November 20 - 1820: Moby Dick really happened

1994: Two planes crash on Cape Cod, killing both pilots
Moby Dick was based on a true story of the Essex

1820: Moby Dick and the White Whale REALLY happened

And it happened to a Nantucket whaling ship named the Essex

On this day in 1820, the whaling ship Essex on a two-and-a-half year voyage out of Nantucket was repeatedly rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in the South Pacific.

Twenty crew members took to three small whaling boats and, after a brief stint on an island without enough food to sustain them,  spent more than three months adrift on the open ocean.  Hunger,  disease and the weather took a fearsome toll and only eight of the crew survived.

The grim episode seized the imagination of novelist Herman Melville, whose epic "Moby-Dick"  published three decades later recounted a similar fate for the fictional whaleship Pequot.

In 2000, Nantucket resident Nathaniel Philbrick's compelling best-seller, "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex" was published, making the saga known to a much wider audience. 

From "The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex":

Both the captain and the first mate of the Essex, George Pollard and Owen Chase, had served on the ship's previous voyage. Due to the success of that voyage, both had been promoted. Pollard was, at only 29, one of the youngest men ever to command a whaling ship. Owen Chase was a mere 23. The youngest member of the crew was the cabin boy, Thomas Nickerson, who was only 15.

The Essex itself was an elderly ship, but had recently been totally refitted. At 87 feet long and weighing 238 tons, unladen, the ship was small for a whaler. The Essex was fitted with four separate whaleboats, of around 20 to 30 feet in length, which were launched from the main ship. These boats were built for speed rather than durability, being 'Clinker built', with planks that overlap rather than lying flush with each other.

Ironically, the success of previous voyages had also left the Essex with a reputation as a 'lucky' ship... BBC

Read Moby-Dick here.
The painting below by A.D. Blake depicts the "Essex" sailing out of Nantucket harbor with a favorable breeze.

1994: Two planes crash on Cape Cod killing both pilots

Crash causes Blackout here and on the Vineyard

On this day in 1994 an Island Air plane coming from Nantucket crashed about a mile from Barnstable Municipal Airport Friday night, killing the pilot and causing a blackout across Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, authorities said.

The police also said a second, private plane crashed on Friday in Brewster, also killing the pilot. That plane, traveling from Morristown, N.J., disappeared from the radar screen as it approached the Chatham airport.

Officials said only the pilot was aboard the plane from Nantucket, a twin-engine Cessna in service as an air taxi.

The air taxi, which left Nantucket at 9 P.M., disappeared from radar screens about 10 minutes away from the airport in Hyannis, said Mary Culver, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The plane apparently struck power lines at 9:57 P.M., knocking out power to 160,000 customers, said Peter Diamond, a spokesman for the Commonwealth Electric Company. Power was restored to all customers by 2:45 this morning.

The second missing plane, a twin-engine Mooney, with three people, aborted its approach to the airport because of bad weather. The tower lost contact at 8:15 P.M., Ms. Culver said.

Earlier Friday, a small plane from Skaneateles, N.Y., crashed in Stow, about 25 miles northwest of Boston. One man climbed from the wreckage and found help at a nearby house. The other was freed by a rescue crew. Both recovered.

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