The ship’s final trip and the assault by whales – On August 12, 1819, the Essex left Nantucket to set sail on her final and ill-fated voyage, which would take it to the South Pacific Ocean. The voyage was anticipated to span anywhere from one to three years, and there were a total of 21 people on board, including George Pollard Jr., who was serving as captain for the first time.
- On the other hand, the journey almost came to an end on August 14 when a storm momentarily tipped the ship onto its side, and it came dangerously close to sinking.
- Pollard made the first decision to head back to Nantucket despite the fact that the Essex had sustained damage and was short two whaleboats.
On the other hand, the First Mate Owen Chase persuaded him to carry on, presumably out of concern that the men, who believed the knockdown to be a terrible portent, may quit the ship. Since leaving Nantucket, the crew had been looking for sperm whales in the surrounding waters.
- On the other hand, the first whale was not seen until around two months into the journey, when the Essex was located some distance south of Rio de Janeiro.
- The men were successful in taking down their first prey not long after that.
- In January of 1820, the Essex sailed over Cape Horn and reached the South Pacific.
Cape Horn is located in southern Chile. The hunting continued to be unsuccessful for the most part until the ship reached the seas off the coast of Peru, when it successfully captured more than ten whales. Around the end of May, Pollard made the decision to travel farther inland, into a region that was much further away from the shore yet had previously shown whalers to be quite successful.
In September of 1820, the Essex made a stop in Atacames, Ecuador, as part of its preparations; during this time, one of the crewmembers fled the ship. Despite having a crew that was significantly reduced, the ship continued its journey, making a halt at Hood Island in the Galapagos to repair a leak in the Essex and to capture approximately 200 tortoises.
They arrived to Charles Island in late October 1820 and continued to harvest tortoises when one of the crew members sparked a fire that quickly swept over the small island, forcing the men to evacuate. The Essex picked off where it left off and on November 20, 1820, it was almost 1,500 nautical miles (2,800 km) away from the Galapagos Islands at its new location.
- On that day, there were reports of whales, so three whaleboats set out to investigate.
- However, the vessel that Chase was commanding suffered damage and was compelled to make its way back to the Essex.
- In the midst of the crew’s efforts to fix the ship, an enormous male sperm whale was sighted swimming in the area.
It was around 26 meters (85 feet) long, when a typical male sperm whale was no longer than 65 feet (20 metres). Later, in an effort to explain the ordinarily cautious creature’s extraordinary behavior, some have theorized that the pounding on the whaleboat sounded similar to the clicks used by whales as a form of communication.
This was done in an attempt to explain why the species acted in such an unexpected manner. According to this explanation, the anxious animal thought that the boat contained another male who had invaded his area. By subscribing to Britannica Premium, you will have access to content that is not available elsewhere.
Immediately Subscribe Whatever the reason may have been, the whale started racing toward the Essex and crashed into the port side (the left side). Following its passage beneath the ship, the animal reappeared and had the appearance of being shocked. Despite this, it continued its assault “with threefold ferocity and wrath,” hitting the bow and doing catastrophic damage before vanishing.
What kind of whale sank the Essex?
The American whaling ship Essex was lost on November 20, 1820, when it was struck by a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and capsized as a result. This event served as the impetus for Herman Melville to write his renowned masterpiece Moby Dick. More than a year before, the ship Essex had sailed away from her home port on the island of Nantucket, which is located in Massachusetts, United States.
- Nantucket and the town of New Bedford, which is located on the mainland of Massachusetts, were formerly considered to be the whaling capitals of the world.
- Each year, they would send hundreds of ships and sailors out into the ocean.
- The industry of whaling was a rich one.
- The waxy oil that can be found in sperm whales’ enormous heads, in addition to the blubber, was one of the primary reasons the Essex and the majority of other whalers of the period sought after this species.
After being refined, these chemicals were included into a variety of products, including candles, cosmetics, and lubricants for equipment. The number of sperm whales in the Atlantic Ocean had been drastically cut down by whaling fleets, and the crew of the Essex intended to set sail for the wealthy ” whaling grounds ” of the South Pacific in order to take advantage of the situation there.
- The Essex came upon a pod of whales on November 20, and on that day, her tiny whaleboats headed out to harpoon the animals and bring them back to the ship so that they could be processed.
- After capturing one whale with a harpoon, the crew of the tiny, open whaleboat experienced what became known as a “Nantucket sleigh ride” as the whale pulled them along.
An gigantic sperm whale that had become detached from the pod intentionally and violently hit the ship Essex while her skipper observed from the deck of the vessel. The Essex is 238 tons and is 27 meters (87 ft) in length. There was nothing that the crew could do about it because the animal was larger, stronger, and far more nimble than the ship.
- The ship sunk, taking 20 or 21 people with it, who were rescued in three whaleboats that leaked badly.
- The survivors were stranded at than 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) away from the nearest islands (the Marquesas) and did not have access to sufficient food or freshwater.
- After the boats were separated, most of the guys survived by eating each other until they were rescued some months later.
Only eight of the twenty or twenty-one crew men that embarked from Nantucket made it to safety. It’s quite likely that the whale felt the same way.
Was the whale ship Essex ever found?
Image caption, The researchers discovered enormous pots that had been used to make oil and other products from whale blubber. Marine archaeologists from the United States have discovered the buried whaling ship that belonged to the captain who served as the inspiration for Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick, which was written in the 19th century.
Why did the whale sink the Essex?
Attack by a whale On board the Essex, Chase was working on fixing the broken whaleboat when the crew spotted an exceptionally enormous bull sperm whale that was acting suspiciously. The bull was allegedly around 85 feet (26 meters) in length.
How long were the crew of the Essex stranded?
In the year 1820, a sperm whale boarded the whaling ship Essex and assaulted its crew. The ship capsized, and a significant number of the crew members were either lost instantly or starved to death while they waited for over eight months to be rescued.
How true is the story of the Essex?
A scene from the film “Moby Dick” starring Gregory Peck from the year 1956 The image was taken by Ulstein Bild and was acquired by Getty Images from Ulstein Bild.) Moby Dick was published by Herman Melville in 1851. Although it was not an enormous commercial success when it was first released, Moby Dick has since gone on to become an important piece of American literature.
- The protagonist of the book is a captain of a whaling ship who becomes fascinated with finding the whale who tore off his leg and the whale that seems equally desperate to kill the captain for good.
- The novel relates the narrative of how both the whale and the captain are driven to find each other.
- Melville’s story of the tragic whaling expedition that he was involved in was not all made up.
The sinking of the Essex, which had occurred thirty years before, served as the inspiration for his novel. The tale of the Essex demonstrates that real life can be more bizarre than any fiction.