The Other Frontier: The Story of 19th Century Whaling

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The wreck of the whale ship Essex is one of the great American sea stories. In the summer of The Perfect Storm and the Shackleton exhibit, not to mention the rerelease of Jaws on DVD, the story of incredible hardship and danger on the unforgiving sea has once again captured the American imagination.

Herman Melville, it turns out, based Moby Dick on the true story of the doomed Nantucket whale ship Essex, which was destroyed in 1820 by an enraged sperm whale thousands of miles from land. The harrowing account by the Essex First Mate Owen Chase helped Melville flesh out the details of whaling and the psychology of Queequeg, Starbuck, and Ishmael.

But Melville’s tale ends where the true trials of the Nantucket men just begin.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea

Tim Severin, author of In Search of Moby Dick.