Hundreds to Gather at the New Bedford Whaling Museum for Moby-Dick Marathon

Dec 21, 2016

Story Location:
18 Johnny Cake Hill
New Bedford  Massachusetts  02740
United States

January 6-8 marks the 21st anniversary of the celebration of all things Moby-Dick and Melville.


It is time for the yearly migration to the New Bedford Whaling Museum. January 6–8 will mark the 21st annual Moby-Dick Marathon at the Museum. The event summons readers and enthusiasts around the globe - from the world’s most obsessive literary aficionados, to local school children and everyone in between.  Participants will travel back in time to accompany narrator Ishmael on the epic whaling journey and hunt for the elusive white whale.

Since 1995, the Museum has marked the anniversary of author Herman Melville’s 1841 departure from the Port of New Bedford and Fairhaven aboard the whaleship Acushnet, with this mid-winter tradition. Melville would later pen Moby-Dick, publishing the famous American novel in 1851. The 25-hour Moby-Dick readathon, fueled by caffeine, warm local chowder, theatrical performances, and a fondness for the author’s artistry, features inspiring options including a children’s marathon, as well as a reading of the abridged Portuguese adaptation of the novel.

Herman Melville’s great-great-grandson, Peter Gansevoort Whittemore, will read the classic opening excerpt from Moby-Dick, beginning with the famous line, “Call me Ishmael.” The reading will move through multiple settings throughout the Museum, as well as the Seamen’s Bethel, the actual chapel that the book’s “Whalemen’s Chapel” is modeled after. The event begins in the Museum’s Bourne Building, which houses the world’s largest whaleship model. Marathoners can sit amongst the sails, lines, and whaling tools of the time while experiencing the first six chapters. The next section of the book is read, appropriately, at the Seamen’s Bethel. Melville attended a service there shortly before he shipped out and he heard a sermon by the chaplain, Reverend Enoch Mudge, who was the model for Father Mapple in the book.

The remainder of the book is read non-stop in a gallery with 180-degree views of the fishing fleets and other vessels lining New Bedford harbor, except for a theatrical adaptation of chapter 40 in the Museum’s theater.

The entire marathon is peppered with fun Melville-inspired activities throughout, including opportunities to chat with Melville scholars and even a chance to “stump” the scholars by testing their Melville knowledge.

The few hardy souls who brave the voyage through all 136 chapters of the great American epic—from “Etymology” to “Epilogue” – will receive a prize when the marathon comes to an end on Sunday.

Activities begin on Friday, January 6 at 5:30 p.m. with a ticketed event including the opening of the Melville Society Exhibit, a dinner well-suited for hungry sailors, and an engaging lecture and discussion on Melville and Religion. Friday tickets are $40 for Whaling Museum members, $50 for non-members. To purchase tickets visit, or call 508-997-0046.

The main marathon program highlights are below. Times are approximate and are dependent on the reading pace of the marathon. All Saturday and Sunday events are free and open to the public. Guests may come and go as needed through the Museum’s main entrance.

Saturday, January 7: The Main Event*

10 a.m. Stump the Scholars- Audience brings their most challenging Melville-related questions and tries to stump Melville scholars.

10 a.m. Children’s Mini-marathon

11:30 a.m. Extracts read by the Melville Society

12:00 p.m. Main Marathon begins

2:30 p.m. Chat with Melville scholars

4:00 p.m. Book signing and talk with Kenneth R. Martin, editor of Around the World in Search of Whales: A Journal of the Lucy Ann Voyage 1841-1844

3:00 p.m. Portuguese Marathon

7:00 p.m. Culture* Park’s performance of “Midnight, Forecastle” (chapter 40)

8:00 p.m. Toast the Marathon’s 21st Year

Sunday, January 8

8:00 a.m. The 20th-hour Feast – a tasty breakfast to fuel readers in the home stretch

9:30 a.m. 2:30 p.m. Chat with Melville scholars

1:00 p.m. Epilogue and prizes for the hearty souls that make it through the entire voyage

The entire marathon will be broadcast via livestream in a couple of venues throughout the Museum, as well as online, so enthusiasts around the globe can follow along. Visit for more information.