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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

  • America.

  • 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

  • whales.

  • 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

  • beast.

  • 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

  • be.

  • 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

  • whale.

  • 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

  • toys.

  • 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

  • ones

  • 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

  • morale.

  • 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

  • it.

  • 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 youradventure” (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.

It's August 1819, you're sixteen years old and you've just been hired as a deckhand

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B1 whale whaling sea crew boat captain

Stranded At Sea and Forced to Eat Each Other (True Story)

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    Summer posted on 2020/08/10
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