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In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex Paperback – May 1, 2001
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By sticking to the tried and tested Longitude formula, Philbrick has missed a slight trick or two. The epicenter of the whaling industry was Nantucket, a small island off Cape Cod; most of the whales were in the Pacific, necessitating a huge journey around the southernmost tip of South America. We never learn why no one ever tried to create an alternative whaling capital somewhere nearer. Similarly, Philbrick tells us that the story of the Essex was well known to Americans for decades, but he never explores how such legends fade from our consciousness. Philbrick would no doubt reply that such questions were beyond his remit, and you can't exactly accuse him of skimping on his research. By any standard, 50 pages of footnotes impress, though he wears his learning lightly. He doesn't get bogged down in turgid detail, and his narrative rattles along at a nice pace. When the storyline is as good as this, you can't really ask for more. --John Crace, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
We could have gotten a long saga of castaways dying of thirst and starvation with all of the drama of a potboiler. He could have given us a day by day description of the sea trek, but instead the trek is mercifully taken up in 90 pages. (Don't fret, you will get the anxiety wobblies during this phase of the book.) Philbrick has fully researched the physiology of dying of starvation and thirst and spares us none of the details. To survive, the crew resorted to the drawing of lots, execution and cannibalism. We learn about the history, quite plentiful in fact, of survival cannibalism from the Raft of the Medusa to the Andean plane crash. It is not a book for the squeamish.
It is also a book about Nantucket, whaling, men at sea, celestial navigation, maritime commerce, and more. Never are the facts crammed down us like so many notecards in the author's collection, but are deliciously laid out in the context of the story. It is not a long book, but it doesn't seem to short either. Like most good books, it made me want to learn more about the subject, in this case the fascinating history of whaling.
For anyone desirous of going much deeper into the History of Nantucket, or of Whaling, there are 39 pages of notes written in prose form at the end of the book. They are organized by chapter, and they are further supplemented by a Bibliography.
Mr. Philbrick clearly is a man qualified to relate this tale which records one of the more miserable tales of human suffering. It would have been easy and disappointing to let this story turn into a lurid 93 day telling of decisions and actions that no person should ever be forced to make. The Author maintained a scholarly approach, together with objectivity on some points of contention/speculation, of the events and how they may or may not actually have happened. He also offers insight into how these massive creatures communicate, and how that could have played a role in the collission.
The Author also relates modern day medical study and facts about what physical and emotional torments the survivors endured. I thought this was a welcome addition to the understanding of just how horrible this experience was.
This is the only book I have read on the History of the Essex. The book is readable even if your knowledge of ships, like mine, is near zero. And the story told without embellishment is both terrifying and amazing.
A very enjoyable book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Please read this book once you have seen the movie! The fact that it's true and actually happened is still astounding. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Aline D. Coover
I'm sorry to say, the book was like the movie - just not that good. Great story, poorly told.Published 4 days ago by J B Shoppin
Just like being on a whale ship, smelly and claustrophobic but you have to see what happens next.Published 6 days ago by pamela sullivan
Did a wise decision of reading this book first than by watching the movie. Gripping and thrilling.Published 8 days ago by TheGreatDanton
It's hard for us to believe the hard life of the 18th century sailor on a whale ship. 2-3 years at sea with danger and poor wages for the average sailor. Read morePublished 9 days ago by C. Christensen
Exciting, informative, well researched. A true life adventure you'll find hard to put down!Published 10 days ago by Niki