Quotes from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

Nathaniel Philbrick ·  238 pages

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“Hope was all that stood between them and death.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“The sperm whales' network of female-based family unit resembled, to a remarkable extent, the community the whalemen had left back home on Nantucket. In both societies the males were itinerants. In their dedication to killing sperm whales the Nantucketers had developed a system of social relationships that mimicked those of their prey.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“No matter how much the inhabitants might try to hide it, there was a savagery about this island, a bloodlust and pride that bound every mother, father, and child in a clannish commitment to the hunt.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“The whaleman’s rule of thumb was that, before diving, a whale blew once for each minute it would spend underwater. Whalemen also knew that while underwater the whale continued at the same speed and in the same direction as it had been traveling before the dive. Thus, an experienced whaleman could calculate with remarkable precision where a submerged whale was likely to reappear.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“Nickerson began to understand, as only an adolescent on the verge of adulthood can understand, that the carefree days of childhood were gone forever: “Then it was that I, for the first time, realized that I was alone upon a wide and an unfeeling world . . . without one relative or friend to bestow one kind word upon me.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“There was a saying on the island: "[I]t is a pity to spoil a good mate by making him a master.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“Modern survival psychologists have determined that this “social”—as opposed to “authoritarian”—form of leadership is ill suited to the early stages of a disaster, when decisions must be made quickly and firmly. Only later, as the ordeal drags on and it is necessary to maintain morale, do social leadership skills become important.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“It is painful to witness the death of the smallest of God’s created beings, much more, one in which life is so vigorously maintained as the Whale! And when I saw this, the largest and most terrible of all created animals bleeding, quivering, dying a victim to the cunning of man, my feelings were indeed peculiar!”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“The sperm whales’ network of female-based family units resembled, to a remarkable extent, the community the whalemen had left back home on Nantucket. In both societies the males were itinerants. In their dedication to killing sperm whales the Nantucketers had developed a system of social relationships that mimicked those of their prey.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“During World War II, the University of Minnesota’s Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene conducted what scientists and relief workers still regard today as a benchmark study of starvation. Partly funded by religious groups, including the Society of Friends, the study was intended to help the Allies cope with released concentration-camp internees, prisoners of war, and refugees. The participants were all conscientious objectors who volunteered to lose 25 percent of their body weight over six months. The experiment was supervised by Dr. Ancel Keys (for whom the K-ration was named). The volunteers lived a spare but comfortable existence at a stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“Chase’s ability to adjust his manner of leadership to the needs of his men begs comparison to one of the greatest and most revered leaders of all time, Sir Ernest Shackleton.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“In 1836, the Lydia, a Nantucket whaleship, was struck and sunk by a sperm whale, as was the Two Generals a few years later.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“Only in the heart of quickest perils; only when within the eddyings of his angry flukes; only on the profound unbounded sea, can the fully invested whale be truly and livingly found out.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“The day before, they had started eating the saltwater-damaged bread. The bread, which they had carefully dried in the sun, now contained all the salt of seawater but not, of course, the water. Already severely dehydrated, the men were, in effect, pouring gasoline on the fire of their thirsts—forcing their kidneys to extract additional fluid from their bodies to excrete the salt. They were beginning to suffer from a condition known as hypernatremia, in which an excessive amount of sodium can bring on convulsions.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“The act of self-expression—through writing a journal or letters—often enables a survivor to distance himself from his fears.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“How much of assumed national and personal character comes from the fact that we have never truly known need to the point of having our character tested? Willing conscientious objectors underwent controlled starvation and confirmed how quickly it impacts the initiative and generosity we like to think of as "American" characteristics.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“POLLARD had known better, but instead of pulling rank and insisting that his officers carry out his proposal to sail for the Society Islands, he embraced a more democratic style of command. Modern survival psychologists have determined that this “social”—as opposed to “authoritarian”—form of leadership is ill suited to the early stages of a disaster, when decisions must be made quickly and firmly. Only later, as the ordeal drags on and it is necessary to maintain morale, do social leadership skills become important. Whalemen in the nineteenth century had a clear understanding of these two approaches. The captain was expected to be the authoritarian, what Nantucketers called a fishy man. A fishy man loved to kill whales and lacked the tendency toward self-doubt and self-examination that could get in the way of making a quick decision. To be called “fishy to the backbone” was the ultimate compliment a Nantucketer could receive and meant that he was destined to become, if he wasn’t already, a captain. Mates, however, were expected to temper their fishiness with a more personal, even outgoing, approach. After breaking in the green hands at the onset of the voyage—when they gained their well-deserved reputations as “spit-fires”—mates worked to instill a sense of cooperation among the men. This required them to remain sensitive to the crew’s changeable moods and to keep the lines of communication open. Nantucketers recognized that the positions of captain and first mate required contrasting personalities. Not all mates had the necessary edge to become captains, and there were many future captains who did not have the patience to be successful mates. There was a saying on the island: “[I]t is a pity to spoil a good mate by making him a master.” Pollard’s behavior, after both the knockdown and the whale attack, indicates that he lacked the resolve to overrule his two younger and less experienced officers. In his deference to others, Pollard was conducting himself less like a captain and more like the veteran mate described by the Nantucketer William H. Macy: “[H]e had no lungs to blow his own trumpet, and sometimes distrusted his own powers, though generally found equal to any emergency after it arose. This want of confidence sometimes led him to hesitate, where a more impulsive or less thoughtful man would act at once. In the course of his career he had seen many ‘fishy’ young men lifted over his head.” Shipowners hoped to combine a fishy, hard-driving captain with an approachable and steady mate. But in the labor-starved frenzy of Nantucket in 1819, the Essex had ended up with a captain who had the instincts and soul of a mate, and a mate who had the ambition and fire of a captain. Instead of giving an order and sticking with it, Pollard indulged his matelike tendency to listen to others. This provided Chase—who had no qualms about speaking up—with the opportunity to impose his own will. For better or worse, the men of the Essex were sailing toward a destiny that would be determined, in large part, not by their unassertive captain but by their forceful and fishy mate.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“After seventeen days, one of the crew suggested that they cast lots. As it turned out, the lot fell to the man who had originally made the proposal, and after lots were cast again to see who should execute him, he was killed and eaten.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“confronted them now. When first presented”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“In the year 1712, a Captain Hussey, cruising in his little boat for right whales along Nantucket’s south shore, was blown out to sea in a fierce northerly gale.”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


“wishing thee a short and prosperous voyage, with a full portion of happiness we remain thy friends. In”
― Nathaniel Philbrick, quote from In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex


About the author

Nathaniel Philbrick
Born place: in Boston, The United States
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