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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

World's last wooden whaleship to star?

The Day reports an interesting visit to the renovated Charles W. Morgan

Director Ron Howard tours Mystic Seaport's Charles W. Morgan
By Joe Wojtas

The Charles W. Morgan, the last remaining wooden whaling ship and the oldest American commercial vessel still in existence, is slated to be re-launched on July 21. It will embark on its 38th voyage, a tour of historic New England ports, in the spring of 2014.

Meantime, as Wojtas reports, "movie director Ron Howard was at Mystic Seaport Tuesday afternoon touring the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan as he reportedly considers making a movie version of "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex," an award-winning book about the crew of the Essex, which was sunk by a sperm whale in 1891."

Ahem! The Essex was sunk in November 1820.

Howard, who was accompanied on his tour by museum shipyard director Quentin Snediker, climbed aboard the ship and down into the hull as Snediker explained the project to him. The two men were overheard discussing the similarities between the Morgan and the Essex.

And that appears to be the substance of the report -- in a word, it is merely speculation. As the report goes on to say, the Seaport declined to confirm or deny.
"We were more than happy to have him here and show him around," Seaport spokesman McFadden merely said.
Written by Nathaniel Philbrick and published in 2001, "In the Heart of the Sea" chronicles the saga of the 20 men aboard the Essex, which left Nantucket in 1819 and was later rammed by a sperm whale in the South Pacific. The men spent 90 days aboard three small lifeboats and at one point resorted to cannibalism. Eight men survived and were rescued.
The book won the National Book Award for nonfiction. The story of the Essex was one inspiration for Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick."

As was the much less wellknown story of the Sharon of Fairhaven, the sister ship of the Acushnet, on which Melville sailed as an adventurous young man. Certain incidents from the truly ghastly story of the Sharon, where the driven and frustrated captain beat his steward to death, and was subsequently slaughtered by terrified Pacific Islanders, are key chapters in the great classic.

See my own book, In the Wake of Madness, for a recounting of this awful voyage. Believe me, no one would ever make a movie of the voyage of the Sharon. 

Filming Philbrick's great book would be a terrific project, though.

Artwork by Ron Druett. Thanks to Brooke Martin for pointing out the story.

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