Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex” as Want to Read:
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  35,995 ratings  ·  2,508 reviews
The ordeal of the whaleship Essex was an event as mythic in the nineteenth century as the sinking of the Titanic was in the twentieth.

In 1819, the Essex left Nantucket for the South Pacific with twenty crew members aboard. In the middle of the South Pacific the ship was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale. The crew drifted for more than ninety days in three tiny whale
...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Penguin Books (first published December 1st 1999)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about In the Heart of the Sea, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Jennifer
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Esteban del Mal
There’s one thing you need to know about me: I’ve never listened to a song by Rush all the way through. Really. If Alvin and the Chipmunks were re-imagined as opera singers, the lead singer could be bass. I can’t take them seriously.

Okay, okay. Really there are two things you need to know about me: I distrust people who walk on the balls of their feet. You know, that little bounce? Call it instinct, but I see something morally deficient in it. It’s like Nature is giving the rest of us a heads-up
...more
Adrianne Mathiowetz
May 12, 2008 Adrianne Mathiowetz rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Moby Dick fans, the morbid, pirates
Recommended to Adrianne by: Adam Conover
I have never, ever, in my LIFE, met a nonfiction book I was unable to put down before. This may be because I am stupid, but I like to think it's because I'm interested in the details. Most nonfiction I've encountered is either written by:

a.) Someone who experienced something interesting, but who can't write about it in an interesting way, or

b.) Someone who perhaps usually writes about things in an interesting way, but who wasn't able to experience the critical subject firsthand.

Philbrick bridges
...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Oct 19, 2013 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Michael Edwards
Best piece of non-fiction I’ve read in years – I know it’s a cliché but you can’t make this stuff up! In 1819, a whaling ship is rammed by a sperm whale, not once but twice and the surviving crew drifts for 90 days in three tiny boats, Captain Bligh’s 48 day ordeal pales in comparison. They eventually turned to cannibalism which call me weird I didn’t have a problem with. A card carrying organ donor I figure I’m dead anyway - eat me. When it came down to drawing lots though, that pushed my butto ...more
Diane Librarian
This book was so engrossing that I felt as if I had worked on a whaling ship and had survived a disaster at sea.

In 1820, the whaleship Essex was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean when a massive whale rammed the ship not once, but twice, sinking it. The crew had to scramble for provisions and escaped into three boats. They set sail for South America, which was nearly 3,000 miles away. They soon ran out of fresh water and food, and eventually resorted to cannibalism. Only eight men out of 20 sur
...more
Emily
IMPORTANT UPDATE: The great reader in the sky has answered my prayers and made a movie based on this story - starring Chris Hemsworth - so I already count one ironclad reason to watch this. The trailer states that the Essex goes beyond the known world, which no it didn't, but I'm also fairly sure that Owen Chase's jaw wasn't nearly as square as Hemsworth's, so I'm willing to allow poetic license. Also, I may root for the whale. The first trailer is here.

----

This was SO gruesome and weirdly gripp
...more
Jason Koivu
WAY more exciting than I expected! Philbrick knows how to resurrect history into a living, breathing present, a present filled with tension and full-immersion. If you have any interest in whaling, the age of sail, and shipwrecks, you'll not do better than In the Heart of the Sea. It's very much like the non-fiction version of Moby Dick, made all the more intense for being the real deal.
Brendon Schrodinger
Also on my blog The Periodic Table of Elephants.

Any reader who has read 'The Life of Pi' and 'Moby Dick' should be all over this as both works of fiction were inspired by the tragic events of the Essex. The Essex was an American whaling ship that was attacked by a disgruntled sperm whale (well the whalers had attacked it with harpoons) and sunk in the south-western Pacific in 1820. All the crew survive the sinking but they are stranded in the middle of the Pacific, in a region desolate of life,
...more
Lewis Weinstein
A terrific read, based on original documents recovered long after the events described in the book, which took place mostly in 1820. Part of the true story formed the basis for Melville's "Moby Dick."

