Herman Melville wrote his classic novel Moby-Dick (1851) without having visited the island of Nantucket. The island and its whaling history form the backbone of his novel, and indeed are central symbols in the epic journey of the Pequod in its hunt for Moby-Dick, the white whale. Melville based the essentials of his plot, and the final climactic ramming of the Pequod, upon all that he had read about Nantucket’s whaling industry, and in particular, the gruesome tale of the Nantucket whaleship Essex. After the publication of Moby-Dick, Melville finally visited the island, and met face-to-face with Captain George Pollard Jr., the captain who survived one of the most harrowing ordeals at sea in human history.
To learn more, explore the materials listed below that can be found in the NHA archives and collections and at the Nantucket Whaling Museum.