I rarely have the time to read, having only finished a few books in the past year. Among those included histories of Superman and Batman, as well as a biography on Steven Spielberg. Yet, the one that has stuck with me since I finished it a few months ago is Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea.
The book tells the tragedy of the whaleship Essex, which sailed out of Nantucket in 1820. Midway through the voyage, a rogue sperm whale attacked and sunk the ship. Stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a limited supply of rations, the crew had to try to make their way back to land.
Herman Melville, once a whaler himself, used the tragedy as the basis for his novel, Moby Dick. The tale of Captain Ahab's revenge-seeking mission against a sperm whale is now considered of the classics of American literature.
The story of the Essex had a similar effect on the world as the sinking of the Titanic has now. However, the aftermaths of the disasters were starkly different. While some of the passengers and crew of the Titanic were seen as heroes, the crew of the Essex were shamed. Those in Nantucket only spoke of the tragedy in whispers and rarely to outsiders of the island and for good reason — the crew of the Essex had resorted to cannibalism to stay alive.
Philbrick's account of the disaster is riveting, and combines a wealth of knowledge and research with an emotional core. While reading the book, many questions were planted in my mind. What would I have done had I been in the crew's position? What could have been done differently so that some of the atrocities that happened could have been avoided? Was cannibalism necessary? Would I have taken a life to sustain my own and that of my fellow crewmembers? It's a story that warrants awareness and further discussion.
Thankfully, Ron Howard has taken up the challenge of bringing the story of the Essex to the screen. The cast, led by Chris Hemsworth, looks solid as he is joined by Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson, with Ben Whishaw as a young Melville.
Howard is one of my favorite filmmakers and his historically-based films (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and most recently, Rush) are phenomenal, which makes In the Heart of the Sea one of my most anticipated films of 2015.
If you haven't read Philbrick's book, I urge you to check it out. At the very least, go and see Howard's film adaptation next year.