Friday, February 4, 2011

Just finished: In the Heart of the Sea

After I read The Whale by Philip Hoare I became much more interested in whales and the sea. In The Whale I learned a lot about sperm whales and what inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick (which I plan on reading soon!). The story of the whaleship Essex was mentioned in Hoare's book and my curiosity was peaked. So when I got In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick for Christmas I was really excited to read it! This is a true story of a shipwreck where a whaleship is "stove" by a whale, which means a large bull sperm whale rammed the ship and sunk it. The crew of 20 men were left in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with only 3 small whale boats and minimal supplies. In the end only 8 survived, but it's amazing that that many did, considering the odds they faced. Nathaniel Philbrick is a wonderful non-fiction writer. I have also read The Mayflower by him and In the Heart of the Sea is equally well written. He combines history with modern facts and makes the story page turning.

"Later, once the survivors had been give some food and water (and finally surrendered the bones), one of them found the strength to tell his story. It was a tale made of a whaleman's worst nightmares: of being in a boat far from land with nothing left to eat or drink and—perhaps worst of all—of a whale with the vindictiveness and guile of a man.
Even though it is little remembered today, the sinking of the whaleship Essex by an enraged sperm whale was one of the most well-known marine disasters of the nineteenth century."

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