A Return to the Whales

Provincetown, Mass. — Nearly 100 years after its last voyage, the whaleship Charles W. Morgan returned to sail among whales during a visit to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, one of the world’s premier whale watching sites. On a day sail out of Provincetown, Mass. on Friday, July 11, the ship encountered humpback whales on the sanctuary. In company with the sanctuary’s research vessel Auk, the Morgan lowered a whaleboat to observe whales in a gesture to symbolize the change in humankind’s relationship with the oceans and marine mammals.

“This was an amazing day of sailing,” said Capt. Kip Files, the 22nd master of the Morgan. “To bring this historic vessel to this place, and to have her sail with humpback whales breaching right next to us, was really incredible. You can’t help but think about how much we as a people have changed. Where the Morgan once hunted whales, now she watches them with a message of conservation.”

The Morgan, a National Historic Landmark built in 1841, is the last of an American whaling fleet that numbered more than 2,700 vessels and is the flagship of the watercraft collection at Mystic Seaport, the nation’s leading maritime museum located in Mystic, Connecticut.

A whale flukes next to the CHARLES W. MORGAN.

A whale flukes next to the CHARLES W. MORGAN.

The Morgan is on its first sailing voyage since 1921. Over an 80-year whaling career, the Morgan sailed on 37 voyages to the remote corners of the globe. During this historic 38th voyage to ports across southern New England, the ship is spending several days from July 11-13 visiting the sanctuary. While there, the Morgan crew is teaming with the National Marine Sanctuaries staff to conduct outreach activities highlighting the sanctuary’s role in whale conservation and ocean research.

The public is able to follow the Morgan’s visit to the sanctuary on OceansLIVE (http://www.OceansLIVE.org), which broadcast from the vessel and other locations, offering interviews and commentary with historians, scientists, authors and artists discussing the shift from whaling to watching in New England.

Stretching between Cape Ann and Cape Cod, offshore of Massachusetts, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is a critical feeding and nursery ground for several whale and dolphin species, including the endangered humpback, North Atlantic right, sei, and fin whales.

The sanctuary is a center for whale watching in New England. Ongoing research at the sanctuary is focused on better understanding whale behavior so as to reduce whale mortality caused by entanglement in commercial fishing gear and ship strikes. Human-induced sources of underwater noise and their potential impacts on marine animals are also topics of substantial concern among scientists.

The Morgan will continue to sail in the sanctuary on Saturday and Sunday, July 12-13.