A most exciting story which inspired Moby Dick - all of it is true. There are pictures of the actual people who were involved as well as interesting information on Nantucket, whaling and the era in which it transpired. ONe of my favorite books of all time!
Marci S. (MarciNYC) reviewed In the Heart of the Sea : The Epic True Story That Inspired 'Moby Dick on
Helpful Score: 8
In August 1819, the Essex set out from Nantucket on another whaling adventure. This journey, however, was far from normal. In November 1820, the ship was rammed by a sperm whale and sunk. This book tells the story of the 20 man-crew and their quest to travel overseas (more than 2000 miles) to reach the safety of South America. Of the 20 men, only eight survived to tell the tale of three months adrift in the South Pacific. The Essex tragedy was Melville's inspiration for Moby Dick.
The book was somewhat dull to begin with and I nearly gave up a few times, but once the whale struck, it seemed like the pace picked up and you had to keep reading to learn the fate of these men. Some of the descriptions in the book are quite graphic (carving up the whale, the physical condition of the men), yet I kept reading. One has to be amazed at how these men survived this incredible journey in three small whaleboats.
I am grateful for the maps in the book (pages 46-47 for the voyage of the Essex and page179 for the voyages of the whaleboats) but found their location in the book annoying. I referred to them a great deal so I could get my bearings as to where the boats were located -- they should have been in the front of the book for easy access.
Overall, an incredible tale of adventure and survival.
This engaging and thoroughly interesting book lends insight into the whaling industry of the early 19th century. More importantly, it delves into the startling details of the sinking of the "Essex" during a whale-hunting trip.
I could not believe how much nautical vocabulary I ascertained from the asides cleverly woven into the story. (A tribute to Melville, perhaps?) I learned how a sperm whale got its name; I learned what "fishy" means when referring to a sailor; I learned the origin of the measurement "knots."
This is, indeed, the tragedy that inspired Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" and one can easily identify the characters in the crew of the "Essex." It frightens me to what lengths humans will go to ensure personal survival. If you're into nautical lore and legend, read this. It deserved the National Book Award.
An excellent book - well-researched non-fiction, but written in an entertaining, grab-your-attention manner.
In it, my ancestral cousins from Nantucket get their boat stove in by a whale, make some very ill-informed and unwise decisions, and spend a lot of time sailing around the ocean, resorting to cannibalism, and dying. Fun!
It's the incident that Herman Melville (not a relative of mine) based 'Moby Dick' on.
When I was little, I read a great many books on whaling and such (family history and all), but this book, I felt, really helped give a more up-to-date and accurate perspective on it.
Recommended for anyone with an interest in the subject.