Nathaniel Philbrick started his career in historical writing in 1986, after relocating to Nantucket Island with his wife and kids. The history of the region is what persuaded him to start writing historical novels and he then wrote his first one, Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People. In 1999, he published this book In the Heart of the Sea and then followed it with Sea of Glory (2003), Mayflower, and The Battle of Little Big Horn.
His book, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, has won the National Book Award for a nonfiction novel. It is based on the catastrophic event of 1820 in the history of America, when a whaleship named Essex was attacked by a sperm whale and a group of 20 men were stuck in tiny boats for 90 days. Sailing from the South Pacific to South America with no food left to eat, cannibalism started to take place when the survival instinct kicked in.
The novel explicitly describes the dramatic details, the events, and the struggle and misery the men went through, as well as the fear, disease, hunger and thirst to keep themselves protected and alive till the end. It sketches an accurate picture of the power of men over nature. By documenting the occurrence of the event, this novel is surely depicting the unnerving situation, which may also force readers to question the occurrences on moral grounds. It also includes the description of the ship’s cabin boy who was lost during the hustle.
The event in the novel captures one of the most unsettling events in American history, which makes it an important literary contribution and a must read for individuals interested in the adventurous and historical genre.