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.
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.
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!
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.
This book was a little slow in getting started, but then, halfway through, it grabbed me. There is a lot of good background about whaling and Nantucket, and the story of the Essex is pretty incredible. By the time I got through the tale of sea survival, I was riveted by the aftermath for each survivor. This mixes history with a gory survival tale in an engaging manner.
Reader, reviewer, blogger
The book is mostly about the whaling industry in Nantucket, Massachusetts and the dangers it entailed. Much background is given on the work of whaling, the mindset of the island residents and sailors, and the viciousness of the sea in the early 19th century. I enjoyed the background information on whaling ships and the hardships and victories of their crews. “Wooden ships and iron men.”
Scott Brick was an excellent choice as narrator and is going on my favorites list.
Be aware that only the first 17 of 35 chapters of this audiobook are the actual story. The rest of the ‘chapters’ (three hour’s worth) are the notes that apply to those chapters. This is where a written version of the book has the advantage; reading the notes of a good non-fiction book can sometimes be very enjoyable and lead you to more reading. However, listening to the narrator read these notes is not much fun.
The story gets quite gruesome at times, as can be predicted. Starvation and cannibalism are described in heartbreaking detail, let alone the job of butchering whales.
This book is an excellent account of a true historical event of unspeakable suffering and tragedy. I very much enjoyed the retelling of this old story from the perspective of one of the survivors. However, when the survivors are rescued and finally brought back to civilization to be reunited with their homes and families, the book still goes on for another three hours! All the subsequent historical footnotes and accounts of modern-day Nantucket could be nothing but a letdown after such an epic story. I would've given this book a five star review if the author had just known when to say "the end"
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.
Report Inappropriate Content