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In the Heart of the Sea
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About the Author

Nathaniel Philbrick is the author of In the Heart of the Sea, winner of the National Book Award; Mayflower, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Bunker Hill, Valiant Ambition; Sea of Glory; The Last Stand; Why Read Moby Dick?; and Away Off Shore. He lives in Nantucket.

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YA-In 1819, the Essex, a Nantucket whaleship carrying a crew of 20, began what all thought would be a normal, two-year voyage. Instead, after a year and a half of near-disasters, the ship was rammed by a sperm whale and sank in the Pacific. All hands got off in three whaleboats and were at sea for three unbearable months of short rations and little fresh water, leading to the death by starvation of some and the killing of others to provide food. One boat disappeared and the two remaining eventually became separated. When rescued off the coast of Chile, only five men were still alive, including the captain and first mate, as well as three rescued later from an island. Philbrick brings the era to life, giving readers a rounded picture of the whaling industry and its society. Relying mainly on two survivors' detailed accounts, one of which has just recently been found, he fleshes out the tale in an exciting manner that sweeps readers along. He includes modern medical knowledge of the physical and mental effects of starvation on humans. The book concludes with tales of other shipwrecks, a description of how the survivors lived the rest of their lives, and an introduction to the recent work of the Nantucket Whaling Museum. The contrast between today's touristy island paradise and yesterday's hard life will not be lost on teens.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

In 1821, a whaling ship came upon a small boat off the coast of Chile containing two deranged men surrounded by human bones that they alternately chewed and clutched to their shriveled bodies. The two were survivors of one of the most well-known marine disasters of the 19th century: the sinking of a 240-ton Nantucket whaleship by an 80-ton sperm whale. A maritime historian, Philbrick recounts the hellish wreck of the Essex (which inspired Melville's Moby-Dick) and its sailors' struggle to make their way to South America, 2,000 miles away. Of the 20 men aboard the two boats, only eight would remain alive through the ravages of thirst, hunger and desperation that beset the voyage. With a gracefulness of language that rarely falters, Philbrick spins a ghastly, irresistible tale that draws upon archival material (including a cabin boy's journal discovered in 1960). Philbrick shows how the Quaker establishment of Nantucket ran a hugely profitable whaling industry in the 18th and 19th centuries and provides a detailed account of shipboard life. A champion sailboat racer himself, Philbrick has a particular affinity for his subject. His fastidious, extensive notes and bibliography will please historians, but it's his measured prose that superbly re-creates a cornerstone of the early American frontier ethos. 16 page photo insert not seen by PW. 15-city author tour; foreign rights sold to nine countries. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

After the Essex is splintered by an 80-ton sperm whale in 1820, her crew tries to reach South America in three small boats. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"Fascinating...One of our country's great adventure stories...when it comes to extremes, In the Heart of the Sea is right there."--The Wall Street Journal "A book that gets in your bones...Philbrick has created an eerie thriller from a centuries old tale....Scrupulously researched and eloquently written...it would have earned Melville's admiration."--The New York Times Book Review "Spellbinding."--Time "[Told] with verve and authenticity...a classic tale of the sea."--San Francisco Chronicle "Nathaniel Philbrick has taken one of the most horrifying stories in maritime history and turned it into a classic....One of the most chilling books I have ever read."--Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm

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