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The True-Life Horror That Inspired Moby Dick

MULTIZ321

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The True-Life Horror That Inspired Moby Dick - by Gilbert King/ History/ Exploring the American Experience/ SmithsonianMag.com

"The whaler Essex was indeed sunk by a whale—and that's only the beginning.

In July of 1852, a 32-year-old novelist named Herman Melville had high hopes for his new novel, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, despite the book’s mixed reviews and tepid sales. That month he took a steamer to Nantucket for his first visit to the Massachusetts island, home port of his novel’s mythic protagonist, Captain Ahab, and his ship, the Pequod. Like a tourist, Melville met local dignitaries, dined out and took in the sights of the village he had previously only imagined.

And on his last day on Nantucket he met the broken-down 60-year-old man who had captained the Essex, the ship that had been attacked and sunk by a sperm whale in an 1820 incident that had inspired Melville’s novel. Captain George Pollard Jr. was just 29 years old when the Essex went down, and he survived and returned to Nantucket to captain a second whaling ship, Two Brothers. But when that ship wrecked on a coral reef two years later, the captain was marked as unlucky at sea—a “Jonah”—and no owner would trust a ship to him again. Pollard lived out his remaining years on land, as the village night watchman..."

382px-Moby_Dick_p510_illustration1-318x500.jpg

Herman Melville drew inspiration for Moby-Dick from the 1820 whale attack on the Essex. Photo: Wikipedia


Richard
 

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When I saw the trailer a few months ago for Ron Howard's upcoming movie release In the Heart of the Sea, based on the Exeter incident, I noted it said the film was based on a book of the same name. I came home and picked up a used copy of the book for next to nothing from Amazon. It made quite a read, and I'll just say the incident with the whale is just part of the tale.
 
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wackymother

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We just got invited to a screening of the movie on December 1. If you're a member of AMC Stubs, check your email--you might have an invite, too!
 

DaveNV

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I saw that preview last time we were in a theater. I can't wait to see it.

As a kid I was fascinated by books like Moby Dick, and I read everything I could find. I really enjoyed the seagoing stories of E.M. Forester and Jules Verne. Stephen Meader's "Whaler Round The Horn" was a particular favorite. I was enraptured of the idea of life at sea, and working aboard a ship. When I moved to Honolulu at ago 14 I would walk the old streets downtown, and along the docks, imagining how it was "back in the day."

Fast forward several years: At 18 I joined the Navy, where I spent the next 20 years, traveling all over the world. Is it any wonder now that I still have a wanderlust that won't calm down, and a special affinity for open water?

Dave
 
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MuranoJo

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Wow, had no idea there was that much to the Moby Dick story. Pretty gruesome.
 
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