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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whale sinks whaleship: 90-day ordeal at sea
Perhaps the highest praise I can bestow upon this book is to say that I can't ever remember being so thoroughly absorbed in any work of non-fiction. Before I knew where I was I had read half the book and had to pace myself for the remainder to make it last! Of the many books of maritime exploration, adventure, mutiny and war that I have read -- even Caroline Alexander's...
Published on 13 July 2005 by SAP

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Read the Other Book
The author tells the story that inspired Moby Dick; however, it is not told well. It appears the author did not want to leave out a single tidbit he turned up in his research. Especially at the beginning, the paragraphs read like a series of index cards with disparate scraps of information. Despite the obviously extensive research, the narrative does not seem reliable...
Published 6 months ago by T. Wasser


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whale sinks whaleship: 90-day ordeal at sea, 13 July 2005
By 
SAP (Wales) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story that Inspired 'Moby Dick' (Paperback)
Perhaps the highest praise I can bestow upon this book is to say that I can't ever remember being so thoroughly absorbed in any work of non-fiction. Before I knew where I was I had read half the book and had to pace myself for the remainder to make it last! Of the many books of maritime exploration, adventure, mutiny and war that I have read -- even Caroline Alexander's The Bounty, which I rate highly -- no other author came close to Mr Philbrick's ability to paint a picture with words of the sea - to make me feel as if I were there on these whaleboats sharing the dreadful experience of these shipwrecked men as they slowly shed their humanity and became animals. If you know nothing about the sea, if you've never left solid ground or even seen the sea, this book will still appeal to you as a very human story of shared suffering and the lengths that the human body and mind will go to in order to cling to life under the harshest conditions and in the most unforgiving and merciless environment on the planet.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting, 6 Nov 2002
This review is from: In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story that Inspired 'Moby Dick' (Paperback)
...The best read I have had all year. I have now purchased a further 8 copies of this book for other people, and it will no doubt be given to a few more this Christmas. You'd expect this historical non fiction to be dry, and indeed the first chapter of Nantucket whaling ship history may well give you a hint that your initial suspicions were confirmed but once they set sail - what an adventure! The coincidences, the survival, the power of the writing and the storytelling where Philbrick manages to avoid creating fictional dialogue for his sailors and sticks to the facts while making some suppositions of his own. You could not put this book down once started. An incredible tale and all the more amazing for being true. The cover mentions Moby Dick's reliance on the Essex's story for its own inspiration but I found Philbrick's book far more compellingly told than the overblown and hysterically dramatic classic novel. If I had to choose between the two, I would read Philbrick's tale a second time and forget the woeful Moby Dick.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thar She Blows! One of the Greatest Survival Sagas!, 13 May 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
What does it mean to be indomitable? This book displays that wonderful human quality in a remarkably effective way. The next time you consider giving up, just imagine yourself on the trackless sea in a small boat from the Essex.

This story has to be one of the most astonishing survival tales in recorded history. Before I say more, let me caution you that this story (and parts of this review) is not for those with weak stomachs.

After their ship is disabled by an attacking sperm whale, the survivors find themselves on three open boats in the middle of the Pacific Ocean over 2,000 miles from their targeted landfall in South America. With luck, they will make it in 30 days. They soon find themselves in a stall as the winds fail to cooperate, except to provide severe storms that threaten to capsize the boats.

Soon, all the food is encrusted with salt and everyone is suffering with severe dehydration. Then things start to get worse! I won't go further, but you have an amazing story of survival ahead of you.

Two of the few survivors of this terrible ordeal later committed their experiences to writing, which provide great resources for this well-researched book.

At another level, the book is also extremely interesting because these experiences were important influences on Herman Melville's writing of the American classic, Moby Dick. The book makes that connection for you, including how Melville came to learn the story.

At a third level, the book is a fascinating history of whaling around 1820. If you are like me, you will cringe when the whalers devastate island after island . . . as well as the whale population. But that's not the limit to their willingness to use nature to their own advantage.

The ultimate irony is that the survivors went the wrong way. Those from Nantucket did not know about Tahiti and Hawaii, and chose not to go in either of those directions -- either of which would have provided more rapid safety and comfort. The primary reason they chose not to go in these directions is because they feared running into cannibals. Soon the survivors were studying the remains of dead shipmates with hunger. And then it gets worse.

So, you have three different kinds of books to read here, anyone of which could be enormously enjoyable to you. Get ready for the trip of your life!

