FEW industries involve as much drama and risk as whaling did. The last voyage of the Essex, which inspired Herman Melville’s classic, “Moby Dick”, and is the subject of a new film, “In the Heart of The Sea”, gives a sense of the horrors involved. The ship left Nantucket in 1819 and sailed for over a year before being destroyed by a whale it was hunting. The 20 crew members survived the sinking, but found themselves adrift in the Pacific in three longboats, with little food and no water. Three opted to stay on a desert island, from which they were rescued three months later, on the verge of starvation. The others sailed on, hoping to reach South America but dying one by one. At first the survivors buried the dead at sea; then they resorted to eating the corpses of their crewmates. When they ran out of bodies, they drew lots to decide whom to shoot and eat. Only five of the 17 were eventually rescued. By then, they were so delirious that they did not understand what was happening.

The only reason that anyone could be induced to take part in such a dangerous business was the fabulous profit that could be made. Gideon Allen...

via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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