The heroic and often tragic stories of American whalemen were renowned. They sailed the world's oceans and brought back tales filled with bravery, perseverance, endurance, and survival. They mutinied, murdered, rioted, deserted, drank, sang, spun yarns, scrimshawed, and recorded their musings and observations in journals and letters. They survived boredom, backbreaking work, tempestuous seas, floggings, pirates, putrid food, and unimaginable cold. Enemies preyed on them in times of war, and competitors envied them in times of peace. Many whalemen died from violent encounters with whales and from terrible miscalculations about the unforgiving nature of nature itself. And through it all, whalemen, those 'iron men in wooden boats' created a legacy of dramatic, poignant, and at times horrific stories that can still stir our emotions and animate the most primal part of our imaginations. 'To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme, ' proclaimed Herman Melville, and the epic story of whaling is one of the mightiest themes in American history.
Eric Jay Dolin