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The Topic of Whaling in The Movie 'In The Heart of The Sea'

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Is it ethical to kill living creatures for the sake of common good? Does the sense of necessity greater than morality? Does morality apply when the need of the common people abides the rules of ethics?

In the 1800s, it was discovered that whale oil could light cities in ways never achieved before. Thus, whale oil suddenly became a global demand henceforth, whaling. However, there will always be a question that would challenge the existence of such thing, the ethicality of whaling. Is it ethical to slay hundreds of creatures just to loot out its oil and light their homes? Whaling became a global activity that gave humans lots of benefits from slaying hundreds of whales that provided them oil and large chunks of whale meat.

It is important to keep the traditional relationships between men and animals thus; this statement proves that whaling is unethical. Killing innocent creatures just to satisfy human needs is unacceptable in the perspective of ethics.

In contrast, due to global demand, cultural beliefs and cultural traditions, whaling seemed to become ethical. Moreover, the morality of whaling also wires the traditional connection of human and whales, where whale hunting should not be prohibited but is to be permitted if its use is definitely ‘sustainable.’ Examples of this are the comeback of commercial whaling in Japan since they proved that it is sustainable and annual tradition of whaling in the Faroe Islands.

Another example of pro whaling island is the Nantucket island, the considered whaling capital of the United States. In line with the island is the legend of the tragic Essex Nantucket disaster that exposed the possibilities of whaling activities whether it is ethical or not. Thus, the disaster sent the victims wandering into the Heart of the Sea.

The movie was led by Owen Chase, the first mate of the Essex and George Pollard, Jr., the captain. Under Pollard’s captainship, the crew of the Essex Nantucket suffered a devastating disaster that lead to the death of some of its crew. The question now is that, would Chase have captained the whaler Essex better than Pollard? Would the disaster still happen if Chase had captained the ship from the very start? I think he would lead the crew better since he has been familiar to most of the members and he has proven his seamanship since he bagged barrels of whale oils from his past expeditions. He was even promised to have his captaincy to a whaler ship until the industry decided to give the title of a captain to George Pollard who was a son of a high person in the whaling industry. Throughout the movie, Chase proved that he was better at sea than captain Pollard. It can be seen from the very start of their expedition when the top gallants of the ship were jammed, he riskily climbed the poles and freed the gallants. Chase was also a man to his crew. He joins them and communicate with them directly and soundly. That is why the crew of the Essex would depend more in him than the captain, Pollard. Also, captain Pollard made verdicts that are very undesirable and inappropriate such as heading towards a fast and angry storm. Pollard never listened to anyone in the ship especially to Chase and made wrong decisions. Thus, due to Chase’s seamanship and experience in whaling, I think that he, Owen Chase, should have captained the ship, Essex.

As the ship Essex was destroyed by that monstrous white whale, the crew sailed from their whaler boats until they reached the uninhibited island, Henderson Island. There, they found themselves something to eat such as fishes, eggs and birds. The trauma left by the Essex disaster hunted most of them. They could live on to the Henderson Island, however, there is just only short supply of food for the whole crew. In the contrary, Henderson Island exhibits resources that cannot be seen on the middle of the sea. Though, I would still sail since it was my promised responsibility. We came to the island together; we will leave it also together.

One of the most annoying characters in the movie In the Heart of the Sea, was captain George Pollard’s cousin, Henry Coffin. His character in the movie started when he questioned the decision of Chase when he was planning to send troopers for whale hunting even though they were not yet East of Halifax where whales are mostly seen. His character was greatly becoming iniquitous after the wreckage of the Essex Nantucket happened when he questioned the act of Owen where he gives water to Matthew Joy who has been injured due to the storm that they passed by. He even questioned why they would give water to a someone who is mostly dead. After the whaler boats got separated and all the rations in captain Pollard’s boat were all consumed, they came up to the decision of sacrificing one member for the others to survive. Captain Pollard was the unfortunate one and that is when the character of Henry Coffin changed. Instead of killing his captain, his cousin, he committed suicide so that he can save his cousin’s life. He maybe come up to the realization of his past actions, his arrogance and selfishness where for the last time, he can at least save his captain, his dear cousin from death.

After returning home, the industry wanted the survivors of the Essex to lie about what happened at the Essex tragedy. However, Chase refused to embroider the truth and with that influenced Pollard to speak the truth on what really happened. Captain Pollard did not listen to what his father advised him and that is to hide the truth. George Pollard stated what really happened that caused a turmoil in Nantucket. However, his statements were not enough for everyone to believe him. That is why he set up another journey for him to show the world the truth and to honor his past comrades by exposing the tragedy the brave men of the Essex had faced. Unfortunately, he failed and never ever witness again the sperm whale he desired to find. “Pollard went out again, looking for the white whale. He never found it. He ran a second ship aground off Hawaii. Twice cursed. Never sailed again.” Nickerson stated.

Thomas Nickerson, a survivor and the youngest of the Essex Nantucket, narrated his own account of the Essex Tragedy through the writer Herman Melville. First, he refused to share his account to the mysterious history of the Essex. He did not even tell his wife about what really happened. However, it seems that the Essex tragedy weigh heavily on him that prompted him to tell everything he remembered to the writer, Melville, and write his own story of the events that took place nearing the end of his life. This disaster seemed to be unquestionably the most constructive and formative experience in his life.

There are lots of confusions since there are lapses and contradictions between the book and movie. There are different survivors who made different accounts of the stories. There is Owen Chase’s account of the tragedy, Nickerson’s account based on Herman Melville’s writings, and accounts that are possibly made by the other five who also survived the Essex. Though, it were Chase’s and Nickerson’s accounts that are globally used as the main accounts of the Essex Nantucket’s disaster. However, there are some speculations that some parts of their accounts are exaggerated. Maybe both conspired to hide dark secrets that should be only shared by them survivors. The accounts may also be inaccurate since they unraveled the stories of their journey at the time that they were so old that they probably forgot things.

Thus, whose account of the disaster is more compelling: Chase’s or Nickerson’s? I think it would be Chase’s account. It is because Owen Chase was the one who was faced by the authority since him and Pollard were the first mate and captain, respectively. After the returning home, he fearlessly stated what happened to the story thus influencing George Pollard to face and unravel the truth and search for that white whale that would be the evidence to their stories. Likewise, Mr. Nickerson shared his account of the Essex tragedy when he was nearing his death. It means that Thomas Nickerson was so old that he might misstated some important events that happened on that time of the Essex tragedy. Also, before he narrated his story to Mr. Melville, he said that he will tell only as much as is necessary. Thus, what if there are little things that seems to be unnecessary but has a huge impact to the story of the Essex tragedy? Lastly, I believe on what Owen Chase said at the end of the story thus stating, “The Essex was stove by a white whale and those of us that survived in ill-equipped whaleboats had to commit abominations in order to survive. And on our return, we’re expected to spread barefaced lies so that you, ship owners of Nantucket might line your pockets and sleep well at night? Well, I will not embroider the truth.” He came up to a moral dilemma where he got to choose between spreading lies, thus protecting the whaling industry, or to reveal the truth, abandon the chance for him to be a captain of his own journey on a Nantucket vessel. Thus, he chose to tell the truth and honor the sacrifices of his fellow member of the legendary Essex Nantucket.

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