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Seaport acquires Morgan journal

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published November 28. 2011 4:00AM

Mystic - Mystic Seaport submitted the winning bid at a Massachusetts auction Saturday for a journal written by a crewman of the Charles W. Morgan whaling ship.

According to Frank McNamee of Marion Antique Auctions in Marion, Mass., the Seaport paid $5,000 for the journal, outbidding the New Bedford Whaling Museum and five private collectors. He said Paul O'Pecko, the Seaport's vice president of research and collections, monitored the auction and submitted the winning bid by phone.

Bids also could be submitted in person, over the Internet or by leaving a bid to be submitted at the auction.

"I'm glad they got it. They have the ship so they should have the book, too," McNamee said.

The journal will now join the many Morgan artifacts, including logbooks and other crew journals, in the Seaport's collection.

Last week, the museum said it was aware of the auction and that its curators keep track of Morgan items when they become available. But museum spokesman Dan McFadden said it was museum policy not to comment any further.

The journal was written by N.A. Martin, a crewman who was thought to have been lost at sea after he harpooned a whale and took an infamous Nantucket sleigh ride off the Russian coast in 1890.

Research done by the New Bedford Whaling Museum shows that his is the only surviving logbook or journal from that voyage.

Martin kept the journal in the 1880s during three partial voyages aboard the Morgan, which just celebrated its 70th anniversary at Mystic Seaport.

While in the Sea of Okhotsk, Martin and the crew of a whaleboat harpooned a whale and were dragged out of sight of the Morgan. The ship left the area without finding the men, who later reached the Russian coast, where they were initially jailed as spies.

They eventually made their way by ship to Hong Kong and back to New Bedford, Mass., the Morgan's home port.

Martin's entries ended the day he was left behind by the Morgan. The journal ended up in California with Martin's descendants. In the 1960s, McNamee said, the Seaport talked with the owner about donating the journal to the museum. But instead, the journal ended up with a family in Mattapoisett, Mass., who recently discovered it in a shoebox and decided to sell it at auction after learning what it could be worth.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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