In the Heart of the Sea

In the Heart of the Sea

The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

eBook - 2000
Average Rating:
Rate this:
From the author of Mayflower and Valiant Ambition , the riveting bestseller tells the story of the true events that inspired Melville's Moby-Dick .

Winner of the National Book Award, Nathaniel Philbrick's book is a fantastic saga of survival and adventure, steeped in the lore of whaling, with deep resonance in American literature and history.

In 1820, the whaleship Essex was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale, leaving the desperate crew to drift for more than ninety days in three tiny boats. Nathaniel Philbrick uses little-known documents and vivid details about the Nantucket whaling tradition to reveal the chilling facts of this infamous maritime disaster. In the Heart of the Sea , recently adapted into a major feature film starring Chris Hemsworth, is a book for the ages.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
Publisher: [Place of publication not identified] : [Publisher not identified], 2000.
ISBN: 9781101221570
Characteristics: 1 online resource
text file
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc. - Distributor

Related Resources


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Aug 28, 2017

I never thought that I would ever get into a nonfiction book as much as I got into this one. It was an absolutely fascinating read! The story behind the Moby-Dick has so much more detail than you could ever get out of the novel, and it is well worth the read. Ten stars if I could!

Mar 04, 2017

This book was so well-researched and written in an approachable style. The author purposely squirrel some of the more scholarly research details in notes in the back of the book to make them optional.

As it was, there was much information on Nantucket and whaling. It was a messy, dangerous business and those who pursued it are to be admired for their fortitude -- as are their families who were left without a husband/father for 2-3 years at a time.

If you enjoy true stories about survival, this book is for you. I recommend reading the book before seeing the movie. When we were discussing it at our book group today and one of the participants was giving us movie updates it was clear that some of the plot points were enhanced and/or cherrypicked for the movie.

Feb 17, 2017

Was intrigued from the first chapter...who knew sperm whaling and the culture of it could be so fascinating. I actually found myself youtubing the sounds of sperm whales.

I was let down a little on how much interaction there actually was with the whale that sunk the Essex ship.

Nov 10, 2016

The Heart of the Sea. By. Nathaniel Philbrick.
In mid August 1819, a whaling ship, Essex, set sail for the whaling grounds on the other side of the planet in the vast Pacific Ocean.
Inauspiciously enough, she is severely pummeled before she can even reach the west African coast to revictualize.
After extensive repairs she resumes her voyage around Cape Horn and into the Pacific Ocean.
Having successfully harpooned, killed and flensed a number of prey the strangest of things happens: their ship the Essex is attacked and rammed by a huge bull whale.
Within moments the Essex begins to sink. The crew rush salvage what they can. Hardtack, casks of water, six Galapagos tortoises taken along as provender, a hand full of tools and some guns and powder.
What follows is the horrendous story of a small party of men in three small boats adrift in the vastness of the ocean. Only seven of these men were to survive the predations of over three months on the open ocean with insufficient food, water, shelter, and, perhaps, in the end.
This tale undoubtedly served as the basis for Nathaniel Hawrhorn's "Moby Dick".
The story Philbrick tells is one of deprivation and suffering. He is graphic when describing the various manifestations of starvation, of dehydration, and of a slow death from salt poisoning.
The tension is palpable; the disappointments are real. "Heart" is spellbinding. And then the guess: who will die first? Who will die next? Will anyone survive? And who will have to eat their shipmates to live?
Just in passing, ironically perhaps, in 1945 another Essex, a US naval vessel was torpedoed and sunk in very little time near the Island of Tinian. Here many sailors lost their lives to the sea. Those that survived, however, suffered many privations as those suffered by those from the whaler.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 05, 2016

Nathaniel Philbrick's story of the whaleship Essex is competent and intriguing. It tells the whole story in a manner that is logical and seemingly complete. Philbrick, a maritime scholar with a particular affinity for Moby-Dick, has scoured many texts to give his readers a portrait of what likely happened aboard the ship and in the years following. Some of it may be invention or speculation, but overall In the Heart of the Sea is a very solidly researched story.

Mar 22, 2016

I liked this ... not everyone would ... pretty graphic and gory in places but I like "man against nature" dramas. A true story with lots of detail that did not bore me. Spell-binding non-fiction teaches the real history of Nantucket and the essential whaling industry in the 19th century. As weak and horrible as many humans are... we are an amazing species when it comes to survival.

BookMatchLibrarian Jan 26, 2016

"Recounts the story of the 1820 wreck of the whaleship Essex, which inspired Melville's classic "Moby-Dick," and describes its doomed crew's ninety-day attempt to survive whale attacks and the elements on three tiny lifeboats." - Baker and Taylor

Jan 18, 2016

This story demonstrates that history can be just as compelling and exciting as anything dreamed up in fiction. The incredible toil and suffering that accompanied whaling, for man and whale alike, is recounted in this fast moving tale that inspired Moby Dick, that of a whale that turned on the hunters and destroyed their ship amid the vast expanse of the Pacific ocean. Without benefit of modern technology or good information, the crew was forced to set off for land over a course of thousands of miles in 3 open faced whaleboats. That any survived is amazing, but how they did so is what makes this such a compelling story. Fast paced and well-written, this is a book well worth reading.

Dec 21, 2015

It's been a long time since I've read a book... knowing this is about a true story, it is interesting enough to make me want to read it as opposed to watching the movie as I'm sure there will be lots more detail to it than the movie itself. I'm glad to have read it. Very interesting and is a page turner especially since chapter 2. Learned something about whale hunting as well. Good read.

Nov 30, 2015

This not an adventure story but a survival story and it has it all...history (Nantucket and the resident Quakers, whaling industry), whale biology, navigation, ships and whale boats, action and adventure and not the least, survival. It is complete and a page-turner. This is the true story upon which Herman Melville based his classic story of Moby-Dick. Very highly recommended.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at MCPL

To Top