1:12 minutes

For nearly 400 years, few aspects of the American experience have struck more deeply into the imagination of the American people-or resonated more profoundly with the deepest American hopes, fears, and dreams-than the savagely primal, unfathomably limit-testing experience of whaling.\n\nFrom the dawn of the 17th century-when the first sea-weary pilgrims looked on in wonder as teeming pods of whales breached the waters off Cape Cod-to the eve of the Civil War-when more than 700 of the 900 ships in the world wide whaling fleet hailed from American ports, and American whalemen dominated the globe-the epic story of the commercial pursuit of the largest creature on earth would be intimately bound up with the story of America, in strange and telling ways: as a dark and shining parable of American capitalism on the rise; as a riveting case study in maritime culture at its most extreme; and as an allegory for the American, and the human experience-long before a restless sometime-whaleman and would-be writer named Herman Melville ever went to sea.\n\nAt one a fantastic sea-adventure, a cautionary economic and environmental tale, and a mythic saga of man and nature, this thrilling, epic film tells the amazing story of three centuries of American whaling, interweaving along the way the riveting tale of the doomed whaleship Essex, which set sail from Nantucket in the summer of 1819, and the deeply moving story of a young Herman Melville-whose own real life and imaginative voyage into the deep would give rise to one of the greatest works of literature ever created by an American.

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