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Nathaniel Philbrick

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

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This true-life adventure is the incredible story of the wreck of the whaleship "Essex"--an event as mythic in the 18th century as the "Titanic" disaster was in the 20th century. The inspiration for Melville's "Moby-Dick" is a riveting tale of history and a vital work of American history. of illustrations.

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This true-life adventure is the incredible story of the wreck of the whaleship "Essex"--an event as mythic in the 18th century as the "Titanic" disaster was in the 20th century. The inspiration for Melville's "Moby-Dick" is a riveting tale of history and a vital work of American history. of illustrations.Publishers Weekly,In 1821, a whaling ship came upon a small boat off the coast of Chile containing two deranged men surrounded by human bones that they alternately chewed and clutched to their shriveled bodies. The two were survivors of one of the most well-known marine disasters of the 19th century: the sinking of a 240-ton Nantucket whaleship by an 80-ton sperm whale. A maritime historian, Philbrick recounts the hellish wreck of the Essex (which inspired Melville's Moby-Dick) and its sailors' struggle to make their way to South America, 2,000 miles away. Of the 20 men aboard the two boats, only eight would remain alive through the ravages of thirst, hunger and desperation that beset the voyage. With a gracefulness of language that rarely falters, Philbrick spins a ghastly, irresistible tale that draws upon archival material (including a cabin boy's journal discovered in 1960). Philbrick shows how the Quaker establishment of Nantucket ran a hugely profitable whaling industry in the 18th and 19th centuries and provides a detailed account of shipboard life. A champion sailboat racer himself, Philbrick has a particular affinity for his subject. His fastidious, extensive notes and bibliography will please historians, but it's his measured prose that superbly re-creates a cornerstone of the early American frontier ethos. 16 page photo insert not seen by PW. 15-city author tour; foreign rights sold to nine countries. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Specifications

Publisher
Penguin Publishing Group
Book Format
Hardcover
Original Languages
English
Number of Pages
320
Author
Nathaniel Philbrick
Title
In the Heart of the Sea
ISBN-13
9780670891573
Height
2.870
Publication Date
May, 2000
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
9.30 x 6.30 x 1.03 Inches
ISBN-10
0670891576

Customer reviews & ratings

Average Rating:(4.3)out of 5 stars
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Most helpful positive review
1 customers found this helpful
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars
Excellent and disturbi...
Excellent and disturbing! I found the scientific notes about the effects of starvation especially interesting. It gave me a whole new appreciation for other tragedies involving people lost and in dire straits i.e. The Donner Party, the soccor players marooned in the mtns of South America, etc.
Most helpful negative review
Average Rating:(2.0)out of 5 stars
The author tells the s...
The author tells the story that inspired Moby Dick; however, it is not told well. It appears the author did not want to leave out a single tidbit he turned up in his research. Especially at the beginning, the paragraphs read like a series of index cards with disparate scraps of information. Despite the obviously extensive research, the narrative does not seem reliable. For example, on page 22, the following is presented as fact: "On this island of perpetual motion, job-seeking seamen were expected to whittle. It was the way a man whittled that let people know what kind of berth he expected. A whaleman with at least one voyage under his belt knew enough to draw his knife always away from him. This signaled that he was looking for a boatsteerer's berth. Boatsteerers, on the other hand, whittled in the opposite direction, toward themselves; this indicated that they believed they were ready to become a mate." It appears the author (and where was the editor?) was ready to swallow any fish story. The writing itself is dreadful. In regard to the freshly outfitted and provisioned ship just before it was leaving on its voyage: "By the evening of Wednesday, August 11, all save for Captain Pollard were safely aboard the Essex." (p.27). Besides the clunky repetition in "save" and "safely", those words are just not right--why would they not be safe prior to the commencement of the journey? The word choice is particularly wrong (lazy?) in the context of a book where the men will certainly not be "safe" at other crucial points in their expedition. On the whole, I would recommend skipping this book, and reading Moby Dick instead.
Most helpful positive review
1 customers found this helpful
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars
Excellent and disturbi...
Excellent and disturbing! I found the scientific notes about the effects of starvation especially interesting. It gave me a whole new appreciation for other tragedies involving people lost and in dire straits i.e. The Donner Party, the soccor players marooned in the mtns of South America, etc.
Most helpful negative review
Average Rating:(2.0)out of 5 stars
The author tells the s...
The author tells the story that inspired Moby Dick; however, it is not told well. It appears the author did not want to leave out a single tidbit he turned up in his research. Especially at the beginning, the paragraphs read like a series of index cards with disparate scraps of information. Despite the obviously extensive research, the narrative does not seem reliable. For example, on page 22, the following is presented as fact: "On this island of perpetual motion, job-seeking seamen were expected to whittle. It was the way a man whittled that let people know what kind of berth he expected. A whaleman with at least one voyage under his belt knew enough to draw his knife always away from him. This signaled that he was looking for a boatsteerer's berth. Boatsteerers, on the other hand, whittled in the opposite direction, toward themselves; this indicated that they believed they were ready to become a mate." It appears the author (and where was the editor?) was ready to swallow any fish story. The writing itself is dreadful. In regard to the freshly outfitted and provisioned ship just before it was leaving on its voyage: "By the evening of Wednesday, August 11, all save for Captain Pollard were safely aboard the Essex." (p.27). Besides the clunky repetition in "save" and "safely", those words are just not right--why would they not be safe prior to the commencement of the journey? The word choice is particularly wrong (lazy?) in the context of a book where the men will certainly not be "safe" at other crucial points in their expedition. On the whole, I would recommend skipping this book, and reading Moby Dick instead.
Excellent and disturbing! I found the scientific notes about the effects of starvation especially interesting. It gave me a whole new appreciation for other tragedies involving people lost and in dire straits i.e. The Donner Party, the soccor players marooned in the mtns of South America, etc.
The author tells the story that inspired Moby Dick; however, it is not told well. It appears the author did not want to leave out a single tidbit he turned up in his research. Especially at the beginning, the paragraphs read like a series of index cards with disparate scraps of information. Despite the obviously extensive research, the narrative does not seem reliable. For example, on page 22, the following is presented as fact: "On this island of perpetual motion, job-seeking seamen were expected to whittle. It was the way a man whittled that let people know what kind of berth he expected. A whaleman with at least one voyage under his belt knew enough to draw his knife always away from him. This signaled that he was looking for a boatsteerer's berth. Boatsteerers, on the other hand, whittled in the opposite direction, toward themselves; this indicated that they believed they were ready to become a mate." It appears the author (and where was the editor?) was ready to swallow any fish story. The writing itself is dreadful. In regard to the freshly outfitted and provisioned ship just before it was leaving on its voyage: "By the evening of Wednesday, August 11, all save for Captain Pollard were safely aboard the Essex." (p.27). Besides the clunky repetition in "save" and "safely", those words are just not right--why would they not be safe prior to the commencement of the journey? The word choice is particularly wrong (lazy?) in the context of a book where the men will certainly not be "safe" at other crucial points in their expedition. On the whole, I would recommend skipping this book, and reading Moby Dick instead.

