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The Loss of the Ship Essex Sunk By a Whale (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Thomas Nickerson , Owen Chase
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Jun 2000 Penguin Classics
The gripping first-hand narrative of the whaling ship disaster that inspired Melville's "Moby-Dick "and informed Nathaniel Philbrick's monumental history, "In the Heart of the Sea." In 1820, the Nantucket whaleship "Essex" was rammed by an angry sperm whale thousands of miles from home in the South Pacific. The "Essex "sank, leaving twenty crew members drifting in three small open boats for ninety days. Through drastic measures, eight men survived to reveal this astonishing tale. "The Narrative of the Wreck of the Whaleship Essex," by Owen Chase, has long been the essential account of the "Essex"'s doomed voyage. But in 1980, a new account of the disaster was discovered, penned late in life by Thomas Nickerson, who had been the fifteen-year-old cabin boy of the ship. This discovery has vastly expanded and clarified the history of an event as grandiose in its time as the "Titanic." This edition presents Nickerson's never-before-published chronicle alongside Chase's version. Also included are the most important other contemporary accounts of the incident, Melville's notes in his copy of the Chase narrative, and journal entries by Emerson and Thoreau.

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The Loss of the Ship Essex Sunk By a Whale (Penguin Classics) + In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story that Inspired 'Moby Dick'
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Re-issue edition (29 Jun 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140437967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140437966
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 392,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

Thomas Philbrick is professor emeritus of English at the University of Pittsburgh.Nathaniel Philbrick, is a leading authority on the history of Nantucket Island. His "In the Heart of the Sea" won the National Book Award. His latest book is "Sea of Glory," about the epic U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842. His other books include "Away off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People, 1602-1890" (which "Russell Baker" called "indispensable") and "Abram's Eyes: The Native American Legend of Nantucket Island" ("a classic of historical truthtelling," according to "Stuart Frank," director of the Kendall Whaling Museum). He has written an introduction to a new edition of "Joseph Hart"'s "Miriam Coffin, or The Whale Fisherman," a Nantucket novel (first published in 1834) that "Melville" relied upon for information about the island when writing "Moby Dick." Philbrick, a champion sailboat racer, has also written extensively about sailing, including "The Passionate Sailor" (1987) and the forthcoming "Second Wind: A Sunfish Sailor's Odyssey." He was editor in chief of the classic "Yaahting: A Parody" (1984). In his role as director of the Egan Institute of Maritime Studies, Philbrick, who is also a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association, gives frequent talks about Nantucket and sailing. He has appeared on "NBC Today Weekend," A&E's "Biography" series, and National Public Radio and has served as a consultant for the movie "Moby Dick," shown on the USA Network. He received a bachelor of Arts from Brown University and a Master of Arts in American Literature from Duke. He lives on Natucket with his wife and two children.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Written the same day Captain Pollard and Charles Ramsdell were rescued by the whaleship Dauphin, the so-called Paddack letter provides a surprisingly detailed account of the disaster. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The wales revenge! 14 Aug 2009
This book brings together most of the source material that Melville could have seen before he wrote the book Moby Dick, which was inspired by the loss of the ship Essex.

Thomas Nickerson's story laid unpublished in an attic for over 100 years and it does throw some new light on the tale.

Nickerson's frank and often perceptive view of his colleagues gives us much insight of the cameraderie that was bound around sailors lives back in the early 17th century. His sensativity to others plights, adds to the story, and makes the adventure much more human.

An excellent read and still quite awe inspiring after all these years.

Mick Henry
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book. 12 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An interesting account of the sinking of a boat. There are several different accounts, and I enjoyed comparing them. Highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful material on the worst whaling tragedy of the 1800s 10 Oct 2000
By T. Whigham - Published on
This book is a collection of accounts, remarks, annotations, and letters from the people involved in the tragedy, their rescuers, and other notable persons, which paints a vivid portrayal of the life of a Nantuckett whaler in the 1800's.
After having killed off the whale population in the Atlantic, the New England whale ships pushed farther into the ocean to find their prey - the spermacetti whale. Hunting grounds in the Pacific were discovered and, after a year's journey rounding South America in which it lost half of its boats in a sudden gale, the whale ship Essex set out to fill its hold with the valuable whale oil armed with only 3 small boats. During a hunt, one of the boats was stove by the death throes of a speared sperm whale and returned to the ship. While enacting repairs, the pings of the first mate's hammer attracted the attention of a large bull sperm whale, a creature uniquely designed for ramming. The bull made two charges, collapsing the bow of the ship on either side of the keel, and 20 men found themselves alone, in 3 open boats, deep in the heart of the blue Pacific, with only faint hopes of rescue.
The Essex did not sink immediately, and the men were able to salvage a few casks of water, some navigational instruments, and hard biscuits (which would later be fouled by ocean spray and induce dehydration in the men). The first mate also had paper and pencil, which he used for keeping a daily diary of their attempts to survive the ravages of storms, thirst, hunger, and attacks by killer whales and large sharks.
I read this book prior to reading "In The Heart of The Sea", also by Nathaniel Philbrick, and I was glad I did. The first-person narratives really bring home the tale, and Philbrick's other book helps fill in the historical background. I would recommend reading this book with a good atlas, so that you can plot the narrator's progress as he tries to bring his ship to South America, against the wind, the current, and his dwindling strength, and realize just how screwed these sailors really were.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complete Collection of Personal Accounts of Essex Tragedy 21 Aug 2002
By Mark A. Smiddy - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This a terrific collection of personal accounts gathered together for the first time in one volume. For well over a century Owen Chase's story of the sinking of the whaleship Essex has been the only firsthand documented account. Now side by side with Chase's tale is fellow shipmate Thomas Nickerson's account of the sinking and trial of the Essex crew lost at sea. As is to be expected, the style of the period makes itself felt throughout via word choice, spelling, etc. but more so in Mr. Chase's recounting. The real gem in this volume is Nickerson's retelling of the tale from his point of view, in spite of the strange twists of phrase his warmth and humor show through. If you enjoyed Philbrick's "In the Heart of the Sea" and want to delve a little deeper and explore some of his resources this is the perfect place to start.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Account 24 July 2009
By S. R. Kimball - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book really kept my interest. I had a hard time putting it down. Written by those who were there when it happened, with short pieces by others indirectly involved. The lanquage is in the style of the era, yet is very enjoyable and easily read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars moby dick fans rejoice 24 April 2009
By Joyce - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
History of the Essex is must reading for fans of Moby Dick. It's derivative and necessary. After reading this and Moby Dick, try reading Sana Jeter Naslund's Ahab's Wife. Once you're done with these three books, you'll probably want to take a break from whaling for awhile. Enjoy!
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Survivors Rule 5 July 2000
By Leonard Moorehead - Published on
I fall immediately under the spell of good sea stories. Essex is among the frontranks. Phibrick supplies a richly textured background to his subject. The author always respects his readers curiousity and interest. He presents various theories and sociological information in an even handed and non judgemental manner. My only regret was the unresolved nature of the ending. I sensed the author had run out of interest towards the end. Yet one must admit that life has a way of being existential and not part of a process but punctuated by moments of crisis and survival. One is left with a greater respect for men and whales.
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