The American whaler Essex, which hailed from Nantucket, Massachusetts, is attacked by an 80-ton sperm whale 2,000 miles from the western coast of South America.
The 238-ton Essex was in search of sperm whales, especially the valuable bone and oil that may be produced from them, when an enraged bull whale rammed the ship and capsized the vessel twice. The 20 crew members escaped in three open boats, but only five of the people survived the harrowing 83-day journey to the coastal waters of South America, where they are found by other ships. Most of the crew resorted to cannibalism through the entire extended journey, and at one point guys on 1 of the long boats drew straws to find out which of the people will be shot to be able to provide sustenance for others. Three other males who was simply left on a desolate Pacific island were saved later.
The initial capture of a sperm whale by an American vessel was in 1711, marking the birth of an essential American sector that commanded a fleet of more than 700 ships by the mid 18th century. Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick (1851) was inspired in portion by the story of the Essex.