In the Heart of the Sea

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The riveting and critically acclaimed bestseller, soon to be a major motion picture directed by Ron Howard Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, and Brendan Gleeson will star in a new film based on this National Book Award–winning account of the true events behind Moby Dick. In 1820, the whaleship Essex was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale, leaving the desperate crew to drift for more than ninety days in three tiny boats. Nathaniel Philbrick uses little-known documents and vivid details about the Nantucket whaling tradition to reveal the chilling facts of this infamous maritime disaster. In the Heart of the Sea—and now, its epic adaptation for the screen—will forever place the Essex tragedy in the American historical canon.
Curriculet Details
60 Questions
60 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for high school students contains interactive videos exploring scientific studies related to whaling and film adaptations of the book, as well as annotations describing literary terms relevant to the book, explaining allusions to historical events, and using images to help visualize passages. Students will explore the themes of survival and resilience. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

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Homework #10

Why does author Nathaniel Philbrick choose to begin his book by showing the reader the ending fate of the Essex? 
"Moby Dick" is Herman Melville's masterpiece. The novel is the story of the crazed Captain Ahab, who leads the crew of his ship on a revenge mission to destroy the white sperm whale who caused Ahab to lose his leg on a previous whaling expedition. (This annotation contains an image)
In this final paragraph of the "Preface," Philbrick reveals that this book will be about 

Homework #11

This list of the crew members of the "Essex" resembles a cast of characters list preceding a piece of drama; the next two pages include diagrams of the ship with labels of its different parts. Why do you think Philbrick chose to include these pages? How can you use these pages advantageously while reading? 

CHAPTER ONE - Nantucket

Depicted in the bottom right corner of the below map, Nantucket is an island of approximately 50 square miles located off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Philbrick include the information about the comet and the sighting of the "mysterious beast"? 
Sperm whales are the world's largest toothed predators. These whales tend to weigh approximately 50 tons, and their heads are often one third of their total body size. Spermaceti, the oil harvested from these whales, was used in the production of candles, soap, cosmetics, and many other products during the 19th century. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following did not contribute to Nantucket becoming a whaling community? 
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up? 
As described by Philbrick, the 19th century citizens of Nantucket were all of the following except 
The lyrics of Eliza Brock's song reiterate which theme which was an important part of Nantucket women's lives? 
Opium contains morphine- a drug used to treat physical pain. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the major advantage of serving as a cabin boy on a whaling ship? 
Though they came in many sizes, the average whaling ship in the 1820s would resemble the picture below. (This annotation contains an image)
What is suggested about Nantucket from the fact that understanding and use of seafaring terms in conversation was not limited to sailors? 
What is Philbrick's purpose for including these examples of the Nantucketers' diction? 
Philbrick includes the anecdote about the grasshoppers as an example of which of the following literary devices? 
In the Old Testament of the Bible, God sent ten plagues upon the people of Egypt as punishment for holding the Israelites as slaves. Each plague was a warning of more evil to come. The eighth plague was a swarm of locusts, who consumed all the Egyptians' crops, leaving them with nothing to eat. (This annotation contains an image)

CHAPTER TWO - Knockdown

A ship's windlass looks like the picture below. By turning it, the crew could hoist the ship's anchor. (This annotation contains an image)
The allusion to Jekyll and Hyde suggests which of the following? 
During the time of the Roman Empire, being a Roman citizen was a highly coveted position. Only citizens could vote, hold office, make contracts, marry a Roman citizen, sue in court, or have a legal trial. Citizens were even exempted from the death penalty. What does Comstock mean by saying that being from Nantucket is a better honor than being a Roman citizen? (This annotation contains an image)
All of the following adjectives apply to the crew of the Essex except 
The map below depicts the route described from Nantucket to the Pacific Ocean. Why does Philbrick compare this route to a skiier on a mountain? (This annotation contains an image)
Philbrick first hinted at Pollard's recklessness when he discussed which of the following? 
The picture below may help you to visualize the description used in this analogy. In this instance, the ship's hull is the "fat man on the short end." Because of the force of the wind and the length of the sails, the ship turned almost completely on its side. (This annotation contains an image)
Why do Nickerson and Chase give different accounts of the same event? 


