Mystic, Conn. (July 8, 2014) — Nearly 100 years after its last voyage, the whaleship Charles W. Morgan will visit NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in a symbolic journey to one of the world’s premier whale watching sites. During the Morgan’s historic 38th voyage to New England ports, the ship will visit the sanctuary, located off of Massachusetts, July 11-13. While in the sanctuary, the Morgan crew will team with NOAA to conduct outreach activities highlighting the sanctuary’s role in whale conservation and ocean research.
The Morgan, a National Historic Landmark built in 1841, is the last of an American whaling fleet that numbered more than 2,700 vessels and is the flagship of the watercraft collection at Mystic Seaport, the nation’s leading maritime museum located in Mystic, Connecticut.
This is the Morgan’s first sailing voyage since 1921. Over an 80-year whaling career, the Morgan sailed on 37 voyages to the remote corners of the globe, including waters of what are now national marine sanctuaries in California, Hawaii and American Samoa. The vessel was part of the fleet that played a defining role in the maritime heritage of New England and helped shape the nation’s identity.
Following a stop in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the whaleship’s homeport for most of her whaling career, the Morgan will sail to Provincetown, Massachusetts, for daily sails to the sanctuary. A free dockside educational exhibit will be open during those days. The public can follow the Morgan’s visit to the sanctuary on OceansLIVE (http://www.OceansLIVE.org), which will broadcast from the vessel and other locations, offering interviews and commentary with historians, scientists, authors and artists discussing the shift from whaling to watching in New England.
“The Morgan’s 38th voyage to the whale grounds of New England represents a new voyage of hope,” said Steve White, president of Mystic Seaport. “Instead of hunting whales, the last wooden whaleship afloat sails as an ambassador for ocean conservation.”
Stretching between Cape Ann and Cape Cod, offshore of Massachusetts, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is a critical feeding and nursery ground for several whale and dolphin species, including the endangered humpback, North Atlantic right, sei and fin whales.
In the 1700s, shore-based whaling was a common activity in Massachusetts Bay, including waters now part of the sanctuary, and along the East Coast. Small boats set out from the shores of Cape Cod in pursuit of right whales, hastening their decline. As whale populations diminished in the Atlantic Ocean, Massachusetts whalers rounded Cape Horn into the Pacific Ocean to find more whales.
Today, whales in the sanctuary are no longer hunted but studied and enjoyed for their beauty. The sanctuary is a center for whale watching in New England. Ongoing research at the sanctuary is focused on better understanding whale behavior so as to reduce whale mortality caused by entanglement in commercial fishing gear and ship strikes. Human-induced sources of underwater noise and their potential impacts on marine animals are also topics of substantial concern among scientists.
“Thanks to pioneering work by sanctuary scientists and others to develop conservation strategies to reduce risks to whales, we’re redefining how we interact with these magnificent creatures and forging a new relationship based on respect and stewardship,” said Daniel J. Basta, director, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.