Inthe Heart of the Sea: Question Two
Inthe Heart of the Sea is a nonfictional story describing the loss ofEssex whaleship on 20th of November in the year 1820. The ship Essexhad embarked on a journey with twenty members on board to hunt thesperm whale for oil in the South Pacific. Unfortunately, while in themiddle of South Pacific, an enormous sperm whale hit and sunk theship. The team struggled for their survival more than three months inthree tiny whaleboats. Harsh weather, hunger, and diseases alwaysoverwhelmed them. Cannibalism became the only means for theirsurvival (Philbrick 1). TheQuaker’s religious beliefs shaped the whaling industry, sustainedthe Nantucket’s livelihood and contributed to the Essex tragedy.
QuakersBeliefs and the Whaling Industries
Inthe years before the discovery of whale oils, Quakers dependedentirely on the Island’s resources by farming and trading. However,with an increase of the population and the destructive activities ofthe sea, the islands arable portions were exhausted. As a result,they shifted to the sea.
TheNantucket believed they had dominion over the sea creatures includingthe whales, and therefore they should utilize them at will. As aresult, they killed more whales thinking they were enacting God`swill. Nantucket were needy people with a responsibility to attack themighty whales for survival (Philbrick 6). Quoting a verse from thespeech of one Nantucket leader:
But,everlasting God, thou dost ordain That we, poor feeble
Mortalsshould engage (Ourselves, our wives and children
tomaintain), This dreadful monster with a martial rage
Also,Quakers beliefs facilitated the development of whaling industry asevident moments after the Mary Coffin converted t Quakerism. As aprominent leader of Nantucket, she opposed any attempt to establishany other religion. However, with her conversion to Quakerism, manyisland people fell for the faith that spearheaded in the sea voyagesfor whale oils. Consequently, many people who shared common beliefssupported the whaling business and recruited while young childrenwere born into the business, thereby promoting the whaling industry(Philbrick 10). Many people converged to the island where they servedas captain and workers in the whaling ships. Individuals who were notQuakers attended the meetings at large South Meetinghouse where theywere introduced to the religious beliefs.
Religiousbeliefs and Essex tragedy
Between1820 and 1825, many people had embraced Quakerism, which in turnformed the island`s culture. Teaching from the ministers of thedoctrine made the community understand that the Spirit of God existedin them. With that in mind, the Society of Friends came to aconviction that they were to abandon their older fashions and in turnadopt modesty and plainness. During that time, the modesty accordingto the Quakers was to exploit the resources of the sea. With years ofwhaling in the local waters, the sailors and oil companies started topenetrate the deep sea where the whale population was high. With theconvictions that they had dominion over the sea, they set for thehunt of the largest whale that had terrorized other whalers.
Withthe Quakerism came a secret group of young women who could only marrymen who have killed a whale. Such men could wear chockpins toidentify themselves to this secret group of women as hunters andboat-steerers (Philbrick 8). To the likes of Nickerson and OwenCoffin in the book “in the heart of the sea,” killing a whalerepresented a great chance to marry the most beautiful woman as wellas gain status associated with respect in the community. Due to thisreason, the whalers of Essex did not hesitate to encounter the giantwhale terrorizing the sailor in the heart of the sea. Philbrickreveals that due to this notion, there were more than 47 childrengrowing up without a father and about a quarter of the women widowedin 1810 (p.14-23).
Also,Quakerism propagated the Nantucket’s desire to be the “distinctand superior people” in the world especially at the time wheneconomic systems in Europe and other nations were declining, andNantucket’s as the only one rising due to the whale oil. Due tothis, the Lords of whaling industries invested heavily to increase inoil production that they conspired to hike the prices. In preparationfor this economic glory, the ship Essex was repaired and upgraded tocarry the biggest volume of oil while at the same time, accommodateprocessing of the oil during return Journey. The Lord of the Essexoffered both the captain and his first mate, a handsome compensationonce they brought home more than 3,000 barrels of oil. On hearingabout a giant whale that had struck other whalers in the sea, Chaseand his captain could not resist hunting it down for they estimatedit could fill the required amount if they capture it. Unfortunately,the whale was not only stronger than Essex was but also tactical,causing the historical tragedy.
TheWays Quaker’s Beliefs Sustained Their Livelihood
Thereligious beliefs played a key role in sustaining the survivors ofthe 1820 tragedy, their families and the island`s community. Thebeliefs enhanced a close connection between the sailors who sharedcommon faith thereby facilitating their survival as they protectedeach other during the disaster.
Asmentioned earlier, the community believed that all natural resourceswere at their disposal. Consequently, the community had ripped muchwealth from the whaling fishery, which they used after the 1812revolution and war to venture into the Pacific (Philbrick 9). As thehusbands went hunting for whales, the females oversaw manymoney-generating activities on the island to take care of thechildren.
Also,the Quaker’s believed in signs and Omens. They believe any specialappearance of a phenomenon would bring unusual event. Due to these,they remained holy and took the morally acceptable approached todifferent circumstances in the Island. They kept holy live, united bylove, unity, and common spirituality. Finally, the religion made themstrong to withstand the terrifying unpredictability of the sea thatwould bring disastrous experience at sea and its shoreline.
TheRole of Religion in American Culture and Society
Anothersociety whose religion has played similar roles as Quakerism is theMatses tribe at the border of Peru and Brazil. As hunters andgatherers, this tribe believes that every resource within the Amazonjungle is a gift from God and they have a responsibility to utilizeit for sustenance ("Matses Native Amazonian Tribe") 1).They acknowledge the Amazon forest as their source of economic,spiritual and social strength. However, like in the history ofNantucket, the oil business presents a tragedy to their survival("Matses Native Amazonian Tribe" 1). The logging and oilcompanies have started to penetrate their home front leading to thedestruction of the forest and their culture.
Inconclusion, the history of Nantucket have a significant meaning inthe modern world. Many communities derive their motivations forpolitical. Economic and social strengths from the natural resources.Also, new idealism in the modern world comes with changes that mayinfluence the world in positive and negative ways. Also, withincreasing industrial and technological knowledge, the indigenoussources of livelihood are under threat. Moreover, the religion posesa significant challenge to the people in making of their history.
"MatsesNative Amazonian Tribe". Matses.info.N.p., 2016. Web. 7 Nov. 2016.
“AnIsland in Time”. Nantucket Historical Association. N.p., 2016. Web.5 Nov. 2016.http://nationalgeographic.org/thisday/nov20/tragedy-whaleship-essex/.
NationalSociety. "Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex". NationalGeographic Society, 2016, Web
Philbrick,Nathaniel. InThe Heart of the Sea.New York, Viking, 2000. Print