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In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
NATHANIEL PHILBRICK

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
518 reviews (2000) (320p)
National Book Award for Nonfiction Winner
TIME Magazine Best Nonfiction Books
Amazon DECADE Customer History Top 10
Amazon 2000 Customer Top 50

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Book Description
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 Essex left Nantucket for the South Pacific with twenty crew members aboard. In the middle of the South Pacific the ship was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale. The crew drifted for more than ninety days in three tiny whaleboats, succumbing to weather, hunger, disease, and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival. Nathaniel 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 American historical canon.


Amazon.com Review
The appeal of Dava Sobel's Longitude was, in part, 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 is certainly cast from the same mold, examining the 19th-century Pacific whaling industry through the arc of the sinking of the whaleship Essex by a boisterous sperm whale. The story that 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 aboard whalers. We are spared neither the nitty-gritty of open boats nor the sucking of human bones dry.

By sticking to the tried and tested Longitude formula, Philbrick has missed a slight trick or two. The epicenter of the whaling industry was Nantucket, a small island off Cape Cod; most of the whales were in the Pacific, necessitating a huge journey around the southernmost tip of South America. We never learn 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. By any standard, 50 pages of footnotes impress, though he wears his learning lightly. He doesn't get bogged down in turgid detail, and his narrative rattles along at a nice pace. When the storyline is as good as this, you can't really ask for more. --John Crace, Amazon.co.uk


Other Award Winning Books by Nathaniel Philbrick
The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick
175 reviews (2010) (496p) (ALA Non)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
464 reviews (2006) (480p) (PP His) (NYTimes Non) (ALA Non)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery: The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 by Nathaniel Philbrick
73 reviews (2004) (416p) (ALA Non)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page

Nathaniel Philbrick Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 5  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 4  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 1 Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 1 In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex ·  
National Book Award Nominations 1 In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex ·  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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