Book Review: In the heart of sea: the tragedy of the whaleship Essex, written by Nathaniel Philbrick, recounts the mystery surrounding the sinking of the whaleship Essex in the South Pacific. The ordeal of the whaleship Essex was an event as mythic in the nineteenth century as the sinking of the Titanic was in the twentieth. In 1819, the 238-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage for whales.
Fifteen months later, the unthinkable happened: in the farthest reaches of the South Pacific, the Essex was rammed and sunk by an enraged whale.
Its twenty-man crew, fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, decided instead to sail their three tiny boats for the distant South American coast. They would eventually travel over 4,500 miles. The next three months tested just how far humans could go in their battle against the sea as, one by one, they succumbed to hunger, thirst, disease and fear. This is not only a timeless account of the human spirit under extreme duress, but it is also a story about a community and about the kind of men and women who lived in the remote island of Nantucket.
Philbrick uses little-known documents-including a long-lost account written by the ship’s cabin boy-and penetrating details about whaling and the Nantucket community to reveal the chilling events surrounding this epic maritime disaster. An intense and mesmerizing read, In the Heart of the Sea is a monumental work of history forever placing the Essex tragedy in the center of historical American maritime disasters.