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The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex Paperback – August 12, 1999
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I have no language to paint the horrors of our situation. To shed tears was indeed altogether unavailing and withal unmanly; yet I was not able to deny myself the relief they served to afford me.This harrowing, first-hand account by First Mate Owen Chase was originally published in 1821, just months after he returned home to Nantucket, and the unfortunate Essex and her crew passed into legend. Twenty years after the wreck, young William Chase, Owen's son, was serving on the Lima when it met another whaler called the Acushnet. The crews spent some time together, and Chase told his father's story to 21-year-old Herman Melville, and lent him a copy of his father's book. The story clearly caught Melville's imagination--"The reading of this wondrous story upon the landless sea, and close to the very latitude of the shipwreck had a surprising effect on me"--and ten years later he published Moby Dick. Literary inspiration aside, The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex is a well-told, truly gripping tale. As Gary Kinder (who, as the author of Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea, knows a thing or two about shipwrecks) notes in his introduction, "As you sit in your chair, the subliminal thought recurs: My god, this really happened." --Sunny Delaney
'this year's equivalent of THE PERFECT STORM' Christopher Frayling in the Observer The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex was reviewed in the Times Metro 15/16 April
The story of the sinking of the whaleship Essex which became the inspiration for Melville's Moby Dick. First published in 1821 this is an eyewitness account from the first mate of the ramming, by a sperm whale of a Nantucket whaler in the South Pacific in November 1820. Twenty sailors made for a few flimsy boats with only scraps of food. The next 90 days of fear and starvation whittled their number down, driving the survivors to confront a powerful taboo to satisfy their hunger. (Kirkus (UK))
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Top Customer Reviews
Chase has managed to balance these feelings of anguish and fear with determination to survive. His story also vividly recounts a bygone time when Nantucket whalers seemed to own the seas, and industry at home depended on the oil these men brought back. We seem to forget that whaling and its fruits were an essential part of early American commerace and life. This book puts Chase's account of his survival clearly in context with its times. Highly recommended.
Herman Melville, MOBY DICK
On the 12th day of August 1819, the whaleship Essex put out from Nantucket on her last and fatal voyage. Before her two-and-a-half year trip would be done, her bows would be stove in by an unheard-of act of aggression--the seemingly intentional attack by a sperm whale. Her crew of twenty men would find themselves in three small, flimsy whaleboats whose sides rose mere inches above the dark waters of the Pacific Ocean, a thousand miles from salvation. Not all would see the mainland again.
The slim volume of THE WRECK OF THE WHALESHIP ESSEX is the account that Owen Chase, first mate and one of the few survivors, penned of his ship's destruction and of her crew's sufferings in the months following as they tried to survive and strove to reach safety. In it, Chase gives the reader some idea of the wracking thirst, the pitiless burning sun, the destructive waves, the despair, and the deaths that stalked the crew across the trackless wilderness of ocean. When the last morsel of the mercilessly hoarded hard bread finally vanished, the only source of food was the flesh of some of the crew themselves.
Chase's account is a factual, unadorned diary of the crew's travails. He was obviously a literate man but not a professional writer. His book is clearly and grammatically written, although early 19th century English will strike some modern readers as stilted or perhaps quaint. Such a mere recitation of fact, however, cannot adequately convey the sense of desperation, the fear of dying, the loathing at having to eat the flesh of one's companions if one is to live another few hours that these men surely felt.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In the survivors own words a most harrowing yet magnificent tale that provided the inspiration for Moby Dick. It is written in the vernacular of the times that makes it more real.Published 9 days ago by Gregory A. Beale
a little difficult to read because of the writings and language of old English and old time nautical speaking, however it was a very good story of survival and what they had to do... Read morePublished 16 days ago by Marcia Coleman
An example of the fortitude of the whalers of that era and the tragedy of man man versus nature...enjoyed .
The English style was interesting
A good quick read for those who want to get acquainted with the inspiration of Moby Dick. It reads more like a diary than a novel. Its 99% narration than dialogue.Published 24 days ago by Amazon Customer
I enjoyed reading this book. The language was easy enough and it was perfect for the subject. I got a pretty good feel for the lifestyle, both on the ship and in Nantucket. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Bob davis
At times I almost felt that I was there, enduring the same torment that these men suffered. I was amazed at their fortitude.Published 1 month ago by Reg B.
I remember reading Moby Dick at some point in my school years. The most memorable thing about that book was that I did not care for it so much, but it was required reading. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Philip Bailey
An amazing tale of whalers being left to survive in three row boats after their whaling ship was sunk by a whale that rammed it twice and sent it to the bottom of sea. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer