Go to sea on a historic tall ship, then tell your tale to the world…
In the summer of 2014 the historic 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan will sail for the first time in more than 80 years. During this commemorative 38th Voyage, the ship will sail to seven New England ports, engaging communities with their maritime heritage, raising awareness of the changing perceptions about whales, and furthering ongoing research into whales, whaling, and whaling peoples. A group of adults from a range of disciplines and backgrounds will be aboard the ship, participating in an unprecedented public-history project. These “38th Voyagers” will document and filter their experience through their own perspectives and talents, producing creative products for the Museum to share online and through exhibits, publications, and public programs.
While rooted in history, the 38th Voyage is not a reenactment, but rather an opportunity to add to the ship’s story with contemporary perspectives. The 38th Voyagers will sail aboard one voyage leg (one night plus the following day), and will work alongside Museum staff to examine every aspect of the voyage to better understand the past experiences of those who sailed this ship and others like her.
Proposals from a range of individuals, including artists, scientists, writers, teachers, whaling descendants, explorers, and other adventurers were accepted. Onboard each voyage leg a small group of 38th Voyagers from different backgrounds, disciplines, and areas of expertise will join the ship’s captain and crew, Mystic Seaport staff, and a limited number of guests. Depending on weather and at the discretion of the captain, 38th Voyagers may expect to have many onboard opportunities including: climbing the rigging and standing watch; taking scientific measurements; interviewing the captain and crew; capturing video, photographs, or sound recordings; observing the wildlife (including seabirds and marine mammals); and experiencing the junction of wind, water, and wood.
This is an unpaid opportunity, but limited travel funds may be available. Meals and lodging in the fo’c’sle will be provided by the Museum during the 24 hours spent onboard.
Process and Project Products
Participants will stay onboard the 173-year-old sailing vessel Charles W. Morgan during one leg (one night & the following day) of its historic 38th Voyage in the summer of 2014. As a historic vessel with no engine, the ship will be accompanied by a tugboat throughout the voyage, but will also spend time sailing when possible, at the captain’s discretion.
Each participant will be expected to use the experiences onboard as a time to record, reflect, or analyze some aspect of the experience, from the ship’s movement through the water to the whaleman’s view of the ocean from the mast. Voyagers will be invited to Mystic Seaport in early May 2014 for behind-the-scenes tours of related Museum collections, onboard training sessions, and meetings with key staff and other 38th Voyagers.
Each 38th Voyager will create a finished record or account of their onboard experience for the Museum. Finished products could be artistic, scientific, educational, historical, or reflective, but each one should be: experiential, grounded in the time spent on the vessel, strongly connected to the content and context of the 38th Voyage, and clearly linked to least one of the core content themes (described below). Such products are limited only by the imagination, but examples could include a sculpture, poem, journal article, lesson plan, photo essay, scientific paper, audio soundscape, or blog post. Products could stand alone or be part of a participant’s larger ongoing project or series.
Each Voyager will present Mystic Seaport an original finished product, if applicable, or a copy of the finished product if an original is not feasible, for example, a blog post. The Museum will have the right to use this Voyager product in upcoming exhibits, publications, or for other educational purposes.
The vessel will make day-long transits between its ports, traveling on the best weather day of a three-day weather window, as decided by the ship’s captain. Participants must be available all three days of a weather window for a voyage leg. Please note that the Museum may not be able to accommodate requests for specific dates or locations. The anticipated travel windows are:
|Travel Leg||Weather Window|
|New London, CT to Newport, RI||Sat 6/14 – Mon 6/16|
|Newport to Vineyard Haven, MA (Martha’s Vineyard)||Wed 6/18 – Friday 6/20|
|Vineyard Haven to New Bedford, MA||Wed 6/25 – Fri 6/27|
|New Bedford to Buzzard’s Bay, MA (Mass. Maritime Academy)||Mon 7/7 – Wed 7/9|
|Buzzard’s Bay to Provincetown, MA||Tues 7/8 – Fri 7/11|
|3 Day-sails from Provincetown Harbor toward Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary||Wed 7/9 – Mon 7/14, Thurs 7/10 – Tues 7/15, Fri 7/11 – Wed 7/16|
|Provincetown to Boston, MA||Tues 7/15 – Thurs 7/17|
|Boston to Buzzard’s Bay, MA (Mass. Maritime Academy)||Wed 7/23 – Fri 7/25|
Voyage Approach and Themes
Commercial whaling in the 19th and early 20th centuries had a complex and deep impact on our nation’s economy, culture, and global position. Its complicated cultural, historical, and environmental legacy continues to influence the nation and world today. This 21st-century project emphasizes the continued relevance of the topic to Americans today, as we grapple with similar tensions between environmental health, economic and industrial needs, cultural practices, and inter-species relationships. At its most basic level, our focus is on a nexus of people, ships, water, and whales.
