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woodcut, Whaleship Essex, Wreck of the Essex, Moby Dick
Wreck of The Whaleship Essex
colored woodcut

The Essex sailed out of Nantucket in 1819 on a whale hunting voyage that would have lasted up to three years if they hadn't been struck not once, but twice by an angry whale and sunk in the South Pacific thousands of miles form land. The survivors piled into three boats and hoped to reach South America. They didn't make it. After almost 60 days of deprivation and, in the end, cannibalism, two boats were found afloat. One contained the captain, James Pollard with one other survivor. The other boat had Owen Chase, the first mate and another survivor. They clutched the bones of the sailors that didn't make it. Owen Chase wrote a narrative of the disaster ("The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex"), which was the inspiration for Herman Melville's "Moby Dick".