In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (National Book Award Winner)

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (National Book Award Winner)

by Nathaniel Philbrick

Narrated by Scott Brick

Unabridged — 10 hours, 12 minutes

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (National Book Award Winner)

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (National Book Award Winner)

by Nathaniel Philbrick

Narrated by Scott Brick

Unabridged — 10 hours, 12 minutes

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From the author of In the Hurricane's Eye and*Valiant Ambition, the riveting and critically acclaimed bestseller and a major motion picture starring Chris Hemsworth, directed by Ron Howard.

Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, and Brendan Gleeson star in a film based on this National Book Award-winning account of the true events behind Moby Dick.

In 1820, the whaleship Essex was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale, leaving the desperate crew to drift for more than ninety days in three tiny boats. Nathaniel Philbrick uses little-known documents and vivid details about the Nantucket whaling tradition to reveal the chilling facts of this infamous maritime disaster. In the Heart of the Sea-and now, its epic adaptation for the screen-will forever place the Essex tragedy in the American historical canon.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
In the stirring climax to Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, the whaleship Pequod is sunk in an epic battle with a giant white whale. Contemporary readers, however, might not realize that Melville's fiction was based on an actual event: the 1821 sinking of the Nantucket whaleship Essex by an enormous sperm whale. Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea details the ill-fated journey of the Essex, illuminating a terrifying drama not included in Moby-Dick -- the fate of the survivors after their ship was sunk.

In the early 1800s, whaling brought prosperity to the quirky Quaker town of Nantucket. Competition was fierce for spots aboard the whaling ships (when it came to whaling, the Quakers were anything but pacifists). The ships would hunt whales for their spermaceti oil and would return only after filling their quota -- sometimes after two or three years, and sometimes not at all. While the whalers were away, their wives, many of whom were widowed by the sea, ran the families and the town.

Whale hunting was backbreaking, nauseating work. Of course, for the crew of the Essex, whale hunting was far preferable to the rigors and terrors of sheer survival in the vast Pacific. At the end of Moby-Dick, only one man lives; meanwhile, the Essex has 20 initial survivors. Dividing themselves into three small whaleboats, they try to maintain proximity and hope. But the endless salt water and searing sun are merciless, while the food supply and fresh water are scarce.

Hopelessly adrift, the captain chooses to aim for distant South American shores rather than the closer Marquesas Islands. The reason: tales of cannibalistic natives on the Marquesas. The decision proves ill-fated and regrettably ironic. In the grim, grisly weeks and months ahead, the sailors exhaust every available food source, even the occasional giant Galápagos tortoise. One by one, crew members starve. Finally, they draw straws, with the loser becoming the next meal. Miraculously, three full months after the Essex was rammed and sunk, two of the whaleboats are spotted, and several of the crew are saved by passing vessels. Forever changed by their epic, tragic experiences, the Essex survivors return to Nantucket, only to endure the strange legacy of having escaped death by consuming the flesh of fellow townsfolk.

By highlighting the facts behind the Moby-Dick fiction, Philbrick discovers a true story as harrowing as the recent failed ascents of Mt. Everest. Concludes Philbrick: "The Essex disaster is not a tale of adventure. It is a tragedy that happens to be one of the greatest true stories ever told...too troubling, too complex to fit comfortably into a chamber of commerce brochure." (Brenn Jones)

Wall Street Journal

Fascinating...One of our country's great adventure stories...when it comes to extremes, In the Heart of the Sea is right there.

New York Times Book Review

A book that gets in your bones...Philbrick has created an eerie thriller from a centuries old tale....Scrupulously researched and eloquently would have earned Melville's admiration.

San Francisco Chronicle

[Told] with verve and authenticity...a classic tale of the sea.

Sebastian Junger

Nathaniel Philbrick has taken one of the most horrifying stories in maritime history and turned it into a classic....One of the most chilling books I have ever read.



