The Charles W. Morgan, the last of the wooden whaleships, will be refloated Sunday, July 21, at Mystic Seaport after an extensive and expensive restoration. A large crowd is expected at the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard, which is on the grounds of the Mystic Seaport.
There has been a tremendous outpouring of support for this vessel, throughout her life at the seaport. During her 172-year history, she crossed many borders and many oceans. In the great whaling era of the 1800s there were 2,700 whaleships. Now there is but one. The rest are gone.
The Charles W. Morgan is as much a Vineyard story as a New Bedford story, where she was built and resided.
S. Bailey Norton of Edgartown, one of Edgartown’s senior statesmen, is planning to attend the ceremonies with his wife Joan. Mr. Norton has family ties to the vessel. His great great uncle Thomas A. Norton was the first captain to serve on the whaleship, when she embarked on her first voyage in 1841. On that voyage out of New Bedford, there were 14 crewmembers who called the Vineyard home.
Throughout her career, 80 years of whaling and 37 voyages, the 113-foot ship traveled with many Vineyard captains and crew.
Last June, the Island community added another piece to the significance of the Morgan story, when a new replica of a whaleboat built at the Gannon and Benjamin marine railway was launched in the Vineyard Haven harbor. The 29-foot whaleboat was built to serve aboard the Morgan and she is already in Mystic with other newly completed whaleboats.
At the launching of the whaleboat in June, Matthew Stackpole of West Tisbury, a key figure in the restoration of the whaling ship, spoke about the Vineyard significance to the Morgan project. The significance includes a long list of donors who contributed to the restoration effort. A fundraising event was held to help in the ship restoration of the Captain’s Quarters, a way to honor the Vineyard whaling captains, six of them, who served.
In addition to the Captain’s Quarters contributors, Ralph Packer, of Tisbury Towing, donated the services of one of his tugboats, captain and crew to escort the Morgan when she sails up the Southeastern New England coast, a journey that begins next June and ends in August.
For those not able to attend the ceremony on Sunday, the seaport will be streaming video of the launch on their website: mysticseaport.org. The ceremony starts at 2 p.m.
There is a new book out that chronicles the history of New Bedford. The book is called A Picture History of New Bedford, Volume One, 1602-1925, edited by Joseph D. Thomas, Alfred H. Saulniers, Natalie White, Marsha L. McCabe and Jay Avila; publisher Spinner Publications, Inc., 320 pages, illustrated, photographs, $35.
The links between Martha’s Vineyard and New Bedford were once very close. The automobile brought the Vineyard closer to Woods Hole, but in the days of horses, New Bedford was the greater link.
The book opens with Bartholomew Gosnold, the English explorer, and several chapters are devoted to the whaling culture.
Spinner Publications always turns out very nice books celebrating the heritage of this region. They cast a large net which helps the communities around New Bedford share in a common story.