The Block Island Times

The whaleship Morgan takes to the seas again

History of the ship presented by BIMI
By Jack Lynch | Jul 17, 2013

Who was Charles W. Morgan?

Some know him as an astute 19th century Yankee businessman, while maritime history buffs associate the name with a wooden whaleship launched in 1841 from New Bedford, Mass.

The whaleship Charles W. Morgan has been in the custody of the Mystic Seaport since 1941 and more than 20 million people have walked the decks of the vessel in that time.

The Morgan was known as a “lucky ship” during the 80 years she hunted whales, but a better stroke of luck might be her coming to rest at Mystic Seaport — where she has been maintained and nearly fully restored as an important artifact of American history. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966, the Morgan is the oldest American commercial ship afloat. Only the USS Constitution, a naval vessel, is older.

Attendees at a presentation by Mystic Seaport’s Steve White and Quentin Snediker on the evening of July 2 — sponsored by the Block Island Maritime Institute (BIMI) — were treated to the story about the history and restoration of the Charles W. Morgan, the lone survivor of an American whaling fleet that once numbered more than 2,700 vessels. The talk was held at Smuggler’s Cove and was attended by more than 50 Island residents and visitors.

Steve White is the President of Mystic Seaport. Quentin Snediker is the Director of the Seaport’s Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard and has overseen the current restoration of the Charles W. Morgan that began in late 2008. The cost of the restoration? Nearly $7 million, which might be contrasted with the initial cost to build her which was $54,000, keeping in mind the value of money in 1841. One important aspect of the restoration was acquiring suitable woods and other materials to match construction materials used in 1841.

The restored Morgan hull will be launched from the Mystic Shipyard on July 21, the same day the complete ship was first launched in 1841. Between now and May 2014, the Morgan will be rigged and prepared for her 38th voyage at the Mystic Seaport Shipyard and in New London, Conn. The voyage of the Morgan will start from New London and proceed to make stops in Newport, Vineyard Haven, New Bedford, Provincetown, Boston and then participate in the centennial celebration of the Cape Cod Canal. She will return to New London and eventually to Mystic where she will resume her status as an important exhibit of the Seaport.

For more details about the voyage, dockside exhibit programs at each location and opportunities to visit the restored vessel, visit the Seaport’s website

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