Meeting Captain Ahab
Captain Ahab does not appear on deck until the cold December of Massachusetts is in the past, and the ship has reached warmer climes in the south. He first appears with his ivory leg, and tells the crew the one purpose of this trip: to chase and kill the sperm whale Moby Dick, who had robbed Ahab of his leg at their last encounter. Ahab nails a golden doubloon to the ship's mast as a reward for the first crew member to see the whale.
The Quest for the White Whale
As the voyage progresses, the crew find and try to hunt other whales. Eventually, Ahab's secret crew, led by the Parsee (Fedallah), whose skills at whale-hunting and prophecy are Ahab's hope in finding the whale.
As time goes by, and the ship goes around Africa into the Indian Ocean, the crew does catch some whales and starts to take them apart for their oil. Now and then, the Pequod will run into other ships that have seen Moby-Dick, and each time Ahab stops to get information from the captains of the ships.
The first boat that they encounter, the Jeroboam, has an insane prophet named Gabriel foretelling doom for those who pursue the great white whale. The negative prophecies start to find fruit: the harpooner Tashtego falls into a whale's head while the crew is trying to drain the oil from it. The head falls off and into the ocean, and Queequeg has to dive into the ocean and cut Tashtego out.
The Pequod also encounters the Samuel Enderby, whose captain had lost an arm to Moby-Dick, and is amazed that Ahab would go back for more after having lost a leg to the monster.