choral Society and organist Dwight Thomas, this full audience version of the hymn filled the chapel as one voice, greatly enhancing the experience for everyone. Also joining together to bring this story to life was Culture*Park, of New Bedford, a local theater troupe who performed Chapter 40, “Forecastle – Midnight” in the Museum Theater.

Attendees joined a “Chat with a Melville Scholar” session on both Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, and were invited to view this year’s Marathon-related art installation “The Art of Seeing Whales” in the Center Street Gallery.

The entire reading was broadcast via audio livestream on the Whaling Museum website, allowing Moby-Dick enthusiasts around the globe to follow along. Periodic updates were posted via Twitter using #mdm19.

Video from 2014



The Moby-Dick Marathon was sponsored by:



Fred Borges Electric logo


Logo of The Pour Farm Tavern


Destination New Bedford logo



Last modified: August 25, 2016

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