In the Heart of the Sea begins with The Essex, a Whaleship from Nantucket, which sank from a sperm whale attack in the Pacific on November 1820. After the loss of their vessel, the crew members attempted to sail to South America in whaleboats. Over four months later they were rescued in February 1821 but with grave casualties. Most of the crew had died from dehydration and starvation before the remaining survivors were found.
In Philbrick’s recollection of the crew’s fate, he relates the perspective written by a young cabin boy aboard the Esses, Thomas Nickerson who later wrote of the experience in his old age; his account was lost until 1960 but was then not authenticated until 1980 before being published, alleged, in 1984. In the Heart of the Sea also utilizes the better public account written by Owen Chase, the Essex’s first mate which was released soon after the experience.
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