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In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex | [Nathaniel Philbrick]

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

The ordeal of the whaleship Essex was an event as mythic in the 19th century as the sinking of the Titanic was in the 20th. 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, disease, and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival.
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Publisher's Summary

National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2000

The ordeal of the whaleship Essex was an event as mythic in the 19th century as the sinking of the Titanic was in the 20th. 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, 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

What the Critics Say

  • Alex Award Winner, 2001

"A fascinating tale, well told." (Booklist)
"[Told] with verve and authenticity...a classic tale of the sea." (San Francisco Chronicle)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (626 )
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4.2 (267 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Kimberly Kearns, UT, United States 11-16-12
    Kimberly Kearns, UT, United States 11-16-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good book, poor editing ..."
    What would have made In the Heart of the Sea better?

    The editing was inconsistent. The story would stop randomly, not even at the end of chapters (cutting in the middle of a sentence). Then start again with a different sound and tone. Sometimes I wondered if it was the same narrator, the sound was so different.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Moved quickly, gave good context to the story and was intriguing.


    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Bethlehem, PA, USA 08-13-05
    Linda Bethlehem, PA, USA 08-13-05
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    "Riveting"

    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.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elisabeth Durham, NC, United States 06-27-12
    Elisabeth Durham, NC, United States 06-27-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Riveting!"

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Portland, OR, United States 10-01-10
    Thomas Portland, OR, United States 10-01-10 Member Since 2007
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    "A Thoroughly Enjoyable 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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Craig Austin, TX, USA 02-09-10
    Craig Austin, TX, USA 02-09-10 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating"

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 06-28-13
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 06-28-13 Member Since 2007

    notthe1

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Read this first, then read Moby-Dick"
    Would you consider the audio edition of In the Heart of the Sea to be better than the print version?


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Reader in Rochester Rochester, MN 09-26-12
    Reader in Rochester Rochester, MN 09-26-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Interesting, but dry"
    What did you like best about In the Heart of the Sea? What did you like least?

    The facts were obviously researched. However, sometimes the story became a bit dry when the background facts were outlined.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The trials the men went through to survive their time at sea were fascinating. The details of life on Nantucket and the Quaker church were quite boring.


    Do you think In the Heart of the Sea needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Definitely not. This is a historical book. Any further books based off of it would be pure fiction.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Buckingham 11-17-07 Member Since 2004
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    "Great Listen"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian D. Bannerman Brentwood, CA 11-11-07
    Brian D. Bannerman Brentwood, CA 11-11-07 Member Since 2003
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    "Great Book"

    While this is a historical work, the author made relating the story interesting. He did a great job explaining the good and mostly bad decesions made by the characters. The sinking of the Essex was a tradegy, there were not heroes but I felt I understood their motivatiions in most cases.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 04-27-13 Member Since 2006
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    "Why didn't I know this story?!"

    I'll admit, I'd never have picked this up without someone repeatedly prodding me to do so...but I'm really glad I did. I mostly read/listen to sci-fi/fantasy, so I'm skeptical about anything non-fiction...if I wanted non-fiction I'd watch the flippin' news (is about how my poor attitude would respond...) - but this story is good...hard to put the feeling into words - kind of intriguing and horrifying...on many levels. Not just the...main tragedy part - but what makes someone want to do this...the normal things they do...that they don't consider tragedies...from the catching and processing of whales, to the stuff that happens on the islands (like the Galapagos)...my god...

    If you already know the story of the Essex, there probably isn't a ton of new info - but still worth the listen. If you don't know the story that was part of Melville's inspiration for Moby Dick, you should probably pick this one up!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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