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Shipwreck of the Whaleship Essex

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  414 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
An account of a ship's encounter with a great white whale.
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 1st 1999 by Lyons Press (first published 1821)
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In November of 1820, the whaleship Essex sank after being repeatedly rammed by a sperm whale. The sailors salvaged food, water, and supplies, then they took off for land, hoping to be picked up by another ship along the way. The men spent months on the open ocean in three small boats, and only eight out of the original twenty five crew members survived.

This short book was written by Owen Chase, the first mate of the Essex, soon after he arrived home in Nantucket. Chase describes what happened a
Jan 15, 2016 Tarissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good resource to quickly learn about what happened to the whaling ship, Essex. This is the ship that was immortalized in Melville's Moby Dick.

The first half of the book is Owen Chase's (first mate of the Essex) eyewitness account of the 1819 battle with the whale and the shipwreck that left the crew at sea for 93 days. Following Chase's personal account are many newspaper clippings and short stories of either the same event or similar whale experiences in the Pacific Ocean. Through reading this
Jan 02, 2012 Gerry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Setting out from Nantucket in 1819 the whaleship 'Essex' was off on just another whaling expedition. But what was to transpire was an epic tale of heroic endeavour with men constantly on the brink of danger and death.

A whale was to ram and destroy the 'Essex' and the 20 crew managed to escape, with some material saved from the ship, in three small boats. They were then to endure almost three months at sea with little food and water.

After many weeks at sea they landed on an island but found littl
Kerri Stebbins
If you and 19 of your closest sea-bros decide to set sail for some epic(ally disturbing) whaling, and subsequently find yourselves having pissed off what was likely the impressively-sized mother of two (or three, ugh) smaller sperm whales that you've already harpooned, and she rams your ship out of sheer spite, TWICE, thus succeeding in sinking your sorry ship and leaving all of you marooned on three rickety whale boats for three+ months, I'm going to, as I did while reading this first-person ac ...more
Dec 15, 2015 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great read of heroic life and death of the early days of whale hunting by New England based sailing ships on the Pacific ocean. The Author has drawn directly on the written account of the fateful voyage of the Bedford sailing whale ship Essex on her fateful voyage ending in it's sinking and subsequent long voyage to S. America in small open boats by the survivors. The author uses the actual writing of the surviving first mate and cabin boy to describe what later inspired to great story Moby Di ...more
Jan 28, 2015 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With the caveat that I'm in a reading moment right now which I think of as "Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse," I stole this book from the desk of a fellow teacher (and read it and put it back before he noticed... like a NINJA!).

As you'll know if you read my other reviews, I am not a fan of Moby Dick. I love The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex, though. It's a brilliant little gem of pre-current thinking about the environment (nature exists to serve human beings, and the 300 live sea turtles in ou
Aug 27, 2011 VeganMedusa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good account of the wreck of the Essex and their subsequent struggle for survival. Includes accounts by Owen Chase, Captain Pollard, and an account by Thomas Chapple from a religious tract. Along with Herman's notes (unreadable) and the transcription.
A very strange foreword by Tim Cahill includes this:
The reader who wishes to compare the destruction of the fictional Pequod with the historic Essex may conclude that Herman Melville stacked the metaphysical deck. The Pequod, for instance, was on
Pat Sylvester
Jan 19, 2016 Pat Sylvester rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-tead
Fascinating account of this historical epic journey. Particularly appreciated the prologue and epilogue which gave insight into the whaling industry as it existed and closure to the life stories of the seamen who endured it.
Aug 06, 2015 Kelley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book received courtesy of giveaway.

This is a beautiful coffee table book. The illustrations and photographs are interspersed throughout the story of the "Essex" as told by Owen Chase. Also, in the book you will find many accounts of other whale wrecks of ships in the 1700's and 1800's. All accounts are taken directly from books of the period so the wording can be a little tricky. However, the idea of the horrific situations these whalers found themselves is quite evident. For anyon
Aug 27, 2010 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was really surprised that I found the story interesting...but it touches on aspects of the whaling industry that I honestly didn't really have any knowledge of...digresses into an explanation of the effect of dehydration...even into the impact the ships crew had on one of the islands of the Galapagos.

It's better then Moby Dick could have been because of the facts the author provides...I really had a good sense of the horrible conditions the crew suffered...and how far the survivors had to come
Jan 25, 2016 Tehila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-documented history of the whaling industry in general, and more specifically killer sperm whales. Mr Chase has truly presented the background to Moby Dick, one of his stated goals.

After this part of the volume, Mr Chase has provided contemporary newspaper reports and whalers' tales.

I look forward to reading more of Mr Chase's work.

