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Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan: Home to New Bedford tomorrow

Exploring the decks of the Charles W. Morgan whaling ship.
Exploring the decks of the Charles W. Morgan whaling ship.
©Mystic Seaport Museum

The famed whaling ship Charles W. Morgan returned to New Bedford, Massachusetts on Wednesday, completing a circle that spans 173 years. The ship was launched there in 1841 and over the next 80 years made 37 voyages all over the globe in search of whale oil. The Morgan has just completed a major rebuilding and restoration. The New Bedford served as home port for the Morgan throughout her career as a whaling ship.

A unique chance to board and visit the Morgan

Visitors can board and visit the Morgan in New Bedford tomorrow, Saturday, June 28 through Sunday, July 6 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. each day, with the last boarding of the ship to take place at 4 her berth at State Pier near the center of the city. Admission of $5 per person ages 6 and older helps to pay for the show and for the extensive repairs the ship underwent to prepare her for resumption of active sailing. This stop is part of an extensive sailing voyage to New England ports.

Throughout her long career in the whaling industry the Morgan roamed the oceans of the world killing whales and rendering their blubber into barrels of oil. That oil was used in lanterns all over the country to bring light into the darkness of night until the use of electricity killed the market for it. The decks of the ship still carry the huge vats that were used to render the oil. The Morgan is the oldest and last of the thousands of wooden whaling vessels that plied the oceans from the late eighteenth to early twentieth century’s. The Morgan, which has not set sail since the end of her last voyage in 1921, left New Bedford under tow in 1941 for the Mystic Seaport Museum.

Learning about the Morgan, whales and the environment

On the pier adjacent to the berth of the Charles W. Morgan Mystic Seaport will be displaying a 22,000 sq ft exhibit about the Morgan and her work and history. The exhibits also contains information about the life cycles of whales and about the whaling industry that the Morgan was engaged in.

The exhibits also include demonstrations of the skills required during whaling voyages including barrel makers (needed to store the oil), shipsmiths, ropemakers and the role and skills required of boat rowers. To give the entire operation perspective, they have also brought along an inflatable 46’ model of a sperm whale. Singers will regale the crowds with sea chanteys from the era and a number of hands-on experiences are scheduled, including trying a hand at rowing whaleboat, though you will have to check there for times when that activity is available.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries also has an exhibit that shows the maritime past of North America and describes their efforts to promote the conservation of the sea and its creatures. It also has information on the National Marine Sanctuary System which includes the Stellwagen banks off Provincetown, an important whale feeding ground in the summer. The Charles W. Morgan will make a symbolic journey to the Stellwagen Banks in July while berth at Provincetown to highlight her change of role from whale predator to the aiding in the preservation of the species.

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