The Wreck of the Essex and the Aftermath

Do you now the story of the Essex? It is a ship that went down to the sea in the 19th century, and the first mate survived to chronicle the story (The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex). There are a lot of reasons that this story is interesting and important. For me, there is a special level of interest because I was involved in the excavation of the shipyard where the Essex was built.

My friend Romeo Vitelli is writing a multi-part blog post on the Essex Disaster, which begins thusly:

When the whaleship Essex left Nantucket on August 12, 1819, the twenty-one men on board had no idea that they would soon become part of one of the most harrowing survival tales of the 19th century. Not to mention inspiring a great literary classic.

Though sailing under a new captain, George Pollard, the Essex was a reliable three-master that successfully completed decades of whaling voyages. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Nantucket was the centre of the world’s whaling industry and whaling products were the mainstay of the island’s economy. Many of the Essex’s crewmembers belonged to old whaling families that had been hunting whales for generations. …

This is going to be interesting. Go check it out!

Comments

  1. #1 Richard Chapman
    November 18, 2012

    I love these tales of survival against all odds. Shackleton’s disastrous Antarctic expedition and subsequent triumph against the endless seascape of the Antarctic Ocean is beyond what any fiction could produce. What really amazes me is their feats of navigation with those simple hand held tools.

  2. #2 Art
    November 18, 2012

    I haven’t read the Owen Chase book, I’ll have to hunt it down, but on the same subject I can recommend:
    “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick”

    A rousing tale with considerable amounts of historical context and background. The story is full or ironies, like why the survivors of the wreck shunned habitable islands that were fairly close.

    The book would make a good gift for anyone who enjoys adventures, history, survival, or a good sea tale.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    November 18, 2012

    Owen chase was the first mate, the Dover volume is essentially his log. (Click to see it on amazon.)