With its huge, scarred head halfway out of the water and its tail beating the ocean into a white water wake than forty feet across, the whale approached the ship at twice its original speed at least six knots With a tremendous cracking and splintering of oak, it struck the ship just beneath the anchor secured at the cat head on the port bow In the Heart of the Sea brings to new life the incredible story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex an event as mythic in its own century as the Titanic disaster in ours, and the inspiration for the climax of Moby Dick In a harrowing page turner, Nathaniel Philbrick restores this epic story to its rightful place in American historyIn , theton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage for whales Fifteen months later, in the farthest reaches of the South Pacific, it was repeatedly rammed and sunk by an eighty ton bull sperm whale Its twenty man crew, fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, made for the , mile distant coast of South America in three tiny boats During ninety days at sea under horrendous conditions, the survivors clung to life as one by one, they succumbed to hunger, thirst, disease, and fearPhilbrick interweaves his account of this extraordinary ordeal of ordinary men with a wealth of whale lore and with a brilliantly detailed portrait of the lost, unique community of Nantucket whalers Impeccably researched and beautifully told, the book delivers the ultimate portrait of man against nature, drawing on a remarkable range of archival and modern sources, including a long lost account by the ship s cabin boyAt once a literary companion and a page turner that speaks to the same issues of class, race, and man s relationship to nature that permeate the works of Melville, In the Heart of the Sea will endure as a vital work of American history OMG THIS IS BECOMING A MOVIE OMG OMG OMG I AM SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW I turned around and saw him about one hundred rods 500 m or 550 yards directly ahead of us, coming down with twice his ordinary speed of around 24 knots 44 km h , and it appeared with tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect The surf flew in all directions about him with the continual violent thrashing of his tail His head about half out of the water, and in that way he came upon us, and again struck the ship Owen Chase, first mate of the whaleship Essex There she blows was as mu I turned around and saw him about one hundred rods 500 m or 550 yards directly ahead of us, coming down with twice his ordinary speed of around 24 knots 44 km h , and it appeared with tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect The surf flew in all directions about him with the continual violent thrashing of his tail His head about half out of the water, and in that way he came upon us, and again struck the ship Owen Chase, first mate of the whaleship Essex There she blows was as much a part of my vocabulary as a child as Launch the torpedoes or Geronimo or Remember the Alamo I wasn t using it correctly, as I was not hunting whales in the middle of Kansas, but I did use it as a rallying cry for a charge against my childhood chums as we chased each other from one end of the farm to the other Of course, in 1820 when a sharp eyed lad in the crow s nest spotted a spume on the horizon, he would yell down to his crew mates, There she blows and the chase would be on The Nantucket ship Essex was commanded by a newly commissioned captain by the name of George Pollard The ship, an old vessel, had always been thought of as a lucky ship, given that it had returned so many profits to the owners Much of the crew was green and were on their first whaling voyage The ranks of Nantucket sailors had been filled out with some African Americans and some men referred to as offshore men, meaning that they were not of Quaker Nantucket stock Early in the voyage, they hit a squall that nearly heels them overFor the green hands, the sound alone was terrifying the shrieking of the wind across the rigging and then a frenzied flapping of sails and creaking of the stays and mastCan you imagine that sound I d be convinced that I was about to perish, especially when the ship begins to list Captain Pollard does not spring into action as quickly as he should, but does finally give the right orders, and the good ship Essex rights herself It was a foretaste of what was going to be a disastrous journey In the 19th century, over 200,000 sperm whales were harvested for their spermaceti 770,000 in the twentieth century We always improve at killing things A normal sized whale will have about 500 gallons of this semi waxy substance in their heads When exposed to air, it turns to a semi liquid and looksyou guessed itlike sperm This oily substance was used to lubricate machinery during the industrial revolution and to light lamps Eventually, this oil was replaced by lard and then by petroleum, which probably saved the sperm whale population from extinction Yea, petroleum industry The whalers also harvested the ambergris from the digestive tract of the whale, which was used as a fixative in perfume Women didn t know it, but when they sprayed those beautiful scents on their necks and wrists, they were also spraying whale digestive juice on their carefully coiffed skins A sperm whale, what a beauty In this era, they did not have harpoons that are shot out of a cannon they had to row right up next to the whale, and someone with the right skill and strength thrust the harpoon into the side of the whale These are large mammals, the largest toothed whale, reaching upwards of 80 feet long now only about 65 feet which has been attributed to the excessive hunting of the largest males who, therefore, did not have a chance to pass on their genes and weighing 45 tons They also have the largest known brain of any extinct or modern animal weighing in at 17 lbs If they can avoid