B1 Intermediate 66 Folder Collection
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It's August 1819, you're sixteen years old and you've just been hired as a deckhand
on your first sea voyage.
You're preparing for the adventure of your life, but little do you know that you and
your crew will soon be stranded at sea, forced to eat each other to survive!
The 87 foot long, 240 ton whaling ship Essex is leaving today for a two year, ten-thousand
mile journey to hunt sperm whales.
You grew up on the island of Nantucket, the hub of the thriving whale oil trade, so you've
always known you would go into the whaling business like everyone else in your life.
As the ship pulls away from port you stand on the deck to wave goodbye to your family.
You can't believe that it will be two years until you see them again, but at least you'll
be a sea-tested sailor when you return.
Only two days after setting sail, you get your first taste of the sea's wrath when
a fierce storm comes out of nowhere and nearly sinks the ship.
After making some repairs you continue on your journey down the eastern coast of South
America, and five weeks later the Essex arrives in Cape Horn off the Southern tip of South
To you, it feels like you've sailed to the bottom of the world.
Unfortunately, the delay from the storm means you arrived late, and you find that the usually
fertile hunting waters have been fished out.
The Captain decides to head towards the Galapagos islands in the South Pacific in search of
After a long trip up the other side of South America, the crew anchors at Charles Island
in the Galapagos to restock, where bad luck continues to plague your excursion.
A reckless crewmemeber's prank burns the entire island to the ground.
You run through the flames and barely escape with your life.
Thankfully, no one in the crew is hurt, but the same can't be said for the island's
wildlife - you're now responsible for the extinction of the Floreana Tortoise and the
near extinction of the Floreana Mockingbird.
Finally, after more than a year at sea, your crew encounters a group of sperm whales.
It looks like luck is finally in your favor...or so you think.
The experienced crew jumps into action, immediately launching three of the ship's twenty-foot
whaling boats crewed by six men each.
Soon enough, two of the three whaling boats have successfully harpooned whales - no easy
feat, since this involves rowing incredibly close to the whale so one man can harpoon
it, then holding on for dear life while you try stabbing it to death with a lance.
The third boat was not so lucky - it got too close to a whale and was damaged by the powerful
As the two successful boats are carried away by the panicking whales in what's called
a “nantucket sleigh ride”, the third crew returns to the ship, where you, as a lowly
deckhand, had to stay during the hunt.
As the first mate is angrily repairing his boat, you look out and spot the biggest sperm
whale you've ever laid eyes on.
It's a true monster, probably eighty-five feet long and weighing eighty tons.
The whale is acting strange, though - it's floating still in the sea, spraying water
from its spout, and seems to be...watching you.
You shout out as it starts to swim directly towards the boat, travelling at a speed of
around 3 knots.
The first mate grabs a lance and takes careful aim, but hesitates, worried about angering
the beast and it damaging the ship.
You pray that it will dive, but your prayers go unanswered - the giant whale smashes head-first
into the side of the ship so hard you're knocked you off your feet.
As water pours in through a hole in the port side and the crew scrambles to get pumps going,
you can see that the whale is still there - and it looks enraged, rolling in the water
and snapping its jaws.
Again, it turns and barrels towards the ship - travelling at six knots now as its twelve-foot
wide tale pumps furiously, leaving a forty-foot wake.
The crew frantically tries to maneuver the ship out of the whale's path, but it's
too late - the whale once again smashes into the ship head first, this time hitting the
ship just below the anchor.
The ship gets lodged on the beast's head as the whale pushes the ship sideways through
the water and water pours over the transom.
Finally, the whale disentangles itself from the wreckage and dives, disappearing for good,
but the ship is destroyed.
The crew scrambles to lower the last spare whaling boat and fill it with as much food,
fresh water and navigational equipment as possible.
When the whaling boats notice that the Essex has disappeared, they immediately cut loose
their valuable whales and head back to where they last saw the ship.
The first whaling boat to arrive is the one led by the Captain.
As he arrives on the scene to find his majestic ship floundering, the captain turns to the
first mate and asks: “My God, Mr. Chase, what is the matter!?”
Mr. Chase, the first mate, can only reply: “We've been stoved by a whale.”
You spend that night in the whaling boats tied to the wreckage, but by morning you all
know you need a plan.
You're in the middle of the Pacific Ocean about as far from land as you can possibly
You are twenty men and you have only three small whaling boats, and you only managed
to save sixty days worth of provisions from the wreck.
The crew quickly vetoes the Captain's plan to head to the Society Islands a few hundred
miles away or the Marquesas islands fifteen hundred miles away because they had heard
rumours of cannibals living on these islands - the irony of this wouldn't be apparent
until much later.
Instead it's decided that you'll head south towards the South American mainland.
You figure it will take about sixty days to reach Chile or Peru, and at least you might
be spotted by other whaling ships on the way.
Each boat is loaded with two-hundred pounds of hardtack - a type of dried bread - sixty-five
gallons of water, and one gun.
