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OneBook 2013: In the Heart of the Sea: Home

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

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Copies of the book are available at all three BCC campus libraries and held at the Reserves desk. In addition, you can place a hold at any of the libraries in the SAILS Network that own a copy of In the Heart of the Sea. Click here for information on placing holds from the SAILS catalog.

Story Summary

In the Heart of the Sea recounts the true story of the 238-ton whaling ship Essex, which set sail from Nantucket in 1819 on an ill-fated voyage - never to return to its home port. Destroyed by an enraged sperm whale, the Essex is sunk, leaving twenty survivors to navigate the uncertainty of the south Pacific ocean in three small whale boats, and fight to reach the coast of South America, some 3,000 miles to the east. The courageous and horrific events that await those who live to tell their story unfold in the pages of this award-winning book. 

Nathaniel Philbrick's critically acclaimed saga of the Essex tragedy draws upon published narratives from two survivors: Owen Chase, the ship's first mate, and Thomas Nickerson, the former cabin boy, who, at fourteen, was the youngest member of the crew. Other sources include primary and scholarly works on survival at sea, psychology and physiology of starvation, ocean navigation as well as the behavior of sperm whales - "anything," as Philbrick states in his preface to the story, "that might help me better understand what these men experienced on the wide and unforgiving Pacific Ocean (p.xv)."

About the Author: Nathaniel Philbrick

Philbrick photo 
Nathaniel Philbrick grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He earned a BA in English from Brown University and an MA in America Literature from Duke University. He wasBrown University’s first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978;the same year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, RI.

After working as an editor at Sailing World magazine, he wrote and edited several books about sailing, including The Passionate Sailor, Second Wind, and Yaahting, A Parody.

In 1986, Philbrick moved to Nantucket with his wife Melissa and their two children. In 1994, he published his first book about the island’s history, Away Off Shore, followed by a study of the Nantucket’s native legacy titled Abram’s Eyes. He is the founding director of the Egan Maritime Institute and a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association.

In 2000, he published In the Heart of the Sea, winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction,followed by Sea of Glory, winner of the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prizeand the Albion-Monroe Award from the National Maritime Historical Society, and Mayflower, finalist for both the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in History and the Los Angeles Times Book Award and winner of the Massachusetts Book Award for nonfiction.


Source: Nathaniel Philbrick official site,


What is OneBook?

Reading as a whole College experience – that’s what OneBook is. Faculty, staff, and students come together across disciplines to read the same book and participate in a wide array of campus events related to that book. Conversations are started. People make connections. Classes across disciplines delve into those connections a story can make to us all and help link the College community through this common project.

Created/Revised by

L. Richter, 10/13; rev. L. Richter, 1/14