My only complaint is the editing. If this were meant to be copied verbatim from an "original" manuscript, there are certain conventions used to indicate an auth
Sep 21, 2007 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the account of one of the survivors of the Whaleship Essex that was to inspire Melville to write Moby Dick. This was a very interesting read about survival at sea and how they did it for so long. Also the amazing eye witness account of how a sperm whale purposefully rammed a whaleship, turned around and did it again till it sank. How to survive at sea? Drink urine, guard the food, and eat your dead friends.
Andrew Western
Jan 08, 2016 Andrew Western rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book! I never knew what happened to the survivors of that ship, but this book explained it. The illustrations made it easier to understand how large a whale can get as compared to the ships that were going after them.
Liam Thursky-Moore
A great read that I would recommend to anyone interested in whaling and life at sea. The personal account by Owen is gripping and incredible.
Aug 03, 2011 Virginia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the REAL story of what happened...Moby Dick was fictionalized...and this was told by a cabin boy whose tale does not reflect well on the officers...I DO love stories of the sea!
Philip Bailey
Dec 31, 2015 Philip Bailey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex is a much more engaging read, taken from the written memory of one of the crew. The book is illustrated but that is not a prominent feature on an E Reader. The entire story of the survivors and non-survivors is the fascinating aspect. Additional tales from earlier times newspaper articles are ...more
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Including a glossary of terms, this book is only 106 pages long, but packs a wallop! Gary Kinder, himself an author, wrote the introduction to this small narrative, and his ending words were "As you sit in your chair, the subliminal thought recurs: My god, this really happened." I knew then I was in for a good read.

The first mate of the whaleship Essex, Owen Chase, set down a chronological narrative of events that happened to himself and the crew of the Essex, after the fact. In Novembe
Feb 03, 2015 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story which inspired Moby Dick; Owen Chase, first mate of the Whaleship Essex recounts events that took place after their ship was attacked and wrecked by an uncharacteristically aggressive sperm whale. The struggles which ensue are as much captivating as they are tortuous. At only 100 pages, this account loses nothing because of brevity. Worth reading.
Greg Beale
Feb 02, 2016 Greg Beale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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.
Everett Darling
Jan 16, 2012 Everett Darling rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
This is extreme reading. Chase, like Nickerson, captures the nail-biting (pun totally intended) Essex tale with such great immediacy, engulfing the reader in empathetic despair. My interest in this story has reached fever-pitch. Now after having read all available documentation, Philbricks award-winning read, and Moby Dick, inspired by the Essex tale, I can go on to reading about something else. I ask again however, if anyone knows or has heard of any writing from Captain Pollard. Melville makes ...more
Aug 03, 2015 Becca rated it it was amazing
It's a first hand telling of the shipwreck by one of the few survivors so how can you not give it 5 stars?
Bob Melgeorge
Jun 14, 2015 Bob Melgeorge rated it really liked it
First-person account of the ship sinking that inspired Moby Dick.
James Priestley
Dec 29, 2015 James Priestley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lost at sea

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. The alarming story of trying to survive in months alone at sea.
Lora G Coonce
Dec 27, 2015 Lora G Coonce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Although written in the antiquated vernacular of a nineteenth century sailor, this book made me reflect on human nature and how we live with a sense of entitlement in the 21st century. Told simply and modestly, this sailor's memoir is remarkable and humbling.
Endeavour Press
Jan 14, 2015 Endeavour Press rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is published by Endeavour Press
...finished it... quick read.
"in the heart of the sea" was a much more compelling version of the same story, although i appreciated the real experience perspective in this one. now back to fiction :)

taking a break from the toddler parenting / sleep books... i'm not a big historical fiction person, but i'd read "in the heart of the sea" years ago... it's interesting so far to hear the story from another perspective, although the un-modern language is a bit dry at times. the
Barry Edstene
Good Historical account, and well presented
Brad Ryder
Dec 17, 2015 Brad Ryder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yuki Shimmyo
Nov 27, 2011 Yuki Shimmyo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Yuki Shimmyo by: Carol Birch, author of Jamrach's Menagerie
Shelves: history, adventure, 2011
"I turned around and saw him about one hundred rods directly ahead of us, coming down apparently with twice his ordinary speed and, it appeared to me at that moment, with tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect. The surf flew in all directions about him, and his course towards us was marked by white foam a rod in width which he made with the continual violent thrashing of his tail. His head was about half out of water, and in that way he came upon and again struck the ship." (12)

rod = 16.5'
Aug 04, 2013 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, new-england
This accounting of the sinking whale ship Essex in 1820 in the Pacific. This book is the first hand account of First Mate Owen Chases experience. Twenty crew members were left stranded on three boats after a sperm whale sunk their ship. They then fought the sun, storms, starvation, dehydration until the few survivors that remained were rescued. The accounting was the inspiration for the Herman Melville's classic novel "Moby Dick".
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