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)
interested in history, science, and pulp fiction
I enjoyed every minute of this book, and was sorry when it ended. It's a tale of adventure, certainly - but also a story of bad luck and worse luck; of a series of implausible chance occurrences; and of the human ability to endure. History comes alive here, in this slice of time that encompasses the height of the American whaling industry and the peculiar dynasties of Quaker Nantucket.
This story is clearly in Nathaniel Philbrick's wheelhouse, as his other books are also about the sea and early American history. Philbrick's genius lies in his ability to give rich detail and context for everything, without going too far into the weeds or losing the story. His meticulous research supports his skillful storytelling - every sailor in the boats has a tale, and they vividly come to life. I particularly appreciated Philbrick's attention to the African American sailors. The lives of these men provided scarcer primary data, I am sure, yet the author worked to fill out the details and distinguish their experiences.
The narrator, Scott Brick, is spot on as well. Highly recommended.
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.
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.
What an amazing account of the whalers of the Essex! I almost felt like I was there, but am most grateful I wasn't! Not only did I feel I enter erred that period of history, I came to really care about these men and their incredible struggle.....and also had sympathy for whales. The incredible perseverance and indomitable will so often shown was awe-inspiring even while the grim, feral nature this also took was appalling. It raises interesting moral questions, too.
The narrator was quite good, which is a necessity because even an excellent audiobook on a variety of levels will be sunk by an annoying narrator..and probably faster than the Essex was.
As an aside, Philbrick's Mayflower was equally excellent, if not a bit better.
Wonderful narration. Amazing story. Highly recommended. I vote: listen to this after reading Moby Dick, since most of the action takes place after the whale attack - the place where Moby Dick ends- this book is a sort of coda to that story. High marks all around. Can't wait to see the Ron Howard movie. (Although, I'd wager he doesn't quite go into all the gory detail. Note: don't listen to parts of this audiobook while eating anything but vegan food.)
Inspiring Survival Story
Drawing lots while starving at sea to see who would sacrifice his life so the rest of the crew could live.
When the whaling ship was rammed by a pissed off whale and eventually sank.
The actual story was spellbinding, but the last hour and a half consisted of author footnotes on his research. Tedious.
Long commute = Lots of time for audiobooks
File this one under "Truth is stranger (and sometimes better) than fiction." I listened to this because I enjoyed Philbrick's "Mayflower," knew he was an excellent researcher and storyteller, and knew I liked Scott Brick as a narrator. I was not at all prepared for the tragedies upon tragedies in this book. I suspect if you're considering reading this book, you're already aware you are not in for a smooth or happy ride, but even so, brace yourself. It's just incredibly depressing, this story, because Philbrick does such an amazing job of showing us the despair the men aboard the Essex must have felt. I'm not sure the modern reader can come away from this with any real lessons or morals that apply to life today, but I was nonetheless glad I learned about a previously unfamiliar piece of history, and a gripping, fascinating one at that.
Nathaniel Philbrick captured my attention and heart with this book about the doomed whaling ship The Essex. Unforgettable story of survival at sea that resorted to cannibalism. A true story that inspired Moby Dick. Scott Brick is excellent, as always.
I enjoy non fiction almost exclusively and especially love the history of Rome, the conquest of the Americas, and early American history from the founding of the earliest colonial settlements to the Antebellum rise of the United States.
It is no wonder this received the National Book Award... This is, to put it as simply as possible, a MUST READ! You don't like history? No problem! You are not interested in whaling? No problem! This is a compelling relevant story of human nature, struggle, friendship, loss, pain, death, and whale oil. A true American story of EPIC proportions!
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
I had long known that Moby Dick had antecedents in a real life event, but I had no idea so much detailed information was available about it. Philbrick does a brilliant job of pulling all the original sources together and making this story real and human. Watching this group of men deal with their circumstances, making decisions based on the available information, suffering from the consequences of those decisions, was vicarious living at its best. This book should tell you just about everything you'd ever want to know about the 19th century whaling industry. It's also a great story about human nature and how all of us act and react in the face of adversity.
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