Nantucket History Hits The Big Screen

December 7, 2015


Millions of American students have enjoyed the story of the Great White Whale crafted so skillfully by Herman Melville. From its iconic first line to the final clash between the book's two protagonists, the story brought the fears and challenges of life as a whaler to the world in 1851.

Inspired By A Real Vengeful Whale

However, very few of the fans of Moby Dick realize that this tale of a whale is, in fact, based on a true story and Melville’s own experiences as a whaler. In 1819, the Essex sailed out of its Nantucket port to its fateful meeting the next year with an enraged bull sperm whale. Only eight of the twenty-man crew would live to tell of their encounter with this denizen of the deep, and the lasting legend of Moby Dick was given birth.

While the story of the Essex has never been forgotten (it is central to the Nantucket Whaling Museum), it has been overshadowed by Melville’s work. However, a 2000 book by Nathaniel Philbrick has shown a new light on this incredible story of man against nature and himself.

Ron Howard is the trustworthy director behind In the Heart of the Sea, his cinematic version of Philbrick’s work of the same name. With recognized actors such as Chris Hemsworth Cilian Murphy, and Benjamin Walker, expectations are high and early reviews strong for this latest story of adventure at sea. The popular site Rotten Tomatoes indicates an extremely high 98 percent “want to see” ranking.

Shot To Be Extremely Realistic

Howard has discussed how committed he was to a realistic telling of this legend of fact. As one example of that effort, Hemsworth told one interviewer that the cast lived on a diet of 500-600 calories a day to lose weight and look like starving sailors. One bit of fiction, however, is involved with placing the future Herman Melville on the boat to provide his inspiration for the later book.

The movie is broken into two distinct segments. In the first, you get to know the crew and watch the stunningly realistic encounters with the great white one. Howard is largely successful in giving the whale a vengeful and frightening personality that communicates an iron will. The second part of the story details the travails of the 90 days the survivors sent at sea, and focuses on the individuals who died and those who survived. The highly anticipated nautical epic opens nationwide on Dec. 11, but there is a special community screening of the film on Dec. 9 at the Dreamland Theater.

You’ll find the team at Nantucket Storage Center on Nantucket Island ready to help you store your favorite books and DVDs to be enjoyed.

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