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The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex
by Owen Chase
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156006898, Paperback)On November 20, 1820, a sperm whale repeatedly rammed the whaleship Essex, causing her to sink. The 20-man crew were left in three small, open boats in the middle of the Pacific with little food and only 200 gallons of water. Bereft of charts, the boats sailed due east in the hopes of sighting land. Battered by storms, the boats became separated. Some 90 days later, a few men were rescued--but not before they had been forced to make a terrible decision.
I have no language to paint the horrors of our situation. To shed tears was indeed altogether unavailing and withal unmanly; yet I was not able to deny myself the relief they served to afford me.This harrowing, first-hand account by First Mate Owen Chase was originally published in 1821, just months after he returned home to Nantucket, and the unfortunate Essex and her crew passed into legend. Twenty years after the wreck, young William Chase, Owen's son, was serving on the Lima when it met another whaler called the Acushnet. The crews spent some time together, and Chase told his father's story to 21-year-old Herman Melville, and lent him a copy of his father's book. The story clearly caught Melville's imagination--"The reading of this wondrous story upon the landless sea, and close to the very latitude of the shipwreck had a surprising effect on me"--and ten years later he published Moby Dick. Literary inspiration aside, The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex is a well-told, truly gripping tale. As Gary Kinder (who, as the author of Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea, knows a thing or two about shipwrecks) notes in his introduction, "As you sit in your chair, the subliminal thought recurs: My god, this really happened." --Sunny Delaney
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 14 Apr 2011 14:01:09 -0400)
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