Look at the map on the previous page. How far are the men into their journey, at this point? How much further do they have to travel? 
Which of the following best describes the mood that is created by the sight of this first whale? 
The quotation cited here was not spoken by any of the men on the Essex, but by a mate on a different, unknown ship. How does this paragraph contribute to Philbrick's overall description of a whale hunt? 
The picture below compares the size of a sperm whale to the size of a human and an elephant. How does this image help you to better comprehend this passage? (This annotation contains an image)
The term "Nantucket sleigh ride" is an example of a metaphor, which is defined the video below. Why is this term an appropriate comparison here? (This annotation contains a video)
Which details of the whale hunt are emphasized in Philbrick's account of the process? Which details are emphasized in Enoch Cloud's account? 
Dante's "Inferno" is the fictional story of Dante's journey through Hell. In the narrative, Dante discovers that Hell consists of nine circles, each representing a different sin. What does Philbrick mean by the saying the "Essex" resembles "Inferno"? (This annotation contains an image)
Use the "define" tool to look up the definition of the word nadir. Based on the definition, which of the following is the best synonym for nadir? 

CHAPTER FOUR - The Lees of Fire

The painting below depicts a ship sailing around the Cape of Horn. How does this image compare with the experience of the "Essex" described in the text? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following statements is most accurate about the Essex's journey up to this point? 
Why do the sailors have both negative and postiive feelings about "boiling"? 
Scurvy is a life-threatening disease which can develop from a severe deficiency of Vitamin C, which is found in most fruits and vegetables. Thinking about what you've learned from this book about food on whaling ships, why might a crew who is out to sea for a long time be especially vulnerable to scurvy? 
This passage can be considered 
Melville alludes to a parable from the Bible, in which a rich man who ignored the beggar Lazarus in life finds himself burning in Hell after his death, while Lazarus enjoys comfort in Heaven. (This annotation contains an image)
Charles Darwin's study of Galapagos tortoises helped him to develop his theory of evolution. Tortoises vary in size and weight, but some have been known to reach weights upwards of 800 pounds. (This annotation contains an image)
In your opinion, does Philbrick maintain an objective tone in telling the story of the Essex, or does he demonstrate his biases? Use evidence for support. 
Chapters 1-4 Quiz 


Why does Philbrick include this description of the Pacific Ocean? 
In Chapter 36 of "Moby Dick," Captain Ahab rallies his men with a cry of "A dead whale or a stove boat," meaning that the only acceptable outcomes were a dead whale or a broken boat. The adage has come to be associated with whaling in the 19th century in general. (This annotation contains an image)
The video below is a trailer for the 2011 miniseries adaptation of "Moby Dick," a story inspired by the "Essex." Watch the trailer, and use it to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a video)
How do the scenes depicted in the trailer- particularly the whale's attack on the ship- compare to the historical account of the Essex described in this book? 
The video below discusses the biology of sperm whales and demonstrates the echolocation system described in this paragraph. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following is Philbrick's hypothesis for why the whale attacked the ship? 
What details are emphasized in the artist's depiction of the "Essex" below? (This annotation contains an image)
By ending the chapter with a statement about whether or not the men will be able to survive, which of the following does Philbrick hope to create? 


On the map below, the location where the "Essex" wrecked is indicated by the X. What options did the men have for reaching land? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is not an obstacle which the crew of the Essex faces? 
The literary device "foreshadowing" is defined in the video below. Would you consider this statement an example of subtle or obvious foreshadowing? (This annotation contains a video)
The tone of his narration indicates that Philbrick 
In the context that the Nantucketers would have used the term, which of the following is the best synonym for "fishy"? 
Remember that much of the information contained in this book comes from accounts written by Nickerson and Chase. Keeping this in mind, make a prediction about what will happen to the three whaleboats. 


