In late May, 2014, the Charles W. Morgan will embark on an unprecedented voyage to historic ports on the New England coast. Over an 80-year whaling career, the ship sailed on 37 voyages to the remote corners of the globe. This voyage, her 38th, may perhaps be her most important
The Morgan, a National Historic Landmark built in 1841, is the oldest American commercial ship still afloat. The ship underwent a nearly five-year restoration in the Museum’s Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard from November 2008 to July 2013. She was launched July 21, 2013 in front of thousands of Museum visitors and the celebration marked the kickoff to her return to sea.
Why sail the Morgan? The decision to embark on this voyage is based on the commitment of Mystic Seaport to make history come alive for today’s audience and to call attention to the value of historic ships and the important role America’s maritime heritage plays in this country’s history.
The Morgan‘s voyage will begin with a short trip from Mystic, Conn. to nearby New London, Conn. New London’s deep harbor and ready access to Long Island Sound makes it a prime location to prepare her for sea and to conduct sail training with the crew (the Mystic River is too shallow and long for this purpose). Once ready, the ship will journey to Newport, Vineyard Haven, New Bedford, the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Boston, and then back to New London and Mystic with a stop at the Cape Cod Canal to participate in its centennial celebration.The entire voyage is expected to take about six weeks.
The ship’s stop in each port will be accompanied by a dockside exhibit program customized for each location. For example, New Bedford’s history is inextricably tied to its whaling heritage and it was here in 1841 that the Morgan was built and it was her homeport for 60 years. Boston will be an opportunity to tie up next to the USS Constitution, the only American ship older than the Morgan. Stellwagen Bank is a center for whale watching in New England. At that stop, the Morgan will moor offshore near Provincetown and conduct a number of day sails into the Bank in collaboration with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
Upon her return to Mystic Seaport, the ship will resume to her status as an exhibit at the Museum, but one with a new chapter to tell to the next generation of visitors.
Follow the Journey
Mystic Seaport will share the Morgan‘s journey onsite, online, and onboard. The goal is to utilize her journey and the latest technology to appeal to all ages and to build an experience that communicates four major themes: the American sailor as an icon, the influence of different cultures connecting at sea, whaling as an example of American enterprise, and America’s changing relationship to the natural world. The last is the most significant: whales were hunted almost to extinction. Today, America celebrates the whale and works for its recovery. Where once the Charles W. Morgan’s cargo was oil and bone, today her cargo is knowledge.