the harpoons of man and keep out of the reach of Orcas, they can live up to 70 years Once the harpoon was in the whale, the sailors became the fastest moving humans on the planet as the whale would try to escape by fleeing at upwards of 27 mph while pulling the boat and crew along with it It is about finding that sweet spot in the harpoon so it is balanced perfectly in your hand You can smell the whale You can hear the grunts, groans, and farts of the rowers as they try to keep you level with the creature Your face is slick with whale spume and sweat You know you might only have one chance at this You let go the thunderbolt in your hand and hope you will hear the meaty impact of a man killing a god It wasn t unusual for green hands to upchuck over the side as they watched the death of a whale Nathaniel Philbrick gives a description below that left tears stinging my eyes There is something so majestic about a whale that even the most primitive thinkers among us must feel on some level that killing a whale is an affront against a higher power When you kill something larger than yourself, something that displays such intelligence, you have to feel the world has been diminishedWhen the lance finally found its marks, the whale would begin to choke on its own blood, its spout transformed into a fifteen to twenty foot geyser of gore that prompted the mate to shout Chimney s afire As the blood rained down on them, the men took up the oars and backed furiously away, then paused to watch as the whale went into what was known as its flurry Beating the water with its tail, snapping at the air with its jaws even as it regurgitated large chunks of fish and squid the creature began to swim in an ever tightening circle Then, just as abruptly as the attack had begun with the first thrust of the harpoon it ended The whale fell motionless and silent, black corpse floating fin up in a slick of its own blood and vomitAs I was looking through Rockwell Kent s art for Moby Dick, I was surprised how well I remembered each of the sketches even though I haven t read the book for decades.So they take the oil, some blubber, and the ambergris those parts had ready value that made Nantucket in the heyday of the whaling era very wealthyThe rest of it the tons of meat, bone, and guts were simply thrown away, creating festering rafts of offal that attracted birds, fish, and, of course, sharks Just as the skinned corpses of buffaloes would soon dot the prairies of the American West, so did the headless gray remains of sperm whales litter the Pacific Ocean in the nineteenth centuryAs I was reading this, even before Philbrick brought forth the comparison to the eradication of the buffalo in the same century, I was having flashbacks to Butcher s Crossing by John Williams I had to stop and go read something else for the rest of the day I needed a break to absorb what I had read and also to create some distance between myself and the horrifying images of whales dying that Philbrick so vividly shared with me As I did with the buffalos in Butcher s Crossing, I also found myself rooting for the whales.Something triggered in one whale, a monster 85 foot creature, who instead of fleeing from these puny humans turned around and crashed into themInstead of acting as a whale was supposed to as a creature never before suspected of premeditated violence, and proverbial for its inoffensiveness this big bull had been possessed by what Chase finally took to be a very human concern for the other whalesThomas Nickerson, the cabin boy and youngest member of the crew, drew this sketch of the attack.This St George of the deep,dragon than man, with two mighty thrusts with his head turned the Essex into a splintered, sinking wreck This story of the Essex is what so famously inspired Herman Melville to write his masterpiece Moby Dick A commercial failure when released, over time has proved to be a canon of American literature The story of the Essex has continued to be taught in American History classes, inspiring children with the tale of survival Moby Dick may not appear on many high school syllabuses any The daunting 600 page count is simply too much for the curricula of the school system, but I did see it appear on a college syllabi not too long ago unfortunately only excerpts were being studied The survival of eight crew members out of a total of twenty is harrowing indeed A new captain used to taking orders instead of giving orders listened to some bad advice from his first and second mates 95 days in a boat could have been shortened to mere weeks if he had stuck to his original thinking There are some interesting discussions about the demise of all the black sailors and of most of the offshore men In fact, the only three offshore men who survived are the ones who opted to stay on an island rather than continue in the boats The Nantucket men stuck together, and all five who stayed in the boats who survived were Nantucket men Philbrick will describe the effects on the body, experiencing extreme thirst and the metabolic rates Women and older people with lower metabolism actually do better in cold water or in cases of extreme hunger As gallant as vigorous men like to be, giving extra rations to women and older people, they actually, logically, should be keeping those rations for themselves Men with high muscle content, who naturally needcalories, will suffer the quickest loss of mass and will die first Captain Pollard is older and slightly rotund, which gives him an advantage over the younger, leaner sailors As food and water disappear, they must resort to the most desperate of measuresThe men were not muchthan skeletons themselves, and the story that would be passed from ship to ship in the months ahead was that they were found sucking the bones of their dead mess mates, which they were loath to part withFleshBloodBoneMarrow There is a 2015 movie based on this book that is also called In the Heart of the Sea