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Revenge of the Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex (2002)

by Nathaniel Philbrick

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What can I say? I started Revenge of the Whale with a little trepidation as these kind of novels usually boggle my brain with umpteen nautical terms and descriptions. Philbrick however, has not fallen into this trap. Where sea faring objects are described very often they are accompanied with a diagram that clearly displays their place on the vessel, this accompanied by a number of photographs and easy to read maps allows the reader to really feel a part of the crew.

The book follows the crew of the Whaleship Essex and how they are attacked by a sperm whale which leads to them escaping in 3 small whaleboats. The lead up to the attack and the actual event only take up the first 3rd of the book, the rest details their constant struggle against the savage sea. Thirst and hunger drive the men to extraordinary lengths including cannibalism. In fact out of the 21 strong crew only 8 survived the journey.

An amazing true story, extremely well written and informative. Easily recommendable to anyone that loves adventure or interested in the History of Nantucket whaling. Interestingly the Essex adventure was the original inspiration for Moby Dick.

My only complaint would be that the novel appears to be a stripped down version of another book called In the Heart of the Sea. If I had known this before purchase I think I would have bought that instead. However, I will certainly seek it out in the future.
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  Bridgey | Feb 20, 2014 |
Richie's Picks: REVENGE OF THE WHALE: THE TRUE STORY OF THE WHALESHIP ESSEX
by Nathaniel Philbrick, Putnam, September 2002

Baby beluga in the deep blue sea,
Swim so wild and you swim so free.
Heaven above and the sea below,
And a little white whale on the go. --Raffi

REVENGE OF THE WHALE: THE TRUE STORY OF THE WHALESHIP ESSEX is Nathaniel
Philbrick's adaptation for young people of his National Book Award-winning
bestseller, IN THE HEART OF THE SEA. While I have not read the adult
version, I can tell you that this edition of the author's compelling account
of the real-life catastrophe of 1820-21, in which a whale attacks a whaleship
in the middle of the Pacific, was detailed and gory enough to keep me
horrified for hours, to the extent that it caused me to forget all about my
initial delight that at least one whale had apparently gotten even with
humankind for what our forefathers had done for the sake of lamp oil and
ambergris.

Your mama told you never
to eat your friends
with your fingers and
hands, but I say you
ought to eat what
you will - shove it
in your mouth any way
that you can. --Silver Spoon by Grace Slick

Utilizing primary source material, including two accounts written by
survivors of the wreck about their nightmarish journey across thousands of
miles of the Pacific from the middle of nowhere to their rescue off the coast
of Chile, the author has crafted a first-rate adventure story that is also a
tale of unbearable tragedy.

"Like a giant bird of prey, the whaleship moved lazily up the western coast
of South America, zigging and zagging across a living sea of oil. For that
was the Pacific Ocean in 1821, a vast field of warm-blooded oil deposits
known as sperm whales."

>From the early portions of this saga, which take place before an obstinate,
eighty-five foot long sperm whale decides that enough is enough, we learn a
vast array of information about the port of Nantucket and the whaleships.
The author clearly describes and provides illustrations of the ship's layout,
including the names of the masts and individual sails, the crews makeup,
including their respective duties and the system of remuneration, their
navigational tools, and the graphic details of converting those floating oil
deposits into big bucks for the shipowners. I was amazed to discover that
the wind patterns dictate that in order to sail from New England around the
'Horn to the Pacific, the whalers would nearly scrape the west coast of
Africa! And the fact that ambergris--literally worth more than its weight in
gold to perfume manufacturers--was generated as the result of whale
constipation.

But it's also fascinating to learn at the end about the later lives of those
eight men who somehow survived for three months on the ocean in the worst of
circumstances--and how the son of one of those survivors grew up to become a
whaler, lent a shipmate his father's account of the Essex disaster, and thus
became indirectly responsible for that shipmate, Herman Melville, being
inspired to write MOBY DICK.

Richie Partington
http://richiespicks.com
BudNotBuddy at aol.com ( )
  richiespicks | May 27, 2009 |
The whaleship Essex was destroyed by a sperm whale in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This book chronicles the survivors through their months of torturous thirst and wondering whether or not they will survive. The book starts out with a little bit about the whaling industry and the procedures that sailors went through to ready their ships for the sea. The first disc was a little boring, but once the whale destroys the ship, it gets very interesting. Three small whaling boats and 20 sailors were all that was left after the whale attacked. They had to figure out how to survive on very little food and even less water. A true survival adventure, I think the real triumph of this book is how it makes the characters come alive. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to tell them apart, but each of the main sailors has a distinct personality and you really come to care about them.

I don't know if I would have made it all the way through reading it, but the audio was excellent. ( )
  abbylibrarian | Aug 26, 2007 |
Revenge of the Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex is an adaptation of Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea for young readers. I, myself, did not find it as captivating as In the Heart of the Sea, mainly due to the fact that the background history of Nantucket was omitted from this version. Besides that, however, it is basically the same. Of course, the more grisly details of cannabalism were left out, so as to not frighten young readers. ( )
  TheCelticSelkie | Feb 26, 2007 |
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Like a giant bird of prey, the whaleship moved lazily up the western coast of South America, zigging and zagging across a living sea of oil.
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Please do not combine with In the Heart of the Sea of which Revenge of the Whale is an adaptation for younger readers.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142400688, Paperback)

On November 20, 1820, the whaleship Essex was rammed and sunk by an angry whale.  Within minutes, the twenty-one-man crew, including the fourteen-year-old cabin boy Thomas Nickerson, found themselves stranded in three leaky boats in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with barely any supplies and little hope.  Three months later, two of the boats were rescued 4,500 miles away, off the coast of South America.  Of the twenty-one castaways, only eight survived, including young Thomas.  Based on his New York Times best-seller In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick recreates the amazing events of the ill-fated Essex through the sailors own first-hand accounts, photos, maps, and artwork, and tells the tale of one of the great true-life adventure stories.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:49 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Recounts the 1820 sinking of the whaleship "Essex" by an enraged sperm whale and how the crew of young men survived against impossible odds. Based on the author's adult book "In the Heart of the Sea." On November 20, 1820, the whaleship Essex was rammed and sunk by an angry whale. Within minutes, the twenty-one-man crew, including the fourteen-year-old cabin boy Thomas Nickerson, found themselves stranded in three leaky boats in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with barely any supplies and little hope. Three months later, two of the boats were rescued 4,500 miles away, off the coast of South America. Of the twenty-one castaways, only eight survived, including young Thomas. Based on his New York Times best-seller In the Heart of the Sea , Nathaniel Philbrick recreates the amazing events of the ill-fated Essex through the sailors own first-hand accounts, photos, maps, and artwork, and tells the tale of one of the great true-life adventure stories.… (more)

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