Provincetown’s Connections to the Whaling Industry
One Whale of a Story…
During the Charles W. Morgan’s recent tour of the Cape and Islands and points beyond, Stephen Borkowski had the rare opportunity to sail aboard the historic wooden whaling vessel as a reward for the commitment he has shown to the study of Provincetown’s history. Borkowski, a member of the Provincetown Historical Commission, had been on the ship before, having visited the 1841 whaler during its recent restoration at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, and once taking part in an on-board read-a-thon of Herman Melville’s classic, “Moby Dick.” But sailing on her, on the open sea off Provincetown, beneath unfurled sails and a clear blue sky, was something altogether different. For about 10 minutes, he even got to take the wheel.
“Nothing prepared me for being on the ship, below deck, while it’s moving,” Borkowski says. “It was such a sensory experience, looking back at the town as you’re sailing away, feeling the pulling and the listing of the ship with every turn of the wheel. It was Melville come alive. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say it was one of the most thrilling experiences in my life.”
Melville; the ‘Morgan; and the men who sailed out of Provincetown on more than 900 whaling voyages from 1820 to 1920: making connections between these pieces of history is the theme of Forgotten Port: Provincetown’s Whaling Heritage, a current exhibit at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum.
Opened in April, the exhibit had attracted more than 60,000 visitors as of mid-August and remains on display through November 30.
“The whaling history here in Provincetown is rich, deep, and had a significant impact on the Cape Cod community,” says John McDonagh, the museum’s executive director. “The exhibit has been extremely well received by those who are knowledgeable about the whaling industry—and others. We want our local residents, local people, Cape Cod people, to come out and see it.”