Jan Ferguson: Voyage Journal

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Date 12 July, 2014  Page Kept By: Jan Ferguson

I write this from my home in Mangonui, New Zealand and where I look out to the entrance of Mangonui harbour.  I have a vision of the Charles W. Morgan coming around the point behind the old Norfolk pine tree, her sails up and heading into our safe harbour to rest, replenish and recruit.  I manage a private Whaling Museum established by my father, