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The Horrifying Shipwreck That Inspired Moby Dick

The Horrifying Shipwreck That Inspired Moby Dick


– Welcome to Ruining History. Today we’ve got a whale of a tale. – Wow that was a lot of
energy coming to that one. – Yeah. – Is it about a whale? – Uh, maybe. – Is it Moby Dick? – It inspired Moby Dick. – Oh shit. Dope. (triumphant music) – So, today we’re gonna be learning about the voyage of the Essex, which is a ship. – Ooooh! – And a place in London. – Essex. – And Wessex. – Wessex? – There’s two? Wait. – There’s a song by
someone named Frank Turner and I think it’s Wessex he’s from. I’ll talk about it later. – It might just be. – Can I look it up? – Yeah, look it up. – Alright, hold on. – Yeah, I’ve never totally understood what the reasoning is for killing whales. – Whale oil. – ‘scuzi? – It was used for candles, bunch of oil. – Wax, just in a whale? – I’m not an expert. I don’t know where it is in their body. – Wessex, bitch! I knew it! (laughing) – [Narrator] In the early 19th Century, the world came down with a
serious case of whale fever. That’s not to say that
people loved whales. People actually loved murdering whales. I know, the US was especially
big on the practice as by 1846 their fleet of
about 640 odd whaling ships was roughly tripled in the
number of whaling ships in the rest of the entire world. According to author, Richard Ellis, whaling was seen as an admirable career throughout the 1800s and whale
products were in high demand. For instance, the whale’s
intestinal slurry, called ambergris, was used
to make high end perfumes. Whalebone, or baleen,
was used to make corsets, hoop skirts, fishing poles, and umbrellas. And sperm oil was a hot commodity for use in lamps and machinery lubricant. So yeah, just murdering
whales left and right. With all that in mind,
today we’re gonna follow the fairly unique journey of
one whale ship, in particular. And buckle up, because we are
in for some choppy waters. On August 12, 1819, the Essex set sail from a port in Nantucket
on a two and a half year whaling voyage with a crew of 20 men, under the command of 29 year
old captain, George Pollard Jr. The Essex was a fine ship,
assembled out of white oak. She’s 87 feet in length
and supported three masts. She was equipped with smaller whale boats, as was customary for the trade, that measured 20 feet in length. – So this had to be big
because you had to store the whale, I’m assuming? – Yeah – And other smaller ships. – They probably chop it up – In the water? – No – Yeah, you have to put it
on something to chop it up. – How would you lift the whale? – I guess you don’t have cranes – Maybe a pulley system? – Like a pulley system with a giant mast? – How many people? – They got a crew of 20. – Was he the oldest guy? – A crew of 20 people can’t life a whale – Can’t lift a whale. – So these are sperm whales,
they are not enormous. – How big we talking again? – Ahem. How big is a sperm whale? – Oh shit. – Okay. – Nope, it just said how big is a sperm. (laughs) – [Narrator] Two days into the voyage, the ship endured a sudden violent squall, first mate, Owen Chase,
describes the story being “accompanied with vivid
flashes of lightning and heavy and repeated claps of thunder.” Just basic storm stuff. When all was said and done, the squall damaged the top gallant sail, destroyed two of their whaling boats, and nearly sank the ship entirely. But the crew pressed on. There was, after all, money to be made. – It’s like The Deadliest Catch. – Yeah – That’s all I’m imagining. – Confession — is going to
the little confessional booth back in the day, they write in the log: I fucking hate Jerry, he sucks. – Yeah. – Fucking Jerry. – I did read that you would
generally expect to lose at least one person on these voyages (laughs) – That makes sense. – And then there was 19 – Lose in like they die? – Yeah. – Such is travel back in the old days. – [Narrator] Five weeks out to sea and the Essex and her
crew reached Cape Horn, way down there at the
bottom of South America, you see it. From there they swung around
to cruise the coast of Chile. And according to the
account of the first mate, business was a-boomin’. (laughs) – That’s funny. – Just a guy going, “hey,
a-business is a-boomin” (laughs) – He’s not Rodney Dangerfield. (laughs) – Business is boomin’. – Look at my suit, it’s beautiful – It’s made of whale – Oh yeah, I have whale oil up the wazoo. – [Narrator] They took down
eight spermaceti whales, racking up 250 barrels of oil. From there, they head
to Peru, 550 barrels. – How many barrels per whale? – Well, let’s do the math here. – UGH – Thank you – For eight whales, they got 250 barrels – But you said this barrel
haul was off one trip, right? So that means they at some
caught eight different whales, there is no way that they
could store that many whales. That’s too may whales. – I have a question. Have we gotten to the point where history has been ruined yet? – It sounds pretty ruined. – Yeah. (laughs) – So we were terrible – [Narrator] Despite these hauls, Captain Pollard set his
sights on the whaling grounds of the south Pacific. And they soon found themselves
in the Galapagos Islands where they restocked and also, reportedly, captured about 360
hundred-pound tortoises. Because why not? – No, that’s where they all went. There’s only like two Galapagos, or one Galapagos turtle left. – Really? Well they took
care of a lot of them. – Drop it. – What are they gonna
do them, play Frisbee? – Well, they just wanted them. – Turtle soup. – And their shells make nice bowls. – [Narrator] Chase said of them, “These turtles are a most delicious food: they are strewed over the
deck, thrown under foot, or packed away in the hold. They will live upwards of a
year without food or water.” Before departing from the
Galapagos, as a good prank, I guess, a crew member started
a fire on Charles Island where the Essex had been anchored. Things got out of control,
the fire spread rapidly, and the crew barely escaped. They left the island a blackened wasteland and could still see the smoke after having sailed
away from it for a day. It’s thought that the fire actually caused the Floreana tortoise and the Floreana
mockingbird to go extinct. Boys will be boys. – Where the fuck was Charles Darwin? Why wasn’t he doing anything? – D-dawg, he was studying. – Yeah – It seems like a ship
full of Logan Paul’s. (laughs) – Oh my gosh. – That is an actual nightmare – What if we steal all
these fucking turtles? (laughs) That’s funny as fuck. We’ll set this place on fire. – Hell yeah. – Steal all these god damn turtles. Oh my god. – [Narrator] After that,
things went smoothly for a couple of month. In November of 1820, more
than a year into its voyage, the crew of the Essex were
undergoing another routine day. Whale boats where out harpooning and first mate, Owen Chase,
had stayed on the ship to make summer pears. As Chase details in his firsthand account: “I was in the act of nailing the canvas, when I observed a very
large spermaceti whale, as well as I could judge
about 85 feet in length; he broke water about twenty
rods off our weather-bow and was lying quietly, with
his head in a direction for the ship. He spouted two or three
times, and then disappeared.” “His appearance and attitude
gave us at first no alarm; but while I stood watching his movements, and observing him but a ship’s length off, coming down for us with great celerity, I involuntarily ordered
the boy at the helm to put it hard up….” (laughs) – That’s a ship term – Garrick’s eyes just went so wide. – All of these ship
terms sound super sexual. – Yeah, because they are all
trying to fuck each other. (laughs) – [Narrator] “The words were
scarcely out of my mouth, before he came down
upon us with full speed, and struck the ship with his head. The ship brought up as
suddenly and violently as if she had struck a rock, and trembled for a few seconds like a leaf.” – You took my family, you son of a bitch. (laughs) – He went Liam Neeson on your ass. – Yeah, I rode Liam Neeson — – He’s like “I loved one of those turtles” – In them. – And the whale loved the turtle. – Obviously though, there
were survivors, though, because this is being told by somebody – Yeah. – And dead man tell no tales. – They tell no tales? – Yeah. – No, they don’t tell tales. They are dead. – I thought you believed in ghosts? – Oh shit, yeah. What about that, idiot? (laughs) – [Narrator] The raddled crew watched as the whale passed under the ship and began to thrash
violently in the water. Chase writes, “He was enveloped
in the foam of the sea and I could distinctly see
him smite his jaws together, as if distracted with rage and fury.” – Well what if the whale
was just a little mindless sometimes and just liked
to close his eyes and drift and he just runs through the water and just knocks into
the ship, and was like, “Ah, shit” (laughs) – Ah shit – No, no – Yeah, Whale doesn’t have on his glasses. – He doesn’t have his whale glasses on. Could you imagine minding your
own business out in the sea then someone just fucking
tries to kill you for existing? – You get hit in the ass with a harpoon. – Not pleasant. – Not great. – [Narrator] The whale disappeared
much to the crews relief and the men got to work
repairing the ship. It’s hard to say what
could caused the whale to attack a ship head on. Zoologists agree that sperm
whales are peaceful animals. And while experts believe
they are capable of attacking, if threaten, they’re
more likely to dive away from something as large as a ship. The whale the Essex encountered clearly was cut from a different cloth. And if the crew hadn’t
yet pieced that together, they would soon. Chase recalls hearing a
man call from the hatchway, “Here he is. He is making for us again.” The whale had returned. This time seeming to
move at twice the speed. “The surf flew in all
directions about him, and his course towards us
was marked by a white foam, which he made with the continual, violent, thrashing of his tail. Chase estimated the whale
to be moving at six knots. The second strike was collapses. After striking the bow,
the whale disappeared. This time for good. And the crew were left
with a sinking ship. The Essex was taking on water so rapidly that the crew only had
time to lower the remaining whale boats and gather
what supplies they could. – Funny how these guys seem so badass when they are just hunting the whales, but one whale charges at them and the fold like a god damn lawn chair. – Yeah. – Were there still turtles
on that ship at this point? – Yeah, those turtles are dead. – They’re dead. They drown. – No they can could — they won’t drown. – Tortoises don’t swim. – Dang. – They’re not sea turtles. – That sucks. – These are tortoises. – [Narrator] Captain Pollard
returned on his whale boat to find the Essex on it’s side. “He was so completely
overpowered with the spectacle before him that he sat down in his boat, pale and speechless.” There were now 20 men
in three whale boats, about 20 feet in length. By Chase’s estimate, they were more than 1,000 miles from land. – Whhoooa. – Good shit. – Oh good mama. – I mean they had this coming. – Yeah, we all agree. – Yeah, for sure. – They burned an island,
stole a hundred tortoises, and killed eight whales. Yeah. – [Narrator] Closes to
the wreck of the Essex are the Marquesas Islands
and the Society Islands. Captain Pollard thought
these were good options. The crew begged to differ. They’d heard rumors of
cannibalism on those islands and thought it better to
travel towards Chile or Peru. Perhaps hoping another whaling
ship might rescue them. And so they sailed eastward. For the record there weren’t
any cannibals on those islands. – No, they probably would
have had a nice little life. – Yeah. – They probably would of. – Fucking idiots. – Just trying to avoid
cannibalism, you know? – Honestly, I would start
a rumor of cannibalism if I went to an island and I was like, “I don’t want a bunch
of people coming here, this is my fun island
that I’m gonna come to” and be like, “Oh yeah,
there’s tons of cannibals. I wouldn’t. And you can’t
even outsmart them.” They have it on lock. – And they don’t even
taste good themselves. – “You can’t even outsmart them” – [Narrator] They set
off in three whale boats. One piloted by Captain Pollard. One by first mate, Owen Chase. And one by second mate, Matthew Joy. They were stocked with two
months worth of rations. It wasn’t long before the food supply became saturated with salt water, dehydrating the crew as
they at their rations. – I feel bad for the few of
them on there who were like, ” I just need to make
some money for my family.” – Yeah. – And then you have a
couple of those d-bags like, “let’s burn the island” Chad, stop it. Stop it! – Yeah (laughs) – You ruined it in my mind,
I was imagining them going, “yeah, burn it down! Burn it down!” now I feel bad for some of them. – No, I think there is one, sort of like, “oh man, I wish you
guys wouldn’t. Oh jeez. Too bad I’m too small.” – [Narrator] Days passed,
and passed, and passed. And two weeks later, a sign of hope. The crew spotted an
island, Henderson Island. Imagine their disappointment
to find it barren, offering them refuge for only a week before it had been completely
striped of resources. – I love it. There is nothing better than
the slight window of hope only for it to just close on your face. – Yeah. – Unbelievable. – Too bad they couldn’t
eat their whale oil, huh? (laughs) Fucking douche bags. – [ Narrator] The men had no choice but to get back in their boats. Or they had some choice, I guess, because three of them
decided to stay behind. – Do we know what happened to them? – We may find out eventually. – Ahhh, Shane. – And those men — – Wrote Moby Dick – Were the Three Stooges – God, I hope they get eaten by crabs. That would be freakin dope. – [Narrator] The sea had
not become any kinder in their absence. It was mid-December now
and the small whale boats were beginning to take on water. Worst, the men were
reportedly menaced by whales. Chase describes hearing
them in the dark of night, “The terrible noise of whale spouts near us sounded in our ears; we could distinctly hear
the furious thrashing of their tails in the
water, and out weak minds pictured out their appalling
and hideous aspects.” – I can’t imagine the madness
that must be just right there, tapping to get in when
you’re just on the open sea, like “will I make it?” – Oh, just starting to go crazy. (laughs) – Yeah. – Ocean crazy. – As they say, the sea-brain. – Well with sea brain in mind. – [Narrator] On Chase’s boat, terror was beginning to take hold. The crew was wrapped with hunger. And the first mate to
described one crew mate descending into madness,
“he spoke incoherently about everything, calling
loudly for a napkin and water, and then, lying stupidly and senselessly down in the boat again,
would close his hollow eyes, as if in death.” The crew mate then underwent
“the most horrid and frightful convulsions” while he
died the next morning. Everyone, mind you, was still starving. – Eat that dude. Eat that dude. – Oh man. – Eat that dude. – It’s gotta be coming, right? – Eat that dude. – [Narrator] The decision
couldn’t have been easy. Or maybe it was. Chase recalled, “we separated
limbs from his body, and cut all the flesh from his bones; after which, we opened up
the body, took out the heart, and then closed it again, sewed it up as decently as we could, and committed it to the sea.” The meat was heated on
a flat stone and eaten. Said Chase, “I have no language to paint the anguish of our souls
in this dreadful dilemma.” – Then again, we’re steal
dealing with whalers. He might be inflating this. – Yeah. – True. – I wonder if they were ever talking about how they’d like to be cooked
if they were gonna die. – I probably would. – I would. – They be like, “smoke please.” – Yeah. (laughs) – Smoke me. – Smoke me. – Somebody smoke me. – [Narrator] In the next week, three more sailors would perish. They too were eaten. One of the three small boats disappeared. And Chase and Pollard soon lost sight of each other’s boats. February sixth. On Captain Pollard’s
boat, the men had become almost too weak to talk. When Charles Ramsdell
suggested they all draw straws to ensure themselves another meal. They did so. And the short straw went
to one, Owen Coffin, who happened to be the
cousin of Captain Pollard. To his credit, the captain offered to trade places with the boy. After all, he had promised Coffin’s mother that he would watch over
the boy once out to sea. But Owen wouldn’t have it. Ramsdell, who had initially proposed the drawing of the
straws, shot Owen Coffin. “He was soon dispatched,”
the captain recounted, “and nothing of him left.” – I thought just to
experience the drama of being on a little ship, we
could just draw straws and see which one of us would be eaten. – Do we all get a beard? – We all get a little beard. (laughs) – You’re loving this. – I am. – My only motivation here is to not lose and I’m still nervous. I hope you don’t eat me alive. – I’m alive. – OH. Thank god. – I think they are all the same height. – I’m saying in my
head, ‘harder the cards” – Yu-Gi-Oh – You’re going Yu-Gi-Oh? – Oh, harder the cards. – Oh my god, Shane,
it’s between you and me. – If it’s me, I’m gonna be so sad. But that’s a lot of meat. – That is a lot of meat. – Oh no. – We’re eating Shane. (laughs) – We’re eating Shane. – Yeah, you’ll feed us for months. – That’s devastating. That’s a lot of bones. – I’m gonna be real sad. – I’m gonna be honest,
I’ve got some meaty legs. – Oh, I’ve always found them
to be quite bean pole-ish so it doesn’t look like a lot of — – My thighs, straw. – Do you think they ate the dicks? – Yeah. (laughs) They had to eat the dicks. – That’s probably pretty chewy. – [Narrator] On February 18th, 1821, Chases boat spotted a ship
and made their way for it. They succeeded. After 89 days lost at sea,
they had been rescued. (claps) – So Owen Chase, the shitty
first mate, he’s good. – I’m taking this off. – Yeah, this is a lot. I don’t know how you beard fellas do it. – [Narrator] 300 miles away, Pollard’s boat continued to drift. It was only Pollard and Ramsdell now. Writer, Gilbert King, describes
the heroine circumstances, “They had only the bones
of the crewmen to perish, which they smashed on the
bottom of the boat so that they could eat the marrow. As the days passed the two
men obsessed over the bones scattered on the boat’s floor.” Almost a week after Chase
and his men had been rescued, a crewman, aboard the
American ship, Dauphin, spotted Pollard’s boat. Wrenched, and confused,
Pollard and Ramsdell did not rejoice at their rescue, but
simply turned to the bottom of their boat and stuffed
bones into their pockets. Safely aboard the Dauphin, the
two delirious men were seen, “sucking the bones of
their dead mess mates, which they were loath to part with” – I gotta say, bone
marrow is pretty tasty. – It is really good. – I had bone marrow once at
a fancy restaurant and *muah* – Fantastic – A little bit upsetting
that they were rescued, just turned to look at them
then started shoving bones – That’s hilarious – It’s kind of hard to come back from eatin’ all your friends. – Yeah, but you’ve seen some shit. – Been there, not an easy bounce back. – You’ve been there? (laughs) Kate’s led a life. – [Narrator] Eight men
had been rescued in total. Seven men had been eaten. The survivors were reunited in Chile, where they healed up and hopefully
received some counseling. They sailed back to Nantucket. And there they reportedly
received no judgment for their actions, as
cannibalism was known to be an unfortunate reality
of maritime desperation. That being said, Captain
Pollard faced a cold reception from the mother of Owen Coffin. But I guess that is fair
because he ate her son. The crew members who had
stubbornly decided to stay on Henderson Island survived
on bird eggs and shellfish for nearly four months
before being rescued by an Australian ship. Good move guys. – Good move. – Way better than eating your friends. – Ugh, so much better. Shellfish and eggs, yum. – Drinking their pina coladas. – They’re like “oh, that ships here.” – Ohhhh. (laughs) – We’re good. – [Narrator] And that zany
crew of that third small whale boat that mysteriously
vanished eventually turned up on Doozy Island where they
apparently got really into being skeletons. (laughs) – They died. They were bones. – [Narrator] As for the
survivors, all eight of them were returned to sea. That’s commitment. – I feel like at that point,
how else are you going to survive in society? The noises of the ocean you remember are too loud to get a good nights sleep, you gotta get back on that boat, Shane. – Oh, okay. – Jesus Christ. – There all southern gentlemen
up there in Nantucket. – Yep. – Yep. – Alright, what do you guys think overall? – That karma’s a bitch, yeah. – Well how could you
ever kill another whale? – I’d be killing whales left and right. (laughs) You made me eat my nephew. – A sad, messed up story, on all sides. And let’s leave whales the fuck alone. – Leave whales alone. Leave tortoises alone. – Leave your nephews alone. – Leave your nephews alone. Good god. – Leave entire islands alone. – Yeah. – I enjoyed it. – [Narrator] Well, what a fun story, huh? Sorry, we really shouldn’t
of ended the season on a note like that. We should have ended
with the bear, frankly. Can we get a quick peak at Wojtek? Ah, there’s that cute guy again. Miss him. What’s the moral here? Don’t eat your relatives? Maybe we just don’t
meditate on it too much because frankly, it’s a bummer. Hey, thanks for learning
with us all season. This has been Ruining History. Bye. Don’t kill whales. (waves splashing) (bird chirping)

