Capt. Owen Chase

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Captain Owen Chase

Birthplace: Nantucket, Nantucket County, Massachusetts, United States
Death: March 07, 1869 (71-72)
Nantucket, Nantucket County, Massachusetts, United States
Place of Burial: Nantucket, Nantucket County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Judah Chase; Judah Chase; Phebe Chase and Phoebe Meader
Husband of Eunice Chadwick; Margaret (Peggy) Chase; Nancy Chase and Susan Chase
Ex-husband of Eunice Chase
Father of Charles Frederick Chase; Phebe Ann Coffin; Lydia Gardner Tice; Captain George/William Henry M Chase; Adaline Chase and 1 other
Brother of Capt Alexander M. Chase; Susan M Gorham; Eiza Chase; Joseph M. Chase; George Gorham Chase and 2 others
Half brother of Maria Fish and Maria Chase

Occupation: Whaling captain; author, Sea Captain
Managed by: Erica Howton
Last Updated:

About Capt. Owen Chase

Owen Chase (1798 - 1869) of Nantucket sought a traditional career as a whaling captain. However, at age 22, while serving as first mate of the Essex, his ship was sunk in a horrific, unprecedented attack by a sperm whale. Chase's short account of the attack (thought by some to be ghost-written) captivated the nation and inspired Melville, forming the basis of Moby Dick.

Later in his life Chase began hiding food in the attic of his Nantucket house on Orange Street and was eventually institutionalized.

"I was aroused with the cry of a man at the hatchway, "Here he is - he is making for us again." I turned around, and saw him about one hundred rods directly ahead of us, coming down apparently with twice his ordinary speed, and to me at that moment, it appeared with tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect."


  • parents: Judah Chase b. 26 Mar 1764, d. 23 Jul 1846 & Phebe Meader d. 18 Apr 1808
  • Family 1: Peggy Gardner b. 1798, d. 24 Sep 1824. aughter of George Gardner and Judith Gardner, circa 1819; His 1st wife. Children: Phebe Ann Chase+ b. 16 Apr 1820, d. 27 Dec 1904; Lydia G. Chase+ b. 1822, d. 2 Dec 1871; William H. Chase+ b. 14 Sep 1824
  • Family 2: Nancy Slade b. 30 Dec 1798, d. 11 Jul 1833. daughter of Benjamin Slade and Rhoda Coleman, circa 1825; "Owen m. ...Nancy wid. of Matthew Joy." "No chn." Child: Adaline Chase+ b. 2 Jul 1834, d. 27 Feb 1918
  • Family 3: Eunice Chadwick b. 28 Aug 1808, d. 20 Apr 1888. daughter of William Chadwick and Deborah Brown, after 1833. Child: Charles F. Chase b. 17 Jan 1838
  • Family 4: Susan Coffin b. 25 Aug 1807, d. 31 Oct 1881. daughter of Jesse Coffin and Phebe Rawson, after 17 January 1838; "Owen m. ...also Susan, wid. of James Gwinn." "No chn."


  1. Chase, Owen (1821). Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex. New York: W. B. Gilley. OCLC 12217894. Also in Heffernan, Thomas Farel, Stove by a whale: Owen Chase and the Essex, Middletown, Conn. : Wesleyan University Press ; New York : distributed by Columbia University Press, 1981.
  2. Chase, Owen (1999). Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex. New York: Lyons Press. ISBN 1-55821-878-5. OCLC 12217894.
  3. Philbrick, Nathaniel (2001). In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-100182-8. OCLC 46949818.

Owen Chase and the Yankee whaler Essex, 1820

Owen Chase was the first mate of the Nantucket whaler Essex when she was wrecked in the Pacific ocean on 20 November 1819 by a sperm whale at 0ÙB 40' S 119ÙB W. He published his story in 1821.

During their time at sea following the wreck he was in command of the second of the three boats that set off from the stricken Essex. Of the five men in his command three survived with him (Benjamin Lawrence, Thomas Nicholson, and Richard Peterson); Willaim Wright elected to stay on a desert island (Elizabeth Island, north east of Pitcairn) and was saved in April 1820 and one, Isaac Cole, died. Chase's version of events can be read in the book "Narratives of the whaleship Essex" by Owen Chase et al. This is an extract from his story:

8th February 1820 crewman Isaac Cole died. . . . when after reflecting on the subject all night, I addressed them on the painful subject of keeping the body for food! Our provisions could not possibly last us beyond three days, within which time, it was not in any degree probable that we should find relief from our present sufferings, and that hunger would at last drive us to the necessity of casting lots. It was without any objection agreed to, and we set to work as fast as we were able to prepare it so to prevent its spoiling. We separated his limbs from his body, and cut all the flesh from the bones; after which, we opened the body, took out the heart, and then closed it again - sewed it up as decently as we could, and committed it to the sea. We now first commenced to satisfy the immediate cravings of nature from the heart, which we eagerly devoured, and then eat sparingly of a few pieces of the flesh: after which, we hung up the remainder, cut in thin strips about the boat, to dry in the sun: we made a fire and roasted some of it, to serve us during the next day. In this manner did we dispose of our fellow-sufferer; the painful recollection of which, brings to mind at this moment, some of the most disagreeable and revolting ideas that it is conceivable of conceiving. . . .The next morning, the 10th of February, we found that the flesh had become tainted, and had turned of a greenish colour, upon which we concluded to make a fire and cook it at once, to prevent it becoming so putrid as not to be eaten at all: we accordingly did so, and by that means preserved it for six or seven days longer; . . .

On 18th February 1820 Chase and his three remaining companions were rescued at 33ÙB 45' S 81ÙB 03' W by the brig Indian of London, Captain William Crozier.

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Capt. Owen Chase's Timeline

Nantucket, Nantucket County, Massachusetts, United States
April 16, 1820
Nantucket, Nantucket County, Massachusetts, United States
June 1822
Nantucket, Nantucket County, Massachusetts, United States
September 14, 1824
Nantucket, Nantucket County, Massachusetts, United States
July 2, 1833
January 17, 1838
Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States