In the Heart of the Sea [Review]

Book Reviewed: In the Heart of the Sea
Author: Nathaniel Philbrick ~ Copyright 2000
ISBN: 978-0-14-100182 pp 301
Reviewed By: Pastor Tim Crockett

I got this as a gift last year from one of the members here at the church and I just got around to reading it. This is not the first book nor the last book that I will be reading by this author. The first one was Away off Shore based on the Island of Nantucket. I would recommend reading that one first and then this as this book centers around the whaling industry off of Nantucket. The next one is at the Battle of Bunker Hill. I will get to that at some point this year.

Again these are not critical reviews, just some thoughts on how the book impacted me and where it took me. I don’t know that I can articulate, at least at this early stage of my blogging, but Philbrick’s  writing prose  draws you into his story and keeps you there. It’s as though he lived it. His attention to detail, facts, places, other related events in history really enrich the overall story. This is of course based on a true story.

The only other author, at least in my opinion, who had this kind of engaging writing style was Clive Cussler. Back in the eighties and nineties, I read his works and while it is based on fiction much of the detail was factual. He did later go on to discover the Hunley a submarine lost during the Civil War.

The details, some of them minute, in this book were profound, reflective and at some points disheartening. The backdrop to Nantucket’s social life and industry are a must if one is to understand what drove these men to go into whaling and spend years away from their families risking life, limb and family and in some cases reputation.

His description of the hunt for whales and leading up to the capture and slaughter of them made you in some respects feel for the pitiful creature. Not easy to take, but this was a way of life for them.

The sinking of the Essex by the Sperm Whale was in its own right dramatic but the account that followed was one of human tenacity, hardship, and shear determination to survive. Capturing the psychological and physiological not to mention the unrelating ocean that held them prison for over ninety days showed the limits of mind and body on sailors lost at sea. His description of the bodies during dehydration and starvation showed the enduring fortitude of these men. It is beyond imagination.

The desire for survival so strong that it eventually led to cannibalism where they began to eat those who died while out to sea. There was even one point where straws were drawn to see who would be sacrificed for food. Take into account their religious background as Quakers and it only adds more misery to an already intense story.

He referenced other events throughout the book that were similar that had caught my attention, Shackleton’s Voyage and the Raft of Medusa to name a couple. Both of which I will be looking into in the future. That’s what books are supposed to do. Take you on a little trip, to bring you into the moment someplace somewhere. This book was that kind of book.

That’s it for the review you’ll have to get the book and read for yourself.  Here’s an Amazon link –

By the way, there is a movie based on this book – READ THE BOOK! Far more detail in the book than in the movie, you’ll get far more out of it.

Well, I’m done for now! Be sure to check back for more reviews!