Restored Whaleship Arrives in Boston

The Whaleship Charles W. Morgan encountering whales on the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary on July 11, 2014. Photo/Mystic Seaport.
The Whaleship Charles W. Morgan encountering whales on the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary on July 11, 2014. Photo/Mystic Seaport.

The Charles W. Morgan, a National Historic Landmark and America’s oldest commercial vessel still afloat, sailed into Boston on Tuesday and tied up next to the USS Constitution at the Boston National Historical Park at the Charlestown Navy Yard. The Constitution, built in 1797, is America’s oldest ship, and this is the first time the two vessels have ever been in the same port.

The Morgan is on its first sailing voyage since 1921. Over an 80-year whaling career, the Morgan sailed on 37 voyages to remote corners of the globe. This historic 38th Voyage is taking the ship to ports across southern New England to celebrate and call attention to the importance of the role of America’s maritime heritage in the nation’s history.

The Morgan will be open to the public in Boston from July 18-22. In addition to touring the ship, visitors can learn about the Morgan, whales and whaling, and their importance to American history in a 22,000-square-foot dockside exhibition. A video presentation and display panels explain the history and significance of the 173-year-old vessel, the important role the whaling industry played in America’s economic history, how the Morgan and whaleships were an early connector of different cultures, and how America’s perception of the natural world has changed over time. Hands-on activities include knot-tying, handling samples of wood used in the restoration, and searching the Morgan’s crew lists for familiar names or hometown connections.

A focal point is Spouter, a 46-foot-long, life-sized, inflatable model of a sperm whale. Visitors can participate in a “What Bubbles Up?” activity by writing down their whale-related memory, question, or sketch and attaching it to a humpback whale sculpture.

Mystic Seaport interpreters will demonstrate the 19th-century maritime skills of a cooper, shipsmith, ropemaker, and whaleboat rower. There will also be live performances including sea chanteys, the interactive “Tale of a Whaler,” and a condensed rendition of the novel “Moby-Dick,” titled “Moby-Dick in Minutes.” Visitors will even have the opportunity to try their hand at rowing a whaleboat during select times.

NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary will have an exhibit booth to explain how the sanctuary interprets America’s maritime past, promotes ocean conservation, and engages in cutting-edge research. They will show how whales feed and what they feed on, and present videos that feature information on the National Marine Sanctuary System, whales, whale research, and whaling heritage. Kids can even create their own whale hat.

The ship and dockside exhibition will be open from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. each day, with the last boarding of the ship to take place at 4:00 p.m. Admission is free.

Additionally, organizations along Boston’s waterfront, including the USS Constitution Museum and the Boston National Historic Park, will be hosting a festival of events to celebrate the Morgan’s stay. Port sponsors for the Morgan’s visit to Boston are Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Walsh Brothers Construction, which uncovered oak timbers buried in the Charlestown Navy Yard and subsequently used in the Morgan’s restoration.

For details on public activities during the Morgan’s visit to Boston, please go to the National Park Service website.

The Morgan is scheduled to continue her 38th Voyage on July 23. The ship will make its way south through the Cape Cod Canal to tie up at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. It will be open to the public from July 26-27 as part of the centennial celebration of the opening of the canal in 1914.