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 Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex 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.
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.
One of the most fascinating books I've ever read. The research is immaculate and the author's choice of what version of stories he includes seems fair. The controversy, publicity, and tragedy of the events in this story of whaling were of a very high impact for the entire industry and area where whaling was a way of life. The entire feel of how whaling was conducted and what life on ships was like comes through. More prurient aspects, such as cannibalism amongst shipwreck survivors is not minimized but it also isn't sensationalized. One comes to feel very close to the men going through this terrible event. And one also comes to feel close to understanding how rough this way of life really was.
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.
Sheila M. (Page5) reviewed In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex on
Helpful Score: 2
I found this book to be captivating, suspenseful, and heartbreaking. It is a detailed account of the whaleship Essex, its crew, and the Nantucket whaling industry of the early 1800s. In the South Pacific in 1820, the Essex was rammed and sunk by an enraged sperm whale. The crew took refuge in three small boats and struggled to survive until they were rescued three months later. What happened to the Essex was the basis for Melvilles Moby Dick.
I liked this book. I really did but I've read too many of this type lately so I felt like I'd been there, done that. And, I remember too many details from previous reads. Nathaniel Philbrick's writing is awesome and his research is with question well done. What struck me in this novel was the foolish mistakes so many people connected with the Essex made, from the owners who were stingy about refurbishing this older ship to a captain who let his mates sway him from what he deems are the best routes. Ah, but what can we say. Man is complex, makes mistakes as well as good decisions. Read it? Of course, it's very good.
I finished this book in two sittings. Some of the descriptions, such as the killing of the whales and the 'trying out' process, are tough to read, but the author did a great job of keeping my interest.
What a great read. While there is a huge amount of historical facts...whale information...navigation information..etc. this story is about the fate of the crew of the Essex and their heroic and tragic last voyage. It was a spellbinder for me and I often had to interrupt my husband's 24hour news addition to read him interesting parts. I cannot list the book until he reads it...now he is hooked on the story. Not for romance fans but highly recommended.
YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME THIS BOOK IS SO FASCINATING!!! READ IT! Just for the history of Nantucket and the whaling industry of the 19th century alone are worth the read, but the main story of insane, angry sperm whale, cannibalistic cousins, sea survival 90+ days in tiny uncovered whaleboats, lost lost lost lost lost lost, makes this one of my very favorite new reads. This is the story that inspired Moby-Dick. This is the story that inspired me. This is the story that will probably, unless you are lame (!!) will probably inspire you. Inspire to do what you may ask?! I don't know!!! Inspire you to never do drugs? No, not really. Inspire you to stop littering? Perhaps. Inspire you to read Moby-Dick if you haven't yet? Yes! Inspire you to never eat at Arby's or Wendy's again!? A THOUSAND TIMES YES!!.
All jokes aside. Nathaniel Philbrick has done and amazing job of writing/researching this story and his reference notes are outstanding. He gives you so so many more avenues to explore. If this book has any kind of a similar effect on you as it did on me then you are opening a Pandora's Box of Adventure, Survival and Out of this World Explorations on the High Seas!
"A boy has to make a decision about what he's a-gonna do with his life. Some boys gotta make that decision sooner then others, but you, your mammy done made that decision for you." -A. Wynrentin, future author of the book, Size Says It All: America and the War on Size.
Fascinating book about the real adventure that inspired Melville's "Moby Dick". Gives the reader a peek at living early 1800 in a community that survives due to whaling. Very detailed story about the actual sinking and subsequent days the crew spend trying to survive.
Wow, what an interesting read. The whaleship Essex gets rammed by a sperm whale off the coast of South America, thousands of miles from land. And through a series of bad decisions spends months asea trying to survive and some day return to their home in Nantucket, MA. Some disturbing stuff in there, but handled with minimal gore.
Great story, especially for Moby Dick fans. This is the true story upon which the Melville novel was based. A whale really DID attack a whaling ship - in fact, I read that towards the end of the whaling days, there were many accounts of whales doing this - maybe these large intelligent animals had finally figured out who the enemy was and decided they weren't gonna take it no more??
Either way, great read, all the good stuff about seamen and long voyages, the history of whaling and Nantucket Island, shipwrecks and revenge, cannabalism and heroism....you won't be able to put it down!
This was a good book. As other reviewers have mentioned, the maps are very useful and so should have been located in a better place. The story itself if fascinating, but it starts off quite slowly and takes a while to get rolling. If you are going to choose one book by Philbrick, read Sea of Glory. It is a better all-around book and more interesting because of the obscure topic.
The story of the whale ship Essex, the inspiration for Herman Melville's Moby Dick - a tale of survival, with 20 men forced into lifeboats for 3 months, with only 8 coming out alive - bad choices and circumstances forced them to revert to eating crew members to stay alive. Sometimes disturbing, but it's history. Includes photos and maps to help you through the story.
I've had Nathaniel Philbrick's "Mayflower" on my shelf for months, but could never really get into it even though I am extremely interested in the events of that era - not a Mayflower descendent, but my father's family has roots that go back to the 1600's in Massachusetts. However, this book was completely engrossing, fascinating, captivating, and best of all, a true story.