Frequent mentions

1-5 of 52 reviews
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Excellent and disturbi...

Excellent and disturbing! I found the scientific notes about the effects of starvation especially interesting. It gave me a whole new appreciation for other tragedies involving people lost and in dire straits i.e. The Donner Party, the soccor players marooned in the mtns of South America, etc.

Helpful?
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

An excellent historica...

An excellent historical re-account. I wish I didn't want to rely on cliche adjectives, but truly it was gripping and compelling page turner. I think the author did a very nice job of re-accounting a history from what was known then and what is known now and just good common sense. This book is a much better "horror" and "realism" story than any other fictional, historical accounts that I have read. This is a enlightening book that you might recommend to a friend that is into "thrillers." Although, my track record kind of stinks when it comes to these switch-over recommendations.

Helpful?
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

I watched the movie fi...

I watched the movie first and have always been interested in whales. After falling in love with the movie, as soon as I found out about the book I had to read it. I was not disappointed. It is gut-wrenching, honest, brutal, and beautifully educational without drenching the reader in big words and complicated concepts. It highlights how dangerous, exhilarating, exciting, and grossly underappreciated whaling was as well as the monetary importance it had to Nantucket and US economy in general. Pollard, Chase, Joy and Nickerson are astounding in their own ways, Pollard possibly more interesting than the others in my eye. Would recommend to anyone. (less)

Helpful?
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Without the Essex, the...

Without the Essex, there would have been no Pequod. Without Captain Pollard (or perhaps it was First Mate Chase), there would have been no Captain Ahab. Without the great whale that smashed the Essex, there would have been no Moby-Dick. Nathaniel Philbrick tells the thrilling story of the tragedy of the whaleship Essex in 1819 and its connection to Herman Melville's great novel (1851) in his book "In the Heart of the Sea" (2000). Along the way he tells his readers much about the whaling industry at that point in history and about the town of Nantucket, then one of the most prosperous communities in North America. It was from Nantucket that the Essex and most other whaling vessels sailed, usually for years at a time. The story of the Essex, although all but forgotten before Philbrick resurrected it, was well known in the middle of the 19th century. Melville couldn't have helped hearing about it. Yet there was one place, the author says, where the story was rarely told, and that was Nantucket. Residents there were not embarrassed by the loss of the ship (that happened frequently), or the fact that so few survivors made it back alive or even that those survivors survived only by eating their less fortunate shipmates (that wasn't all that rare either). Rather, to their credit, the people of Nantucket were ashamed of the fact that the first men to be eaten were black. The black whalers were not singled out for consumption before they died, but they did die before their white shipmates, whether because of a poorer diet aboard the ship (the best food was reserved for officers and the men from Nantucket) or less fat content in their bodies. Nantucket had always prided itself on its opposition to slavery and its treatment of black people. There were several black men aboard the Essex, as on most whaling ships. So eating blacks first did not send the message the people of that town wanted to hear. George Pollard, the captain of the Essex, was in command of his first ship. Unfortunately, he was never truly in command, usually yielding to the wishes of his other officers when they had a different opinion. This trait proved deadly after the whale deliberately crashed into the ship. Pollard wanted the three boats carrying survivors to head west, with the wind behind them, to Tahiti, which was relatively close. His officers, ironically as it turned out, feared being eaten by cannibals and favored sailing east toward South America. Pollard agreed, and the resulting journey took three months and cost most of them their lives. Melville used the story of the Essex but, to his credit, reinvented it. "Moby-Dick" is a fictional masterpiece. The Essex story as told by Philbrick proves a masterpiece of the nonfiction variety.

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Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

I finally got around t...

I finally got around to reading about the inspiration for Melville's Moby Dick - the tragedy of the Essex whaler. What a tale of endurance by men on the open sea. Philbrick is a masterful storyteller, his prose sweeping up the facts and anecdotes with effortless aplomb. A must read for anyone who likes reading about who go down to the sea in ships......!!

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