In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex Summary and Analysis of Chapter 14: Consequences


Pollard's new crew read his narrative, but he insisted on telling the tale in conversation. He spoke cheerfully and modestly. He now kept a large net in his quarters that was filled with provisions like fruits and potatoes. Even if lightning never strikes the same place twice, he wanted to have that comfort. Unfortunately for Pollard though, that old adage didn't hold up.

Pollard ordered his crew to shorten sail as a squall developed near the Hawaiian Islands. Although he judged their position perfectly far from the French Frigate Shoals - a mountainous coral reef - Nickerson witnessed those very reefs breaking into the sides of the boat as he was thrown to the ground below deck. The ship was beyond salvage and Pollard made the difficult decision to ready the whaleboats and to leave the ship in the storm.

It was this event that robbed Pollard of his cheerful optimism. He was now considered an unlucky man, which meant a great deal in Nantucket. He was right, too. His whaling career was over, so he became a night watchman in Nantucket, a very low occupation on the social ladder. A rumor spread that Pollard had drawn the lot and that his young cousin had insisted on taking the captain's place, which would make Pollard a regular coward.

Pollard managed to create a happy life for himself, though. He was responsible for enforcing the nine o'clock curfew and did so with buoyancy. Every year, on the anniversary of the attack on the whaleship Essex, he would lock himself in his room and fast for a day.

Chase's wife died two weeks after the delivery of his third child and he remarried to a woman with whom he had developed a special bond: she was the widow of Matthew Joy, second mate of the Essex. Chase was offered the job of captaining a ship and made a very successful journey. He captained a second ship immediately after, to the dismay of his new wife. He continued to bring in oil when his second wife died after the delivery of yet another daughter. He remarried a second time and left for his final voyage as a whaling captain, having arrived at the age of forty.

A man named Herman Melville signed onto a crew and met Chase's teenage son in a gam. It was here that Melville got a copy of Chase's narrative and began taking notes in the back of the book.

Meanwhile, Chase learned of the infidelity of his new wife and filed for divorce. He remarried for the third time. He remained in Nantucket for the rest of his life.

Lawrence had many children and retired in Nantucket as well. He refused to speak of the disaster to anybody.

Although Nantucket wanted to be known for its abolitionist stronghold and moral justice, it was impossible to escape the tragic story of the whaleship Essex. From Ralph Waldo Emerson to Edgar Allan Poe to Herman Melville, the story was an inspiration to many great thinkers and authors. Though Moby-Dick proved financially unsuccessful, the story became a classic in due time.

Later, after the crew members were all retired, a fire broke out in the spermaceti warehouse and it overtook the street where Pollard lived, but miraculously it didn't set fire to his house. Nantucket was rebuilt in brick.

The gold rush had begun and the whaling industry had succumbed to greater promises of wealth. More stories of fighting sperm whales arose and it seemed that the previously gentle creatures of the sea had begun to resist their increased role as prey.

Chase began a slow descent into madness that began with him hiding food in the attic of his house. He was victim to incessant migraines and died in 1869. Pollard died the next year. Nickerson had developed a reputation as a fine boardinghouse keeper. When he finally put down in words his account of the tragedy, many of his details were brand new and some were in direct conflict with Chase's.

Benjamin Lawrence was the last of Nickerson's comrades to die. The twine that he kept all his life from the Essex was donated to the Nantucket Historical Association and hangs in a box next to a leather-bound chest that was found near the wreck. That is all that remains of the whaleship Essex: a battered box and a ragged piece of twine.


This chapter serves as an epilogue to the tale of the Essex's crashing. Pollard, however competent a captain he was, suffered another shattering knockdown and lived the rest of his life back in Nantucket. Chase, a fiery leader turned empathetic, suffered several more deaths in his company as his family's matriarch changed every 2-3 years. While these two men felt obligated to write down their tales, even by ghostwriter, Benjamin Lawrence had not felt such an obligation. Sadly, the way he is characterized by his fellow sailors makes him out to be somewhat pathetic in contrast. He breaks down and cries, cannot accomplish his tasks, and generally relies on others for his survival. Perhaps this is an accurate picture that Benjamin did not want to be reminded of, or perhaps he was too haunted by this trek to relive it. His story lives on in the only physical evidence from the whaleboats, which is the piece of twine that remains in Nantucket's historical museum.

In Ron Howard's film, Thomas Nickerson tells the tale to Herman Melville and holds Chase up on a pedestal. In real life, Chase had poor judgment at times and lots of trouble at home. Philbrick's telling of the story allows all characters their own vulnerabilities, whereas Howard's seeks the stoic perfection of man in Chase. Although madness touched each of these characters in small ways, Chase was ultimately aligned with Isaac Cole's brand of excited and confused insanity when he finally died. In the end, Nickerson held no man on a pedestal, but rather told the tale as best he remembered it in his ragged, meandering non-ghostwritten account.