The crew spent months at sea in leaking boats and endured the blazing sun, attacks by killer whales, and lack of food. The men were forced to resort to cannibalism before the final eight survivors were rescued.
Chase wrote about the incident in Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex (1821), which inspired Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851). Chase’s tale is now republished as Wreck of the Whale Ship Essex: The Complete Illustrated Edition (Zenith Press, 2015).
“I turned around and saw him about one hundred rods directly ahead of us, coming down with twice his ordinary speed of around 24 knots, and it appeared with tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect,” Owen Chase wrote. “The surf flew in all directions about him with the continual violent thrashing of his tail. His head about half out of the water, and in that way he came upon us, and again struck the ship.”
Filled with art, photographs, maps, and artifacts, this is a richly illustrated edition of Chase’s memoir, augmented with memoirs of other participants, as well as the perspectives of historians, contemporary and modern.
Author Gilbert Anthony King is an American writer and photographer who won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America (2012). He is also the author of The Execution of Willie Francis: Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South and has written for newspaper such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.
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