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The Loss of the Ship Essex, Sunk by a Whale

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  358 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
In 1820, the Nantucket whaleship Essex was sailing in the South Pacific when it was rammed by an angry sperm whale. The ship sank, leaving twenty crew members floating in three small boats for ninety days. By taking drastic measures, eight men survived to reveal their astonishing tale. This authoritative edition brings together the harrowing tales of the survivors, includi ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 231 pages
Published June 29th 2000 by Penguin Books (first published 1821)
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The Essex is one of the stories that inspired Moby-Dick, the other being the legend of Mocha Dick, an albino sperm whale who was a dick. This edition collects every first- or firstish-hand account of the Essex, which is almost certainly more than you need.

The main narrative, and the one Melville got his hands on, is that of first mate Owen Chase. As a true adventure story, it's pretty great. Gripping stuff. Surprisingly well [almost certainly ghost-]written.

As a companion read to Moby-Dick, tho
Nakita Shelley
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The book The Loss of The Ship Essex, Sunk By A Whale is a first person narrative of the story of the ship Essex and the survival of its crew.The amazing but terrible story told of the troubles the crew from the ship Essex found its self in and how human survival took over their humility for each other. The story started out with the ship Essex sinking witch led to some of the crew surviving and going into 3 small boats with very little resources to keep them alive long. After being in the boats ...more
Jan 10, 2009 rated it liked it
I read this book after reading "In the Heart of the Sea" by Nathaniel Philbrick. Owen Chase's book is obviously dated in it's writing and the writing styles didn't appeal to me. However, it is the much more interesting true story that Moby Dick was based upon. The story has so much going on that I pretty much have to recommend it.

You might be interested in books with a similar vein.
"Touching the Void"
All are stories of men surviving incredible odds.
Feb 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-owned
After seeing the movie In the Heart of the Sea, I was curious to read these first-hand accounts of the Essex disaster and was lucky enough to win this book (as well as Nathaniel Philbrick's book) in a contest from Penguin. The two primary versions of events--from Chase and Nickerson--were fairly accurately portrayed in the film, although much of the backstory and personal conflicts appear exaggerations or entirely fictional. (I haven't read Philbrick's book yet, so I'm not sure if he sheds more ...more
Oct 28, 2014 marked it as to-read
29 DEC 2014 -- I am hoping this book and another by Owen Chase are one and the same. I believe this one is re-released to coincide with a television film narrated by Martin Sheen. Having watched and enjoyed the film, I would like to read the narrative also.

Mr Gerry wrote a lovely review of another version of Owen Chase's book. See review here --

I will place this book in line for reading in 2015. I DO enjoy tales of the sea.
Rex Libris
Oct 02, 2013 rated it liked it
The Essex is a somewhat famous tale in the annals of American whaling. The ship was sunk by a whale (how ironic!) and the crew survived in open boats for three months, often relying on canabalism to survive.

Melville wrote about the Essex' saga in MObey Dick, and parts of that same story were taken from the plight of the Essex.

Along with the Donner party and the soccer team in the Andes, the saga of the Essex gives one pause to wonder what he or she would do in similar circumstances.
Feb 26, 2016 rated it liked it
More of my research and exploration of the tragedy of the Essex. Owen Chase's account is informative, if a bit biased. I enjoyed reading it.
Jami Zahemski
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read this for Thomas Nickerson's account and the letters at beginning. This whole story facinates me but after reading Owen Chase, George Pollard and even Chapples' account it is getting extremely repetitive. Chapples was the most diverse but it chronicled his time on Henderson Island while the rest of the crew attempted to sail to South America. I think I'm ready for Moby Dick now.
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nautical-history
Dense, at some times difficult reading, but so very interesting, especially following In the Heart of the Sea. Chase's (first mate) retelling was so very factual, whereas Nickerson's (cabin boy) retelling had more of a human touch, incorporating more of a sense of experience for the reader.
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed learning about the whaling ships 1800's. It was not a fun business. The crew was away from their families for 2 to 3 years. There still was much uncharted waters, the ships weren't always the best for the open ocean and daily life was hard.

This was the story that Herman Melville based Moby Dick off of.

