Study Guide

In the Heart of the Sea Chapter 2

By Nathaniel Philbrick

Chapter 2

Knockdown

  • Just getting out of the harbor is tricky business for this massive ship. Since both Captain Pollard and his crew are new to the job, this process is nearly disastrous.
  • Luckily (or unluckily, depending on the person you're talking to), first mate Owen Chase is as rough n' tough as John Wayne.
  • That night, the crew is given their whaleboat assignments. Nickerson "found himself on Chase's boat," while his buddies get assigned to Captain Pollard's (2.26). Second mate Williams Joy is stuck with a boat full of off-islanders.
  • The Essex is a heavily segregated ship, with officers sharing luxe cabins while the crew shares a smaller space. And the black crew? They're stuck in the back of the boat.
  • By the way, here's the plan: Essex will head down the Atlantic Ocean, scoot around the horn of South America, chill in the Pacific for a bit, and then head home. Easy enough, right?
  • It's been three days, and things are going well. Essex is cruising at high speeds thanks to Pollard's decision to put up the "studding sails," which boost speed but limit maneuverability (2.43).
  • Unfortunately, the crew can see a storm approaching. This usually would prompt the removal of those studding sails, but Pollard delays his decision in favor of going fast and furious.
  • That's a bad move—the storm hits the crew before they can take the sails down. Pollard decides to "turn [...] in the opposite direction" of the wind to ease the pressure from the massive gusts (2.50), but our captain once again makes the wrong decision.
  • The wind slams into the ship, rolling the Essex to a ninety-degree angle (grab that protractor, son). That's bad. Really bad. On the bright side, it does give the crew some brief relief from the rain.
  • Somehow, the ship rights itself. Pollard wants to head back to Nantucket, but Chase and Joy convince him to continue the journey—even though the ship has lost three of its five whaleboats.

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