The Essex Shipwreck: Leadership in the Middle of Nowhere
On August 12, 1819, a crew set sail for the Pacific Ocean on a three-year voyage on the Essex whaling ship. On November 20, 1820, a giant sperm whale emerged from the ocean and critically damaged the Essex's starboard hull. The crew consisted of the captain, two officers, three boat steerers, and 13 sailors, most of whom lacked experience. While the captain and officers of the Essex huddled to plan their next move, the crew trusted the first officer to make the crucial decisions about using the ship's three remaining whaleboats for the long voyage home. Surviving the wreckage would not be an easy task; therefore, making the right decisions would be essential for survival. As the ship continued to take in water, the captain and officers had to decide who should go in each whaleboat, what direction they should take, and what provisions they should carry.