Friday, April 20, 2007

In the Heart of the Sea

"In the Heart of the Sea" by Nathaniel Philbrick.

"In the Heart of the Sea" was the 2000 National Book Award Winner for non-fiction. It is the story of the Nantucket whaleship Essex. The Essex sailed out of Nantucket August 12, 1819. A little over a year later it was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The book tells the story of the crew's struggle for survival. Cast adrift in three whaleboats with only hard bread and water, the crew were under the impression that The Society Islands were inhabited by cannibals. The decision was made to sail south for 1500 miles and catch the winds that could take them to Chile. They believed they had 60 days worth of provisions and that the trip to Chile would last 60 days.

The trip was 90 days. As provisions ran out and exposure sat in, the men began to die. Finally the crew had to resort to cannibalism. The boats were unable to remain together. Out of 20 forced into the whaleboats, only 8 would survive to be picked up by ships off the coast of Chile.

Philbrick has written a book full of detail, combining stories published at the time with journals discovered more recently. I only bought the book because I want to make more of an effort to read non-fiction and I found "In the Heart of the Sea" in the discount stacks at B&N, but I found I really liked the book. It was an easy read on a subject I know absolutely nothing about. I'm going to read another of Philbrick's books..."Mayflower."

The story of the Esex was famous in the 19th century. Herman Melville used the story for the basis of "Moby Dick." So while the terminology and SOP of whaling are still fresh in my mind, I'm going to read "Moby Dick." It's on my Book of Good Books list anyway.

1 comment:

Kristy said...

Nice review. The books sounds really interesting. Sort of like The Road at sea.