Saturday, May 3, 2014

A Big Summer for America's Last Wooden Whaleship

Tethered to maritime museum Mystic Seaport, the Charles W. Morgan was a ship with a story waiting to be retold. Enter Connecticut filmmaker Bailey Pryor.

The five-time Emmy winner slavishly worked on a one-hour documentary about the vessel and modern-day restoration. Ahead of the film's PBS broadcast later this month, The Charles W. Morgan is premiering on the big screen Sunday May 4th at the Garde Arts Center in New London, CT. From the Mystic Seaport press release:

The screening of the film at the Garde will be followed by a panel discussion with Pryor, executive producer Steve Jones, Morgan historian Matthew Stackpole, and Mystic Seaport shipyard director Quentin Snediker, who oversaw the ship’s recent five-year restoration.
Tickets for the event are $25 per person and $30 at the door. VIP tickets are $100 and include a pre-film reception with the filmmakers, and preferred seating in the theater. Proceeds from the event will support the Morgan’s 38th voyage.

As Pryor recently explained to Rick Koster, a reporter for New London newspaper The Day, much like the inspiration for Sting's Broadway musical The Last Ship, this documentary connects to a large, childhood ship shadow:

"I grew up in Mystic and live near the Seaport," Pryor said. "I look at the Morgan every day and have done so for a very long time. People around here have always thought of it as a sort of time machine in the sense that you climb on board and it just takes you back to another era. It fascinates me - and when the Seaport announced they were going to renovate the ship and it would sail again, I became obsessed with making a film about it."

The restoration cost $7.5 million, and that aforementioned "38th voyage" is set to begin May 17th and encompass all sorts of New England stops this summer.

The Charles W. Morgan made its 37 previous voyages between 1841 and 1921. Pryor told The Day he was amazed to learn that it was not the 19th century whaling industry that depleted whales but rather the 20th century's high-speed vessels and explosive harpoons.

[Film premiere: The Charles W. Morgan]

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