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In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (2000)

by Nathaniel Philbrick

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,6071561,516 (4.16)279
In 1819, the 238-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage to hunt whales. Fifteen months later the Essex was rammed and sunk by an enraged sperm whale. Fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, the 20-man crew set out in three small boats for South America, almost 3,000 miles away. Three months later, only eight were left alive. This book shares a fantastic saga of survival and adventure, steeped in the lore of the whaling tradition, with deep resonance in literature and American history, and in the life of the Nantucket community. - Back cover.… (more)
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» See also 279 mentions

English (149)  Spanish (3)  German (1)  All languages (153)
Showing 1-5 of 149 (next | show all)
This was an amazing historical true story of the whaling ship Essex, and what happened to the captain and crew, when the ship was attacked by a huge sperm whale. It follows the story of how these men survived on the ocean, in three small whaler boats, what they endured and who eventually survived.
At first I found the account a bit slow, but as the story moved on, I started to really get into it. It was truly a story of courage, strength of heart, and survival of the fittest and I would definitely read it again. ( )
1 vote deaflower | Apr 23, 2022 |
This was a good length. Any longer and I would have felt we were wallowing in the misery a bit too long, and as we learned in the book, death of starvation/dehydration is unpleasant to witness.

Philbrick had a different opinion on necessary cannibalism than Hampton Sides in "In the Kingdom of Ice" - Sides (or just Captain De Long?) mentioned repeatedly the shame of eating one's companions. But he also made a point of listing the extreme moral fortitude of the officers of the Jeannette. Philbrick made it pretty clear that the officers of the Essex were not nearly as strong.

There was a lot of good historical context - I kept wondering why Philbrick was harping about the poor way the African American sailors were treated until he reminded us that Nantucket had a strong abolitionist reputation, reminding all of us that abolitionist does not mean in favor of equal rights (explicitly or implicitly).

It was interesting how none of the sailors were publicly ostracized for cannibalism or for sinking the Essex and their admittedly pretty poor decisions made after the sinking.


Anyway, fascinating book, I would have liked the maps a little more interspersed, but that's what you get with a Kindle edition. ( )
  Tikimoof | Feb 17, 2022 |
In the Heart of the Sea well deserved the National Book Award. Herman Melville knew some of the men who survived the Essex and used the sinking of their ship by an enraged sperm whale as the basis for what is considered the greatest of American novels, Moby Dick. The sinking of the Essex was as well known in the 19th century as 9/11 is today. Philbrick uses a cool narrative voice to lay out a meticulously researched story that covers whaling, the town of Nantucket and the early exploration of the great ocean we call the Pacific. It is a story that is unremittingly grim yet heroic in the greatest sense of the word. It rivals Captain Bligh great survival story as an extraordinary story of men against the sea in the most difficult and trying conditions possible. Bligh was at sea for about 48 days, the survivors of the Essex were on the water for 93 days in boats much smaller and with no centerboard and limited navigational equipment, yet they managed to travel 6000 kilometers and arrive safely (22 men set sail on the Essex and 8 survived to ultimately be rescued after the sinking) off the coast of South America. If you like sea-stories or are a fan of Moby Dick or just enjoy 19th American history I think you will enjoy this well written, meticulously researched and thoroughly engaging book. ( )
1 vote blnq | Dec 26, 2021 |
Really good, but really terrifying too. The open water sea freaks me out, and whales freak me out even more (they're so huge, and mostly hidden underwater). The book reads quickly and like a narrative. But the terror and the sadness and the starving are all too real. Makes you wonder how well you would survive if forced to. ( )
  JessicaReadsThings | Dec 2, 2021 |
This was the Young Reader's edition that I listened to on Audible. I could have done without the first third of the book, the background of ships and whaling. Once the sperm whale did its damage, though, it was a fairly interesting story as men try to survive over 90 days in a small boat with food and water stores gone. They eventually turn to cannibalism. This was the story of the whaleship Essex. I would be quite surprised if young readers would in fact enjoy this--it was a bit dry. 338 pages ( )
  Tess_W | Sep 14, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 149 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nathaniel Philbrickprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
And in the greatness of thine excellency thou has over-
thrown them that rose up against thee: Thou sentest
forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble. And
with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered to-
gether, the floods stood upright as a heap, and the
depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.

-EXODUS 15:7-8

This is the end of the whaleroad and the whale
Who spewed Nantucket bones in the thrashed swell....
This is the end of running on the waves;
We are poured out like water. Who will dance
The mast-lashed masters of Leviathans
Up from this field of Quakers in their unstoned graves?

-ROBERT LOWELL,
"The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket"
Dedication
To Melissa
First words
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine with Revenge of the Whale which is an adaptation for younger readers of In the Heart of the Sea.
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In 1819, the 238-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage to hunt whales. Fifteen months later the Essex was rammed and sunk by an enraged sperm whale. Fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, the 20-man crew set out in three small boats for South America, almost 3,000 miles away. Three months later, only eight were left alive. This book shares a fantastic saga of survival and adventure, steeped in the lore of the whaling tradition, with deep resonance in literature and American history, and in the life of the Nantucket community. - Back cover.

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