There are a lot of guys on the Essex who don't exactly become main characters, but they're still worth mentioning. Some of these guys meet gruesome deaths. Some of them abandon their comrades. Some of them get straight-up eaten. Though we might not learn much about them as individuals, their lives teach us volumes about the society they come from.
Let's go ahead and run down these fellows' fates, shall we?
Are you noticing a pattern here? As it turns out, Nantucketers have a much higher survival rate than their mainland-born peers: an effect that's amplified when the men in question are African American. In our eyes, there are two reasons for this. First, this is a consequence of the class system aboard whaling ships: mainlanders are given worse food than the Nantucket-born officers, while African American sailors are given even worse than that. That's like starting a race with a broken ankle.
But this also illustrates the power (for good or ill) of community. If the Nantucketers were already sticking together before the Essex sank, then it's only logical that this would be amplified after a disaster. And it's true: "the Nantucketers provided one another with support and encouragement that they did not offer the others" (9.45). With morale at a high premium in the aftermath of the Essex disaster, it seems that a little bit of encouragement goes a long way.