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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 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.
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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 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

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 (951 )
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  •  
    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!

    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
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly Kearns, UT, United States 11-16-12
    Kimberly Kearns, UT, United States 11-16-12 Member Since 2013
    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.


    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt San Francisco, CA 06-03-15
    Matt San Francisco, CA 06-03-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Captivating Whale of a Story"

    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.)

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dave Tumwater, WA, United States 02-26-15
    Dave Tumwater, WA, United States 02-26-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Essex Disaster Inspires Melville!"
    If you could sum up In the Heart of the Sea in three words, what would they be?

    Inspiring Survival Story


    What was one of the most memorable moments of In the Heart of the Sea?

    Drawing lots while starving at sea to see who would sacrifice his life so the rest of the crew could live.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    When the whaling ship was rammed by a pissed off whale and eventually sank.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    The actual story was spellbinding, but the last hour and a half consisted of author footnotes on his research. Tedious.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 10-20-14
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 10-20-14 Member Since 2015

    I will listen to NO boring book. Old Fav's,Card, King , Hobb. New Fav's, Hill, Scalzi, Sawyer, Interested in Lansdale, Crouch, Konrath

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    Story
    "THE LARGEST TOOTHED WHALES IN EXISTENCE"

    I prefer Historical Fiction over History, but with Philbrick I make an exception. This is my fifth book by Philbrick and they all have been very readable and informative. This book would make a great companion to Moby Dick. NP always picks interesting topics. I started with Mayflower which gave me a complete new outlook on the history of New Amsterdam, I'm sorry I mean New York. My favorite is The Last Stand, which is about Custer.

    This is a history on Sperm Whaling and on Nantucket. Among other things I was surprised to find out that a lot of captains of whaling ships were in their mid twenties. Through years of tv watching, I figured them to be old white haired men. I believe that I felt more in the boat with the whalers in this book, then I did in Moby Dick and I really liked Moby Dick. I think NP does a great job of explaining just how dangerous this type of job was and how terrifying these huge beast could be. It becomes obvious that the main reason most whaling captains were young, was cause they did not live long enough to get old.

    One indirect sad truth that NP really does not talk about that much, was how many whales there were back in those days. Nantucket got into whaling, because of the of amount whales they could see from shore. In the beginning they could go out and catch one and still be insight of the island. Later they were traveling all the way to the pacific.

    If the subject interest you at all, you will enjoy this.

    Do not worry about FOSB, fear of Scott Brick, he does well in this. The production was a little weird. At times he sounds like he is talking through a cheerleaders megaphone. Sometimes the change from one paragraph to another is extreme and sounds like they squashed the recording to make the recording shorter, like some radio stations do to programs, so they can get in more commercials, but it is not bad enough to detract.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Betty 11-18-13
    Betty 11-18-13 Member Since 2015

    diverduck

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    "In the time of scurvy"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    bryan Indianapolis, INDIANA, United States 01-21-13
    bryan Indianapolis, INDIANA, United States 01-21-13 Member Since 2015

    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.

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    "UNBELIEVABLE!"

    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!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sparkly SF, CA, United States 11-03-12
    Sparkly SF, CA, United States 11-03-12 Member Since 2010

    interested in history, science, and pulp fiction

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    "So Fantastic!"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 08-04-12
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 08-04-12 Member Since 2008

    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.

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    "Awesomely great story of men at sea"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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