"…in the same way whalers had to sail farther and farther for their prey, oil companies are drilling deeper and deeper to tap the gulf’s oil, to levels made possible only by the most advanced technology, operating near its limits. The Coast Guard has warned that this technology has outpaced not only government oversight but — as events have shown — the means of correcting catastrophic failures. An admonition from Nietzsche that Mr. Hoare cites in reference to “Moby-Dick” seems just as pertinent to the spill: “And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.
Mr. Delbanco cautions, however, against the tendency to read environmentalist moralizing into “Moby-Dick,” as often happens when it is applied to contemporary disasters. Melville did, memorably, wonder whether the whale “must not at last be exterminated from the waters, and the last whale, like the last man, smoke his last pipe.” But one gets the sense that he would have considered the loss a greater one to literature than to the ecosystem. ”
Randy Kennedy, "The Ahab Parallax: ‘Moby-Dick’ and the Spill," in the NYT