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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

Critic Reviews

  • 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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
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  • Story

Good story, horrible audio

Interesting story but the production value / quality of the audio is absolutely terrible. The volume and clarity of the narrator varies wildly even within chapters. Better to read this in book form vs audio.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Proof poor editing can ruin a great story

This is the worst edited audiobook I've ever heard. I tried to make it through it but couldn't. Even within the chapters, the sound quality and background noise level differed, which was distracting. But, the biggest problem is that each new chapter starts by cutting off the end of the previous one. The narrator will literary be mid-sentence when it cuts in with the start of a new chapter. It's disorienting and jarring -- each time it happened, I had to take time to collect myself and figure out what was happening. After about 4 chapters of this, I just gave up. It was too jarring, and I found myself on edge the entire book; it prevented me from getting into it.

It would be like buying a book that has the last few sentences (or even more -- I have no way to know how much of each chapter is missing) cut off or that is missing a page or two throughout the book. If I ordered such a book, I would return it, and I'm thankful that audible allows returns. This one is going back. It's a shame the poor editing can ruin such a fascinating story.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Great story - not great recording

Would you try another book from Nathaniel Philbrick and/or Scott Brick?

yes

What three words best describe Scott Brick’s performance?

His performance is fine, but there was no equalizing his voice so it was loud and then soft. Bad recording and bad transitions.

26 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • hermanous
  • Frederick, MD, United States
  • 05-19-11

Wonderful Nonfiction Tale/Horrible Mech. Editing

This is a fantastic, true tale of the Whaler Essex, its fate against an angry whale and the challenges facing the survivors. Amazing story. Well read by the narrator.

The biggest flaw is the mechanical editing. Horribly spliced. Sections seem to run into each other, and volume levels are confusion. For such a fantastic story, carefully read, this is a sad and sloppy treatment of the story.

Other than that, a great listen.

25 of 27 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Linda
  • Bethlehem, PA, USA
  • 08-13-05

Riveting

I don't listen to much non-fiction, preferring to lose myself in someone else's world. This book was recommended by a colleague and it sounded interesting so I got it. WOW - I couldn't stop listening to it. This is real life better than any fiction. An amazing story, set in the history of whaling, and Scott Brick was the perfect narrator for this book.

33 of 36 people found this review helpful

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Great book, worst-produced audiobook I've heard.

The book is great. The audiobook production is quite possibly the worst I've heard. The reader is fine, but the production cuts off the last two or three words of every chapter, and the next one will start with such a different room tone and EQ that it barely even sounds like the same person. Again, a great book, but someone needs to get in there and fix the audiobook ASAP. Few things as aggravating as every chapter cutting off.

30 of 34 people found this review helpful

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Read this first, then read Moby-Dick

Would you consider the audio edition of In the Heart of the Sea to be better than the print version?

<br />

Any additional comments?

This book was not on my radar until I read “Railsea” by China Mieville, which is a young adult science fiction redux of Moby-Dick. I had never read Moby-Dick but figured since I knew the general outline of the story that would be enough. However, as is my wont, while reading “Railsea” I got more and more curious about Moby-Dick and started to do some research. That research brought me to “In the Heart of the Sea” and thank goodness it did. <br/> <br/>“In the Heart of the Sea” is a fantastically well-written account of the true story of a whaling ship that was sunk by a whale in the 1820’s. It turns out that Melville knew the story of the Essex and the tale inspired some of the events in Moby-Dick. Philbrick has done his homework and gives the reader not merely the facts about the Essex, but also quite a bit of history about whaling in general and Nantucket whaling in particular. He also delves into research on how humans survive in extraordinary circumstances, which was shocking, horrifying and fascinating in equal measures. In addition to all this, Philbrick gives an overview of the life of Herman Melville and explains how Moby-Dick was written. <br/><br/>After finishing “In the Heart of the Sea” I was absolutely compelled to read Moby-Dick. I picked up an abridged audio version and was completely amazed by it. I thank Nathaniel Philbrick for penning his history and opening up my mind so that I was able to fully appreciate Moby-Dick.

29 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • Elisabeth
  • Durham, NC, United States
  • 06-27-12

Riveting!

This tale, ultimately of survival, is fascinating. Philbrick does a great job educating us at to the financial driver of 1820s Nantucket - the whaling industry - and interweaving a fascinating story of a hellbent whale, unlucky decisions and what people will do to survive. Not to be missed.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Kimberly
  • Kearns, UT, United States
  • 11-16-12

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.

21 of 24 people found this review helpful

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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.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful