Friday 20 November 2020

True Life Inspiration for Moby-Dick Anniversary.

200 years ago today, on 20th November 1820,  the whaling ship Essex from Nantucket, Massachusetts was sunk by a sperm whale off the coast of Ecuador.

Under the command of George Pollard Jr, the vessel was attacked by the whale and stranded many miles off the South American coast, the crew were forced to make for land using the surviving whaling boats.

Suffering severe dehydration, starvation and exposure in the open ocean, the crew members eventually had to resort to eating the bodies of their colleagues who had died.

When that proved insufficient, the crew actually drew lots to decide who would be sacrificed so that the others would live.

Seven crew members were cannibalised before the remaining eight survivors were rescued, more than three months after the original sinking of the Essex. 

The tragedy attracted international interest and accounts written by first mate Owen Chase and cabin boy Thomas Nickerson inspired Herman Melville to write his famous 1851 novel Moby-Dick.

Further reading:

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick Author is 200