Page 126. " Gay Head, the most westerly promontory of Martha’s Vineyard "

The island of Martha's Vineyard was given the same notoriety as Nantucket by the American whaling industry, during the early-to-mid-19th century.  The town of Gay Head was renamed Aquinnah in 1997, in deference to the population of Wampanoag Native Americans who have resided there continually since before European colonisation. 

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Page 127. " Third among the harpooners was Daggoo …. an Ahasuerus to behold. "

Ahasuerus is a name that appear several times in the Hebrew Bible, often identified with the King of Persia.

Page 128. " An Anacharsis Clootz deputation from all the isles of the sea "

Anacharsis Cloots was a Prussian-born nobleman and revolutionary who played a role in the French revolution. He was guillotined in 1794 after falling out with Robespierre.

Page 129. " like Cellini’s cast Perseus "

Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571), an Italian polymath, cast a famous bronze statue of Perseus with the Head of Medusa, now housed at the Loggia dei Lanzi at Florence.

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Page 134. " Lighting the pipe at the binnacle lamp "

A ship's binnacle stands on-deck, traditionally holding navigational instruments such as compasses steady against the motion of the waves as well as ensuring they are well-lit, allowing measurements to be taken at any time of the day or night. 

Ship's wheel and compass binnacle
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeShip's wheel and compass binnacle - Credit: Ian Petticrew

Page 137. " If ye see a white one, split your lungs for him! "

The image of a fearsome, albino sperm whale had already been spread through the popular imagination by explorer Jeremiah N. Reynolds, who in 1839 had published a collection of alleged first-hand encounters with an enigmatic white whale named 'Mocha Dick'.  The creature had supposedly terrorised numerous vessels in the South Pacific during the early 19th century, before being killed in 1838.