Most glad to be sitting on my comfortable couch right now, not having to resort to cannibalism. I mean, there’s cannibalism in this is what I’m saying, and while it’s not described in extreme detail, it is *described* . I feel like I might have gotten PTSD from having to read about these people I didn’t even really like (except for maybe the cabin boy) having to eat each other. So: that is my warning to you, and historical spoilers? I guess? This book climaxes in cannibalism.
But it was really interesting! And harrowing. And infuriating. It’s almost as much about whaling as a historical practice, and about the island of Nantucket, as it is about this famous shipwreck that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby-Dick. Another spoiler alert: whaling was a disgusting practice that encouraged men to treat intelligent animals not as living beings but product to make money off of, a natural resource that God gave them to exploit, consequences not even on their radar. Absolutely no efforts to understand the creatures they were killing beyond what was useful in the hunt, no effort to use the entire body of the whale like any other hunter might do, just dumped the carcasses into the ocean after they were done harvesting the blubber and spermaceti and ambergris. And forget about sustainability. Whaleboats were essentially waterborne factories, with all the yuckiness that implies. I mean, by the time these fuckers got on the boat, I was ready for that whale to capsize them, no matter why he actually did it. None of that judgment is in the book, by the way; it’s entirely mine.
The best bit in the book was how they decided not to steer to a nearby island that was only thirty days away because of the homosexual cannibals they were afraid of finding, and then because of that decision, ended up becoming cannibals themselves (the people on that island did practice homosexuality, according to archaeological records, but I highly doubt they would have been much interested in emaciated whalers all covered in whale guts or whatever in any case, so their precious greedy virtues would have been safe).
“Only a Nantucketer in November 1820 possessed the necessary combination of arrogance, ignorance, and xenophobia to shun a beckoning (albeit unknown) island and choose instead an open-sea voyage of several thousand miles.”
Anyways, this was a highly readable, informative book. I’m going to track down the movie soon, even though it seems like Chris Hemsworth was miscast. Owen Chase, the first mate, was a bit of a pill IRL, and it seems like from the trailer they’re trying to turn him into this classical hero, when a lot of his decisions actually cost most of the crew their lives. We’ll see, I guess! Anyway baby Tom Holland plays the cabin boy so that should be good at least.