In the Heart of the Sea: Importance of the Whaling Industry in the 19th Century

Topics: Sperm whale, Humpback whale, Cetacea Pages: 4 (1533 words) Published: November 28, 2010
In the Heart of the Sea
In 1819, The whale ship, Essex, set its sails and departed from Nantucket, Massachusetts on a voyage to the Pacific Ocean to hunt and kill sperm whales and retrieve the abundance of oil the whales possess, which became a crucial component in 19th century industry [2]. The island of Nantucket had been one of the most important oil businesses for quite some time. For the crew of the whale ships, harvesting whales was a tough assignment; when a whale was spotted, the crew would approach it, harpoon it, and then try to kill it. Once a whale was killed, its blubber was peeled from the corpse and then boiled for the high quality oil. On this particular journey the crew faced even more difficulties than just the killing of the whales. As sperm whales can reach upwards of sixty tons [1], they had the potential to destroy a whaling boat, as the crew of the Essex unfortunately learned. The whale ship goes through a huge storm, was attacked by a large sperm whale, became shipwrecked and was forced to navigate the sea with limited supplies in very small whaleboats, leading to starvation, dehydration, cannibalism, and even death. The story of the Essex is an important part of history, as it demonstrated not only the importance of the whaling industry upon 19th century citizens, but how such a tragic event played an important role on a community such as Nantucket.

Soon after arriving in the Pacific, the crew made several stops along the coast of South America, slaughtering many whales along the way. George Pollard, the captain, then charted a course for another area near the coast of South America, which had come to be known as a hot spot for hunting whales. The crew of the Essex had never ventured into these waters and the whalers were unfortunately unaware of the dangers that awaited them in this uncharted territory. The tides turn on the whalers on November 20, 1820; the lookout crew spotted a pod of whales and immediately the harpoon crew...
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