Austin American Statesman

Fans of any genre of fine nonfiction will love this elegantly written, fact-filled thriller.

Grand Rapids Press

There are lots of lessons in this tale. It's worth your time to read it.

Fort Worth Star Telegram

Philbrick's skillful descriptions will leave readers cringing... In the Heart of the Sea is a fine, engrossing historical work.

Rocky Mountain News

Yuppies roughing it for TV camera may be good for a laugh. But for a true survivor tale grittier than roaches fried over an open fire, trust us: Essex is one book you wouldn't vote off a deserted island.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly

With woody intonation and a suitably somber cadence, Tony Award-winning actor Herrmann reads this chilling tale of the Essex, a whaling ship that was sunk in the middle of the Pacific by an 80-foot sperm whale in 1820. The story would come to mark the mythology of the 19th century as the Titanic did the 20th--Herman Melville, for one, based Moby Dick on certain key elements of the tragedy. In Philbrick's spare, well-paced version, we learn much about how Nantucket's culture was affected by the whaling industry boom, from its economy to its social habits. But the horrific heart of the narrative details the fate of the 20 sailors who attempted to sail several thousand miles back to Chile using only three pathetic open boats. Reaching home 93 days later, only eight sailors survived the ordeal of thirst, starvation and despair. Near the tape's end, Herrmann delivers one of the finest funereal orations ever offered on behalf of seamen. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover (Forecasts, Apr. 10). (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

Library Journal

After the Essex is splintered by an 80-ton sperm whale in 1820, her crew tries to reach South America in three small boats. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

School Library Journal

YA-In 1819, the Essex, a Nantucket whaleship carrying a crew of 20, began what all thought would be a normal, two-year voyage. Instead, after a year and a half of near-disasters, the ship was rammed by a sperm whale and sank in the Pacific. All hands got off in three whaleboats and were at sea for three unbearable months of short rations and little fresh water, leading to the death by starvation of some and the killing of others to provide food. One boat disappeared and the two remaining eventually became separated. When rescued off the coast of Chile, only five men were still alive, including the captain and first mate, as well as three rescued later from an island. Philbrick brings the era to life, giving readers a rounded picture of the whaling industry and its society. Relying mainly on two survivors' detailed accounts, one of which has just recently been found, he fleshes out the tale in an exciting manner that sweeps readers along. He includes modern medical knowledge of the physical and mental effects of starvation on humans. The book concludes with tales of other shipwrecks, a description of how the survivors lived the rest of their lives, and an introduction to the recent work of the Nantucket Whaling Museum. The contrast between today's touristy island paradise and yesterday's hard life will not be lost on teens.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Noel Paul

Philbrick recounts the tragedy of the whaleship Essex, which sunk after being rammed by a sperm whale west of South America. Melville modeled the end of Moby Dick on the 1820 incident. Philbrick uses the recently discovered journal of the ship's cabin boy to create a vivid narrative of the entire voyage, including the survivors' concessions to cannibalism. He skillfully includes fascinating historical information without slowing the narrative's pace or neglecting the personal stories of the ship's crew.
The Christian Science Monitor

Internet Bookwatch

In The Heart Of The Sea: The Tragedy Of The Whaleship Essex is a thrilling tale of the clannish island community of Nantucket, which launched the whaling ship Essex, and then received those of its sailors who survived against all odds. Author Nathaniel Philbrick drew upon newly discovered documents (including an account written by Thomas Nickerson, the ship's cabin boy, uncovered in an attic in New York in 1981) and exhaustive original research to tell of the Essex maritime disaster. Narrator Edward Herrmann brings Philbrick's account vividly to life with a pulsating story of class, race, work, family, and men who went to the sea hunting for the whale.

U.S. News & World Report

[A] gripping nonfiction tale...

