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MorganReflections , the Log of ,

Mystic Seaport


Mar / Apr 2011 Volume 2, Issue 2

From the President The shipwrights have been hard at work in the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard, and it is an honor to see them ply their craft. Over a hard winter, the men and woman of the shipyard have continued to stay on schedule, and we are now looking forward to an active summer that will include the creation of new scaffolding at the bow to permit work on the stem. Elsewhere, the search for materials continues. Long leaf yellow pine is being logged in Georgia, a good piece of white pine for the Morgan’s new bowsprit has been located on state land in Connecticut, and other sources have been identified in the Adirondacks. It takes many hands performing numerous tasks to preserve the last wooden whaleship in the world. Every effort is worth our many thanks and admiration.

“preservation” and the Charles W. Morgan The first voyage of the Charles W. Morgan lasted from 1841 until 1845. Like so many other whalers of the era, the Morgan spent time sailing the seas around the Galapagos Islands for whales. The summer of 1843 was no different. According to the Morgan’s logbook for Friday, August 25 of 1843, during the “Middle Part about one P.M. saw Whales, at 3 o’clock. Lowered. Struck to the Waist Boat. Got the whale alongside at 5 o’clock & Shortened sail. Last Part Laying by the Whale.” The logbook entry from the day before reads, “Galapagos Island. Commenced with strong Trades at 4 o’clock A.M. All Hands Employed Lashing the Anchors and stowing away Turpin.”

Stephen C. White President

Restoration Update Work on the planking applied to the interior framework of the ship (known as “ceiling”) is progressing. Three “strakes,” consisting of three to four planks each, have been installed on both the port and starboard sides. There will be a total of seventeen strakes on each side of the ceiling from just above the keelson to the clamp. Two teams of two shipwrights each are working on the opposite sides of the hull and can install from three to four ceiling planks a week.

“Turpin,” it turns out, was sailors’ slang for the great Galapagos tortoises. On the previous day the captain had sent a number of boats ashore at Chatham Island, one of the isles in the Galapagos group, to capture alive as many “turpin” as they could. The sailors brought back over 300 of the slow-moving land turtles to the Morgan. While the whalemen partook of the bounty of the sea as well as the land in order to vary their diet of salted meats and other such culinary delights, it was the tortoise that they seemed to enjoy the most. In a reminiscence

At this rate, the ceiling should be completed by late summer.


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Mar / Apr 2011 Volume 2, Issue 2



recorded later in his life, Captain Josiah Holmes of Mystic recollected, “But we cared little for bonitos, albacore and green turtle in comparison with the turpin on the island. These are a thick heavy land turtle that never enter the sea. Their meat is very excellent; their tallow is a luxury and is as yellow as butter; their eggs, too, are a great delicacy.” Another reason sailors aboard whalers would stock so many of these turtles below deck was that the animals could last for months without food and water, yet remain a reliable source of fresh meat for the crew.

preserve the diversity of life among these islands. More than 150 years after the Morgan sailed to the Galapagos, her sage words referring to the upcoming 38th voyage of the Charles W. Morgan reflect our new mores. Dr. Earle states, “The Charles W. Morgan is a ship from the past with a message for the future: protect, preserve and cherish the sea and its inhabitants.” This ‘Reflection’ is from Paul J. O’Pecko, Vice President, Collections and Research

According to some studies, tens of thousands of tortoises were taken aboard whaleships over the course of the 19th-century, helping to sustain the whalemen who were thousands of miles from home. Nowadays, people find it hard to understand such extensive slaughter, but such behavior seemed only natural in the 19th-century. Work by scholars like Dr. Sylvia Earle bear witness that our attitudes towards whales, but also the entire marine environment, have changed. In November of 2010, Dr. Earle was the recipient of Mystic Seaport America and the Sea Award. The award “honors and celebrates those who embrace the scholarship, exploration, adventure, aesthetics, competition and freedom that the sea inspires.” Dr. Earle, as Time magazine’s first Hero for the Planet for her work as an advocate for the oceans and their life forms, fits all the criteria that the award embodies. As part of her work, Dr. Earle has identified a number of “Hope spots” around the world that should be protected as important marine environments. One of those spots is the area encompassing the Galapagos Islands, a delicate environment in a fast-moving world. Dr. Earle, along with many others, strives to

The Morgan Bookshelf Whale Port Written by Mark Foster Illustrated by Gerald L. Foster

Whale Port is an illustrated story of America, and the important role whales played in its history and economic development as people worked together to build communities. Set in the fictional village of Tuckanucket, this book is filled with highly detailed drawings of daily whaling life in New England. Meet young Zachariah Taber, his family and neighbors as they interact with sailors, shipsmiths, ropemakers, and other craftsmen who made it possible to bring home the oil that lit the homes of America and lubricated the industrial revolution. This colorful book will delight readers of all ages. O

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 Charles W. Morgan is America’s last surviving wooden whaleship. To learn more and view images of her restoration, please visit

MORGAN Reflections, Spring 2011  

The newsletter and log of the restoration of the whaleship CHARLES W. MORGAN