Brave men set out for a 3 year journey to find and kill whales and process the blubber into oil. The owners of the ship and the captain stand to get rich; most of the crew will make barely enough to survive. But on this voyage, after their ship is battered by a huge sperm whale, many do not survive.
...more
Jennifer
DNF @ 45%

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex is an excellent historical account that has been well researched and includes the journal entries of the Whaleship Essex's cabin boy. I personally did not finish it because the writing is a bit dry for my personal taste as a reader - kind of textbook-ish if that makes sense. There are fans of history books who would absolutely devour this title, but I personally need my history reading to feel a bit more like a flowing story in
...more
Cher
3 stars - It was good.

This one started off slow for me as it was primarily about ships and killing whales, two topics that hold little interest to me. Around 1/3 of the way through is when the tragedy occurred and from there on, it was a very engaging survival story.

I still have a hard time with the ignorance mankind had in the past and continues to have today in regards to our planet's resources. I find it very interesting that subsets of cultures historically had more awareness and were bette
...more
Lisa
Aug 22, 2011 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like a good story even if it really did happen
Shelves: nonfiction, 4-star
In the ninth grade I had a world history teacher that made each class seem like a fascinating story instead of a boring lecture that can be the standard fare. Nathaniel Philbrick has brought to life the story of the sinking of the Nantucket whale ship Essex by a ferocious sperm whale.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

An artist's rendition of the revenge of the sperm whale attacking the Essex:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

An actual photo of a sperm whale which is about the size of a school bus:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

In college I was forced to read parts of Herman Melville's cla
...more
Jared
Got this book last year as a gift from G. As a sometime New Englander, frequent visitor to Mystic Seaport, and admirer of Melville, this book was right up my alley. I read the whole thing through on a recent cross-country flight.

At the age of 28, George Pollard set out in command of the whaleship "Essex." He had a brilliant reputation, he had the firm trust of the ship's owners, and he had two dozen able and dutiful crewmen ready to follow his orders for endless months at sea killing whales and
...more
John
The wreck of the whaling ship Essex in 1819 was a tragedy that haunted its survivors, took on the status of legend in 19th-century America, and inspired Melville's Moby-Dick. Philbrick does a great job not only narrating the wreck and its dire aftermath, but also providing historical context, so that the reader learns quite a bit about both the 19th-century whaling industry and the social history of Nantucket. A solid history that's also a page-turner; quite an accomplishment, and one that's mad ...more
Aldi
Hang on. So the crew of the Essex (quite apart from their whole whale-killing society being an early contributor to majorly endangering the species as a whole):

-go on one of their epic whale-killing journeys;
-slaughter a bunch of whales;
-capture, abuse and slaughter a huge bunch of Galapagos tortoises;
-set fire to an entire Galapagos island for a fucking lark;
-get COMPLETELY UNFAIRLY, UNPROVOKEDLY AND WITH MALICIOUS INTENT attacked by a sperm whale (I mean, how very DARE that fucker?) so their s
...more
Michael
Superb rendering of the Nantucket whaling community and the disaster that befell the Essex in 1821. 1,500 miles off the coast of Chile, it was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale. Eight of 20 men survived the 4,500 mile, 3 month journey to safety in whaleboats. Cannibalism is an uncomfortable part of the story and is thoughfully, not luridly, treated. The story helps elucidate some of what it means to be human, our mastery of amazing feats as a collective and the courage and resourcefulness of indi ...more
Heather
What an engaging read! This fascinating story recounts the tragedy of the whaleship Essex, while also giving an interesting look into the history of Nantucket Island and the whaling business of the early 19th century. I’m always amazed when reading stories like this at the human body and mind's immense capacity for enduring the worst imaginable circumstances and unbelievable suffering. It’s mind-blowing! Very well written, this book held me totally captive from cover to cover. A great read for a ...more
Deborah Edwards
I'm a sucker for stories about exploration and survival. My bookshelves are littered with them: "The Lost City of Z," "Into Thin Air,""The River of Doubt," "Blue Latitudes," "The Perfect Storm," "The Terror." You hand me a book about shipping disasters or Amazonian perils or Shackleton or the search for the Northwest Passage, and if it is at all well-researched and readable, I am in. But find me one that references something I know, an area with which I am already familiar - and there is somethi ...more
Darwin8u
"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee."
- Moby-Dick

