A few days ago I bought a book called "In The Heart Of The Sea" by Nathaniel Philbrick. A day later, I had finished it (a personal record). I never thought an historical biography could be more riveting than action-fiction, but this book proved me very wrong.
The vivid, true life account of whale attacks, shipwrecks, shark attacks, killer whale attacks, starvation, cannabilism, death, faith and survival. Here's the blurb from Philbrick's website:
The ordeal of the whaleship Essex was an event as mythic in the nineteenth century as the sinking of the Titanic was in the twentieth. In 1819, the Essex left Nantucket for the South Pacific with twenty crew members aboard. In the middle of the South Pacific the ship was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale. The crew drifted for more than ninety days in three tiny whaleboats, succumbing to weather, hunger, disease, and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival. Nathaniel Philbrick uses little--known documents-including a long--lost account written by the ship's cabin boy-and penetrating details about whaling and the Nantucket community to reveal the chilling events surrounding this epic maritime disaster. An intense and mesmerizing read, In the Heart of the Sea is a monumental work of history forever placing the Essex tragedy in the American historical canon.
A few things really impacted me in this book...
- The hardship that was 'normal life' for whalers in the early 19th century. They lived their lives 3 years at sea, 3 months at home, then back to sea for 3 years.
- The age of the whalers and the weight of responsibility that rested on their young shoulders (the captain of the Essex was in his 20's).
- How weak leadership and bad decisions can cost many innocent lives.
- The extremes the human body can endure, and the unimaginable things people will do to survive.
Intrestingly enough, I came across this clip of a sperm whale attack which happened last year resulting in one death.