The Story Of The Essex
Cobblestone American History Magazine for Kids|September 2017

“HERE HE IS—HE IS MAKING FOR US AGAIN!” 

Beth Haverkamp Powers

A sailor screamed in disbelief. First Mate Owen Chase was clambering across the deck of the whaling ship Essex to hoist a signal flag alerting the other whaleboats that the vessel was taking on water. The Essex had just been damaged in a collision with a whale. Chase reeled around to see the same gigantic sperm whale charging the ship a second time. Later, he would write that he saw the whale approach “with twice his ordinary speed, and to me at that moment, it appeared, with tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect.” The whale rammed the Essex and left a fatal hole in the ship’s bow. In minutes, the vessel began to tilt to one side and sink into the water.

Chase took a minute to gather his wits. Then he grabbed a compass, an astrolabe, and some maps and launched the single whaleboat still with the ship. Eventually, the other two whaleboats, which had been out chasing whales, returned to the grim scene. The Essex remained afloat, thanks in large part to its cargo of whale oil, but it was a loss. Scrambling across the ship’s hull, the men used hatchets from the whaleboats to break in and salvage as much as possible of the drinking water, hardtack, and other provisions. But they were in dire straits, and most of the men knew it.

The 20-man crew of the Essex divided up among the three seaworthy whaleboats. More than 1,000 miles lay between them and the nearest land in the Pacific Ocean in that November 1820. Rather than make for the closest island where, ironically, their 19th-century prejudices led them to believe that savages would eat them, they decided to head for South America—3,000 miles away.

The crew suffered thirst, hunger, sunburn, and disorientation during their initial weeks on the ocean. After about a month, they reached a small island, but there was not enough food or water there to sustain them. Three sailors refused to leave the island with the rest of the crew. They were the lucky ones.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM COBBLESTONE AMERICAN HISTORY MAGAZINE FOR KIDSView All

Celebrating Our Southwest Heritage

A talk with Khristaan Villela

3 mins read
Cobblestone American History Magazine for Kids
January 2020

Neighbors North And South

Refugees from the Mexican Revolution in the 1910s head for Marfa, Texas.

4 mins read
Cobblestone American History Magazine for Kids
January 2020

A New Conflict Threatened The US And Mexico's Relationship

More than 60 years after the United States and Mexico fought their last battle over land, a new conflict threatened the two countries’ relationship.

2 mins read
Cobblestone American History Magazine for Kids
January 2020

The Final Piece

The dark green color in the map depicts the land that was the Gadsden Purchase.

2 mins read
Cobblestone American History Magazine for Kids
January 2020

Alta California Becomes A State

This 1750 map captures the Spanish belief—based on the Baja Peninsula—that California was an island.

4 mins read
Cobblestone American History Magazine for Kids
January 2020

From Tejas To Texas

The republic of Mexico—newly independent from Spain—faced some big problems in the early 1820s.

4 mins read
Cobblestone American History Magazine for Kids
January 2020

The Rise of New Spain

Within a couple of years of arriving in Mexico, Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztec Empire.

3 mins read
Cobblestone American History Magazine for Kids
January 2020

Rethinking A Holiday

Columbus Day has been an official U.S. holiday since 1937. But some people question the idea of celebrating Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the “New World.”

3 mins read
Cobblestone American History Magazine for Kids
January 2020

The Promise Of Gold And A Sea Route To India

The promise of gold and a sea route to India.

4 mins read
Cobblestone American History Magazine for Kids
January 2020

Getting Started

Did you know that the Spanish arrived in North America more than 100 years before the English settled their first colonies in Virginia and Massachusetts?

2 mins read
Cobblestone American History Magazine for Kids
January 2020
RELATED STORIES

THE OIL BOYS OF ESSEX

Over a few hours in April, a trader called Cuddles and eight of his pals from outside London made $660 million—and turned global oil markets upside down

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 14, 2020

MARITIME LIFE

Growing up on the south shore of Boston, my brother and I developed a love for all things nautical from the lobster boats, dories and pleasure craft of our own time to the thriving shipbuilding hub of the 17th to 19th centuries.

6 mins read
American Art Collector
June 2020

Stay your fire

Geoff Garrod on how to approach some of the difficult decisions posed by the lockdown

5 mins read
Sporting Gun
April 2021

‘Loving your mare isn't enough to breed'

Katie Jerram-Hunnable on how Covid has affected breeding and sales

3 mins read
Horse & Hound
February 25, 2021

Justine Armstrong-Small

The showing producer on her regular county show blunder, a dreamy middleweight and how she hates running late on competition day

4 mins read
Horse & Hound
February 04, 2021

‘I'm going to have babies with Dan'

TOWIE star Amber Turner tells new about her relationship with Dan Edgar, how she deals with trolls and her fitness secrets

5 mins read
New UK
February 08, 2021

GARDEN notes

Sunny flowers and magical compost

1 min read
WOMAN'S WEEKLY
February 09, 2021

DREAM LIVING

Is buying a home right for you, right now? Amar Upadhyaya of OneClickHomes shares his expert insights

1 min read
Khush Wedding
Issue 28

life.style.etc

Gynelle Leon, founder of PRICK, London’s first cacti and succulent shop, on her favourite garden, following her instincts and finding an upside in the pandemic

2 mins read
Living Etc Magazine
February 2021

WRIGHT MAN IN A RIGHT PLACE!

Shootout hero Joe

2 mins read
The Non-League Football Paper
January 17, 2021