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jonas t4 icon Many thanks to Troika for the update as Jonas Armstrong is cast as ‘First Mate – Owen Chase’ in BBC’s TV film The Whale. That’s the officer who ranks just below that of the Captain of the ship.(played by Adam Rayner)

Owen Chase wrote his accounts down about what happened in Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex. Which would inspire Herman Melville to write Moby Dick.

As first mate of the Essex, 21 year old Owen Chase left Nantucket on August 12, 1819 on a two-and-a-half-year whaling voyage. On the morning of November 20, 1820, the Essex was twice rammed by a Sperm Whale  and sank 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 km) west of South America. After spending two days salvaging what supplies they could, the twenty sailors set out in the three small whaleboats with wholly inadequate supplies of food and fresh water. 

Instead of heading west to almost certain salvation nearby Tahiti (the crew, led by Owen Chase, feared the islands may be inhabited by cannibals), the confident first mate with the cocksure attitude convinced the less assertive Captain Pollard to head east for South America several thousand miles away. 

Of the 21 men in three whale boats who began the journey, eight survived; three who chose to remain on a barely habitable island and five in two boats who attempted to reach South America and who were forced to resort to cannibalism to remain alive.

If you want to learn more about the tragic story of the whaleship Essex go to:

Characters & Cast

  • Jonas Armstrong: First Mate – Owen Chase
  • Adam Rayner: Captain – George Pollard Jr.
  • Paul Kaye: Second Mate – Matthew Joy
  • Jolyon Coy: Boatsteerer – Benjamin Lawrence
  • Charles Furness: Cabin Boy – Thomas Nickerson
  • Jassa Ahluwalia: Sailor – Owen Coffin
  • John Boyega: Steward – William Bond