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AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Into The Deep: America, Whaling & The World

Airs Monday, May 10, 2010 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

A 19th-century depiction of whaling.

Credit: Nantucket Historical Association

Above: A 19th-century depiction of whaling.

Photo Gallery: Depictions of Whaling in America

Whaling has captured Americans' imaginations since settlers first landed in the New World. See depictions of the industry's violence and death as well as its popularity in the popular culture, immortalized through centuries of maps, paintings and photographs.

"Into The Deep: America, Whaling & The World" examines the history of the American whaling industry from its 17th-century origins in drift and shore whaling off the coast of New England and Cape Cod, through the golden age of deep ocean whaling, and on to its demise in the decades following the American Civil War.

Taking place over three centuries, the film binds the story of American capitalism on the rise with a case study in maritime culture. The fate of the whaleship "Essex" -- which set sail from Nantucket in the summer of 1819 -- is interwoven with the story of a young Herman Melville, whose own imaginative voyage into the deep would give rise to one of the greatest works of American literature, "Moby Dick."

Preview: American Experience: Into The Deep: America, Whaling & The World

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From director Ric Burns ("New York: A Documentary Film," "Ansel Adams," "The Donner Party") "Into The Deep: America, Whaling & The World" explores America's first global industry. And as Americans now see fortunes rise and fall on the global energy and consumer markets, the rapid commoditization of whales and the sharp decline of the whaling industry serve as a stark reminder of the volatility of the global marketplace.

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