Book Review of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
reviewed 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.