Published July 21. 2013 4:00AM
The Mystic Seaport will celebrate a remarkable achievement today with the relaunching of the Charles W. Morgan. Congratulations are certainly in order. The restoration of the world's last wooden whaling ship assures that for decades to come it will play a primary role in the living museum's mission "to create a broad, public, understanding of the relationship of America and the sea."
Befitting the ship's status as a National Historic Landmark, the Seaport assembled a team of craftsmen uniquely skilled to rebuild much of the hull in a manner true to the era during which the ship was originally constructed. The result is that this is still the Morgan, not a facsimile, the same 113-foot long whaling ship that undertook 37 voyages across the globe between its launching in 1841 and final whale hunt in 1921.
Today's ceremony, beginning at 2 p.m., takes place on the 172nd anniversary of the ship's launching in New Bedford. Named for the whaling merchant who ordered its construction, the Morgan's first journey lasted more than three years, traveling around Cape Horn and across the Pacific Ocean.
Saved from the same destructive fate of the roughly 2,700 other wooden ships that supported the whaling industry for a century, the Morgan arrived at the Seaport in 1941. After spending the last five years on land to undergo the $7 million restoration, today the ship returns to the water.
In the coming week, visitors to the Seaport will once again get to come aboard, even as refurbishment of the ship continues.
Historian and award-winning documentary filmmaker Ric Burns will serve as a fitting keynote speaker.
This will not be the end of the journey. Next summer the Morgan will return to the sea for the first time since the ship's arrival at the maritime museum, with an extended stop in the Whaling City of New London, a return to the Morgan's birthplace of New Bedford, a voyage through the Cape Cod canal and a visit to the Stellwagen Bank National Maritime Sanctuary on the itinerary.
Many share in the pride of this marvelous accomplishment - the craftsmen, the donors, the museum members, the Mystic Seaport administration and board, the volunteers and staff.
It is a great day too for southeastern Connecticut, so long and still connected to the sea.