9781558218789

Shipwreck of the Whaleship Essex

Chase, Owen

ISBN 10: 1558218785 / 1-55821-878-5
ISBN 13: 9781558218789
Publisher: Lyons Press
Publication Date: 1999
Binding: Softcover
Editorial Reviews for this title:
Synopsis:
The original narratives of the whaling disaster that inspired Moby-Dick. Melville's famous description of the sinking of the Pequod by the white whale--one of the most exciting moments in American literature--was based on a true story documented in 1821 by first mate Owen Chase in his Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whaleship Essex, and by his shipmate and captain in two separate accounts. Each account tells of a sperm whale's attack on the Essex in the South Seas, and of the crew's three-month struggle while stranded in small open boats. Of twenty men, eight survived. Six who died were eaten by their shipmates, one--the cabin boy--after lots had been drawn. The captain writes that he exclaimed, My lad, my lad, if you don't like your lot, I'll shoot the first man that touches you. The boy replied, I like it as well as any other. He was soon dispatched, the captain writes, and nothing of him left . . . my head is on fire at the recollection. This volume reproduces these gripping accounts, as well as Herman Melville's notes on the narratives. It sheds light on both our darkest impulses and our most ascendant selves, and gives rare insight into the workings of one of the most important literary minds of all time.

Review:
Shipwreck of the Whaleship Essex is the gripping account of a ship's encounter with a great white whale and the crew's harrowing plight for survival on the open seas. This edition contains Owen Chase's original 1921 narrative, as well as two others written by the captain and a shipmate of the Essex. Each tells of a sperm whale's attack on the ship, the sinking of the Essex, and the three dreadful months that followed as the remainder of the crew were left stranded in a few small open boats in the South Seas. Of the twenty men that escaped the ship, eight survived; and they did so only by resorting to cannibalism.Capturing all the elements of an ancient and powerful tragedy, this book is a thrilling tale of survival - as well as a frightful examination of man's darkest impulses - which allows the reader a gruesome glimpse behind the theatrical veil of honor and bravery that history often ascribes to such men of the sea. An age-old gem of maritime lore, this volume has made its mark as an inspiration for one of the most legendary American novels ever written. (51/2 X 81/4, 176 pages, narrative reproductions, map)

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