Two potential sailors come aboard the Pequod to inquire about becoming joining the crew. Peleg asks why any man would want to become a sailor when the conditions are so rough. He works through the requirements of being a sailor to make sure the men are willing to undergo through strenuous conditions. The reason whalers were so well-paid at the time was because the risk of death aboard the ship.
Here’s a good interview from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the captain of a fishing boat on the show Deadliest Catch.