We will neither overly celebrate nor outright condemn the historic practice of the whale hunt. Instead, we will respect and strive to understand its many facets, even those that are contradictory or controversial. We will examine the interconnectedness, complexity, and long-term impacts – positive and negative – of this core American maritime experience.
Each 38th Voyager project should connect to one or more of the four major guiding themes, described below. These are humanities-based themes, but all have strong, natural links to other disciplines in the arts, natural sciences, and social sciences:
1) Changing Perceptions about Whales and the Natural World: Americans’ prevailing beliefs about humans’ place in the natural world have shifted dramatically since the active whaling years of the Charles W. Morgan. A century ago most Americans saw the ocean’s seemingly boundless resources as solely sources of profit. Today, commercial whalers’ overharvesting of the world’s largest mammals baffles or angers many 21st-century Americans. But the human-whale dynamic has always been more complex than it first appears. The 19th-century whalers’ deep knowledge of the sea and its creatures contributed greatly to scientific exploration and study. While subsistence whaling is still practiced on a small scale by some indigenous groups in American waters, many more whales are stressed and threatened by 21st-century acts such as ship strikes, net entanglements, and sound pollution. Exploring the causes and consequences of our changing perceptions and behaviors will show that preserving a historic whaleship and conserving today’s whale populations are compatible endeavors.
2) The Perils and Profits of Commercial Whaling: Commercial whaling was a volatile, high-risk and high-profit industry of the kind often glorified as a distinctive American practice. It had a clearly devastating impact on the world’s whale populations, and an arguably ambiguous impact on humans. Whale oil lit the homes and streets of the U.S. for decades, lubricated the machinery of the Industrial Revolution, and spawned tremendous profits that were used to build railroads, factories, hospitals, and libraries. For tens of thousands of men, from Massachusetts to New Zealand, Alaska to the Azores, working on American whaleships provided the benefits of employment and world travel. For those marginalized because of their racial or ethnic background, whaling voyages often offered escape and self-realization. Yet these trips also served as a vector for disease, death, discrimination, and suffering among both human and ocean populations.
3) Whaling as a Cultural Crossroads: Whaling voyages created opportunities for immigration, cultural exchange, and artistic inspiration from all corners of the globe. Whaling communities grew and flourished along the New England coast (Nantucket, New Bedford, and New London among them) but also had a presence in the Pacific (including San Francisco, Hawaii, and Alaska). As de facto immigration ships, whaling vessels routinely stopped in remote places such as Valparaiso, the Galapagos, Cape Verde, and Tristan da Cunha. Larger ports in Hawaii and the Azores supported sizeable ex-pat communities where whaling captains’ wives and children, whaling agents, and whalemen might spend weeks, months, or even years absorbing the sights, sounds, and values of vastly different cultures, returning home with new tastes and ideas, which became inspiration for artists, writers, and musicians in many different cultures.
4) Impact on American Culture: The Charles W. Morgan is nearly identical to the whaleship on which Herman Melville sailed to the Pacific, later inspiring Moby-Dick. Thus this vessel is one of American literature’s most significant artifacts—sailing aboard is equivalent to staying a night in Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond. As they traveled the globe in pursuit of their prey, whalers accumulated knowledge about other cultures, whales, and also of the ocean itself, its currents, creatures, and moods. Men, women, and children onboard left behind a rich trove of first-hand testimony including letters, journals, onboard sketches and photos, and oral histories. Brought home and shared, this informed the work of artists, authors, scientists, and mapmakers that was more widely circulated to the public. Whaling also inspired masterpieces in maritime folk traditions such as scrimshaw, figureheads, ship models, music, and tall tales. Whales, whaling, and whaleman continue to occupy a prominent place in America’s cultural landscape today, from the popularity of whale-watch cruises to Hollywood films, operas, and online memes.
Proposals will be judged by a committee of Mystic Seaport staff and outside advisors on the following criteria:
- Communicates a strong, clear vision for an engaging personal or professional project
- Contributes to the multi-disciplinary and multi-voiced mix of 38th Voyagers
- Demonstrates connections to the 38th Voyage themes
- Presents a feasible plan for completing the proposed project
- Displays the ability to deliver it to a targeted audience in a timely manner
- Show creativity and inspirational impact
- Conveys a unique point-of-view or approach
- Applications were accepted December 1, 2013 through January 7, 2014 and are now closed.
- Top candidates will be contacted to schedule interviews in mid-January 2014
- Finalists will be notified by early March 2014
- Description of proposed project, including: goals, connection to core content themes; preparation plan; plan for capturing impressions/data onboard; final product; intended audience and dissemination plan
- Description of professional/personal qualifications and what important, unique perspective you will bring as a 38th Voyager
- Brief resume or C.V. (max. 2 pp.)
- Names and contact information for two references
- Samples of your work in similar project formats
- For questions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The 38th Voyagers program has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.