However, Pleasure Island’s mascot, as it were, was not a falsetto-voiced, anthropomorphic mouse and his cartoon cohorts. Pleasure Island’s mascot was Moby Dick himself. Well, a replica, anyway. The park even offered the “Moby Dick Hunt,” a leisurely boat ride which was marginally “threatened” by the eventual appearance of a scaled-down, robotic version of the legendary great white whale. Actually, the cut-rate Leviathan in question was a dingy yellow, rather than white, and even at my tender age, I could tell that the mechanical sea creature needed a proper cleaning.
My interest in Moby-Dick, with or without the hyphen, continued nevertheless. As a slightly older child, I was a regular fixture in the children’s room of Oxford’s public library. I suspect that most editions of Moby-Dick are abridged versions, and the copy which I eagerly thumbed through during each visit was, naturally, no exception. Quite a bit of the material in the uncut Moby-Dick would have been lost on a youngster such as myself anyway. But what remained in that thick blue volume was enough to spur my interest onward.
I estimate my age at the time of my first excursion to the New Bedford Whaling Museum as being as young as eight, perhaps as old as ten. And, truth be told, I remember being vaguely disappointed. Perhaps my expectations of a whaling museum had been shaped by other museums which I had seen in cartoons, television programs, and movies. These museums had, among other, less interesting exhibits, many reconstructed skeletons of dinosaurs, very impressive to a pre-adolescent male. But the whaling museum had only one whale skeleton, that of a humpback whale. (They still have it, of course, but it’s somewhat overshadowed nowadays by the larger skeleton of a young blue whale which, like the humpback, is suspended from the ceiling.) Frankly, I only vaguely remember the museum’s other exhibits from that long-ago time.