Study Guide

In the Heart of the Sea Chapter 4

By Nathaniel Philbrick

Chapter 4

The Lees of Fire

  • The Essex is about to go around Cape Horn, the bottom-most tip of South America. This is the riskiest part of the voyage, though Nantucketers have "been rounding it regularly ever since 1791" (4.3).
  • It takes the crew a month, but they finally round the horn. It's now January 1820.
  • Finally, the Essex's luck seems to be turning around. By the time they reach the coast of Peru, "Pollard and his men boiled down 450 barrels of oil, the equivalent of about eleven whales" (4.9).
  • In May, the Essex happens upon another ship: the Aurora. By chance, the Aurora is captained by Daniel Russell, former captain of the Essex. It's a family reunion.
  • Russell comes bearing good news: he's heard of a "new whaling ground" in the middle of the Pacific dubbed the Offshore Ground (4.18). If the rumors are true, this place is the mother lode.
  • Pollard decides to head out to this new pasture, stopping first for provisions. The Essex also loses something as well: Hendry De Witt, an African American crewmember, deserts while in port.
  • By October, the Essex is cruising toward the Galapagos Islands. They're forced to make some repairs when they arrive, but everything still seems to be going peachy.
  • Things are especially peachy because Galapagos turtles are quite tasty. The crew loads hundreds of these massive turtles onto the boat, endangered species list be dashed.
  • Before leaving, crewmember Thomas Chappel decides to play a hilarious prankā€”setting "Charles Island" on fire (4.47). It's a bad joke that also devastates the island's animal population.

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