Synopses & Reviews
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 history.
In 1820, the 240-ton 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 3,000-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 fear.
In the Heart of the Sea tells perhaps the greatest sea story ever. Philbrick 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 boy. At 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.
"A book that gets in your bones...Philbrick has created an eerie thriller from a centuries old tale....Scrupulously researched and eloquently written...it would have earned Melville's admiration." The New York Times Book Review
"Fascinating...One of our country's great adventure stories...when it comes to extremes, In the Heart of the Sea is right there." The Wall Street Journal
"[Told] with verve and authenticity...a classic tale of the sea." San Francisco Chronicle
"Nathaniel Philbrick has taken one of the most horrifying stories in maritime history and turned it into a classic....One of the most chilling books I have ever read." Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm
About the Author
, is a leading authority on the history of Nantucket Island. His In the Heart of the Sea
won the National Book Award. His latest book is Sea of Glory
, about the epic U.S. Exploring Expedition of 18381842. His other books include Away off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People, 1602-1890
(which Russell Baker
called "indispensable") and Abram's Eyes: The Native American Legend of Nantucket Island
("a classic of historical truthtelling," according to Stuart Frank
, director of the Kendall Whaling Museum). He has written an introduction to a new edition of Joseph Hart
's Miriam Coffin, or The Whale Fisherman
, a Nantucket novel (first published in 1834) that Melville
relied upon for information about the island when writing Moby Dick
. Phillbick's Why Read Moby-Dick?
was a finalist for the New England Society Book Award.
Philbrick, a champion sailboat racer, has also written extensively about sailing, including The Passionate Sailor (1987) and Second Wind: A Sunfish Sailor's Odyssey. He was editor in chief of the classic Yaahting: A Parody (1984).
In his role as director of the Egan Institute of Maritime Studies, Philbrick, who is also a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association, gives frequent talks about Nantucket and sailing. He has appeared on "NBC Today Weekend", A&E's "Biography" series, and National Public Radio and has served as a consultant for the movie "Moby Dick", shown on the USA Network. He received a bachelor of Arts from Brown University and a Master of Arts in American Literature from Duke. He lives on Natucket with his wife and two children.