Now that you have a plan and are headed towards land, you and the crew are in much higher
spirits, believing the worst is behind you.
But you have no idea what's in store for you...
Within a few short days, those high spirits are broken.
The human body needs half a pint of water per day just to eliminate waste, and you have
less than half that amount.
As you chew your hard bread and bemoan your parched throats, it dawns on you - all of
the food you managed to save had been soaked in sea water, and as the water evaporated
it left behind salt, accelerating your dehydration.
To add insult to injury, your boat is attacked yet again, this time by an aggressive killer
Thankfully you escape unscathed, but morale is low, and getting lower by the minute.
After seventeen days at sea, a storm hits - gale force winds gust at forty-five knots,
lightning flashes all around you, and immense forty-foot high waves toss the boats like
But by your twenty-third day at sea, you begin to pray for a storm when you find yourselves
stuck in a dead calm with no wind for days.
The Captain tries to rally a last-ditch effort and convinces you to row to freedom, but the
effort is quickly abandoned as men start to collapse within minutes.
You have travelled eleven hundred miles, but you're still five thousand miles from land.
You are delirious with thirst, burned raw from the sun, and are rapidly running out
of food.
You're in an area of the Pacific with no marine life near the surface, so you can't
even hope to catch fish.
You reach Henderson Island two weeks later, but it's barren.
Still, three men refuse to get back in the boats, and you leave them behind on the island
when you resume your mission, assuming that they're dead men.
Ironically, they would be rescued three months later, and they would end up being the lucky
A week later, the first man dies.
He was ill before the shipwreck, so it was not unexpected, but it's still a blow to
The men tie a rock to his feet and slip the body overboard in a traditional sea burial.
Two nights later, the boat led by First Mate Chase gets separated from the group.
As the two remaining boats divide up what's left of the provisions, you realize that there
is less than a pound of hardtack left to share between ten men.
A few days later, when the second man dies, you all hesitate about giving him a burial
at sea.
No one wants to say what you're all thinking - without food, you will all surely die, and
the obvious solution is right in front of you.
You can hardly believe your eyes as you watch one of the most hardened crew members butcher
the body of your fellow sailor.
First he separates the limbs from the body, then all the flesh is cut from the bones,
the heart is removed and the body is sewn back up and committed to the sea as decently
as possible under the circumstances.
Finally the meat and organs are roasted on a flat stone at the bottom of the boat, and
you have their first taste of fresh meat in months.
The average human body has about sixty pounds of edible meat, but your starving friend provided
less than thirty pounds of very lean meat.
Even still, once you've tasted fresh meat again you can't seem to stop thinking about
Satisfying your hunger seems to have reawoken it with a vengeance.
After nine weeks adrift in the sea the men in your boat realize that you would all die
without food, and someone suggests you all draw lots to determine who will be eaten next.
You know this is an old custom at sea, but you had hoped to never live to see it.
The lot falls to young Owen Coffin, and you began to sweat.
Owen is the Captain's nephew - surely he won't let him be eaten, and who better to
take his place than you, the youngest and newest member of the crew.
To your great relief, young Owen takes his fate heroically.
One of his friends kills and butchers him, and you and the others feast again.
Over the coming weeks, three more men would die and be eaten.
After a miserable eighty-nine days at sea, the three men left clinging to life in First
Mate Chase's boat spot a sail on the horizon.
They muster the last of their energy and chase down an English ship, the Indian and are finally,
miraculously rescued.
The third boat will be found years later with three skeletons inside, among many other scattered
bones that show signs of having been gnawed on.
But your ordeal is not yet over.
You and the Captain are the last two men left alive, and still fifteen-hundred miles from
Chile, when a ship pulls up alongside your boat.
You're so delirious that you don't understand that these people are trying to help you - you
are like a starved, feral dog, hoarding and protecting the last of the bones of your departed
crewmates and trying to suck the marrow from them.
As the ship makes its way to shore, you take the time to rest and recover - although you
hear that the Captain recovered rather quickly, and has been dining in style with the captain
of this ship and regaling him with stories of your “adventure” (narrator: sarcasm).
You're reunited with the other three survivors in Valparaiso, and by the end of the summer,
nearly two years since you left, you're all safely back in Nantucket.
You know that cannibalism at sea is customary when men are faced certain death, but it's
still a relief to be welcomed back by your community without judgement.
You do hear, though, that the Captain wasn't so lucky - his sister can't forgive him
for eating his nephew, her son.
Despite this harrowing ordeal, within a few years you and every one of the other four
survivors will return to the sea.
And in eighteen fifty-one, a man named Herman Melville will publish a novel inspired by
the story of the men on the Essex who were stranded at sea, forced to eat each other.
It wasn't very popular at the time, but Moby Dick has gone down in literary history.
Now go watch the harrowing tale titled “I Was Lost At Sea for 76 Days With Sharks Circling”,
or maybe you'll like this other video.
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Stranded At Sea and Forced to Eat Each Other (True Story)

66 Folder Collection
Summer published on August 11, 2020
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