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Stove by a Whale

Owen Chase and the Essex

Thomas Farel Heffernan

Publication Year: 2012

The first documented sinking of a ship by a whale and a harrowing account by the ship's first mate of the survivors' three months adrift in small boats. A thrilling narrative that inspired Herman Melville's masterpiece Moby Dick.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Stove by a Whale

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Title Page

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pp. xi-xiii

In 1819 a Nantucket whaleship put to sea for a voyage from which it never returned. Almost two years later a handful of its officers and crew set foot again on Nantucket with a story that would distinguish their Essex from the countless other whaling ships that had...

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1. Owen Chase

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pp. 3-11

IT LIES so far out in the sea, that tiny sickle of land, that one wonders how the Indians ever found it. The old legend, retold in chapter 14 of Moby-Dick, that an Indian baby was carried out over the ocean in an eagle's talons and that the parents pursued it in a...

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2. Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-ship Essex, of Nantucket

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pp. 13-76

I AM AWARE that the public mind has been already nearly sated with the private stories of individuals, many of whom had few, if any, claims to public attention; and the injuries which have resulted from the promulgation of fictitious histories, and in many instances...

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3. Ne Cede Malis

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pp. 77-118

COULD IT have been otherwise? Is there any way that the survivors, who stayed alive for a month, could have stayed alive to the end? Yes, if they had had better luck or if they had known what we know today about the Pacific...

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4. Next Lowering: Owen Chase after the Essex George Pollard, Jr. The Other Survivors

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pp. 119-154

IN CHAPTER 23 of Moby-Dick, "The Lee Shore," a seaman named Bulkington, just in from a four-year voyage, signs up within days to ship out again. Melville exalts him for repudiating all havens and comforts and realizing that it is only in the storm that he...

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5. Telling the Story: The Authorship and Publication of Owen Chase's Narrative Herman Melville Accounts and Borrowings

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pp. 155-182

The question arises, then: Who was the ghostwriter? It had to be someone who was in Nantucket during the summer of 1821 and free to give the composition of the book enough time to have the whole text ready for the printer in the fall. Owen may well have organized...


A: Herman Melville's Annotations and Markings in His Copy of Owen Chase's Narrative

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pp. 184-209

B: The Story of the Essex Shipwreck Presented in Captain Pollard's Interview with George Bennet

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pp. 211-215

C: Thomas Chapple's Account of the Loss of the Essex

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pp. 217-224

D: March 7, 1821, Letter of Commodore Ridgely to the Secretary of the Navy

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pp. 225-229

E: The "Paddack Letter" on the Rescue of Captain Pollard and Charles Ramsdell

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pp. 231-235

F: Report of the Essex Shipwreck and Rescue in the Sydney Gazette, June 9, 1821

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pp. 237-242

G: Table of Islands from Bowditch's Navigator

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pp. 243-246

H: Chase Genealogy

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pp. 247-251


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pp. 253-265


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pp. 267-273

About the Author

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pp. 274

E-ISBN-13: 9780819573773
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819550521

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012