Land ho!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stay on Dry Land!, 4 Aug 2000
By A Customer
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is an absolutely fantastic book detailing the horrific experiences of a whaleship crew cast adrift on the ocean. It is so well written you can feel the claustrophobia and utter hopelessness that these poor 19th Century mariners must have felt. The story just builds and builds and you will not be able to put this book down, you can feel the shivers running up and down your spine. It's a great read and I would recommend it to ANYONE be they interested in historical fact or not. It could not have come from the pen of a writer of fiction as only true stories leave you this nervous/breathless and truly plumb the depths of the human psyche. Brilliant.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thar She Blows! One of the Greatest Survival Sagas!, 13 May 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story that Inspired 'Moby Dick' (Paperback)
What does it mean to be indomitable? This book displays that wonderful human quality in a remarkably effective way. The next time you consider giving up, just imagine yourself on the trackless sea in a small boat from the Essex.
This story has to be one of the most astonishing survival tales in recorded history. Before I say more, let me caution you that this story (and parts of this review) is not for those with weak stomachs.
After their ship is disabled by an attacking sperm whale, the survivors find themselves on three open boats in the middle of the Pacific Ocean over 2,000 miles from their targeted landfall in South America. With luck, they will make it in 30 days. They soon find themselves in a stall as the winds fail to cooperate, except to provide severe storms that threaten to capsize the boats.
Soon, all the food is encrusted with salt and everyone is suffering with severe dehydration. Then things start to get worse! I won't go further, but you have an amazing story of survival ahead of you.
Two of the few survivors of this terrible ordeal later committed their experiences to writing, which provide great resources for this well-researched book.
At another level, the book is also extremely interesting because these experiences were important influences on Herman Melville's writing of the American classic, Moby Dick. The book makes that connection for you, including how Melville came to learn the story.
At a third level, the book is a fascinating history of whaling around 1920. If you are like me, you will cringe when the whalers devastate island after island . . . as well as the whale population. But that's not the limit to their willingness to use nature to their own advantage.
The ultimate irony is that the survivors went the wrong way. Those from Nantucket did not know about Tahiti and Hawaii, and chose not to go in either of those directions -- either of which would have provided more rapid safety and comfort. The primary reason they chose not to go in these directions is because they feared running into cannibals. Soon the survivors were studying the remains of dead shipmates with hunger. And then it gets worse.
So, you have three different kinds of books to read here, anyone of which could be enormously enjoyable to you. Get ready for the trip of your life!
Land ho!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A WHALE OF A TALE..., 31 May 2003
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
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This is a first rate, well-crafted work of non-fiction. The author has a gift for putting together a compelling narrative about the unusual ordeal of the whale ship, Essex, which sailed out of Nantucket and was done in on the high seas by an extremely aggressive sperm whale that attacked it. So complete was the damage that the ship sank. Its crew of twenty was cast adrift upon a seemingly infinite ocean to find their way back home in three small boats. This real life, unheard of attack by a whale was the basis for Herman Melville's classic work of fiction, "Moby Dick".
What the author does is to ground in the historical context of the time, what happened to these most unfortunate of men. He paints a picture of the milieu in which they lived. Their lives were governed entirely by the whaling industry that was the bread and butter for Nantucket Island, the whaling capital of the world.
Drawing upon narratives by some of the survivors, as well as other historical data, he paints in intricate detail what life must have been like for these men. He weaves a tapestry of early nineteenth century life on the island of Nantucket and the preeminence of whaling in the lives of those who lived there, as well as the role of the Quakers. In essence, he brings the men, who were involved in this most notorious of survival at sea stories, to life for the reader.
It is a balanced narrative. This was to be the first voyage as Captain for the democratic George Pollard, who was teamed up with a very aggressive and ambitious first mate, Owen Chase. This was later to prove to be a poor combination. Nearly a third of the crew was African-American, which was an interesting twist, arising out of the abolitionist views of the Quakers, whose views were the mainstay of Nantucket. Most of the crew was very young, the cabin boy, Thomas Nickerson, being but fourteen years of age.
When the Essex was attacked while on the high seas by a gigantic, aggressive sperm whale and destroyed in the process, the story of the what happened to the crew makes for one of the most engrossing and amazing stories of survival ever to be told. Against the odds, eight of them survived their ordeal, which lasted for months. Dehydration and starvation were to drive them to a new frontier of human behavior. That threshold, however, once crossed, was one that would forever haunt those who survived. Their agonizing journey and foray into anthropophagy is chillingly chronicled.
