The Acushnet and the Lima spotted each other on the squall-filled evening of July 22nd, 1841, but it wasn’t until after sunrise the next morning that the boats could be lowered.
On a speck of blue ocean nine hundred miles west of the Galapagos, precisely in the middle of nowhere, yet very near to the exact location of a horrific incident that occurred two decades earlier, two whaling men met for a gam. One was hardly a man, only sixteen, and the other was a bit older but hardly a whaler. Nonetheless, the two shared a pipe in the foc’sle of the Lima and eventually the talk turned to their experiences. Neither had much to retell, for both were on their first hunt, yet they swapped stories (and gripes, as sailors are wont to do) for a few hours until the call came that the boats were leaving.
“Well, William, it’s been pleasant, this visit. What’s your family name so that I might tell your parents I met you when I return?”
“Chase, sir,” William replied, “but you needn’t bother. My father still sails these waters, he’s almost never back east.”
“Chase? Not the son of Owen Chase?”
“That’s right,” the boy said in a distant tone. “I suppose you know?”
“... I’ve heard ...”
“Just a minute then, before you go,” he said and opened a small locker beneath his bunk and produced a ragged book. “Here, take this. I heard the mate say we’ll be hunting together for a few days, just return it when we part.”
Herman Melville returned to the Acushnet with an original copy of "The Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex" and absorbed half of the inspiration for what would become one of the greatest of American novels.