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In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story That Inspired "Moby Dick"

In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story That Inspired "Moby Dick"

Paperback

By (author) Nathaniel Philbrick

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  • Publisher: HarperPerennial
  • Format: Paperback | 336 pages
  • Dimensions: 124mm x 196mm x 24mm | 259g
  • Publication date: 2 April 2001
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0006531202
  • ISBN 13: 9780006531203
  • Illustrations note: 8 b/w plates (16pp)
  • Sales rank: 102,001

Product description

The Number One best-selling, epic true-life story of one of the most notorious maritime disasters of the 19th century, beautifully reissued alongside Philbrick's new paperback, Sea of Glory. The sinking of the whaleship Essex by an enraged spermwhale in the Pacific in November 1820 set in motion one of the most dramatic sea stories of all time: the twenty sailors who survived the wreck took to three small boats (one of which was again attacked by a whale) and only eight of them survived their subsequent 90-day ordeal, after resorting to cannibalising their mates. Three months after the Essex was broken up, the whaleship Dauphin, cruising off the coast of South America, spotted a small boat in the open ocean. As they pulled alongside they saw piles of bones in the bottom of the boat, at least two skeletons' worth, with two survivors - almost skeletons themselves - sucking the marrow from the bones of their dead ship-mates.

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Author information

Nathaniel Philbrick is a historian and broadcaster who has written extensively about sailing. He is director of the Egan Institute of Maritime Studies on Nantucket Island, and a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association. He was a consultant on the movie Moby Dick. Aged 41, he has lived on Nantucket with his wife and two children since 1986.

Review quote

'Utterly gripping' Daily Telegraph 'Brilliant' The Times 'Superbly readable ... elegantly written ... a compelling study of the infinite human meanings of the sea itself' Guardian 'As gripping as it is grissly ... a cracking narrative, a complex cast of characters and a terrible moral dilemma at its heart' Daily Mail

Editorial reviews

In the Heart of the Sea is a true adventure briskly told, a harrowing and unstoppable read. In 1820, when the whaler Essex went down in the vast and barely charted waters of the southern Pacific Ocean, it was no ordinary catastrophe. Although rumours of similar incidents had been whispered in the whaling community, for the first time surviving witnesses could attest that the ship had been attacked and brought down by its own prey: a sperm whale. The whale that hit the Essex was a monster: around 80 tons and 85 feet or so in length. Furthermore, according to survivors, not only was the fabulous beast brave in defence of his fellows, but also calculating in the way he turned on the Essex: 'as if distracted' wrote one survivor 'with rage and fury'. Philbrick's book stands alone as a gripping yarn about the doomed voyage and its aftermath, but it can simultaneously be read as a primer for Moby Dick, for it was the wreck of the Essex that inspired Melville's lumbering masterpiece of American literature. Stripped of allegory and metaphor, the story remains immensely powerful and particularly chilling about the endless months survivors spent in three small boats on the deserted ocean, with no navigational aids and practically no provisions. The taboo of 'gastronomic incest' was broken, naturally, and ironically too: the survivors had chosen the open sea over a relatively easy landfall out of misinformed fear of local cannibals. With intelligent restraint, relying on testimony and evidence, Philbrick makes us readers know what effect the dreadful experience had on those few men who lived to tell the tale. He also delivers painless lessons on the wonder and weirdness of whales, their physiology and social systems. Equally, we learn much about a specific place and time in history - nineteenth-century Nantucket - and we can see how fundamentalism, optimism, casual racism, courage and materialism are bred in the American bone. Review by Irma Kurtz (Kirkus UK)