starring Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, and Cillian Murphy I love the visual that the movie poster conveys.If you wish to seeof my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at There s one thing you need to know about me I ve never listened to a song by Rush all the way through Really If Alvin and the Chipmunks were re imagined as opera singers, the lead singer could be bass I can t take them seriously.Okay, okay Really there are two things you need to know about me I distrust people who walk on the balls of their feet You know, that little bounce Call it instinct, but I see something morally deficient in it It s like Nature is giving the rest of us a heads up There s one thing you need to know about me I ve never listened to a song by Rush all the way through Really If Alvin and the Chipmunks were re imagined as opera singers, the lead singer could be bass I can t take them seriously.Okay, okay Really there are two things you need to know about me I distrust people who walk on the balls of their feet You know, that little bounce Call it instinct, but I see something morally deficient in it It s like Nature is giving the rest of us a heads up Hold on There are three things you need to know about me At the age of three, I watched the movie Jaws in its entirety from the back seat of my parents Volkswagen Bug at a drive in theater Poor things thought I was asleep and had absolutely no intention of traumatizing their only child To this day, I have an abnormal fear of the ocean, yet I am morbidly drawn to stories about the same No, wait There re four things you need to know about me I don t like to work At all I d go so far as to assert that I am entirely abnormal in my contempt for it A sort of cynical pragmatism colors my approach to adult life and all its attendant cares I think of myself as seeking out a sort of hedonistic equilibrium whereby I maximize the amount of money I earn while doing the least amount of work And to that end, I am happy to report, I have been largely successful Why am I sharing all this Because, taken in total, it shows that I would make a very poor excuse of a whaleman in this, our present age, let alone the early 19th century Sure, it s altogether speculative to take a modern fellow like myself and plant him in an earlier time What if I d been raised in a whaling family A whaling tradition Bosh.Trust me in this I was raised in a working class family and it didn t take me long to understand what work does to you it takes your best years, covering them in spoonfuls of regret little by little until you realize too late all the money in the world can t buy back what you could ve done, what you could ve been Why do we American inheritors of the Nantucket Quaker whaling business model always prove so stressed out whenever the United Nations releases its latest sociological metrics Because we spend all our time away from our friends and families, doing stuff we don t like, so we can buy stuff we don t need.No Leisure is the truest wealth Me I would ve sought out some petty job, made merry in my off hours and, hopefully, have been literate enough to enjoy some letter writing and the occasional book Fine, you say What s this got to do with Nathaniel Philbrick s book Well It means all you overachieving types would ve been on that doomed ship while I sat comfortably on terra firma You should be happy about that, at least Consider some of the aforementioned details about me I m obviously prone to psychological imbalance I surely would have cannibalized you had we found ourselves in the dire circumstances of the crew of the Essex, adrift for over three months in the South Pacific And my probability of success would ve beenthan fair I stand 6 4 tall, have pointy eye teeth, and a trailer park adolescence mean streak True, I am near sighted, but this would only be a minor inconvenience since I would only have to track you around a twenty foot long boat Where are all your Goodreads votes now, fancy pants I have never, ever, in my LIFE, met a nonfiction book I was unable to put down before This may be because I am stupid, but I like to think it s because I m interested in the details Most nonfiction I ve encountered is either written by a Someone who experienced something interesting, but who can t write about it in an interesting way, orb Someone who perhaps usually writes about things in an interesting way, but who wasn t able to experience the critical subject firsthand.Philbrick bridges I have never, ever, in my LIFE, met a nonfiction book I was unable to put down before This may be because I am stupid, but I like to think it s because I m interested in the details Most nonfiction I ve encountered is either written by a Someone who experienced something interesting, but who can t write about it in an interesting way, orb Someone who perhaps usually writes about things in an interesting way, but who wasn t able to experience the critical subject firsthand.Philbrick bridges the critical gap What did the water look like when the 80 ton whale barreled toward the ship What does it feel like to starve thirst to death What happens to your eyelids What did Captain Pollard shout when his cousin s lot was drawn Philbrick may not have been there in the whaleboats, but he knows so much about his topic, he may as well have been The notes and select bibliography themselves take up another 50 or so pages, most of them primary sources What s really impressive to me about all of the research Philbrick did, is how, through the overwhelming web of whaling and Nantucket and cannibalism that must have become his mind, he maintained a grip on what would interest his audience Just as you begin to ask a question, he answers it Just as you come to a realization wow, so the whales social lives were structured a lot like the Nantucketers he articulates it of course, better than you had, and often utilizing the words predator and prey Masterful