Museum Reaches Milestone in Restoration of the National Historic Landmark Vessel
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.
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.
The Morgan is the oldest commercial vessel in the United States and the last whaleship of a fleet that once numbered more than 2,700. During her 80-year whaling career the ship sailed on 37 voyages that spanned the globe. Retired in 1921, the ship had a brief movie career and then became a historical attraction in the New Bedford area. Needing a new home, the ship came to Mystic Seaport in 1941 where she has remained as the flagship of the Museum’s watercraft collection. She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1967.
About Mystic Seaport
Mystic Seaport is the nation’s leading maritime museum. Founded in 1929, the Museum is home to four National Historic Landmark vessels, including the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship in the world. The Museum is located one mile south of exit 90 off I-95 in Mystic, CT. Admission is $24 for adults and $15 for children 6-17. Museum members and children under 5 are admitted for free. For more information, please visit https://mysticseaport.wpengine.com/.