Newly seaworthy after a restoration project that spanned seven years, the 19th century whaleship Charles W. Morgan has already graced the ports of Mystic and New London, Conn., and Newport, R.I. Now she’s prepared to welcome visitors in droves throughout the four-day docking at the Tisbury Wharf in Vineyard Haven.
The welcoming ceremony is at noon on Saturday.
While she’s here, visitors can board the ship and take in the living history set sail by Mystic Seaport. “It’s a piece of history you can see, feel, touch and smell,” said Brock Callen, director of Sail Martha’s Vineyard, an organization dedicated to maritime education which has helped coordinate the visit.
Once aboard, visitors will have access to the main deck and below, to the galley, where the officers ate. They can explore the sleeping quarters in the ship’s forecastle, the blubber room and even the captain’s dining area. The 16-member crew will be on board, including one stowaway who has been blogging about his experiences from the ship.
On shore, the story of whaling will be told through many lenses — historic, musical, cultural, theatrical, artistic, even scientific — in a large interactive exhibit at the Tisbury Wharf.
There will be theatrical performances, including an abbreviated version of Moby Dick, and the singing of whaling-themed sea chanteys. Organizers also promise a whaleboat race on Saturday, as well as an opportunity for visitors to try their hand at whaleboat rowing.
Nat Benjamin, local boatbuilder and trustee at Mystic Seaport, constructed one of the 10 whaleboats in his studio in Vineyard Haven, a process he will describe in a presentation in the dockside exhibit. Other shipwrights and tradesmen will join him, including a cooper, who makes and repairs casks and barrels, and an ironworker. There will also be a rope-making demonstration. Hands-on workshops will include sailor’s valentines, or shell sculptures, and a rubbing of the Morgan with a humpback whale beside her. Other exhibits will include an educational video about whaling and a display of artifacts from the collection at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.
The museum has also been involved in preparing Island schoolchildren for the visit.
Students in all schools learn about whales and whaling history in their regular curriculum, but some classes have taken on special projects which will be on display at the dockside exhibit.
“The excitement has been mounting for months and months and students across the Island are engaging in this part of the history in a totally new way,” said Ann DuCharme, education director at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.
Edgartown’s fifth grade will present large watercolor paintings of whales, as well as research on poorly understood whale phenomena. For example, they studied ambergris, a substance secreted from the intestines of sperm whales, baleen or whale bone and spermaceti, a waxy whale product used to fashion candles.
In a project they’re calling shipshape, Oak Bluffs second graders studied the geometry of sails. In Tisbury, third graders worked with clay to make sperm whale teeth, and in West Tisbury, second graders created large stuffed whales.
And theirs won’t be the only depictions of whales on site. Also ashore, the Mystic crew will unveil a life-sized inflatable whale named Spouter. At 46 feet long, sperm whale Spouter is designed to be scientifically accurate, giving visitors a sense of the true scale of the whalers’ prey, said Katharine Mead, voyage program coordinator.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Sanctuaries office will have a booth to explain how they interpret America’s maritime past, promote ocean conservation and engage in research. The booth will show how whales feed and will use videos to display information on the National Marine Sanctuary System, whales, whale research and whaling heritage. Kids can even create their own whale hat.
The Vineyard played a significant role in the history of the Morgan, whose first captain, Thomas A. Norton, was from Edgartown. Many Islanders were counted among her first crew members.
When she arrives, she will also be accompanied by the Roann, a dragger that fished out of Martha’s Vineyard for many years. “She was one of our icons of the fishing fleet and to have her return, especially have her return so beautifully restored, is a wonderful thing,” Mr. Benjamin said.
Also at the exhibit, representatives from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) will present their whaling history. Members of the tribe were long sought after as crew members on many of the whaling expeditions.
On Monday and Tuesday, more than 300 Island schoolchildren will visit the ship, Mr. Callen said.
The Vineyard will be her only Island port call, as a sandbar at the entrance to the Nantucket harbor makes it difficult for her to pass through. From the Vineyard, the ship will sail to New Bedford, Provincetown and Boston, before returning to New London and Mystic.
The entire exhibit will be open to the public at 144 Beach Road from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day Saturday through Tuesday, with last admission to the ship at 4:30 p.m. Suggested admission is $5. Children under five and Mystic Seaport members are admitted free. There are no special parking arrangements, and visitors are advised to park nearby and walk to the wharf. A full schedule of events will be distributed during the Morgan’s visit.