Essex

I've been wanting to read this book for years. Patiently it sat, right behind me, waiting. I enjoyed Philbrick's Mayflower and Sea of Glory. Given how much I love Moby-Dick, I'm kinda surprised it took me so long (15 years) to read this history of the Essex.

Philbrick paces this narrative well. He patches t
...more
Eric_W
Everyone knows the story of Moby Dick, the great white whale chased by Captain Ahab, that succeeds in sinking Ahab’s ship. Apparently, Herman Melville based the story on a real event, although the sperm whale was not white, merely an enraged, but also seemingly cunning, bull sperm whale. It’s this story of the whale ship Essex, and of the grim events that faced the sailors who left Nantucket in 1820, that Philbrick tells of in rather horrifying detail .

The Essex’s Captain Pollard was on his fi
...more
Matt
I had a lot of trouble with Moby Dick. Finishing it, I mean. I picked it up and put it back down twice. By the time I finally finished it - a point of honor - I'd probably read 1200 pages of it. About 150 years later, the source material was published. In the Heart of the Sea tells of the whaleship Essex which inspired Melville's opus.

In 1819, it left Nantucket and went a'whaling. An enraged sperm whale (is there any other kind?) rammed the ship in the South Pacific. The Essex sunk and its crew
...more
Shaun
This was quite a fascinating read. Aside from providing the inspiration for the classic Moby Dick by Herman Melville, this 93 day fight for survival is downright bone-chilling.

In the Heart of the Sea is the type of true-life tale that needs very little embellishment to get your attention and keep it. I was particularly fascinated by the incidences of cannibalism among the starving and desperate crew, incidences that not only involved those who had succumbed to starvation/sickness, but also thos
...more
Rachel
Not being much into maritime affairs, I have to admit that I didn't expect much from this book, notwithstanding the National Book Award seal. Fortunately, the history of whaling on Nantucket turned out to be pretty darn interesting, particularly when you throw in an attack by a whale and some cannibalism to boot. The second half of the book was far more interesting than the first. Overall, it would have been more captivating if it was styled as a novel rather a history lesson.
Ruth
First an acknowledgement: I wouldn't have read this book without the review written by my Goodreads friend Florence (Lefty). I have no natural inclination to read seafaring true stories. So, thank you Florence, this one had me gripped from beginning to end.

Not having thought much about 19th century sailing most of my impressions were formerly supplied by 'Treasure Island', which of course has its value (I love it) but is hardly a factual account. I have started 'Moby Dick' a couple of times but
...more
Laura Leaney
In the process of telling the story of the whaleship Essex and its crew, Philbrick reveals the mindset of the 19th century whaling industry, which can so easily be extrapolated to the rest of the country. Whales, buffaloes, cod, tortoises, trees.............if you could kill it, cut it, sell it, you were doing God's work. What now seems so disturbing makes so much sense in the context of the times. Even though I love Melville's Moby Dick with a passionate intensity, the realism of its narrative ...more
Gerald Kinro
This is the event that gave rise to Melville’s Moby Dick. In 1819, the Essex leaves Nantucket for the South Pacific with twenty crew members aboard. In the middle of the South Pacific, they are rammed by an angry sperm whale and are relegated to survive in their lifeboats. In a story of what ifs, they opt not to go to the Marquesas Islands, the easiest route, for they fear cannibals. They rule out Tahiti, the second easiest route. What if, before this ill-fated journey, they had communicated wit ...more
Taylor
I didn't mean to get so far away from this before writing my review, but spring - spring is hard, life anew, everyone coming out of their hibernation and whatnot.

