Following a huge welcome home early this month, the Charles W. Morgan is now back in her berth at Chubb’s Wharf at Mystic Seaport. There are no barrels of whale oil to unload this time, but instead a wealth of new information to digest.
After a seven-day stay on Martha’s Vineyard, the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan departed from Vineyard Haven harbor Wednesday morning for the next leg of her historic voyage. A crowd gathered at West Chop as people tried to get a last look.
Island students went on board the whaling ship and explored its nooks and crannies. In the blubber room below decks, the children gathered to hear a Mystic Seaport educator speak about what happens after a whale is captured.
All along the northern shoreline, Islanders stood poised and camera-ready to capture the historic moment Wednesday afternoon. They were eager to welcome the majestic whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan.
Though she hasn’t gotten the press the Charles W. Morgan has earned, the fishing vessel Roann can claim as deep a Vineyard pedigree. She was built in 1947 for Roy. M. Campbell of Vineyard Haven. Now she is escort to the Morgan.
The Charles W. Morgan arrived at Vineyard Haven harbor to a barrage of cannonfire and boat horns while onlookers gathered to witness her arrival, some in tears. The Morgan is the last wooden whaling ship in the world.
“For a girl or a woman to embark on a long whaling voyage required great fortitude and determination,” wrote Henry Beetle Hough, co-author with Emma Mayhew Whiting of Whaling Wives, published in 1953. Sailing with her whaling-captain husband meant that a wife could avoid a separation that might last as long as five years, but life as the only woman aboard ship was, said Hough and Whiting, “a prospect of bleakness and hazard.”
The Charles W. Morgan came back to life this spring. The last American wooden whaling ship once again had saltwater under her 173-year-old keel. Ocean winds buffeted her new suit of sails. She has another captain and a new crew occupying bunks and climbing the rigging.