78 comments on “The Horrifying Shipwreck That Inspired Moby Dick

  1. Why did this series stop being a thing? It’s one of the very best things I’ve seen come out of buzzfeed, and I’ve seen a lot. I hope they pick it back up one day.

  2. this video is 1 year, 1 month, and 2 days old but i feel like its worth it to say that whaleboats dragged whales back to port through the water, attached by harpoons

  3. “Dead men tell no tales”

    “I thought you believed in ghosts”

    Me: “Ghosts are more about haunting, not telling their life’s story. Plus, name a ghost who told tales.”

  4. How could you do an entire video about whales and not so any research on whales, how big a sperm whale is, (Like SUPER big) or how big a whaling ship is?

  5. It's so fun watching a video or show about history when you already know the history about it-
    I learned about this in me Junior year English class and for some reason I really liked it

  6. whale oil is valuable for perfumes, it holds the smells a lot longer than any man made product so the really high end perfumes from France use it still.

  7. Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2
    Season 2

  8. Essex is not a place in London, it's a county just outside of London to the east, 🙁 … it hurt to hear that Essex was in London… sorry hahaha

  9. BRING BACK RUINING HISTORY!!!!!! WE WANT A SEASON TWOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! COME ON BUZZFEED!!!! THIS SERIES IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS TO COME OUT OF YOU, ALONGSIDE UNSOLVED, SO BRING IT THE HELL BACKKKKKKK!!!!!

  10. Fun fact: whaling is the reason we have so few sperm whales. If the whaling industry had never happened then we'd have a significant higher amount of whales

  11. I heard that the reason Ruining History was "canceled" was because the animation was to expensive to do. Personally I don't think it even needs to be animated. If they really don't want to show the table the whole time they could always just show stills.

  12. *wales
    🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

  13. I love how on Buzzfeed Unsolved, Ryan's just a scared lil baby and on any other show he immediately becomes straight up murderous (see: Ryan and Shane playing Sims with Kelsey, Ruining History)

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