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)
This story has many interesting points that are worth considering even at this late date, and I think the author does this quite well. Yet, I do take exception with at least a couple of comments he made. First, the mention of the ignorance of the sailors about the whale does not seem to jive with what Herman Melville wrote in Moby Dick. Although it was their business to carve up whales and they went about it in a business like manner, surely they had some understanding of the anatomy of the whale including the size of his reproductive organs. Really, the mentioning of this organ and its size by the author is just typical of our sex crazed times. Totally out of place and unnecessary. Second, the author goes to some length to explain how painful it is to suffer dehydration and starvation. But, as he noted, as one approaches the end, all the pain starts to go away. Then, amazingly, he comments how the various supporters of euthanasia in America consider this a painless way to die. Did I miss something?! Yes, it is not very painful at the end but what about all the suffering involved to get to that point? It seems clear to me that such digressions are politically motivated and have no place in a work like this.
This is a well written story of a famous and particular whaling voyage, one that was famous in it's time and was likely the inspiration for Melville's "Moby Dick". Until recently the account that dominated knowledge of the voyage was written by the first mate Owen Chase. But an account written by the cabin boy, Thomas Nickerson, surfaced a few years back; it provides more and different reports that cleared up many questions.
Nathaniel Philbrick interleaves the various accounts of the Essex, along with other extensively research descriptions of Nantucket, the Quakers, and the whaling industry. I titled this review "Better than Melville" because Moby Dick tries to do something similar, but Philbrick has produced a more compelling narrative.
The narration was excellent.
The only negative was that some chapters seemed to start a sentence or two into the chapter; some kind of technical glitch. A bit frustrating, but don't let it stop you from listening.
Would definitely recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction or stories of survival.
I learned a lot from this book and I felt as if I where on the ships myself. Other books that I enjoyed that are similar are
It made me feel like i was actually there.
the descriptions of life on a whaler in the 1800s..the island
a fight for survival thousands of miles from land in the 1800s
This absoutely should be made into a film...a great story that more people should be made aware of. Excellent writing and fact gathering by NP and dead on narration by brick. i wish it had gone on longer....a
A great adventure story for those who know and are new to the dangers of the sea!
Author Nathaniel Philbrick did his homework giving a well rounded view of the times and culture surrounding the whaling business and Nantucket Island in particular. The Captain and First Mate initially appear very two dimensional. As the story progresses the author brings them to life by comparing and contrasting their historical journals with those of their shipmates and other historical data. I felt like I was looking through a time portal viewing clips of events. The telling is more high tragedy than high adventure. This did not make the book less interesting, but more so. Nathaniel did a phenomenal job reviewing the ethics of survival and survivor's guilt.
I love reading a variety of genres and authors - audiobooks are my new best friend as I knit or travel.
Not only is this a wonderfully written and engaging account of the last voyage of the Essex, it is also an excellent resource for those readers who would like to know more about the whaling industry in the nineteenth century. I started to read _Moby Dick_ several months ago and put it aside for a little while. In the interim, I heard about this book and decided to listen to it on a recent trip. WOW. The story of the Essex's crew is interesting and told without sentimentality or sensationalism, and Philbrick easily incorporates clear explanations of every step in the process of a whaling voyage, from recruiting a crew to the results of a successful - or unsuccessful - trip. I'll be picking up _Moby Dick_ again soon, and will happily read it with a much better understanding of whaling as it existed in Melville's time.
Endurance was an unbelievable adventure story with an equally unbelievable ending...this story spends a little more time documenting the history and is a bit more of a tragedy.
I found the narrative from Philbrick quite an wonderful book to read (listen). I felt that in this book I was able to very quickly delve into the history, life and lore of the Nantucket Whaling community. The story is quickly told and apparently well documented. So far I have read two books by Philbrick (this one and Mayflower), both have been very good reads and I will mostly likely get a 3rd soon. This was one of those books that I ended up sitting in the car, having arrived at my destination, just to listen to a few more minutes of this riveting tale.
My only complaint is with the recording. It is choppy at places, the pitch of the narrator changes from high to higher at many places in the recoring. May be the lowest quality of more than 100 books I have listened to. Note - it was sill listenable, just the worse I have ever heard.
If anyone thinks that history is dull, read “In the Heart of the Sea” by Nathaniel Philbrick. This historian has the gift of relating an historic event as if it were a fictional adventure tale. Of course, the event which is the subject of this book, the last voyage of the whale ship Essex, which left Nantucket, Massachusetts, in 1819 on a planned three-year journey to hunt whales in the Pacific Ocean, is an incredible adventure, replete with an angry whale which rams the Essex and sinks it, the journey of the 20 crew members in three small boats, the amazing rescue of some of them, the cannibalism of the survivors who drew lots to select crew members to execute and then eat. Herman Melville used the true story of the sinking of the Essex by an angry 80’ sperm whale, as his inspiration for Moby Dick. Along the way, Philbrick provides fascinating details of early 19th century whaling and life in Nantucket. This book was both exciting and informative.
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