One hundred ninety-six years ago (November 20, 1820) was the event that started it all, for us Marathoners: The whaleship Essex, out of Nantucket and hunting in the south Pacific, was struck and sunk by a large sperm whale. The crew of twenty set out in three whaleboats. Eight survived.
On July 23, 1841, the whaleship Acushnet gammed with the Lima about 2000 miles west of Ecuador. At this gam, Melville met Owen's son, William Henry Chase, and "first held a copy of Chase's Narrative."
Melville recalled years later, "The reading of this wondrous story upon the landless sea, & close to the very latitude of the shipwreck, had a surprising effect upon me." (Herman Melville, v.1; Hershel Parker, 1996)