The New Bedford Whaling Museum's Moby-Dick Marathon is an annual non-stop reading of Herman Melville's literary masterpiece. The multi-day program of entertaining activities and events is presented every January. Admission to the Marathon is free.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The 16th New Bedford Moby-Dick Marathon -- Second Day (Part One)

Saturday (Jan. 7) began with the second annual "Stump the Scholars!" program in the Cook Memorial Theater at the Whaling Museum.  This event was organized the same as last year's, except many more people participated this year, and the audience's questions were (I thought) tougher.  Anyone who had a Moby-Dick-related question for the scholars (from the Melville Society) could write the question on a form and be assigned a number, first come, first served.  Then the questions would be posed in numerical order to two teams of three scholars each (named the "Clams" and the "Cod," after Chapter XV, "Chowder").  A team who answered a question satisfactorily would be awarded points; if neither team was able to answer, the questioner received an "I Stumped the Scholars" button.

The Scholars
It's no easy task to "stump" teams like these. We're talking about some of the rock stars of Melville studies, with knowledge broad and deep. From the left in the photo above:
  • Mary K. Bercaw Edwards (U. of Connecticut)
  • Robert Wallace (Northern Kentucky U.)
  • Wyn Kelley (M.I.T.)
  • Chris Sten (George Washington U.)
  • Laurie Robertson-Lorant (U. of Massachusetts Dartmouth)
  • Jennifer Baker (NYU)
Michael Dyer works the crowd
The judge and scorekeeper, as last year, was Michael Dyer, the Museum's Maritime Curator. He did a great job, balancing entertainment and erudition. In the end, he was as surprised as anyone (i.e., no one) that once again the teams were tied!

The questions ranged from gimmes to true head-scratchers.  E.g.:
- In what country was Ishmael when he related the story of the Town-Ho? (Answer: Peru)
- What is a sword-mat? (Answer: a fender or bumper for a boat)
- How many words are in Moby-Dick? (I think this was a gag question, but Robert Wallace made an educated guess that came very close to the correct number.)
- A complex question about synchronicities that I didn't follow.
- What once celebrated, later notorious, American military figure was instrumental in the creation of Moby-Dick?  (Answer: Benedict Arnold, who [if I heard correctly] saved the life of the future Mrs. Peter Gansevoort, Herman Melville's maternal grandmother.  This stumper was the work of Peter Whittemore, who earned a button thereby.)

Shortly before the program started, Gansevoort and I had some excitement when I unintentionally outed us as the authors of this blog.  It happened when I asked Michael Dyer if I could take his picture for a blog.  When I said the word "blog," a voice behind me cried out, "Ahab Beckons?  Are you Ahab Beckons?"  I turned around to find Jim Lopes, VP of Education and Programming at the Museum.  By reacting, I had already betrayed myself.  Jim then introduced himself and asked me if I was Gansevoort.  I said no and led him into the theater, where Gansevoort was sitting.  Jim explained that (unknown to us) he and others had been speculating on our identities and had even asked the assembly at the end of the buffet dinner whether "Ahab Beckons" was in attendance.  (This was apparently after we had moved into the theater to get settled for Dr. Marr's lecture.)

In a whirlwind, Jim then introduced us to an assortment of notables, including Peter Whittemore (Melville's great-great-grandson), Robert Rocha (the Museum's Science Director and the commander-in-chief of this year's Marathon; he also read a chapter in Portuguese), Wyn Kelley, and Brian Witkowski (the Museum's Education Programs Manager).  With the help of our sister, we managed to get photos of some of the above, which are posted below.  After the "Stump" program, the Museum's Director of Digital Initiatives, Michael Lapides, also introduced himself.  Everyone was very gracious, and their kind words of encouragement were most appreciated.

Peter Whittemore
Robert Rocha
I'm positive that we also took a picture of Jim Lopes and Brian Witkowski, but I can't find it on my camera.  (Ynot explains in the comments that this may be the result of photographer's error.)

Alternative photo of Jim Lopes, at the podium Friday evening


  1. I think the missing photo you're referring to was not actually shot. In my delight at finding there were so many fellow fans of Ahab Beckons and my confusion in using an unfamiliar camera, I think I did not fully depress the appropriate button for the first one or two photos. I can only apologize to all.

  2. No apology necessary! I think I actually have a different picture of Mr. Lopes, from Friday, which I can post. People will just have to imagine what Brian Witkowski looks like.