In the Heart of the Sea | Study Guide

Nathaniel Philbrick

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In the Heart of the Sea | Glossary


aft: (adj) the back of the boat

ambergris: (n) valuable ash-colored fatty substance used to make perfume. Ambergris is either excreted by a whale, and found in the ocean, or found in a whale's intestinal tract.

coof: (n) in Nantucket slang, anyone who is an off-islander. Coof is a derogatory term.

forecastle: (n) cramped section at the extreme forward part of a whaleship. This is where men of the lowest rank lived while at sea.

gam: (n) Nantucket slang for a visit between two ships' crews while at sea

hardtack: (n) type of bread used on long voyages as a food supply. Hardtack is dried out so it keeps for a long time and doesn't spoil.

harpoon: (n) spear-shaped instrument with a barbed end. It is used to fasten a whale to a whaleboat.

lance: (n) 11- or 12-foot killing instrument with a petal-shaped blade. The lance was used to pierce the whale's vital organs, and usually required multiple applications until the job was done.

latitude: distance north or south from the equator. Latitude is measured by using the imaginary lines of latitude drawn on the globe horizontally beginning at the equator.

leeward: (adj) on the side sheltered or away from the wind

longitude: distance east or west from the Prime Meridian. Longitude is measured by using the imaginary lines of longitude drawn vertically on the globe beginning at the Prime Meridian.

mast: (n) tall upright posts or poles on a sailing ship. A mast carries the sails.

port: (adj) left side of the boat

shoal: (n) shifting sandbar or a group of whales

spermaceti: (n) white, waxy substance in head cavity of a sperm whale. It was used to make the finest oil, candle wax, or other products.

starboard: (adj.) right side of the boat

steerage: (n) area in the middle of the ship. This is where boatsteerers and those of middle rank who were not officers lived while at sea.

try-out: (v) messy, difficult, and smelly oil-making process on a whaleship. Whalers boil cut pieces of whale blubber to render the oil.

whaleboat: (n) smaller craft (about 25 feet long) carried by a whaleship. Whaleboats are used in the whale hunt, kill, and capture.

yard: (n) a spar (smaller pole or post) on a mast from which sails are set

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