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True Adventure of Castaways Battling Nature and Themselves
am 26. Juni 2000
"In the Heart of the Sea" is a very good book. Like "The Perfect Storm", to which it will obviously be compared to, the author balances the story with historic and scientific background information. The combination works very well, informing the reader with fascinating tidbits while leaving him or her gripped in the thralls of a great tale.
This is the story of the whaleship Essex, out of Nantucket on a two year voyage to the Pacific in search of the early nineteenth century's liquid gold, whale oil. The unthinkable happens. A usually docile sperm whale, although large enough to sink a wooden ship, does just that. Rammed twice by an 85 foot leviathan of the sea, the crew takes to three whale boats while its ship is crushed and rendered useless. The resulting ninety day journey is a story of hope, discipline, tragic mistakes, and ever present thirst and starvation which leads the men ever closer to having to execute the "law of the sea" in order to survive.
Nathaniel Philbrick weaves first person accounts from survivors, a concise history of Nantucket and the work of catching and rendering whales as well as the physiology of the giant sea mammels and starvation into a first rate book. I read this over three days -- it moves very quickly. The author has a talent for fleshing out his common whalemen so that they are interesting and distinct characters without sacrificing authenticity and fact.
If you liked "The Perfect Storm" or Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air," you'll find "In the Heart of the Sea" very much in the same vein. A story of people under terrible physical and mental assault which the reader could not imagine enduring, coupled with a superbly explained telling of the issues at hand that is well set in its place and time.
Highly recommended -- you may want to finish this one all at once.