Maritime Heritage

38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan

Charles W. Morgan
The whaling ship, Charles W. Morgan (Photo credit: M. McKee/NURTEC)

The world’s last remaining sail-powered whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan, conducted her 38th voyage this past summer traveling from Mystic, CT to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) as a symbolic journey to one of the world’s premier whale watching sites. This voyage captured the renaissance of the Morgan from a whale hunting ship to an emissary of ocean conservation. While in the sanctuary, researchers, historians, artists and authors on board the Morgan conducted research and outreach activities to highlight the sanctuary’s role in whale conservation and ocean research.

Click here for Photo Gallery

The Northeast Underwater Research, Technology and Education Center (NURTEC) was asked to work with partners from NOAA, SBNMS and the Mystic Seaport to establish a comprehensive ship to shore broadband wireless network to support telepresence broadcasts from the Morgan as she sailed in the Sanctuary in the Gulf of Maine. The concept of telepresence as envisioned for the Morgan’s voyage was not simply broadcasting a single camera feed, but to turn the Morgan into a mobile “news studio” that allowed multiple cameras onboard to focus on the business of sailing the ship, interviews with experts in maritime history and marine mammal biology onboard, and other onboard programming. The onboard studio was able to interact with historians, scientists and archaeologists across the globe (at other National Marine Sanctuaries for example) with interesting and associated content to offer.

NURTEC developed the capacity to conduct low-cost, broadband, telepresence broadcasts from ship to shore nine years ago in support of similar maritime heritage focused projects with the SBNMS. This capacity includes both ship-side and shore-side equipment and the know-how to design, install and operate this equipment to set up a ship to shore network with enough throughput to deliver compressed high definition video from ship to shore. In 2005 NURTEC and SBNMS conducted a “live dive” that featured live underwater video from the Center’s ROV as it explored the wreck of the steamship Portland that was then sent from the RV Connecticut over 20 miles back to shore to the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, MA, and from there onto the Web. The Center conducted a similar, but more complex telepresence activity with SBNMS in 2006 to highlight from the wreck of the twin schooners the Palmer and the Crary.

Panoramic view from the top of Pilgrim Monument
Panoramic view from atop Pilgrim Monument, where directional radio antennas provided a strong wireless connection from the Morgan to the World Wide Web.

The public was able to follow the Morgan’s visit to the sanctuary on OceansLIVE (oceanslive.org) that broadcast three live shows daily from the vessel and other locations on July 11-13th. Each of the shows featured interviews and commentary with historians, scientists, authors and artists discussing the shift from whaling to watching in New England. The OceansLIVE website has archived the shows that are available for viewing at the oceanslive.org web site.

Shipwreck Lamartine listed on National Register of Historic Places

Lamartine porthole
The carefully chiseled groove around the basin head’s manhole
allowed the manhole cover to fit flush with the slab’s surface.
(Photo Credit: NOAA/SBNMS and NURTEC-UConn)

The wreck of the Lamartine, a 19th century schooner that hauled granite for construction of streets, sidewalks and buildings along the U.S. East Coast, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. The wreck lies within NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Massachusetts Bay.

Built in Camden, Maine, the 79-foot, two-masted cargo schooner was launched in 1848 and enjoyed a 45-year career along the Eastern Seaboard. The Lamartine is considered by historians as a representative vessel of New England’s granite trade from that era.

While hauling granite sewer heads from Stonington, Maine, to New York City on May 17, 1893, the Lamartine encountered a storm off Cape Ann, Mass. Heavy seas caused the schooner’s cargo to shift, capsizing the vessel.

One crewmember drowned as the schooner settled beneath the waves, and the captain and mate were tossed into the ocean. Luckily, a fishing schooner returning to Gloucester, Mass., saw the Lamartine sink, and rescued them.

“Lamartine’s cargo of cut granite reveals fascinating details about how granite quarried in New England met the demands of a nation growing increasingly urban,” said Craig MacDonald, superintendent of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. “The shipwreck is a physical link to earlier generations who moved the stone and whose hands chiseled the granite blocks that built our great American cities.”

Scientists from NOAA and the University of Connecticut’s Northeast Underwater Research Technology and Education Center (NURTEC) documented the shipwreck with the university’s remotely operated vehicle during several research missions between 2004 and 2006. The fieldwork recorded the vessel’s features, including portions of its wooden hull, rigging and granite cargo. This information allowed sanctuary maritime archaeologists, with help from a local maritime historian, to identify the shipwreck and connect it with New England’s cultural landscape that is dotted with granite quarries on coastal headlands and islands.

NOAA and NURTEC scientists have collaboratively located and documented more than three dozen historic shipwrecks in the sanctuary using side scan sonar and an advanced suite of remotely operated and self-guided underwater vehicles. The Lamartine is the sanctuary’s sixth shipwreck site to be included on the National Register of Historic Places, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.

The Lamartine’s location within Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary provides protection unavailable to shipwrecks in other federal waters off Massachusetts. Sanctuary regulations prohibit moving, removing or injuring any sanctuary historical resource, including artifacts and pieces from shipwrecks or other submerged archaeological sites. Anyone violating this regulation is subject to civil penalties.

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 842 square miles of ocean, stretching between Cape Ann and Cape Cod offshore of Massachusetts. Renowned for its biological diversity and remarkable productivity, the sanctuary is famous as a whale watching destination and supports a rich assortment of marine life, including marine mammals, seabirds, fishes and marine invertebrates. The sanctuary’s position astride the historic shipping routes and fishing grounds for Massachusetts’ oldest ports also makes it a repository for shipwrecks representing several hundred years of maritime transportation.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels at http://www.noaa.gov/socialmedia/.

On the Web:
NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary: http://stellwagen.noaa.gov
NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov
NOAA Preserve America Initiative: http://preserveamerica.noaa.gov
Northeast Underwater Research Technology and Education Center: http://www.nurc.uconn.edu
Lamartine photos can be found on Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary’s website at http://stellwagen.noaa.gov/maritime/granite.html