After experiencing life aboard a whaling ship, American writer Herman Melville writes the classic Moby Dick, or The Whale is a novel. The book is sailor Ishmael’s narrative of the obsessive quest of Ahab, captain of the whaling ship Pequod, for revenge on Moby Dick, the giant white sperm whale that on the ship’s previous voyage bit off Ahab’s leg at the knee.
Melville’s story was probably inspired by that of the whaler Essex, which was sunk by a sperm whale in an 1820 incident.  The true story of depravation, cannibalism and the sentient whale captures the contemporary imagination of the dangers in whaling.