VERGENNES — On Thursday morning at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) in Vergennes, Vermont, a crowd gathered to celebrate the launch of the final whaleboat–whaleboat #10–for the Charles W. Morgan‘s 38th Voyage.
The boat was slid into the water and the audience heard from the student boat builders who related what the experience of constructing a traditional wooden boat and rowing as a team has meant in their lives.
“This project built much more than a whaleboat,” LCMM Executive Director Erick Tichonuk pointed out. “Working together, you have built community, confidence, skills, healthy lifestyles, respect for the environment, and a deeper understanding of history.”
The new whaleboat will remain at the museum for a few weeks, and in June, it will travel to join up with the Morgan in the ship’s former homeport of New Bedford, Mass.
After the launch, Mystic Seaport’s Morgan historian Matthew Stackpole gave a presentation using words and pictures – and a single plank from the world’s last wooden whaling ship – to transport the audience through time and space. Stackpole began with the ship’s beginning at her launch in 1841 in New Bedford, continued through her 80-year whaling career across the globe in pursuit of whale oil and bone (baleen) to provide the fuel for light, lubricants, and American fortunes. He concluded with the ship’s years in Mystic and her recent restoration and immanent 38th Voyage to ports across Southern New England.
Stackpole shared a perspective from Pulitzer-prize winning historian David McCullough:
“The story of the American Whaling industry, which the Charles W. Morgan so powerfully represents, is a rousing chapter in our nation’s history. I think to have no sense of the story of your country is like having no sense of the history of your life. It’s a form of amnesia and can be as detrimental to a country as it is to an individual. . . the important work Mystic Seaport is doing on the Morgan’s restoration will ensure we remember this vivid chapter of our country’s history.”