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In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex Paperback – May 1, 2001
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"A book that gets in your bones...Philbrick has created an eerie thriller from a centuries old tale....Scrupulously researched and eloquently written...it would have earned Melville's admiration."--The New York Times Book Review
"[Told] with verve and authenticity...a classic tale of the sea."--San Francisco Chronicle
"Nathaniel Philbrick has taken one of the most horrifying stories in maritime history and turned it into a classic....One of the most chilling books I have ever read."--Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm
About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Reissue edition (May 1, 2001)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0141001828
- ISBN-13 : 978-0141001821
- Lexile measure : 1210L
- Item Weight : 10.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 7.9 x 5.2 x 1 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #12,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
"A timely novel highlighting the worth and delicate nature of Nature itself." -Delia Owens Learn more
Top reviews from the United States
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If you've read Melville-- either recently or some time ago, as I-- you owe it to yourself to know something more of his source and to find out "how it all ends". If you read Philbrick first you may learn all you want and forego jumping into Melville's turbulent sea, with its
undercurrents of Biblical doubt, human and animal vengeance and much else. But you're more likely to sign onto Melville's fateful voyage better prepared for what might be in store for you along with Ishmael and Quee Queg in Cap'n Ahab's crew. "Heart of the Sea" is fast-moving and thorough, its narrative of real events as strange and dramatic as anything a novelist could imagine -- or make use of.
Top reviews from other countries
The book begins with facts, who is who, their backgrounds, details of the ships the recruitment of the crew. The pay they were expected to make and the work they were required to do. I was spellbound with the remedies of treating illnesses, which at times made me physically gip! This was a true history book of facts.
I was introduced to each person that would sail on the ill-fated ship The Essex, what happens was documented by the 14-year-old cabin boy in 1820, as they encountered disaster after disaster in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The whaling ship was not due back home for 2 years and the crew of twenty would be diminished.
For the unlucky crew of The Essex, nature was about to hit back at them when a huge whale attacked the ship causing so much damage that the crew had to take to three rowboats. What follows is an account of how some of the crew managed to survive the 90 days they were at sea.
This is an absolutely engrossing book to read, there is little or no emotion from the author but he certainly stirred up enough in me for both of us. There are glimmers of hope, like a preverbal carrot continually been hung in front of these desperate men, that were just like cruel taunts. An island with no visible water, calculating the wrong direction and what to do when the food ran out?
The book goes on after the investigation of what had happened and the lives of the survivors afterward.
The book Moby Dick was created because of this factual event, a book I must revisit. This book is not just memorable it is unforgettable.
It should be pointed out that this is a tale of woe from the first to last page. The story details Captain Pollard's first command. The Nantucket whale ship Essex on a voyage to hunt Sperm whales in the Pacific ocean. Basically everything that could possibly go wrong, does go wrong and then some. Culminating in absolute unmitigated horror.
Much more than the story of a whale attacking a ship and sinking it, the book is quite an education as well. Eminently readable and compulsive, we get to learn about not just the lives of the whalers and the vagrancies of whaling but the history of the island of Nantucket and societies of the Southern and Pacific oceans, the horrors of starvation and cannibalism, the rise and fall of the whaling industry and the effects on the lives of the people it touches and indeed the flora and fauna that suffers as a result. It really seems to capture the Zeitgeist of an era long gone.
There is so much of interest packed in here that there is not a dull page from cover to cover. An excellent, fascinating and valuable read, I highly recommend it to just about anyone. Although probably not good if you are easily perturbed, as it reaches into the depths of hell and does not return.
I have never read 'Moby Dick' but this is a gripping and informative real-life account of the sinking of the 'Essex' and the awful consequences for its crew. The ship was attacked in the far Pacific by a sperm whale allegedly 85 feet long. Two head butts from the whale sealed the fate of the 'Essex'. The day to day accounts of the voyage, the sinking, and the aftermath are drawn from the writings of those who were there, including Owen Chase. The book also benefits from a recently discovered account written by Thomas Nickerson the youngest boy aboard the ship. He was only 14 when the ship set sail with him as the cabin boy. He survived to tell the tale and like all those who survived he returned to sea.
Initially the entire crew survived the sinking of the ship but only a minority survived the aftermath of 90 days or more in open boats striving to reach land. It is a story of awful things happening to ordinary men. Immediately after the sinking of the 'Essex' the men decided to avoid sailing for the known islands of the Society group or the Marquesas because of rumours of fierce cannibalism amongst their inhabitants. That was a bad decision which had the result of the surviving crew members indulging in cannibalism themselves in order to prolong their lives.
Philbrick's account of the whaling industry and its processes and its economics is very interesting. So too is his account of the role of black (African American) crewmen on the whaling ships. About one in three of the crew of the 'Essex' were black seamen. Philbrick draws a very vivid picture of Nantucket at the beginning of the 19th century as a Quaker dominated, whale-centred society. He also traces the decline in the island's fortunes to faded glory as the whaling fleet withered away later in the century. Finally he brings us up to date with the current up-market style of the place as a tourist magnet. How times change.
All in all, a gripping story well written.
Having been rammed by an angry whale the Essex sank within ten minutes and its twenty one man crew took to the sea with scant provisions in three whaling boats. What follows is a four thousands mile plus sea odyssey of incredible suffering and privation. Despite some serious errors of judgement where closer landfall could have been reached such as Easter Island, Pitcairn or Tahiti...the survivors show remarkable seamanship in reaching Chile after spending a desperate three months adrift.
This is not a tale along the lines of Shackleton's epic South however where all live to tell the tale of their ordeal. Only two of the three boats reach safety and only eight of the twenty one crewmen survive the journey, the remainder die a terrible death mainly from lack of food, water or from the elements. When I say `mainly', some of the occupants die by `lot' selection by their crewmates and are simply killed....you can guess what comes after that...yes you guessed it messmate cannibalism!
This is a well written explanatory book that as well as highlighting the individual characters involved also gives a good descriptive narrative of the whaling techniques and equipment of the period. The description of the boat journeys however is the coup de main as the suffering and the despair of the crew leaps out from the pages....a great read!