Evaluate Chase's thinking. Does his reasoning make sense? Do you agree with his plan? 
A half pint of water is the equivalent of eight ounces. Today, nutritionists recommend that a person should drink between 48 and 64 ounces of water a day to remain healthy and hydrated. (This annotation contains an image)
The men on the whaleboats created their own version of a chip log: a spool of rope with a weight on it used to measure the speed of the boat. The rope would be knotted at even distances. When tossed overboard, one would determine the speed of the ship by determining how many knots were unveiled in a set amount of time. (This annotation contains an image)
According to Nickerson, which of the following do the men feel will have the greatest impact on their ability to survive? 
The longer the men are at sea, the __________ they become. 
Every day, your body loses water in many ways, including through sweat, breathing, and excrement. If the amount of water your body takes in consistently falls below what you put out, hypernatremia- excess sodium in the bloodstream- will occur, potentially leading to seizures or coma. 
What do you think about the violence described in this scene with the tortoise? Why do you think Philbrick includes such strong images and detail? 
How have the men of the Essex changed as a result of the disaster?  

CHAPTER EIGHT - Centering Down

Which adjectives would you use to describe the scene depicted in Gericault's painting? Why? 
Gericault's painting, "The Raft of the Medusa," can be viewed below. Use this image to answer the next question. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Philbrick include these graphic descriptions of the effects of water deprivation on the body? 
The image below is of gooseneck barnacles. Why might the sailor have initially thought they were clams? (This annotation contains an image)
Which factors seem to have the greatest effect on the men's moods- both positively and negatively? 
The men of the Essex probably felt which of the following about the men and women back at the Quaker meeting in Nantucket? 


The dominant emotion the men associate with the island is 
Although the men think they are on Ducie Island, they were in fact on Henderson Island, which was very nearby. Both islands are a part of the Pitcairn Islands, not far from French Polynesia. (This annotation contains an image)
In general, Chase and Pollard tend to 
In 1789 , master's mate Fletcher Christian led a mutiny on the Royal Navy ship the USS Bounty, stealing the ship from the captain and sailing to Pitcairn, where they settled among the natives. (This annotation contains an image)
Use the "define" tool to look up the word brackish. The best synonym for brackish is 
"Klepto" refers to a person who steals things; "parasitic" refers to the idea that a species draws its nutrients from another body. Why is "kleptoparasitic" an appropriate term to describe the hawks? 
Philbrick claims the Nantucketers are in better shape because they 
Chappel, Weeks, and Wright were rescued in April 1821- four months after being left behind. 
Chapters 5-9 Quiz 

CHAPTER TEN - The Whisper of Necessity

Knowing which line of longitude you are at indicates your east-west position on the Earth's surface. Why is it crucial for the men to know their longitude? (This annotation contains an image)
Use the "define" tool to look up capricious. Which of the following is the best synonym? 
Poet Robert Lowell wrote a poem called "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket" as a tribute to his cousin who died at sea. Click below to read the poem- particularly section VII, which compares the ocean to the graveyard, as Philbrick does here. (This annotation contains a link)
According to this quotation, why does Chase decide to cut the men's rations? 
A K-ration is a daily ration of food provided to soldiers in World War II. The ration would contain food for all three meals. (This annotation contains an image)
How does the information about the University of Minnesota study enhance your understanding of the situation the crew of the Essex is facing? 
Think back to the men's feelings about sperm whales at the beginning of their journey. How has their perspective shifted? 
All of the following are appropriate terms to describe the mood of the crew of the Essex except 

