Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Whale Ship Essex

I recently read In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick. This is the true story of the disastrous 1819-1821 whaling voyage (can you imagine being stuck on a stinking ship for more than a year?) from Nantucket which inspired Melville's story of the Pequod in Moby Dick. The 230-ton ship was rammed and sunk by a bull sperm whale estimated to be 80 tons.

The crew escaped in 3 small boats, and 8 days later, in the middle of the night, the captain's boat was attacked by an orca (killer whale), which batted the boat around with it's head and tail, took a bite out of it, and then split the boat's stern. They were able to save the boat, but had one hell of a scary night. So if you think you're having a bad day, think again...

It's a great read and I highly recommend it. I don't want to spoil the suspense, but suffice it to say it's not a happy ending for most of the crew.

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