This is a riveting and triumphant book. It is a tale richly told by a masterful storyteller, who is able to make this work of non-fiction come to life for the reader. This is simply a great book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The hunting of whales in the early 19th century., 21 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story that Inspired 'Moby Dick' (Paperback)
With vivid and detailed descriptions, underpinned by psychological insights, this book recreates the dangerous and gory world of the early 19th century Nantucket whalers. From life on shore, where wealthy, bible thumping Quaker owners under-provision their ships and cheat their seamen, to reckless bravery at sea the story is carried by a pacy and authoritative narrative.
The story is rich in insights into the harsh lives of men who live on the brink of disaster and endure prolongued and extreme suffering. The detailed research provides intriguing facts almost as an aside. Starving men, on the point of death, decide they will not kill a shipmate for food because their Quaker religion forbids games of chance. At home devout, but sexually deprived women, resort to masturbatory aids - one of which is found hidden in a chimney. With grisly indifference a "lively" whale has its flukes hacked off.
I started this book on the side of the whales and I finished it the same way. Nathaniel Philbrick never preaches but his admiration for these wondrous creatures is also evident. However, he also evoked in me an understanding of the men who hunted them. Even in our supposedly more sensitive era modern whalers, in their "best" year, killed four times as many whales as the Nantucket whalers in theirs. If we feel repugnance for the killing of whales we can find targets for our outrage a lot nearer home than the Nantucket whalers. They, for all their brutality, at least lacked our affluence and modern understanding.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best story ever told, 12 May 2000
By A Customer
I've just finished reading this book and absolutely loved it. If you don't yet know what it is all about, it tells the story of a whale ship, the Essex, that was attacked by a giant sperm whale in the Pacific Ocean. The crew managed to get into the small boats they normally used to hunt the whales and spent over three hapless (BIG understatement) months at sea until they were rescued. Not all of them though... well, I'll let you read it. The story is quite good by itself but the author writes extremely well and makes it extremely enjoyable, if one can use such a word to describe the torments of the crew of the Essex. Philbrick complements the story with the results of scientific research done since the event, thus making the story even more credible. He's also got access to many sources of information so he was able to make what in my view is an accurate description of what went on.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it, 27 Feb 2002
By 
Tony Hughes "stellarossa" (Cincinnati, Ohio United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story that Inspired 'Moby Dick' (Paperback)
Compare it to the Chase/Nickerson 'classic' which comes across as rather dry, this book is superb. One of the few books I've lent my mother and she actually read and enjoyed. Philbrick knows his stuff and has obviously done the research for this book. Would encourage everyone to read this so next time they start bitching about a long journey or being hungry or thirsty they'll know the meaning of the words.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thar She Blows! One of the Greatest Survival Sagas!, 4 Aug 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
What does it mean to be indomitable? This book displays that wonderful human quality in a remarkably effective way. The next time you consider giving up, just imagine yourself on the trackless sea in a small boat from the Essex.
This story has to be one of the most astonishing survival tales in recorded history. Before I say more, let me caution you that this story (and parts of this review) is not for those with weak stomachs.
After their ship is disabled by an attacking sperm whale, the survivors find themselves on three open boats in the middle of the Pacific Ocean over 2,000 miles from their targeted landfall in South America. With luck, they will make it in 30 days. They soon find themselves in a stall as the winds fail to cooperate, except to provide severe storms that threaten to capsize the boats.
Soon, all the food is encrusted with salt and everyone is suffering with severe dehydration. Then things start to get worse! I won't go further, but you have an amazing story of survival ahead of you.
Two of the few survivors of this terrible ordeal later committed their experiences to writing, which provide great resources for this well-researched book.
At another level, the book is also extremely interesting because these experiences were important influences on Herman Melville's writing of the American classic, Moby Dick. The book makes that connection for you, including how Melville came to learn the story.
At a third level, the book is a fascinating history of whaling around 1920. If you are like me, you will cringe when the whalers devastate island after island . . . as well as the whale population. But that's not the limit to their willingness to use nature to their own advantage.
The ultimate irony is that the survivors went the wrong way. Those from Nantucket did not know about Tahiti and Hawaii, and chose not to go in either of those directions -- either of which would have provided more rapid safety and comfort. The primary reason they chose not to go in these directions is because they feared running into cannibals. Soon the survivors were studying the remains of dead shipmates with hunger. And then it gets worse.
So, you have three different kinds of books to read here, anyone of which could be enormously enjoyable to you. Get ready for the trip of your life!
Land ho!
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In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story that Inspired 'Moby Dick'
In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story that Inspired 'Moby Dick' by Nathaniel Philbrick (Paperback - 7 Feb 2005)
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