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Surviving the “Essex” tells the captivating story of a ship’s crew battered by whale attack, broken by four months at sea, and forced—out of necessity—to make meals of their fellow survivors. Exploring the Rashomon-like Essex accounts that complicate and even contradict first mate Owen Chase’s narrative, David O. Dowling examines the vital role of viewpoint in shaping how an event is remembered and delves into the ordeal’s submerged history—the survivors’ lives, ambitions, and motives, their pivotal actions during the desperate moments of the wreck itself, and their will to reconcile those actions in the short- and long-term aftermath of this storied event. Mother of all whale tales, Surviving the “Essex” acts as a sequel to Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea, while probing deeper into the nature of trauma and survival accounts, an extreme form of notoriety, and the impact that the story had on Herman Melville and the writing of Moby-Dick.
Hardcover is un-jacketed.
About the Author
Table of ContentsAcknowledgments
Who Shot Owen Coffin?
Nickerson and Lewis: Selling the Tale
Lightning Strikes Twice: The Two Brothers
The Real Ahab
Coda: A Whale’s Motives
What People are Saying About This
“With glistening prose and a detective’s eye for detail and acts of deception, David Dowling investigates one of the most famous and harrowing events in maritime history. By carefully dissecting contending narratives of the sinking of the Essex, Dowling illuminates issues diverse and fascinating: cannibalism, ghostwriting, the literary marketplace, reputations, and even the culpability of the whale in sinking the ship.”