National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2000
The ordeal of the whaleship Essex was an event as mythic in the nineteenth century as the sinking of the Titanic was in the twentieth. In 1819 the Essex left Nantucket for the South Pacific with 20 crew members aboard. In the middle of the South Pacific, the ship was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale. The crew drifted for more than 90 days in three tiny whaleboats, succumbing to weather, hunger, and disease and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival.
Nathaniel Philbrick uses little-known documents, including a long-lost account written by the ship's cabin boy, and penetrating details about whaling and the Nantucket community to reveal the chilling events surrounding this epic maritime disaster. An intense and mesmerizing read, In the Heart of the Sea is a monumental work of history forever placing the Essex tragedy in the American historical canon.
©2000 Nathaniel Philbrick; (P)2000 Penguin Audiobooks
"A fascinating tale, well told." (Booklist)
"[Told] with verve and authenticity...a classic tale of the sea." (San Francisco Chronicle)
I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book. A great, true story full of interesting historical detail (such as the drug habits of Nantucket Quaker wives, racial relations of the time, etc.) and information about navigation by dead reckoning, the physical and psychological effects of dehydration and starvation, cannabalism, whaling and much more.
It's amazing to think that the events recounted in this book happened less than 200 years ago.
I don't listen to much non-fiction, preferring to lose myself in someone else's world. This book was recommended by a colleague and it sounded interesting so I got it. WOW - I couldn't stop listening to it. This is real life better than any fiction. An amazing story, set in the history of whaling, and Scott Brick was the perfect narrator for this book.
This tale, ultimately of survival, is fascinating. Philbrick does a great job educating us at to the financial driver of 1820s Nantucket - the whaling industry - and interweaving a fascinating story of a hellbent whale, unlucky decisions and what people will do to survive. Not to be missed.
Slow to start, this is a fascinating read. Scott Brick is an excellent narrator and the story made me want to glue my headphones to my ear until the story was over. HIGHLY recommended.
This book was not on my radar until I read “Railsea” by China Mieville, which is a young adult science fiction redux of Moby-Dick. I had never read Moby-Dick but figured since I knew the general outline of the story that would be enough. However, as is my wont, while reading “Railsea” I got more and more curious about Moby-Dick and started to do some research. That research brought me to “In the Heart of the Sea” and thank goodness it did.
“In the Heart of the Sea” is a fantastically well-written account of the true story of a whaling ship that was sunk by a whale in the 1820’s. It turns out that Melville knew the story of the Essex and the tale inspired some of the events in Moby-Dick. Philbrick has done his homework and gives the reader not merely the facts about the Essex, but also quite a bit of history about whaling in general and Nantucket whaling in particular. He also delves into research on how humans survive in extraordinary circumstances, which was shocking, horrifying and fascinating in equal measures. In addition to all this, Philbrick gives an overview of the life of Herman Melville and explains how Moby-Dick was written.
After finishing “In the Heart of the Sea” I was absolutely compelled to read Moby-Dick. I picked up an abridged audio version and was completely amazed by it. I thank Nathaniel Philbrick for penning his history and opening up my mind so that I was able to fully appreciate Moby-Dick.
"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee."
I've been wanting to read this book for years. Patiently it sat, right behind me, waiting. I enjoyed Philbrick's 'Mayflower' and 'Sea of Glory'. Given how much I love Moby-Dick, I'm kinda surprised it took me so long (15 years) to read this history of the Essex.
Philbrick paces this narrative well. He patches together all the major perspectives. When the story leaves gaps, he dead reckons and is able to fill the story in with similar types of accidents, aggressive whale experiences, sailors, oil, blood, starvation, and -- well -- other episodes of cannibalism. He is able to humanize the captain, the first-mate, and the people of Nantucket (while also giving serious consideration for all the other sailors; those from Nantucket, outlanders, and black sailors too). It was a quick read, and compelling.
The book is great. The audiobook production is quite possibly the worst I've heard. The reader is fine, but the production cuts off the last two or three words of every chapter, and the next one will start with such a different room tone and EQ that it barely even sounds like the same person. Again, a great book, but someone needs to get in there and fix the audiobook ASAP. Few things as aggravating as every chapter cutting off.
His performance is fine, but there was no equalizing his voice so it was loud and then soft. Bad recording and bad transitions.
This is a fantastic, true tale of the Whaler Essex, its fate against an angry whale and the challenges facing the survivors. Amazing story. Well read by the narrator.
The biggest flaw is the mechanical editing. Horribly spliced. Sections seem to run into each other, and volume levels are confusion. For such a fantastic story, carefully read, this is a sad and sloppy treatment of the story.
Other than that, a great listen.
This is a fascinating book about an ill-fated whaling voyage that was the basis for Moby Dick. THe author does a masterful job of winding the history of the whaling industry in the first half of the 19th Century with the amazing story of the sailors and how they suvived an amazing journey through the Pacific. A testimony to both people's stubborn idocy as well as to our ability to survive. I found this story much more interesting than I thought it might be and would recommend it to other that like historical fiction. This is not fiction, but the story is compelling enough that you will think it is. Once you read it, you will feel compelled to visit Nantucket.
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