CHAPTER ELEVEN - Games of Chance

The Donner Party was a group of several families of American pioneers who attempted to move from Missouri to California in 1846. When winter hit, the party became snowbound in the mountains. The Donner Party has become synonymous with the cannibalism, since several members of the expedition turned to it to survive. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Philbrick include this description of Ernest Shackleton and his expedition to the South Pole? 
Compare the image of Job with the descriptions of the crew of the Essex. How does the picture reflect their situation? 
The image below depicts Job, the Biblical figure. To test Job's faith, God took away Job's riches, health, and family, inflicting great suffering upon him. Use the image below to answer the next question. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following does Philbrick imply in this paragraph? 
To "draw lots" is to draw a name out of a hat. (This annotation contains an image)

CHAPTER TWELVE - In the Eagle’s Shadow

Most people who read "In the Heart of the Sea" will probably never experience the type of hunger described in this book. As an writer, how does Philbrick help his reader to understand the severity of the situation? 
Using the graphic on the previous page, determine which of the following statements is not true. 
The Juan Fernandez Islands are located approximately 400 miles off the coast of Chile. (This annotation contains an image)
Chase believes that there is a clear correlation between which of the following? 
Use the "define" tool to look up the word confabulation. Which of the following is the best synonym for confabulation? 
We are back where we started- the "Dauphin" discovering Pollard's boat was first described back in the Preface of this book. How has your reaction to this scene changed or evolved after reading about what the men went through before getting to this point? 
Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is a poem about a man who becomes shipwrecked, loses all his crew to death, and nearly dies himself. Upon returning to land, he tells his story to anyone who will listen, cautioning them against going down the same path he did. Click the link below and read the final two stanzas of the poem to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
How is the ending of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" similar to the sentiment expressed in the final paragraph of this chapter? 


Which of the following words best describes the tone of this sentence? 
Hendricks' boat was never definitively identified, so this may be the best theory as to what happened to it. 
Click below to watch a "book trailer" for "In the Heart of the Sea." Then use the trailer to answer the next question.  (This annotation contains a video)
What details are emphasized in this book trailer? What changes would you make if you had created this trailer? 
Ghostwriting a book means writing a book without taking credit for authoring it. Instead, a different person's name is presented as the author. Today, many celebrities hire ghostwriters to write novels to sell under the celebrity's name. According to Philbrick, why does Chase need a ghostwriter? 
Why does Chase leave some information out of his account of the Essex disaster? 
Which of the following does Philbrick imply is the reason that Chase is not hired in Nantucket for eleven full years following his return? 


What inference can you draw from Philbrick's statement? 
The story about Pollard and Coffin changes as a direct result of which of the following? 
According to this anecdote, Chase's sailing career after the Essex was primarily motivated by his desire 
Although Melville spent a significant amount of time at sea, his journey on the "Acushnet" was his only whaling expedition. After a year and a half on board, Melville abandoned ship to live in the Marquesas Islands. His experience on the "Acushnet" is thought to have given him much of his material for "Moby Dick." 
Which of the following represents the Nantucketer's feelings about the Essex disaster? 
One of his less popular works, "Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket" is Edgar Allan Poe's only full-length novel. (This annotation contains an image)
Summarize the events which had the biggest impact on Nantucket's demise from the whaling capital of the world to a no longer prosperous city. 
Today, sperm whales are classified as a "Threatened" species on the IUCN Red List. 
The wood engraving below depicts the sinking of one of the whaleboats of the "Ann Alexander." Why might the artist have chosen to render this part of the story, rather than the sinking of the main ship? (This annotation contains an image)
How does the fate of the crew of the Ann Alexander parallel that of the crew of The Essex?  How is it different? 
Which of the following differences exist between Nickerson and Chase's accounts of the Essex disaster? 
Philbrick's book was published in 2000. In 2011, the wreckage of what is believed to be the "Essex" was discovered in the Pacific Ocean. Click the video below for information about the ship's discovery. (This annotation contains a video)


In 2005, the Whaling Museum of the Nantucket Historical Association opened, showcasing the skeleton described in these pages. (This annotation contains an image)
Chapters 10-14 Quiz