After his return from his tragic voyage on the whaleship Essex, First Mate Owen Chase wrote a book describing the disastrous encounter with the sperm whale and the events that followed.
. . . I observed a very large spermaceti whale, as well as I could judge about eighty-five feet in length. He broke water about twenty rods off our weather bow and was lying quietly, with his head in a direction for the ship. He spouted two or three times and then disappeared. In less than two or three seconds, he came up again, about the length of the ship off, and made directly for us at the rate of about three knots. The ship was then gong with about the same velocity. His appearance and attitude gave us at first no alarm, but while I stood watching his movements and observing him, but a ship's length off, coming down for us with great celerity, I involuntarily ordered the boy at the helm to put it hard up, intending to sheer off and avoid him.
The words were scarcely out of my mouth before he came down upon us with full speed and struck the ship with his head, just forward of the fore-chains. He gave us such an appalling and tremendous jar as nearly threw us all on our faces. The ship brought up as suddenly and violently as if she had struck a rock and trembled for a few seconds like a leaf.
We looked at each other with perfect amazement, deprived almost of the power of speech. many minutes elapsed before we were able to realize the dreadful accident. During this time the whale passed under the ship, grazing her keel as he went along. He came up alongside of her to leeward and lay on top of the water, apparently stunned with the violence of the blow, for the space of a minute. He then suddenly started off in a direction to leeward. . . .
. . . I again discovered the whale, apparently in convulsions, on the top of the water about one hundred rods to leeward. He was enveloped in the foam of the sea that his continual and violent thrashing about in the water had created around him, and I could distinctly see him smite his jaws together, as if distracted with rage and fury. He remained a short time in this situation and then started off with great velocity across the bow of the ship to windward.. . . .
I turned around and saw him, about one hundred rods directly ahead of us, coming down apparently with twice his ordinary speed and, it appeared to me at that moment, with tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect. The surf flew in all directions about him, and his course towards us was marked by white foam a rod in width, which he made with the continual violent thrashing of his tail. His head was about half out of water, and in that way he came upon and again struck the ship….
I bawled out to the helmsman, "Hard up!" But she had not fallen off more than a point before we took the second shock. I should judge the speed of the ship to have been at this time about three knots and that of the whale about six. He struck her to the windward, directly under the cathead, and completely stove in her bow. He passed the ship again, went off to leeward, and we saw no more of him.
The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex, by Owen Chase, First Mate (1821; reprinted Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1999).