“There isn’t anybody alive today who has seen a whaling ship with her sails up.” Richard “Kip” Files, Captain, Charles W. Morgan. This statement is about to be history itself. For the first time since 1941 (73 years), the Charles W. Morgan, the last remaining wooden whaling ship, has gone beyond the confines of Mystic Seaport and into open water. On Saturday, May 17, 2014, the Charles Morgan began the first steps of her historic 38th Voyage, 173 years after her maiden voyage. The Morgan was built and launched in New Bedford, MA in 1841 and sailed for 80 years or service prior to this historic voyage.
The 38th Voyage, from May 17-August 9, 2014, is a testament to an era long gone. To a time when whaling ships were used to harvest the giants of the sea, mainly for oil for lamps. That era was captured by the author Herman Melville with his classic story of Moby Dick. The voyage is also a testament to both her original construction and the vast restoration efforts undertaken on numerous occasions.
The most recent restoration project just completed took 5 years and over $10 million dollars to restore the ship from the waterline down to her keel. There were four previous restorations, dating from the 1880s to the 1980s but those consisted of work on the topsides, nothing below the waterline.
Today, the Charles Morgan sits at City Pier in New London, undergoing its final rigging needed before she embarks on a three-month voyage docking in seven historic ports. See itinerary here. When the vessel arrived in New London last week, it was the first time since 1909 that a whale ship came to New London harbor. As you make your summer plans, consider one of the special exhibitions/events happening as the Charles W. Morgan makes history. If you can’t meet with her in person, you can track her progress online throughout the journey here.
Images of Charles W. Morgan from a visit in summer 2013
Ed Main is the Communications Manager at the Connecticut Historical Society