Herman Melville, like many writers before and since, was somewhat bonkers. In setting the scene for his description of Melville’s maladies, Dr. John Ross describes the world of nineteenth-century Yankee whaling, including life on the whaling ships.
Desertion rates in whaleships were high. Whaling consisted of long periods of tedium, punctuated by bouts of terror, rather like firefighting or watching the films of Lars von Trier.
From Sharespeare’s Tremor and Orwell’s Cough, by John Ross, M.D. (published 2012)