Richard's Reviews > In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
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Nov 03, 2011

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bookshelves: 2011
Read in October, 2011

The maiden voyage of Captain George Pollard, Jr., departing Nantucket in August of 1819, aboard the tried, true, and old whaleship Essex was ill fated from the start. Not three days out of port a storm blew up, the inexperienced Captain mishandled the sails, and the ship was "knocked over," took on water, lost provisions, and worse, lost whale boats. It was not an auspicious start, but the Captain and his crew did make it past the Azores, the Cape Verde Islands, around the Horn, and out into the south Pacific whaling grounds by November of 1820, only to be rammed twice by a sperm whale, and sunk.

Twenty souls manned the whaling boats, and over the next three months they did their best to survive at sea with inadequate food and water. Five survived in the whaling boats, three chose to try their luck on an island and were eventually rescued, twelve died, six were eaten by their shipmates.

Herman Melville used many of the incidents around the sinking of the Essex as grist for Moby Dick.

Author Nathaniel Philbrick gives us a brief history of whaling, a look at the customs and mores of Nantucket, and puts us onboard the Essex, and into each of the whaling boats. It's a harrowing read.
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