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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 (746 )
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4.2 (380 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Happy Customer 01-12-15 Member Since 2011
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    2
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    "Good book - bad recording"

    I very much enjoyed the book despite the annoying cut-offs between chapters. Someone should reassemble and correct the recording.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Larry Pierson Washington state 01-12-15
    Larry Pierson Washington state 01-12-15 Member Since 2015

    Tactic

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    "Essex Review"

    Good story. Excellent narrator.anxious to get more books by this narrator.good changes in voice for various characters. Diction was perfect.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim United States 11-23-14
    Tim United States 11-23-14 Member Since 2011

    My reviews are honest. No sugar coating here.

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    "Holy Jeez"

    I think that I was a fisherman in my previous life because subconsciously I've read a lot of books about the sea. Like "Moby Dick", "Endurance" and "Perfect Storm", and I gave them all solid stars. I've also read “Railsea” by China Mieville, which is somewhat like Moby Dick and Mad Max. That is a good one also, if you like science fiction.

    When my friend told me that I need to read "In the Heart of the Sea", about Essex the whale boat, I put it off. I should had trusted my friend a lot sooner because Nathaniel Philbrick's book about the whaleship and the crew is beyond 5 solid stars. It is something that you have to read before the movie.

    Holy jeez, most of the crew turned to cannibalism and started to eat their own to survive?

    No matter how bad it gets, you never hear about man eating man nowadays to live. More importantly, Herman Melville would have never written about the great white whale if the wreck of the Essex didn't happened.

    This has to be the best survival story that has been untold. Maybe because most of the crew that were eaten were mostly Black, that we don't talk about the Essex?

    As for the technical side of this audiobook, Scott Brick does a good job, but I agree, it needs to be recorded with better bit rate. It seemed like Penguin Audiobooks converted from a cassette tape. They might want to record this one over before the movie is out.

    0 of 0 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 2014

    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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    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hatchue 06-10-14
    Hatchue 06-10-14 Member Since 2013
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    "This is a story you'll remember"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Definitely. This was an amazing story and well written. I would recommend it to anyone interested in historical tragedies.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Scott Brick?

    Yes. The narrator actually did a great job. The only issue I had with the narration was that the recording sounded tinny at times, the volume was inconsistent, and the audio clips were poorly edited. Sometimes the narration kind of jumped from one word to the next and it was very obvious that two clips had been edited together. It could have been smoother.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    "By avoiding cannibals, they BECAME the cannibals!"

    This would make an awesome movie.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah O. Simpson Big, Wonderful Wyoming 04-11-14
    Deborah O. Simpson Big, Wonderful Wyoming 04-11-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Good book. Not the best audiobook, but good."
    Would you listen to In the Heart of the Sea again? Why?

    Very good historical detail. Well written. But it drags a bit. We listened on a long drive. We stopped for lunch and when we got back in the car I started to turn the book back on and my husband's comment was "Yes. Let's get back to dying S-L-O-W-L-Y." But a good book, just not the best most engaging one.


    What other book might you compare In the Heart of the Sea to and why?

    Endurance, but Endurance is better.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Smail Summerville, SC United States 12-10-13
    S. Smail Summerville, SC United States 12-10-13 Member Since 2013

    A 32 year old with a painfully short attention span. Audio books brought me back to reading.

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    "Something's not quite right..."

    The book itself is great for the most part. While I can't find myself sympathizing with the men, I do find myself getting caught up in the story and eagerly waiting to see what happens next. That's not always the case with true stories. Story wise my issue is with the graphic details of killing the whales and turtles. Don't get me wrong, I knew there'd be death. It's a whaling ship, of course whales will die. But I think the author got a little overzealous with the descriptions at times. (Do I really need the intricate details of the men slitting a sea turtle's throat and drinking it's blood? Eew.)

    My issue with the audiobook is one that I've seen at least one other reviewer mention. Sometimes mid sentence it'll suddenly skip ahead. And on top of that the entire narration sounds different. It's like they recorded the book on a bunch of different machines, and at least once I wasn't even entirely sure it was the same narrator. That's such a shame too, because I love listening to Scott Brick read.

    Overall I would recommend this book, I'd just warn ahead of time that it's a little wonky and a little gory.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Washington, DC, United States 11-26-13
    Laura Washington, DC, United States 11-26-13 Member Since 2012

    Long commute = Lots of time for audiobooks

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    "Very Exciting, Very Depressing"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patrick E. Murray San Antonio, TX 08-22-13
    Patrick E. Murray San Antonio, TX 08-22-13 Member Since 2010

    pemurray

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    "amazing"
    What made the experience of listening to In the Heart of the Sea the most enjoyable?

    Amazing and horrific description of death by starvation and thirst and the incredible things it can make you do


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Edward C. Charbonnet Memphis, TN 08-10-13
    Edward C. Charbonnet Memphis, TN 08-10-13 Member Since 2006
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    "What a fabulous true story!!!!"
    What did you love best about In the Heart of the Sea?

    I most enjoyed the section in the book that covered the 89 days of survival at sea. The biggest surprise bonus in the book was the great history of Nantucket during the hay day of whaling. I like the way the book starts when the survivors were found and then goes back and tells how they got into the predicament. The author gives so much great detail about life in those days and life aboard those ships for 2 and 3 years as well as how whaling started even before we had those large ships. And as another bonus he covers many years after the Essex's disaster going into the details of how and why Nantucket declined.

    And the author adds to the book by referencing other similar sea disasters that have occurred since and how they were similar and different. And he also adds insights from modern knowledge of whales.


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

    When the did battle with the giant sperm whale that rammed them twice. And then the tough decisions they had to make to survive. I was particularly moved by the Australian Captain who went out of his way to find the 2 survivors on the island when he had been told the wrong island but decided to search other islands after the first one had no survivors.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    So very hard to choose but the scenes when they were struggling against the extreme weather elements were exciting.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When most of the main city on Nantucket burned down - fueled by the whale oil - as the author called it "The Revenge of the Leviathan".


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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