The Pequod takes a turn toward the island of Java, and Daggoo, up on the mast-head, believes he sees a white mass in the waters ahead. The whale-boats are lowered, but when the mates get close to the white “ghost,” they realize it is only a giant squid—a rare sight even for experienced whalemen—and not Moby Dick. Ahab is disappointed and returns to the Pequod, although others on the boat understand that giant squid are often believed to be food for the sperm whale, and that this particular squid could mean that Moby Dick lives and hunts in their vicinity.
A false alarm that continues to raise tension in the hunt for Moby Dick. Yet even as it disappoints, it raises expectations that Moby Dick might be nearby... The fervor of the search propels itself.