Charles W. Morgan News News

Ric Burns to Speak at Launch

Ric Burns
Ric Burns

Ric Burns, the award-winning documentary filmmaker, will deliver the keynote address at the launch of the Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport on July 21, 2013. The National Historic Landmark ship has been undergoing a comprehensive restoration since November, 2008. She will be launched and returned to the water in a public ceremony that begins at 2 p.m.

Burns is best known for his acclaimed series New York: A Documentary Film, a sweeping chronicle of the city’s history, which garnered several honors, including two Emmy Awards and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award. Burns’ career began with the celebrated series The Civil War, which he produced with his brother, Ken Burns, and co-wrote with Geoffrey C. Ward. In 1991, Ric founded Steeplechase Films and has since written and directed a number of award-winning films for PBS, including Coney Island, The Donner Party, The Way West, Eugene O’Neill, and Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film. Burns most recently finished Death and the Civil War, a film based on the best-selling book This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by acclaimed historian and Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust.  In 2010, Burns wrote, produced, and co-directed for American Experience a film about the history of the whaling industry, Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World.

Mystic Seaport President Steve White said, “We are honored to have Ric Burns serve as the keynote speaker at our launch ceremony. His extensive knowledge of American history and the role whaling plays in it will help us articulate the importance of the Charles W. Morgan in our nation’s maritime experience.

The Morgan is the oldest American commercial ship still in existence. The 113-foot vessel was built and launched in New Bedford in 1841 and had a whaling career that lasted 80 years and 37 voyages that spanned the far reaches of the globe. The ship came to Mystic Seaport in 1941. More than 20 million people have walked her decks since she arrived.

The launch is a key milestone in her restoration, which has been carried out at the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard at the Museum. Once back in the water, work will continue with the installation of her spars and rigging, additional interior carpentry, and preparation for her 38th Voyage to begin in May, 2014. The Voyage will take the ship back to sea on a tour to historic ports in New England, including New London, Newport, Vineyard Haven, New Bedford, Provincetown, and Boston. Each port visit will include an interactive dockside program designed to inspire excitement and interest in America’s maritime heritage.  The ship will also sail through the whale-watching grounds of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to recognize the changing relationship of mankind to the whale.

Charles W. Morgan News News

MORGAN Shed Removal

Have you visited the Shipyard to see the Charles W. Morgan lately? Now is a good time. Last month the plastic cover was removed from the scaffolding and now the majority of the shed has also been removed, providing optimal viewing of the whaleship before she returns to the water on July 21.

Though removing the plastic cover and shed took many hours, you can watch the process in a little over a minute thanks to the skill of our Film & Video Department. You’ll also see a majority of the Morgan‘s hull being painted, too. Enjoy!

Charles W. Morgan News News

The Shutter Plank

Final Spike
Shipyard staff member Sean Patrick Kelly drives the final golden spike on the shutter plank.

Shipwrights at Mystic Seaport installed the final plank on the hull of the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan on Friday, May 10. Known as the shutter plank because it “shuts in” and completes the hull, the achievement is traditionally a moment of celebration in the shipbuilding process.

The 20-foot long plank of yellow pine was placed on the port side quarter of the hull near the waterline. It was steamed for several hours prior to installation to make it flexible, lifted into position, and spiked in place. Each member of the Shipyard crew working on the restoration signed the plank.

The last spike used to fasten the plank was gold-plated to mark the occasion. F. M. Callahan & Son of Malden, Mass. donated the plating. Company president Eric Jackin presented the 10-inch long fastener to the Museum in an informal ceremony Friday afternoon.

”This moment is a milestone in the continuing voyage of the Charles W. Morgan. The shutter plank is just one small part of the ship’s fabric, but it is emblematic of all the parts, and of all the people, that are coming together to take the ship back to sea for her 38th Voyage in 2014,” said Mystic Seaport President Steve White.

Visitors and Museum staff watch as the shutter plank is maneuvered into position.

