Scrimshaw and Silken Sleeping Bags, 2 pm

In the afternoon sessions, my Group 1 went first to the Mystic Seaport Archive and then to the logistics session. Paul O’Pecko, Director of the Seaport Library, led us into the Archive through the warehouse back door, where we saw many things I was not expecting. These included an unbelievable array of inboard and outboard motors and an amazing miscellany of whale boats, pleasure boats, skiffs. racing shells, and canoes, each seeming to span the history of its kind. From this expansive storage area (what a gold mine for movie props!), we entered the Archive building per se. Its hallways were crowded with empty, temporary shelves because the compact shelving that houses all the books in the Library had recently been determined to be unsalvageable; these temporary shelves will hold the collection while permanent replacement shelving is being installed by the original provider.

Sperm whale jawbones in storage

Sperm whale jawbones in storage

Undisturbed by all of this as we entered from the hallway was the section of the internal storage where we spent most of our remaining time.  This featured: open compartments containing three shelves of whalebone jaws, below which where shallow drawers which opened to reveal row after row of scrimshaw, much of it carved on teeth of sperm whales extracted from open jaws such as the ones we could see immediately above. It’s always a thrill to see scrimshaw, and I would love to come back and look at these most closely. We learned that scrimshaw expert Stuart Frank, whom our Melville group knows from New Bedford, had recently come through and had been able to identify a great number of these unsigned pieces by the distinctive styles of their artists.

Drawerful of scrimshaw

Drawerful of scrimshaw

(My plane is just beginning its descent to the Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky airport—the wheels have just released and my fellow passengers are craning their necks to see the city and river beneath us.)

Now continuing this entry at home in Bellevue, Kentucky, Sunday, April 27, 3 pm.

Susan Funk welcoming the Saturday cohort

Susan Funk welcoming the Saturday cohort

Susan Funk led the final session for Group 1 in the afternoon, during which we discussed the logistics involved in making sure all the voyagers for the first three transits of the Morgan would be on board and ready to sail on the first scheduled date—knowing, if unfavorable weather or other unanticipated obstacles arose, we might sail on the first, or even second, alternate date. We discussed the ins and outs of the available transportation to and from each of the departure and arrival spots, the absolute necessity of confirming our receipt of any message from our coordinator concerning any change in plans, and issues as mundane, but important, as how to avoid seasickness from diesel tug boat fumes (ginger, green apples, and careful eating the night before were among the suggestions). Several of us wondered what kind of sleeping gear to bring to supplement the bare mattress and pillow that would be provided. I was very happy to hear about a silken sleeping bag small enough to crumple up in your fist, available through stores like REI and Land’s End.

Susan Funk with newly gathered voyagers

Susan Funk with newly gathered voyagers

This session was very helpful to me, and I think essential to us all, since none of us had ever before had this kind of experience, one that even for Mystic Seaport personnel is markedly different from any previous undertaking. I was very happy at this session to meet Mary Wayss, a New Bedford schoolteacher who will be on the same leg of the voyage with me—as will Lesley Walker, the whaling descendent from Australia I had already met in the morning. I am also very happy that Susan Funk will be coordinating our leg of the voyage. She ran this afternoon session as well as she had the orientation meeting for the entire group in the morning, and I have no doubt that she will be a wonderful resource for us before, during, and after the voyage.


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