"On 20 November 1820 the Nantucket whaleship Essex was cruising the Pacific Ocean, almost a thousand miles from the nearest land, when it was repeatedly rammed by an eighty-five-foot spe
Vice Matušan
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Whilst writing this I am on page 196, thus haven't yet read the whole thing. But I've gotten through the fair majority of it, Chase's and Nickerson's accounts most important of all. They both differ, and neither gave the exact full account. Also, there are some things that the movie 'In the Heart of the Sea' no doubt fabricated for Hollywood reasons, but still, a few things, while reading the accounts do bug me.
Chase obviously miscalculated the gain/loss ratio concerning the moment he was going
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: 2nd to In the Heart of the Sea
Still an incredible story. Megaton whale ship destroyed by a whale, no one, of 20, die (yet) but they divide into 3 small boats with very limited provisions (hardtack, water, and a few Galapagos tortoises) and wind up clinging to half inch-thick wooden boats for 3 months in the middle of the Pacific. 26 year old Captain Pollard makes a questionable decision or two, including (view spoiler) ...more
Mar 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is in fact the first-person narrative of the fate of the whaling ship, the Essex written by Nickerson who had served as a cabin boy on this vessel. Another first-person account was produced by the first officer, Owen Chase, and it was that book from which Herman Melville based his novel Moby Dick. Both Chase's and Nickerson's accounts are of immense historical value and scholars are quite thankful both men wrote their narratives down.

Nickerson's book was, however, lost for many years
Aug 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, md11
By adding additional material to Chase's more famous Narrative..., the editors have provided a thorough first-person account of many of those involved in the Essex tragedy. Chase's plain prose (if indeed it is his prose--there is warranted speculation that, in the fine tradition of celebrity memoirs, he was aided by a ghostwriter) provides a nice counterpoint to the horror of the tragedy, while cabin boy Thomas Nickerson's "Desultory Sketches" (which remained unpublished for more than 130 years) ...more
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The Loss of the Ship Essex, Sunk by a Whale by various survivors of that, the most prominent of whom, in terms of length of account, are Owen Chase (the 1st mate) and Thomas Nickerson (15 years old at the time of the sinking). From this event Moby Dick was born. Moby Dick is one of my all-time favourite American novels, but these first person accounts take some beating. Read of the hardships experienced, the whale attack and how some of the crew survived, at times by eating each other. 7 out of ...more
Oct 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
The book The Loss of The Ship Essex, Sunk By A Whale is a first person narrative of the story of the ship Essex and the survival of its crew.The terrible but important story told of the troubles the crew from the ship Essex found its self in and how human survival took over their humility for each other. The story started out with the ship Essex sinking from a whale which led to the remaining crew having to try their best to survive. The story's theme was to just never take for granted the life ...more
Aug 05, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sandy by: Carol K
Shelves: nonfiction
Interesting true story of a whaling ship sunk by a whale and the ensuing struggle by the whalers to survive and reach land. "Moby Dick" is based on this incident. I liked the fact the book included accounts by different people. It was interesting to see the different views of what happened.It's hard to believe that people can endure so much. The book reminded me of Shackleton's "Endurance" and "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand, both of ...more
Gaylen Kemp
Nov 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Fascinating story and the perfect follow up after reading Moby Dick. But worth reading if you are just interested in human nature and how people respond to extreme circumstances. Also historically illuminating regarding the 19th century whaling industry.
Mar 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first-hand account of the sinking of a whaleship from two of the few survivors -- cannibalism and all. Herman Melville was so intrigued by these accounts that 10 years later he would write Moby Dick.
Everett Darling
Jan 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
In an attempt to milk more out of a fantastic tale, I read Nickerson's journal after having read both In The Heart of the Sea, and Moby Dick. No new information garnered, but my craving is somewhat sated. Up next, Owen Chase's account. Does anyone know anything about the elusive Pollard narrative?
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Jan 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Excellent account of the essex disaster by the first mate. Easy read.
First person accounts of the Lost Ship Essex. this is the basis of Melville's "Moby Dick".
Daniel Garrison
Jun 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Nicely written, informative, and a quick(ish) read - I enjoyed it and was glad that I picked up a copy.
Monica Perez
Jan 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Riveting first hand account of the true story that inspired Moby Dick.
Jun 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Interesting background info on life in Nantucket and the oil indiustry. Well done.
The real story of Moby Dick which destroyed the author in his lifetime and brought him to life in ours.
Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you believe that history is sometimes stranger than fiction then you need to read this book.
Feb 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Grim story . . . cannibalism at the end, a handful of survivors out of the 20 or so who were shipwrecked by "Moby Dick." Nantucket falls on hard times as do the survivors. Quite a story.
Wisteria Leigh
new england,nantucket,maritime history,shipwrecks,narrative,journal,non-fiction,American history
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