In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick tells the incredible story of the whaleship Essex. In 1820 the 240 ton Essex set out of Nantucket on a 2-3 year voyage to fill her hull with sperm whale oil. In the 18th and 19th century, sperm whale oil was coveted for its use in oil lamps as it burned bright and odorless. No one in the world was better at hunting and gathering this precious oil than the citizens of the small island of Nantucket 30 miles off the coastline of Massachusetts. 15 months into the Essex voyage, in some of the most uncharted waters of the Pacific Ocean, the hunter became the hunted. A male sperm whale of mystic proportions turned its aggression toward the ship and its crew. In mere moments the ship was lost and the crew of 20 men were left clinging to each other in 3 small boats bobbing in the endless sea. Fearing unknown near by islands possibly inhabited by "savages", the crew sets out for the South American coast line 3,000 miles away. With an extremely small ration of food and fresh water, the men of the essex spend the next 90 days at sea battling some of the most brutal physical, mental, and environmental conditions one could experience. This extraordinary story of seamanship and the will to live would be the real life basis for Herman Melville's Moby Dick.
This is the type of story that I absolutely love. It's a non-fiction book that reads like fiction. A non-fictional page turner. It reminded me of another favorite of mine The Great Bridge by David McCullough. Philbrick gives us just the right amount of history on Nantucket, the whale industry, and seamen ship without loosing your interest. On top of that, the central story is fascinating and thrilling. Written in a manner that educates you while maintaining your interest, Philbrick guides us perfectly on the leeward side of this adventure.
Usually when I read a book or watch a movie that depicts a survival senerio I can't help but wonder how I would fair in such a situation. Would I be the first to crack? Could I hold it together? Curious on how I would do, I took a survival at sea test on http://www.pressanykey.com/Survival.php. I am happy to report that due to my survival skills I was rescued on day 4! Luckily I did not have to resort to eating my ship mates. My overall assessment was 60%, not bad, but not great. I think that means I maybe one of the first people to wear my pants on my head, or see hallucinations of Fight Club scenes, but I would probably survive so I am happy with that.
inescapably, reading a book about whales inevitably brought my mind to Seinfeld. One of the shows greatest scenes has George Costanza describing how he saves a whale that is beached as he pretends to be a marine biologist for his girlfriend. As I was writing this review I had to stop and watch the marine biologist clip. 30 min later I am searching for all my favorite clips that have to do with boats, whales, or the sea. I compiled them below for your convenience. Enjoy!
"The sea was angry that day my friends!"
"You have to respect the sea!"
"Need a little wind here!"
I love everything about books. The feel of the page between your fingers, the sound of a book spine cracking, even the smell of an old dust jacket. Looking to share that passion with others.