Issues of Leadership in “In the heart of the sea”

Issuesof Leadership in “Inthe heart of the sea”

Thebook by Nathaniel Philbrick talks about a trip of a crew in search ofoil from sperm whales. The oil was the economic booster of the peopleof Nantucket, who sell the oil, which is the source of lighting inEurope in the 19th century. In the book, there are both poor and goodleaders. While there is bad leadership, at some point the goodleaders, even though they succumb to bad leadership. The discussionabout the book will explore poor leadership as characterized by thedecisions, actions and treatment of employees by the people in chargeof the ship.

Theapplication of leadership, morals is evident in the book in the waythe owners relate to the employees. The owners of the Essex do notconsider ethics and morals when it comes to handling the employees.They mishandle the Native Americans who are the black community asthey are acquired to offer cheap labor in a system of indenturedservitude (Philbrick 16). The indentured servitude is where thewhites would enslave the black Americans and also Africans with incase the black person was willing to serve for a particular period toacquire something. Essentially, the whalers would work for two tothree years, and then earn their pay. Some of them were way too youngfor the trip, but they were part of the crew (Philbrick 18). Theblacks are also kept at the back of the boat as the leaders enjoy alarge room during the trip

Theblacks and the off-islanders were taken from the sailing port to goand work as whalers without being trained (Philbrick 61). TheNantucketers were primarily formed to be whalers since childhood. Theothers would sail without skills on a dangerous task of whaling toearn a living. Among them was a fourteen-year-old boy taking a firstwhaling trip. During their stay at the port as they wait for thedeparture, they are kept in the quarters and looked down upon. Theleaders would at least take the opportunity to make them aware ofwhat they expected on their trip that would take the whalers two tothree years. Instead, they mishandle them and do not offer them therequired knowledge necessary for the voyage.

Poorleadership seen as the employer was not considerate of the employees’needs and welfare. The employees were also poorly paid despiteacquiring a lot of money from the oil sales (Philbrick 92). Onwhaling, they are only paid two to three years later after thereturn. Therefore, they need to get enough oil for them to return.However, even after taking such a risk, they do not get enough wagesfor the extraction of the oil. The leaders in the ship buy less foodand keep some dollars for themselves. The consequence of theoffensive action was depletion of food during their sailing periodthat eventually leads to cannibalism where the whalers feed on thedead fellows. All the subsidized supplies were as a result of greedfrom those in power, and eventually they all suffer the same fate.

Theleadership of the Nantucketers had not devised a way of breeding moreSperm whales. The whalers had exhausted local sperm whales and,therefore, the whalers had to sail far deeper into the sea in searchof such whales (Philbrick 57). The people of the Nantucket dependedeconomically on oil sale that was a primary source of lighting inEurope. The whalers had already discovered that the sperm whalescontained a lot of oil that would boost their markets. However,instead of getting a way of breeding more of the whales, they endedup clearing the local whales and the consequences were taking a longjourney in search of more whales in the heart of the ocean.

Leadershipis largely dependent on good decision making skills by the people incharge. However, in the book, there are many decisions made thatshows poor leadership. Captain Pollard is new in the job and, as aresult, he makes several decisions that sabotage the trip (Philbrick26). At first he put the studding sails that boost speed, though theylimit maneuverability. These studding sails would later cause muchdanger as Pollard again delayed the decision of their removal duringan approaching storm (Philbrick 43). They, therefore, speeded towardsthe storm and ended up having their ship develop a mechanicalproblem. The captain again makes a wrong turn towards the oppositedirection as the vessel ends up set at a ninety-degree angle(Philbrick 50). He intended to reduce the pressure from the massivegusts, but it ended up being a wrong decision.

Whenthe ship developed the mechanical problem, they lost a whaleboat.They had only travelled for three days, and it would be much safer ifthey decided to return and have the ship repaired as well asacquiring another whaleboat. However, despite Pollard`s intention, heallowed himself to be convinced by Chase and Joy. Chase and Joy werescared that on the return to the port, the crew of the off-Islandersand the Native Americans would withdraw from the trip (Philbrick 54).They had been ill-treated by the white sailors, and they had allreasons to give up on the voyage. Therefore, the wrong choices wouldhelp them keep the men they had acquired for cheap labor. Eventually,they decided to sail with the ship despite the puncture. The problemmad the ship not to withstand the attack of the big sperm whale.

Leadershipalso requires equality and equal treatment of leaders and people theyare leading. However, in the book, this equality is not observed.During the trip, the officers acquire better food than others(Philbrick 56). The rest are left to have petite and less tasty food.On complaining to Pollard, who they expect is a better leader theyare faced with shouting and fury. However, they are expected to do asmuch work as the officers and sometimes more. The extraction of theoil from one whale takes as much as three days.

Whilethe people in charge did not show leadership, one of them practices agood quality of taking responsibility. Chase, the officer, makesanother mistake of demoting Benjamin, the harpooner, and he takes theresponsibility. It is during the time when Chase was the Harpoonerthat they missed many whales. Among them is a whale eighty foot longthat eventual heads for the Essex and gives it a head-butt that sinksit (Philbrick 24). The sperm whales are ferocious and apparently thewhale that caused the accident was furious as it was seeking revengefor the dead whales. The crew ends up getting to the whaleboats oneof which was damaged (Philbrick 24). Pollard, the captain, tries tomake a very good decision however, the decisions are challenged byChase and Joy, who are making decisions out of greed and personalinterests.

Inconclusion, the issues of inadequate leadership lead to the tragedythat the whalers face during the trip. They choose untrained whalersto go with them. The officers mistreat the crew and, therefore, theyare afraid of getting back to the shore to repair the ship due to thefear that the team might decide to withdraw from the task.Eventually, Chase demotes Benjamin, the harpooner and takes up therole of the harpooner. He ends up missing the sperm whale sinks theEssex in revenge for the intentions of its killing.


Philbrick,Nathaniel. Inthe Heart of the Sea: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex., 2015. Print