Friday, August 29, 2014
A seafarin' yarn of worth
This is a book that caught my attention in a magazine a while ago, a blurb, and it appealed so I added it to my "to read" list. I really had no idea what it was about, except that the cover looked neat, and it was well received. Ironically enough, our book club made a point of reading novels this year that are being made in to movies - and this book falls in to this category (which surprised me, somewhat).
I learned a lot from this book, and it does help that I read Unbroken last year, so this isn't my first book reading about unlikely survival at sea. Comparisons are also drawn to Alive, the book and movie that chronicalled the story of a Uruguayan rugby team who were involved in the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which crashed into the Andes mountains on October 13, 1972.
I really didn't know a lot about whaling, about Nantucket, or about the whaleship Essex. I have heard about Moby Dick, and it is on the "to read" list, and I have heard about the mutiny on the Bounty (which I also thought was a fictional event but have now learned it to be based on real events). This novel describes what happened to the Essex and her inhabitants. What happened out in the Pacific Ocean, the sperm whale the stoves the ship, and the three whaleboats with the crew that seek salvation. Previously there was only accounts from the first mate, and recently a second first hand account has been discovered from another crew member.
There are so many layers to appreciate about this story, the history of whaling, racism (crew members were local from Nantucket, the mainland, or of African American heritage), survival and what happens and what people are willing to do to survive, human psyche, the push to the west and our naval explorations. It is also interesting to note how the author compares the differences between the stories, and what the locals choose to remember and talk about when it came to the Essex. It is also interesting to learn that this event was taught to America school children for years.
Very well told. There were parts that I almost dreaded reading, and I was relieved when the rescue came for the surviving crew members.
Fascinating. I will need to read Moby Dick (Melville was also a whaler and developed this story based on the Captain of the Essex) one day, and I definitely want to visit some of the San Juan islands again soon and check out the whaling museum there.