ENTERPRISE — Fishtrap’s Big Read kicks off at 1 p.m. today, Wednesday, Feb. 17, with a true tale of resilience and survival, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick, in a virtual video that can be streamed anytime afterward at fishtrap.org, according to a press release.

Philbrick’s book is a National Book Award-winning tale of the story of the whaleship Essex which, in 1820, was rammed by the biggest whale anyone had ever seen and inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick.

Fishtrap has created a month of free online events for readers, students, and families to learn about whales and the history of whaling in America. Fishtrap has also provided more than 400 free books to schools and libraries in Wallowa and Union counties.

Today’s Big Read is the first of Fishtrap’s programs for February and March under a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. It also will include a talk on whaling, with Lisa T. Balance, director of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute and endowed chairwoman of marine mammal research.

Movie night at Fishtrap is Thursday, Feb. 18, with the free streaming of the Hollywood film, In the Heart of the Sea.

The book and film take place in 1819, when the Essex set sail to hunt whales, leaving Massachusetts for the South Pacific in what was to be a routine voyage. Instead, the crew found themselves part of one of the most horrifying maritime disasters in American history when an 85-foot, angry sperm whale rammed and sunk their vessel. For 90 days, the crew drifted in small boats with no sense of where they were in the vast ocean. Facing starvation, disease, brutal weather and a near loss of hope, they succumbed to drastic measures as they fought to stay alive.

It can be viewed anytime at fishtrap.org.

The Big Read will continue with a series of educational events each week in partnership with The Columbia River Maritime Museum including How to Make Your Own Hardtack, Sailor Superstitions, Whaling in Oregon and more. The Big Read Finale is March 17 featuring the Philbrick streaming online from his home on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.

Since 2006, Fishtrap has brought the Big Read to the community by highlighting a great work of literature, hosting events, discussions and providing hundreds of free books to schools, libraries and community members. In addition to the National Endowment for the Arts, the program is supported locally by neighborhood businesses and individual donations. Special thanks are offered to community sponsors Art Center East, Community Bank, The Bookloft and the Oregon Arts Commission.

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