Good friend Scott B. in Georgia pointed out to me that this past Monday was an auspicious day. On January 3, 1840 - 160 years ago exactly - a young Herman Melville set sail from New Bedford, Massachusetts on the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific whaling grounds. According to what I've read in multiple sources, Melville would later comment that to him, his life began on that day. Melville's experiences on and off the Acushnet laid the groundwork for many of his novels, most specifically Moby-Dick.
Many thanks, Scott, for pointing out this crucial day!