Books: Cannibals of Nantucket

In the Heart of the Sea recounts the real events that inspired Moby Dick

Seeing his ship laid over helplessly on its side, the captain cried out, "My God, Mr. Chase, what is the matter?" The first mate replied, "We have been stove by a whale." Moby Dick? No, this leviathan was part of the real-life drama that inspired the Melville story. Halfway around the world from its home port of Nantucket, Mass., while chasing whales in the South Seas, the 238-ton whaler Essex was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale. The episode, in November 1820, was the Titanic disaster of its day, much discussed because of what ensued.

Nantucket historian Nathaniel Philbrick...

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