In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story That Inspired "Moby Dick" (Windsor Selection) Hardcover – Large Print, 1 Sep 2001
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The appeal of Dava Sobel's Longitude was that it illuminated a little-known piece of history through a series of captivating incidents and engaging personalities. Nathaniel Philbrick's In The Heart of the Sea certainly covers the same area, by examining the 19th-century Pacific whaling industry through the arc of the sinking of the whaleship Essex by a boisterous sperm whale. The story which inspired Herman Melville's classic, Moby Dick, has a lot going for it--derring-do, cannibalism, rescue--and Philbrick proves an amiable and well-informed narrator, providing both context and detail. We learn about the importance and mechanics of blubber production--a vital source of oil--and we get the nuts and bolts of harpooning and life onboard whalers. Neither are we spared the nitty gritty of the open boats and sucking human bones dry.
By sticking to the tried and tested Longitude formula, Philbrick has missed a slight trick or two. The epicentre of the whaling industry was Nantucket, a small island off Cape Cod; most of the whales were in the Pacific, a huge journey around the southernmost tip of America. We never learn the reason for this distance and why no one ever tried to create an alternative whaling capital somewhere nearer. Similarly, Philbrick tells us that the story of the Essex was well known to Americans for decades but he never explores how such legends fade from our consciousness. Philbrick would no doubt reply that such questions were beyond his remit and you can't exactly accuse him of skimping on his research; 50 pages of footnotes is impressive by any standards and to give him his credit he wears his learning light. Unlike many academics, he doesn't get bogged down in turgid detail and the narrative rattles along at a nice pace. And when the story line is as good as this, you can't really ask for more.--John Crace --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"A book that gets in your bones...Philbrick has created an eerie thriller from a centuries old tale....Scrupulously researched and eloquently written...it would have earned Melville's admiration." The New York Times Book Review
"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
"[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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
It should be pointed out that this is a tale of woe from the first to last page. The story details Captain Pollard's first command. The Nantucket whale ship Essex on a voyage to hunt Sperm whales in the Pacific ocean. Basically everything that could possibly go wrong, does go wrong and then some. Culminating in absolute unmitigated horror.
Much more than the story of a whale attacking a ship and sinking it, the book is quite an education as well. Eminently readable and compulsive, we get to learn about not just the lives of the whalers and the vagrancies of whaling but the history of the island of Nantucket and societies of the Southern and Pacific oceans, the horrors of starvation and cannibalism, the rise and fall of the whaling industry and the effects on the lives of the people it touches and indeed the flora and fauna that suffers as a result. It really seems to capture the Zeitgeist of an era long gone.
There is so much of interest packed in here that there is not a dull page from cover to cover. An excellent, fascinating and valuable read, I highly recommend it to just about anyone. Although probably not good if you are easily perturbed, as it reaches into the depths of hell and does not return.
What the author does is ground what happened to these most unfortunate of men in the historical context of the time. 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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A bit boring in the beginning, got better as the tale progressed.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
As a regular book reader I struggled to pick this book up at times, I found the book packed detail and the writing wasn't enthralling.Published 1 month ago by BERKAY GURGUR
Love this book, it's very well put together and keeps the facts coming in an exciting and interesting way. Brilliant book.Published 3 months ago by craigp
Read in conjunction with Moby dick. Interesting juxtaposition.
It's a very different book to that first envisaged and, to be fair, pretty dry and hard going. Read more
An interesting account of the whaling disaster that inspired Herman Melville. An incredible journey by the surviving shipmates that describes how hard life was whaling.Published 3 months ago by @andydish