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Final Voyage: A Story of Arctic Disaster and One Fateful Whaling Season
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Final Voyage: A Story of Arctic Disaster and One Fateful Whaling Season

3.3  ·  Rating Details ·  98 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews

In the summer of 1871, thirty-two whaling ships, carrying 12-year-old William Fish Williams, son of a whaling captain, and 1,218 other men, women, and children, were destroyed in an Arctic ice storm. In a rescue operation of unparalleled daring and heroism, not a single life was lost, but the impact on America's first oil industry was fateful and catastrophic.

The harvesti

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 15th 2009 by Putnam Adult
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The full title of the book is “Final Voyage: A Story of Arctic Disaster and One Fateful Whaling Season,” so my expectations were for a story of survival, leadership, human reactions under stress, and perhaps interactions between cultures. There is very little about the title event. The book SHOULD be called, “A history of the rise and fall of the whaling industry in New England. “ Perhaps with different expectations I would have reacted more favorably towards this rambling, disorganized, poorly ...more
I gave up after two-thirds of the way through the book. Perhaps it covers the disaster, perhaps not. It defintely covers a whale of a lot of other whaling information--just not what the title purports.
Aug 07, 2014 Linnéa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Agreed. The title really is misleading. This is a history book about whalers and Quakers and their fate. Not at all exciting, unless you're into that stuff.
Aug 09, 2010 Alan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Final Voyage is a good book for what it is, but it did not turn out to be at all what I had expected or wanted. I ordered this book because the product description led me to think that it would be an incredible story of personal challenge, sacrifice, and survival in the Arctic. Don't get me wrong, this book has hints of those dimensions, but the book is mainly about the history of the New England whaling industry and the establishment, rise, and economic fall of whaling ports like Nantuckett and ...more
G.L. Tysk
Jul 14, 2014 G.L. Tysk rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: whaling
This was the most depressing whaling history book I've ever read, and I own and have read quite a few books about whaling. Like a lot of other people who have reviewed the book here on Goodreads and Amazon, I think the description is a bit misleading. The blurb promises an adventure story of survival a la Nathaniel Philbrick's "In The Heart of the Sea" while in actuality "Final Voyage" is definitely at its heart a history of New Bedford, Quakerism, and the decline of the whaling industry and som ...more
Paul Pessolano
This book tells several stories. The first story deals with the people and the cities that brought about the incredible wealth gained from whaling. The second story deals with one of the largest maritime diasters in history. The third story deals with the collapse of this empire and those that survived.

The whaling industry was centered in the town of New Bedford, Massachusetts. New Bedford was probably the wealthiest town in the United States at this time. New Bedford was primarily settled by th
Kate  K. F.
Sep 24, 2012 Kate K. F. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two historical stories are intertwined in Final Voyage; the whaling season of 1871 in which the majority of the fleet was lost after becoming trapped in the Artic ice and the story of the birth of the whaling industry in New Bedford. The story in New Bedford focuses on a family named Howland, who at one point owned one of the most profitable whaling businesses and their history as Quakers as well as looking at the decline of whaling through them.

This is a pleasant read that moves quickly using t
I chose this book because I've enjoyed the author's past work, and this didn't disappoint. Whaling is an unsettling matter, with the sanguine hunt and slaughter of creatures we now regard as much more than a source of fuel. But this also illuminated other ways a whaling ship was run and lived--with wives and children on board, the community ships in number created on the open seas, and the Quaker values that meant most of the inordinate riches gained were paid in measure to the owners, earners, ...more
Aug 28, 2016 Nicole rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If there were an award for False Advertisement in a Book Blurb, this book would be the winner. It is not about a an arctic disaster or one fateful whaling season. It is about the entire whaling history of New England, it is about the Quakers disrupting the Puritans, it is about the first monopoly of sperm whale oil candles. But it's not about an entire fleet of whaling ships caught in an ice storm. At least, not by page 145 it isn't. Maybe it's just me, but I think after that many pages the auth ...more
Feb 16, 2010 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vine
More than an adventure story about one disastrous whaling season, Fatal Voyage traces the origins of New Bedford, the ascetic Quaker underpinnings that strongly influenced whaling culture, and the ever-increasing lengths to which whalers would go to hold on to the only way of life many of them had ever known. Arctic disasters or not, whaling was doomed as soon as oil was discovered in Pennsylvania. This was a fascinating peek into a little-known religious community and the lives of men at sea.
Gayle Garman
Jul 23, 2016 Gayle Garman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the book on CD and found the organization hard to follow at times. The story starts with a description of the whaling fleet's dire circumstance of being trapped in the Arctic. But, then goes back in time to trace the rise and decline of whaling and the role of Quakers in early America. It's not a bad way of telling a story, it just took some replaying to remember what related side story was being told. All-in-all this was a very interesting historical account as discovered by the a ...more
"A story of Arctic disaster..." Well, not exactly. The narrative of the titular voyage forms the skeleton of the book as a whole, but this really only amounts to a third or so of it, with the rest of the material being a deluge of information regarding the cultural, economic, and even religious context of the time. So it's not exactly what I was hoping for when I picked it up, however the book is not without its merits. If you truly want to understand Moby Dick, Final Voyage should be required r ...more
Apr 10, 2012 Clara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research
Interesting reading, dramatic re-telling of the loss of much of the New Bedford whaling fleet in Arctic ice. I have read lots recently about this period, so there was little new material, but the some, and the presentation is very good. Lots of stories of actual people, some logbook
entries and so on. I was reading fast, skimming somewhat for information that would shed further light on world of Hetty Howland Robinson Green.
Oct 11, 2009 Cathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sounded like it would be a gripping book of an Arctic adventure. NOT. Oh well. Was very informative and educational, but it took me ages to slog through. It had maybe one chapter of details of the ships trapped in the ice in the Arctic, but even that wasn't terribly compelling. They made it out. All fine. Lots of historical background about the whaling industry in New England from colonial times through the late 1800s. Again, informative but not wildly interesting.
Rafael Cejas
Misleading title and grim subject. The structure of the book is also confusing, with the biography of the main characters going back and forth during the book.

Anyway, it was an interesting book and I particularly liked the chapters where the inner workings of the whaling industry were explained.
Richard Pavlovsky
Jun 19, 2016 Richard Pavlovsky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 19, 2013 Doug rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
Interesting story with important lessons for managing our remaining natural resources. Found the story a little hard to follow sometimes and the author took some tangents, which were interesting, but this book covers much more than just one fateful whaling season.

Narration is good.
Jun 09, 2013 Brenda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is really the history of whaling -- its rise and fall. Nichols has researched his topic well. I don't know what he could have left out, but about 3/4 of the way through his book, I needed to hurry him along.
Ed Budden
I agree with others who have reviewed this book. It is a good history of New Bedford whaling but not really the adventure story you would expect from reading the title of the book.
Dec 26, 2013 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
William Milks
Not really about a failed expedition. A misleading title and book description, but still a decent read. Book more about whaling industry's growth and collapse.
Ruepert Cao
Ruepert Cao rated it liked it
Mar 20, 2013
Christian rated it liked it
Oct 27, 2012
zannamarie rated it it was ok
Oct 30, 2014
Brooke Cale
Brooke Cale rated it really liked it
Dec 15, 2009
BUD  Wilson
BUD Wilson rated it liked it
Mar 28, 2014
Jim Dixey
Jim Dixey rated it really liked it
Jan 08, 2014
Martha Wishart
Martha Wishart rated it really liked it
May 28, 2010
Aaron Stephenson
Aaron Stephenson rated it it was ok
Sep 09, 2014
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