Moby Dick Marathon first reader (courtesy New Bedford Whaling Museum at Flickr CC)In January 1841, a 21-year-old man named Herman Melville set sail out of New Bedford, Massachusetts as part of the crew aboard the whaler Acushnet.

His experiences at sea laid the foundation for the novel Moby-Dick, and if you’re a fan of history or literature, you may want to be at the New Bedford Whaling Museum starting at 8 bells (noon) on Saturday, January 9, 2010 for the annual Moby-Dick Marathon.

A wide variety of people (including descendants of Melville) will read the entire novel, in 8-10 minute intervals, from start to finish.

Parts of it will be read in other languages like Portuguese, since there’s a large Portuguese influence in this part of New England.

From the Museum’s Web site:

“Starting at 4 bells in the 1st dog watch (6 p.m.), light whaleship fare, including grog and cider will be served. Coffee and snacks will be available throughout the night, with breakfast to follow at 8 bells (8 a.m.) in the morning watch. Join with us in this celebration of our heritage. Come at any time. Leave at any time. The Marathon lasts approximately 25 hours.”

Until this year, the Marathon was held on January 3, the day Melville actually sailed in 1841, but it’s been moved to the first weekend after the 3rd so that more can take advantage of a weekend trip.

Moby Dick Marathon audience (courtesy New Bedford Whaling Museum at Flickr CC)

The Whaling Museum….located at the perfect New England-y address of “18 Johnny Cake Hill”….is nicely laid out and a must for history buffs.

They also have a museum blog and are on Twitter (if you tweet about the reading, use hashtag #mdm14,) the photo-sharing site Flickr, Facebook and they have a YouTube Channel.

The seafaring town of New Bedford itself is good for a stroll, so I recommend a visit if you’re in southeastern Massachusetts.

A similar marathon reading event was held at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut in summer 2009, aboard the Charles W. Morgan, the last surviving wooden whaling ship (it was built the year that the Acushnet sailed with Melville aboard.)

I’m not sure if they’re going to repeat the event in 2010, but the video below warms the heart with a topside deck full of Melville readers.

If you can’t see the embedded player box, click here to see the Mystic CT Moby-Dick Marathon video on YouTube.