W. Jeffrey Bolster

Philbrick has created an eerie thriller from a centuries-old tale of cannibalism on the high seas . . . Scrupulously researched and elegantly written, [this] is a masterpiece of maritime history. . . . A page turner that can withstand the most conscientious historian's scrutiny.
The New York Times

From the Publisher

"Fascinating...One of our country's great adventure stories...when it comes to extremes, In the Heart of the Sea is right there."The Wall Street Journal

"A book that gets in your bones...Philbrick has created an eerie thriller from a centuries old tale....Scrupulously researched and eloquently would have earned Melville's admiration."The New York Times Book Review


"[Told] with verve and authenticity...a classic tale of the sea."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Nathaniel Philbrick has taken one of the most horrifying stories in maritime history and turned it into a classic....One of the most chilling books I have ever read."—Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm

FEB/MAR 01 - AudioFile

Written from the journals of two survivors, this true-life story is said to be the inspiration for Melville's MOBY-DICK. Narrator Scott Brick introduces the listener to the nuances of whaling in l820. Following the voyage of the ESSEX, whose port is Nantucket, Brick’s reliably tracks the mission of its crew, before and after it is rammed by a bull sperm whale and left in peril in the Pacific Ocean. Brick's casual yet composed manner reports this chronicle of courage and survival, creating an appreciation for the tale it tells. B.J.L. © AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine

Product Details

BN ID: 2940171962746
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 01/01/2001
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 1,168,012

Read an Excerpt

Chapter Three

First Blood

After in the Azores, which provided plenty of fresh vegetables but no spare whaleboats, the Essex headed south toward the Cape Verde Islands. Two weeks later they sighted Boavista Island. In contrast to the Azores' green, abundant hills, the slopes of the Cape Verdes were brown and sere, with no trees to offer relief from the burning subtropical sun. Pollard intended to obtain some hogs at the island of Maio a few miles to the southwest.

Not until the Essex had crossed the equator and reached thirty degrees south latitude-approximately halfway between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires-did the lookout sight the first whale of the voyage. It required sharp eyes to spot a whale's spout: a faint puff of white on the distant horizon lasting only a few seconds. But that was all it took for the lookout to bellow, "There she blows!" or just "B-l-o-o-o-w-s!"

Do for heaven's sake spring. The boat don't move. You're all asleep; see, see! There she lies; skote, skote! I love you, my dear fellows, yes, yes, I do; I'll do anything for you, I'll give you my heart's blood to drink; only take me up to this whale only this time, for this once, pull. Oh, St. Peter, St. Jerome, St. Stephen, St. James, St. John, the devil on two sticks; carry me up; O, let me tickle him, let me feel of his ribs. There, there, go on; O, O, O, most on, most on. Stand up, Starbuck [the harpooner]. Don't hold your iron that way; put one hand over the end of the pole. Now, now, look out. Dart, dart.

Several days after Chase's boat was repaired, the lookout once again sighted whales. The boats were dispatched, a harpoon was hurled-successfully-and the whaleline went whizzing out until it was finally snubbed at the loggerhead, launching the boat and crew on the voyage's first "Nantucket sleigh ride," as it would come to be called.

The dead whale was usually towed back to the ship headfirst. Even with all five men rowing-the mate at the steering oar sometimes lending a hand to the after oarsman-a boat towing a whale could go no faster than one mile per hour. It was dark by the time Chase and his men reached the ship.

One night, not far from the Falkland Islands, the men were up in the rigging, reefing the topsails, when they heard a scream: a sharp, shrill shriek of terror coming from alongside the ship. Someone had apparently fallen overboard.

[A] thousand little things, daily and almost hourly occurring, which no one who has not himself been on a long and tedious voyage can conceive of or properly appreciate-little wars and rumors of wars,-reports of things said in the cabin,-misunderstanding of words and looks,-apparent abuses,-brought us into a state in which everything seemed to go wrong.

Thirty hogs in the Isle of May

Duff every other day

Butter and cheese as much as you could sway

And now you want more beef, damn you.

—Reprinted from In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick by permission of Viking, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Nathaniel Philbrick. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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