There's a thing about the sea that's difficult to explain to people who don't already get it. While, granted, I didn't grow up "on" the sea in the sense of working on or in it at any capacity, I did grow up next to the sea, in that you can see it from the window of the house where I grew up. I spent summers in the sea, staring at boats
...more
Martha☀
With such an unbelievable and thrilling subject, this true story really couldn't lose. Pardon my ignorance, but I didn't know that Moby Dick was based on the real event of a ship being purposely rammed by a Sperm Whale and I knew almost nothing about whaling in the 1800s. Philbrick took me by the hand and patiently filled me in about the history of whaling, this attack of a Sperm Whale which led to the sinking of the whaleship Essex and the aftermath of the crew being lost at sea for 90 days. He ...more
John and Kris
Picture the face of your favorite cousin. Now picture your aunt. Hold their images in your mind for a minute.

Philbrick’s In The Heart of the Sea, winner of the National Book Award, tells the amazing story of the whaleship Essex. The Essex, commissioned out of the Quaker port of Nantucket, was to fill her hold with sperm whale oil in the Pacific. Whaling, while profitable, was a nasty and dangerous occupation with a single hunting expedition lasting up to three years by the Monroe presidency. For
...more
Ramorx
Feb 14, 2008 Ramorx rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cannibals, human rights activists
I have a perennial seafaring thing going on in my life, despite being completely landlocked in the crucible of San Cristobal at a vertiginous 2200m - for, I don't know, oh, interminable years. Once I worked on a banana ship traversing the Atlantic ocean and despite the factory-like conditions, I loved it. So I devour any books dealing with the sea, hoping that the beautiful aroma of the surf two weeks from land can be conjured up in word or prose.
But most sea books are shite and fail to conjure
...more
Chelsea
"Hey," I said, to a very sweet and somewhat shy woman I work with. "I just read this great book, and someone else has to read it too, so I can talk to them about it."

"Okay!" She exclaims, enthusiastically. She had recently lent me the first in the The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax series, about a sweet older lady who becomes a spy. We were book friends now! "What's it about?"

"Whaling and cannibalism!"

Because, really, how else do you sell this book? "It's about New England whaling culture! It's about
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
In the Heart of the Sea Movie 5 50 Mar 16, 2015 11:06AM  
2015 movie adaptations 1 11 Feb 20, 2015 09:41AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: In the heart of the sea 5 16 Jan 12, 2015 01:47PM  
Fiction Fanatics: June 2014 - In the Heart of the Sea 4 15 Jun 05, 2014 10:16AM  
Edwardsville Publ...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Page Turning Non-Fiction: In The Heart of The Sea 11 17 Sep 29, 2013 12:02PM  
  • The Loss of the Ship Essex, Sunk by a Whale
  • The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty
  • Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic Who Led History's Bloodiest Mutiny
  • Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America
  • The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk
  • Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World
  • Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea
  • Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe
  • Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916
  • Curse Of The Narrows
  • In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors
  • Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition
  • Barrow's Boys: The Original Extreme Adventurers: A Stirring Story of Daring Fortitude and Outright Lunacy
  • Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West
  • Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival
  • Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938
  • The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd
  • Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West
1641
Philbrick was Brown’s first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978; that year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, RI; today he and his wife Melissa sail their Beetle Cat Clio and their Tiffany Jane 34 Marie-J in the waters surrounding Nantucket Island.

After grad school, Philbrick worked for four years at Sailing World magazine; was a freelancer for a number of years, during whic
...more
More about Nathaniel Philbrick...
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution Why Read Moby-Dick?

Share This Book

“Hope was all that stood between them and death.” 8 likes
“The sperm whales' network of female-based family unit resembled, to a remarkable extent, the community the whalemen had left back home on Nantucket. In both societies the males were itinerants. In their dedication to killing sperm whales the Nantucketers had developed a system of social relationships that mimicked those of their prey.” 4 likes
More quotes…