superannuated 1. Retired or ineffective because of advanced age: Nothing is more tiresome than a superannuated pedagogue. (Henry Adams). 2. Outmoded; obsolete: superannuated laws.
surgeon A member of the medical detachment aboard a ship. Generally, the surgeon was prevented from becoming involved in conflicts, serving instead within the hold to help treat those injured.
surmise To infer (something) without conclusive evidence.
tacit 1. Not spoken: She indicated tacit approval by smiling and winking. 2. a. Implied by or inferred from actions or statements: Management has given its tacit approval to the plan. b. Law. Arising by operation of the law rather than through direct expression. 3. Archaic. Not speaking; silent.
tar bucket The tar bucket is the place aboard the ship for storage of the tar used to protect rope from the weather and from the dampness penetrating the rope's fibers.
tars Tar is the slang term for an experienced sailor.
Taurus and Aldebaran In astrology, Taurus, or the Bull, is the second sign of the zodiac. People born under this sign are considered loyal, patient, trustworthy, and kind. Aldebaran is the brightest star in the constellation.
Tecumseh Tecumseh (1768-1813), a Shawnee warrior, worked to unite the eastern American Indian tribes in an alliance against the encroaching white settlers. During the War of 1812, he allied with the British and led the Indian forces against the Americans. Melville uses him as an archetype for the strong Indian warrior.
temerity Foolhardy disregard of danger; recklessness.
tempestuous 1. Of, relating to, or resembling a tempest: tempestuous gales. 2. Tumultuous; stormy: a tempestuous relationship.
Tennyson, Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) was one of the central poets -- and certainly the most popular -- of the Victorian era. Melville here refers to lines from the poem entitled "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington," a poem celebrating one of the heroes of the Napoleonic War--Arthur Wellesley, the general who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. As noted by Melville, Tennyson's poem refers to Nelson, the "Mighty Seaman," as "[t]he greatest sailor since our world began."
Theseus Theseus, the son of Aegeus and Aethra, was a great king of early Athens. He is also credited -- with Ariadne's help -- with defeating the Minotaur of Crete. The ship to which Melville refers is H.M.S. Theseus, a seventy-four that Nelson commanded in 1797, when he lost his arm. The ship also saw action at the Battle of the Nile the following year.