MYSTIC, Conn. (AP) — Mystic Seaport in southeastern Connecticut launched a historic whaling ship on Sunday, celebrating the maritime past of Connecticut, New England and the United States.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy tied the state's tourist slogan, "Still Revolutionary," to the Charles W. Morgan, a National Historic Landmark and the world's last surviving wooden whaling ship celebrated on the 172nd anniversary of its original launch in New Bedford, Mass.
"This is an opportunity for us to understand who we are and what we are and the contributions that we've made to our nation," he told the dockside audience. "It is true that Connecticut remains still revolutionary and it is a story worth telling."
Documentary maker Ric Burns, who filmed "Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World," compared the sunny afternoon ceremony to a "Fourth of July on steroids."
He praised Mystic Seaport and its supporters for the five-year, nearly $7 million restoration.
"Having taken in and cared for and lovingly provided a home for the Charles W. Morgan, the last and only whale ship in the world since 1949, you've now done something even more extraordinary: You've given her back her wings, made it possible for her to sail again and given her back to the sea," he said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the Charles W. Morgan adds to the growing whale watching industry.
"Let no one say that ecology and environmental preservation is in conflict with economic growth," he said. "The two go together."
Sarah Bullard, the great-great-great granddaughter of Charles Waln Morgan, one of the original owners, christened the vessel, smashing a bottle containing ocean water.
Organizations in more than 22 states contributed labor, materials and expertise to restoring the ship. Four families in Biloxi, Miss., donated 200-year-old live oak trees felled in Hurricane Katrina to continue the legacy of these famous trees.
Other states are hosting exhibits or have built smaller whaleboats to accompany the Morgan.
The Morgan's schedule for next year will take it to ports in New England such as Boston, New Bedford, New London, Newport and Provincetown.
Organizers and scientists say one of its most important destinations will be Stellwagen Bank off Boston, which had been a hunting ground for whales and is now a refuge.
Daniel J. Basta, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's office of national marine sanctuaries, said the Morgan will sail with a mission to raise public awareness of the importance of protecting the oceans and its species and of whale watching as a sustainable business.