Read the Eyewitness Account That Begat “Moby Dick”

 Owen Chase was a crew member aboard the ill-fated ship Essex when it was destroyed by a whale. The twenty survivors scrambled into three boats; only eight  remained at the end of their ordeals. His account is Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex, of Nantucket (1821). The True-Life Horror That Inspired Moby-Dick provides a great overview of this instance. A true near-contemporary account of whaling is found in the 1851 The whale and his captors; or, The whaleman’s adventures, and the whale’s biography; Moby Dick was published in 1851 as well. New Bedford Whaling Museum has several informative features, among them life aboard a whaler. The periodical Historic Nantucket is worth a read. Of particular importance is the Whalesmen’s Shipping Lists and Merchant Transcripts, the major source on American whaling activities with issues from 1843 until 1914.


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