Chris's Reviews > In the Heart of the Sea

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
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Aug 08, 2010

liked it
Read in July, 2010

A compelling and harrowing account of the sinking of the Essex (by a pissed-off 85' sperm whale) and the three-plus month travails of the survivors, nearly all of whom cannibalized their way to safety. It's full of the arcana of whaling and seamanship, which I found surprisingly fascinating, but Philbrick has a tendency to use current knowledge (about starvation, about the complicated psychology of survival, about blahblahblah) to recontextualize the narrative that I found unnecessary and annoying. His descriptions of the physical privations of the survivors, who travelled nearly three thousand miles in 25' whaleboats and eventually cracked each others' bones to suck marrow, are vivid enough, thanks. I don't need to be yanked out of the story and into some damn stadium in Minnesota where a group of clowns in '45 thought it would be dandy to run a few experiments on human subjects to test the physiological effects of starvation. Still and all, a riveting tale only slightly spoiled by a meddling narrator.

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