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The Wreck of the Whaleship "Essex": A First-hand Account of One of History's Most Extraordinary Maritime Disasters [Paperback]

Owen Chase
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 April 2000
The morning of 20 November 1820 was a doomed one for the whaleship ESSEX. More than 1,000 miles from land in the South Pacific, the ship was sunk, rammed by a sperm whale. Twenty sailors managed to collect some bread and water before pulling away in three frail boats, but only eight survived what was to follow: three months of despair and debilitating exhaustion at sea. Owen Chase was one of those survivors. After returning to Nantucket, his journal of the ESSEX's perilous voyage was published. But Chase only lived to tell the tale because he had eaten his dead ship-mates...

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review; New edition edition (6 April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747263639
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747263630
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.4 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 762,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'this year's equivalent of THE PERFECT STORM' Christopher Frayling in the Observer The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex was reviewed in the Times Metro 15/16 April

About the Author

Owen Chase became the first mate of the whaleship Essex on 12 August 1819. A survivor of one of the most dramatic maritime disasters of the nineteenth-century, his account of the ship's long and perilous journey has become a classic.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The true story of the sinking of the whaleship Essex and survival of her crew after being attacked by a whale. The telling of this story was the insiration of Herrman Melville's book "Moby Dick".
A short read that can be finished in one sitting or a chapter at a time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic adventure 6 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I came across this book, bizarrely, through listening to an album called 'The death defying unicorn' by a group called 'Motorpsycho'. In the sleeve notes they mention that the album was inspired by this book. Obviously, I had to purchase said book as the album is a corker.
Well, they're not wrong. The story from start to finish is gripping and compelling reading. A real catastrophe at sea that has you hoping for the men involved. It's written by a survivor of the wreck so his account of the story is perfect. It's just so hard to imagine how they made it through such a haunting ordeal. I loved it so much I went on a search for more sea adventure type books and have fallen across the story of William Dampier.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4.0 out of 5 stars Mind-blowing must-read! 29 Nov 2009
By DrPig39 - Published on
This book is a 2000 reprint of an edited text published in 1965 by Iola Haverstock and Betty Shepard that seems to have been produced to cash in on the interest aroused by the unrelated movie "Perfect Storm". It tells the true story of the Nantucket whaleship "Essex" as it sails from its home port down the coast of S.America and around Cape Horn to the Pacific whaling grounds. After replenishing their supplies on the Galapagos Islands they continue their hunting. A month out from the Galapagos, the ship is sunk by an enraged whale. The 21 crew salvage what supplies they can and set off in 3 open lifeboats hoping to sail themselves to the Marquesas Islands about 2500 miles away. Nature intervenes and the crew faces storms, shark attacks, thirst and hunger. As their numbers dwindle, they resort to cannibalism to survive. The book is an astonshing tale of survival amid false hopes (the vagaries of the weather first allowing fair sailing then foul, landing on an island only to find it has no fresh water) and inconceivable choices. The book has several flaws as pointed out by other reviewers. It is very difficult to determine how much the book has been edited from the original diary and manuscript by Owen Chase. The book also raises interest in environmental concerns - for example, while replenishing at the Galapagos the Essex caught 360 giant turtle for fresh meat. The depredations of an entire whaling fleet over decades surely had a massive impact on the ecosystem. We also learn that 6 of the 21 crew were black at least 4 of whom died (or were killed?) and eaten. The racial differences and attitudes are not discussed (and this was still a time of slavery) so it would be interesting to find out more as to what extent race played a role in deciding who lived and died. Overall, the book blew my mind as to the limits of human endurance. Where there's life there's hope has never been more true.
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