This was a wonderful book about the struggles of survival. Yes, it is disturbing in some instances, but this book really made me feel for them and almost put me right there with me. This book has a great history background to it and very educational as well.
Anna F. (lingie) reviewed In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex on
This book surprised me in two ways: it is very well-written and it held my interest from beginning to end. I am not usually a reader of 19th century sailing stories but this was a fascinating look at a very different time in history and an amazing survival story. I highly recommend this book and I plan to seek out other books by this author.
Laurinda J. (lmj) reviewed In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex on
Philbrick did an amazing amount of research and inserted it seamlessly to accentuate and contextualize the story. It's really well written in a way that provides you with the story and all the tools to analyze it both as a novel, a memoir, and a history of whaling, Nantucket, and survival. Loved it.
Carl H. reviewed In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex on
Couldn't put this book down. Its amazing what these guys did to hunt whales and even more amazing when the whales fight back and a group of men are stranded at sea. When you are so hungry you eat your friend it always makes for a good story.
Deb E. reviewed In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex on
This is an amazing book filled with interesting facts about the Essex disaster. No detail is really spared regarding the sinking of the boat and the peril that the shipmen went through. This book will leave you questioning whether or not the whale meant to harm the ship or if it was purely an accidental hit. Regardless, the book will keep you riveted.
This book was outstanding, to say the least. The movie was good but the literary tale of the Essex goes far beyond what the movie told. In reality, quite a bit happened to the crew after their encounter with the whale, which sunk their shift and forced them into the whale boats. The rest of their adventure is filled with hardship and difficult decisions.
I strongly recommend this book, esp. to those who have seen the movie and want to know "the rest of the story."
A great book about the story that inspired the book Moby Dick. The author definitely did his research on this subject and it shows, but he doesn't just present the information. He puts you in the story and does a great job of building tension and conveying the conflict involved in this story.
If you like this book, I strongly recommend 'Endurance' by Alfred Lansing. It is an even more amazing survival story and very well written like this book.
I was riveted to this long-ago whaling tragedy. An easy read with fascinating insight into the dangers of whaling and the men who followed that life. Hard to put down. I constantly referred to the maps, photos, and logs to give me a better idea of what these poor men suffered through. How horrifying. 4.5 stars.
The story of whaling by the sturdy men from Nantucket aboard the whaleship Essex in the early 1800's. The book provides ample background for you to have a feel for why those men went on those long journeys in search of the whales. You know from the beginning of the book the Essex's trip will end in a failure with a horrible outcome, but the book will immerse you in the day by day tasks and enormous troubles these men face in their attempt to survive. This true story of the Essex is the one upon which Herman Melville's story of "Moby Dick" was based. You will find yourself in question of who and how the shipmates will survive this ordeal, enjoy.
Having been a fan of Melville's MOBY DICK over mny years, I was fascinated by the whale. I followed up on the ESSEX as a matter of research as I am writing a play about Ishmael after his survival. The history of tghe ESSEX has proved veryh valuable for this project.
The true story of the 1819 sailing/whaling ship Essex of Nantucket. Rammed by a giant bull whale, the tale of the Essex became an inspiration to Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Sometimes truth is stranger (and stronger) than fiction.
In 1819 the 239-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage to hunt whales. Fifteen months later, the unthinkable happened: in the farthest reaches of the South Pacific, the Essex was rammed and sunk by an enraged sperm whale. Fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, the 20-man crew set out in three small boats for South America, almost 3,000 miles away. Three months later, only eight were left alive, the survivors having been forced to eat the bodies of their dead shipmates. The ordeal of the Essex was as well known in its time as the story of the Titanic is today.
I was very suprised how much I liked this book. I've never been a good history student, never much liked tales set at sea, and even though I only chose this for a class I was taking, I was enchanted. Winner of the National Book Award and an 'A' for the paper I wrote on it from Dr. Schilz! Yey!
Very interesting and well researched book. After watching the movie by the same name, I set out to read the book. I expected the book to be written as an historical fiction. It is non-fiction but it was unputdownable just the same.
Renee L. (Ramplo) reviewed In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex on
I found this book very boring. It is written like a history book not as a smooth story. It is filled with great information but I couldn't get into it with constant random facts and quotes that felt out of place, but relevant if you are looking for a broad historical view. A good read for someone that loves historical facts, or is very interested in what happened to this ship but not a good choice for the casual reader.
What a wonderful book this was. It really described well the plight of the crew of the whaling ship Essex and what their journey was like.Not just the sinking of the ship , but also the relaionships of the different crew members were and the concept of being so alone out in uncharted seas well before the advent of any telephone. It even described how their mail would take monthes and monthes to reach family members back home. If you like old sea tales you will like this book.
This is an amazing book. The author puts you right into the experiences of the men, and you will learn about whaling in extraordinary detail (made very interesting), as well as the shipwreck and consequences they suffered due to choices made. It is written from actual ledgers kept by a survivor, and is written in such a way that it is very hard to put down. I recommend this book very highly.