The ordeal of the whaleship Essex was an event as mythic in the nineteenth century as the Titanic disaster was in the twentieth. Nathaniel Philbrick now restores this epic story — which inspired the climactic scene in Herman Melvilles Moby-Dick — to its rightful place in American history.
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 andtake on sailing titled The Passionate Sailor, Philbrick has been sharing that passion with readers. Whether exploring his beloved Nantucket or tracing tragedies and triumphs on the open sea throughout history, Philbrick is the writer of some of the most illuminating and harrowing histories to come sailing across bookshelves in the past decade. While Philbrick broke into publishing with the lighthearted The Passionate Sailor, he truly established his role as a chronicler of Nantucketthe one-time whaling capital of the worldwith his second book, Away Off Shore. Instead of focusing on the colorfully quaint legends that hardly scrape the surface of Nantuckets rich history, Philbrick chose to take a more sober look at the island and how it rose to success. He brought that same objectivity to subsequent books such as Abrams Eyes, which delves into the vast Native American population of Nantucket, separating folklore from historical evidence, and his breakthrough In the Heart of the Sea. Here, Philbrick takes a fascinating look at the legendary sinking of the Essex, a tale that would form the backbone of Herman Melvilles classic Moby Dick. If anything, the true story of a wayward ships encounter with a giant whale is even more terrifying and gripping than anything in Melvilles imagination. In the Heart of the Sea is at its core a tragedy rife with painful ironies, fatal decisions, cannibalism, and a final encounter with a furious sperm whale. The key to this National Book Award winner is that it is told with all the flair and suspense of any fictional story. What I really like is narrative-driven non-fiction, Philbrick explained to Barnes & Noble.com. A story is important for anyone to engage with what happened in the past. Just as Philbrick used this tactic to relate the tragedy of the Essex, he used it to tell of the triumphant U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838 in Sea of Glory. No less engaging than its predecessor, Sea of Glory is almost like the yang to the shadowy yin of In the Heart of the Sea, gloriously recounting a grander ocean expedition than that of Lewis and Clark, a quest to map the entire Pacific Ocean that would lead to the discovery of Antarctica. Philbricks next book retells a story with which most American schoolchildren are familiar but only through a filter of benign Thanksgiving pageants. The story of the pilgrims journey to Plymouth Rock told in Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War is quite a different tale. Philbrick was not exactly burning to revisit this well-traveled chapter in history, saying of the Mayflowers voyage, what could be more boring? However, once he peeled away the holiday wrapping, he discovered a dark web of violence, starvation, illness, death, and war to rival the tragedy of In the Heart of the Sea. It is as if the pilgrim and Indians story, as well as their true nature, is being revealed for the very first time, with provocative depictions of a bloody-thirsty Miles Standish and a duplicitous Squanto. The Library Journal boldly declared that Mayflower was clearly one of the years best books of 2006, and it is certainly one of the most riveting, a historical work that reads like great fiction written by a master at the peak of his abilities.
Good To Know
When Philbrick was a young boy, his father, a professor of English literature with a focus on Maritime fiction, would tell him about the Essexs tragic sea voyage as a sort of grim bedtime story. Nathaniel Philbrick served as a consultant on USA televisions 1998 adaptation of Moby Dick starring Patrick Stewart.