Morgan Reflections: November-December 2010
Over the past several months, the Museum, as well as its members and guests, has been abuzz with excited conversation regarding the prospect of the Charles W. Morgan going to sea again post-restoration. As we continue with our planning to sail the Morgan on a ceremonial 38th voyage, I hope that you will enjoy these personal perspectives on our signature artifact.
Nov / Dec 2010 Volume 1, Issue 1 A Portal continued uncharted and challenging years of American history, starting with the settlement of the American colonies and continuing through the birth and evolution of the United States. Through wars and technological discoveries, through economic growth and collapse, from a time when no one had ever heard an engine or seen a factory through the industrial revolution and the invention and use of steam power on land and sea, through great social change, westward expansion, the gold rush and the discoveries of gas, petroleum and electricity. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The more than 250 years of the American Whale Fishery under sail has been described as an epic chapter of American history that has almost been forgotten. It’s a legendary story both in its geographic reach and, perhaps more important, in the significant impact it had on the economic, social and political (both domestic and international) development of this nation. It involved and reflects many of the forces, values, tensions, conflicts, technological changes, successes and failures which made up the mixture that was “tried out” and “rendered” as the nation developed. Today the Morgan’s role is to serve as a portal to the past, not for a romantic nostalgic journey, but rather as an authentic pathway to help us remember and learn from all the stories she represents and reflects, the good and the bad, that influenced the nation and society we are today. She can help us better understand who and what we are, and to use what has happened to us in the past to help improve today and tomorrow. Her cargo now is no longer oil and bone, but rather experience and the knowledge gained from it. Because she is the real thing and the last one, she can bring life and color to our past in a way that no “virtual experience” or “reality show” can, and help us remember that everything that has happened occurred because of what living human beings like us did or didn’t do. So come aboard, like so many before you, as we use this new voyage to explore some of the ways the Morgan, and the whaling and commercial story she represents, reflect how we arrived at who and what we are today. ✯ Matthew Stackpole, former executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, is a member and key advocate of the Morgan Restoration Project. Book of the Month This month we feature a book about the fourth voyage of the Charles W. Morgan. Whale Hunt: The Narrative of a Voyage by Nelson Cole Haley, Harpooner in the Ship Charles W. Morgan 1849-1853. Nelson Cole Haley. New York: Ives Washburn,  1967. (Repr. Mystic Seaport Museum, 1990.) Like all great tales of the sea, this narrative is about much more than whaling. It covers a number of varied topics such as geography, navigation, nutrition and contact with other cultures. All these various themes are filtered through the memories of Haley, who was just 17 years old when he leapt aboard the Morgan. Read this narrative to understand the great breadth of the American maritime experience. ✯ Mystic Seaport — The Museum of America and the Sea is the nation's leading maritime museum. Founded in 1929, Mystic Seaport is home to four National Historic Landmark vessels, including the Charles W. Morgan. The “crown jewel” of Mystic Seaport’s collection, the Morgan is America’s last surviving wooden whaleship. To learn more and view images of her restoration, please visit www.mysticseaport.org.