Mystic Seaport seeking modern-day stowaway for Charles W. Morgan voyage

A entry in the logbook from the Charles W. Morgan's 33rd voyage in 1911 mentions the discovery of stowaway Joseph Thurston.
A entry in the logbook from the Charles W. Morgan's 33rd voyage in 1911 mentions the discovery of stowaway Joseph Thurston. Courtesy Mystic Seaport

Mystic - In the lone documented case of a stowaway aboard the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan, Joseph Thurston packed sandwiches and a large bottle of water and hid inside the forepeak of the ship as it left New Bedford in 1911 for its 33rd voyage.

When land was out of sight, the more than 60-year-old Thurston appeared on deck and the captain hired him for the rest of the voyage, which lasted 27 months. Thurston was allowed to stay on board even though the ship's owner had decided before the trip not to offer Thurston a position after he served as the second mate on the 32nd voyage.

Now more than a century later, Mystic Seaport is offering a member of the public a chance to follow Thurston and become a "stowaway" on the restored ship's 38th voyage to historic ports around New England this summer.

Unlike Thurston and his crew mates, who documented their voyage in a journal, this summer's stowaway will be using Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube videos to describe his or her experiences to the world.

"Not everyone can go on the voyage, so we were looking for a way for someone to be the eyes and ears of the everyday person who doesn't know much about 19th century whaling. Their job is to soak up the experience and share it with the public," said spokesman Dan McFadden about the museum's reason for having the "stowaway" on board.

Mystic Seaport is now holding a competition to choose the stowaway. Applicants must submit a video entry by Feb. 18. Details are at www.mysticseaport.org/stowaway. The stowaway, who will receive a stipend, must be 21 or older, but sailing experience is not required.

McFadden said video applications are being required because the stowaway will have to shoot, edit and post video clips while on the ship. He said the museum will pick the top 10 applicants and then the public will choose the one it wants to be the stowaway. He said the museum will take the public's choice into account when it selects the stowaway.

The stowaway will work aboard the ship handling the sails and lines, steering the ship and scrubbing the decks ,and will be involved with events and exhibits at each port.

Seaport Executive Vice President Susan Funk called the application "a unique opportunity that won't come around again," adding that the person will go into the ship's record as a stowaway.

"This is for someone with a sense of adventure," she said in the museum's stowaway announcement. "The word stowaway brings to mind a romantic image. To take a chance. To not know what you're getting into until you're already in it, and to go to places you've never been before, or go to places you've been, but seeing them in a whole different perspective."

The museum shipyard is completing a five-year, $7.5-million restoration of the world's last surviving wooden whaling ship. On May 17, the ship is scheduled to leave the museum and travel to New London, where it will stay a few weeks preparing for the voyage. Accompanied by a tugboat, fishing boat and an inflatable vessel, it will then sail to Newport, R.I., Martha's Vineyard, and New Bedford, Mass., where it was launched in 1841. It will also continue on to Boston, where it will dock next to the USS Constitution, pass through the Cape Cod Canal and anchor off Provincetown, Mass., for day sails to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. It plans to return to Mystic on Aug. 9

The 172-year-old Morgan, the world's last wooden whaling ship, made 37 profitable voyages from 1841 to 1921. It arrived at Mystic Seaport in 1941. A National Historic Landmark, it is the museum's symbol. Last month, the Seaport named Richard "Kip" Files of Rockland, Maine, as the captain for the voyage.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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