History's Mysteries (1998–2011)
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The Essex: The True Story of Moby Dick 



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Episode cast overview:
Bob Clarke Bob Clarke ... Himself - US Coast Guard (as Lt. Bob Clarke)
Thomas Farel Heffernan Thomas Farel Heffernan ... Himself
Nathaniel Philbrick Nathaniel Philbrick ... Himself (as Nat Philbrick)
Stuart M. Frank Stuart M. Frank ... Himself - Kendall Whaling Museum
Paul Schneider Paul Schneider ... Himself - Author


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Release Date:

27 November 2000 (USA) See more »

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Did You Know?


The whaler Essex sailed from Nantucket in 1819 and met its doom in the middle of the Pacific in 1820, when a sperm whale attacked, causing the ship to sink. Adrift in small whaleboats, the crew faced storms, thirst, illness, and starvation. Reduced to cannibalism, but succeeding in one of history's great open-boat journeys, the few survivors were picked up off South America. This provided inspiration for Herman Melville's novel "Moby-Dick". See more »

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User Reviews

well made documentary
30 March 2006 | by sistershrewSee all my reviews

A neat film trailing the event that inspired a classic. Following the crash of the giant whaling boat and it's surviving crew members, you witness what unfolds when reality and the recognition of potential demise sets in.

Despite what the title reads, this film centers mainly around the captain and crew occupying the ship. After a brief introductory to the practice of whaling, passages recorded from the actual crew members acquaint us with a wavery, waffling captain and a strong-headed first mate. The documentary, complete with great animations reenacting the events, soon takes us to the climacteric scene where 'Moby Dick' makes his first appearance, durably altering the course of the seaman's' lives and triggering the event that eventually launched a thousand novels.

But the massive whale's part is a brief one, and it's the events and struggles that transpire afterwards that's most likely to stick in your mind. Maybe it's the way the crew fears of steering for a plausible island for refuge in the possibly of cannibals, only to realize on a later time that irony is a ceaseless domineer. Or perhaps it's how a shipmate is forced to take the life of the friend he'd known since adolescence in order to salvage he and the crews' own biting starvation.

On the other hand, it's not unimaginable that you could just as easily find this film painfully arid. That's why I don't recommend it for folks who can't sit through a program on the History Channel without falling asleep. But it's suggested for anyone else with an open mind and roughly one and a half hours to spare.

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