The Morgan has been undergoing a comprehensive restoration in the Museum’s Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard since November 2008. The project addresses significant structural issues in the hull below the waterline and in the bow and stern. While the shutter plank marks the end of principle hull restoration, Museum shipwrights must finish caulking, fairing, and painting the hull prior to launch.

The ship is scheduled to be launched on Sunday, July 21 at 2 p.m. in a public ceremony in the Shipyard. Once back in the water, the Morgan will remain berthed at the Museum’s lift dock through the completion of the project. The shipwrights need to build and restore many peripheral details, build and restore spars, and restore and install the rig. With rare exception, the ship will remain accessible to visitors to board and explore.

Once the restoration is complete in late May 2014, the Morgan will embark on a ceremonial 38th Voyage to historic ports in New England to celebrate the importance of America’s maritime heritage. After a period of refitting and sea trials based in New London, Conn., the ship will sail to Newport, Vineyard Haven, New Bedford, Provincetown, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and Boston. She will also participate in the centennial celebration of the Cape Cod Canal.

Charles W. Morgan News News

Premier Maritime Scholars Aid in the MORGAN Restoration Project

Mystic Seaport Shipyard Director Quentin Snediker (in yellow) discusses the Morgan project with scholars.
Mystic Seaport Shipyard Director Quentin Snediker (in yellow) discusses the Morgan project with scholars.

Fourteen of the nation’s leading maritime scholars, historians, and advisors visited Mystic Seaport January 12-13, 2012 to assist in development of exhibit and programming for the Charles W. Morgan and her groundbreaking 38th Voyage. Set for the summer of 2014, the much-anticipated voyage of the last wooden whaleship in the world will include visits at historic ports of call along the Northeastern Seaboard.

The two-day charrette was made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Bridging Cultures Grant and was awarded to the Museum for its “In the Wake of the Whalers” program. Feedback from NEH reviewers has been quite positive for the program and its four key humanities themes: 1) The Cultural Crossroads of Globalization (cultural crosspollination), 2) Profit from the Deep (economic endeavors), 3) The American Sailor: Making an Icon (American identity), and 4) Thar She Blows: From Whale Hunt to Whale Watch (changing perceptions of the natural world).

Snediker and scholars visit the Morgan's hold.
Snediker and scholars visit the Morgan’s hold.

Visiting scholars worked with Museum staff in the development of the program’s sub-themes, confirming that they are consistent with the best recent scholarship in the fields of maritime history, literature, art, and history of science. Mystic Seaport plans to match each sub-theme to the best delivery system to maximize audience impact and understanding. Ultimately, the Museum will ensure that intellectual and research-grounded content is consistently strong across all formats and outcomes. Charrette results will move the Museum forward towards implementation of its final onsite, online, and onboard programming concepts.


Consulting scholars, historians, and advisors included:

  • Jeff Bolster, Associate Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire
  • D. Graham Burnett, Professor, History Department and Program in History of Science at Princeton University
  • Stuart Frank, Director Emeritus of the Kendall Institute and Senior Curator at New Bedford Whaling Museum
  • Lisa Norling, Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Minnesota
  • Joe Roman, Conservation Biologist
  • Helen Rozwadowski, Associate Professor of History and Maritime Studies Coordinator at the University of Connecticut
  • Tim Runyan, Special Project Assistant in the Maritime Heritage Program for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration
  • Elizabeth Schultz, Professor Emerita in the Department of English at the University of Kansas
  • Nancy Shoemaker, Professor of History at the University of Connecticut
  • Julie Winch, Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, Boston
  • Revell Carr, Assistant Professor at the School of Music, Theater and Dance at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Karen Jamison Wizevich, Ph.D. in Architecture/Museum Studies from Victoria University, New Zealand
  • Jamie L. Jones; Professor of American Literature and Writing at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
  • Jason Mancini, Senior Researcher at Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center.