ENTERPRISE — Fishtrap launches its National Endowment for the Arts Big Read program on 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.

This National Book Award-winning tale tells 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. A full schedule of events and resources is available at Fishtrap.org.

The Big Read Kicks off on Feb. 17 with a dynamic talk on whaling with Dr. Lisa T. Ballance, director of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute and endowed chair of Marine Mammal Research. Fishtrap will stream it live at 1 p.m., and the video can be streamed anytime afterward at Fishtrap.org.

The following day, on Thursday, Feb. 18, Fishtrap is providing free streaming of the Hollywood film "In the Heart of the Sea." Watch it anytime that day at Fishtrap.org.

The Big Read continues 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 author of "In the Heart of the Sea," Nathaniel Philbrick, streaming online from his home on Nantucket Island.

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

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