…as the survivors of the Essex came to know, once the end has been reached and all hope, passion, and force of will have been expended, the bones may be all that are left.
It’s taken me at least as long to read Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea as it took the crew of the whaleship Essex to survive being shipwrecked in the Pacific Ocean – which is approximately three months – and not everyone survived which is one of the more gruesome aspects of the book.
Philbrick writes a very readable non-fiction story and gives fascinating background into the whaling industry and the island of Nantucket that sparked the industry boom during the early years of the United States. His details regarding the influence of the Quakers in this area shed more light on those “Quakers with a vengence” that owned the Pequod in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. This connection to Melville’s novel prompted me to read Philbrick’s account along with the trailer to the upcoming film based on the book.
Based on published accounts by the surviving members of Essex along with letters and other documentation, Philbrick narrates the whaleship’s destruction by a sperm whale that to all involved appeared to aggressively attack the ship – something shocking to the crew members and other whalers of the time. The struggle to survive pushed all of the crew’s morals and ideals to the limit and in some cases passed the limit.
According to Philbrick, this incident inspired Herman Melville, who spent time employed by whaleships, himself, to write Moby-Dick, his Great American Novel. In the Heart of the Sea contains fewer details about Melville than I was expecting; however, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in survival stories.