Mark Hansen, a senior at Kansas University, took the "Moby Dick" plunge today.
Hansen, an English and film major from Prairie Village, was one of about 80 people involved in a marathon out-loud reading of Herman Melville's novel that began at 8 a.m. today on "Wescoe Beach," the concrete area in front of Wescoe Hall.
Elizabeth Schultz, KU Chancellors Club teaching professor in English, organized the 24-hour reading of "Moby Dick" in celebration of Melville, who died in 1891. Schultz, who used chalk to draw a huge whale on the beach, was the first reader.
KU faculty, students and Lawrence residents were scheduled to read in 20-minute intervals. Originally, Schultz planned on having participants read for 30 minutes each, but she had to shorten the intervals because of the number of people who wanted to participate in the reading.
"Oh, there was a mob," Schultz said about 10 a.m. today as Caryn Goldberg, graduate teaching assistant in English, took her turn reading.
ASKED IF SHE would stay at the reading for the entire 24 hours, Schultz, who received a 21-hour cassette tape of "Moby Dick" for her birthday, said, "I'll stay for as long as I can."
Hansen said he planned to stay for the entire reading, which Schultz estimated would conclude about 8 a.m. Thursday. Hansen read at 9:20 a.m. today and is scheduled to read at 5:20 a.m. Thursday.
A first-time "Moby Dick" reader, Hansen said he thought participating in the marathon would be a good way to read Melville's work.
"Beth Schultz said to me, `So you've never taken in the whale?' She got me excited about it. I think it's a great way to do it because you never think you have enough time to read a novel of this length."
Haskell Springer, an English professor who is on leave this spring, returned to campus to take part in the reading. He read after Schultz today at 8:30 a.m. and wore a T-shirt emblazoned with one of the lines he recited from the first chapter: "Surely all this is not without meaning."
ENGLISH professor Roy Gridlee also got into the spirit of "Moby Dick." Schultz said he appeared on Wescoe Beach dressed as a harpooner.
"He just surprised us all," Schultz said as students walking to classes stopped briefly to see what was going on in front of Wescoe. "He even had a real harpoon. It was great."
Schultz also was expecting the KU Sailing Club to park a fully-rigged sailboat on the beach. She said members of the club encountered problems with their trailer, but she expected the boat to wash up on the beach about noon.
Hugh Cooper, a Tecumseh sophomore and one of several onlookers, said he planned to stop by the reading in between classes.
"It's kind of a new experience," Cooper said. "I like it a lot. I think it's really interesting. I was wondering if they were thinking about doing other books as well."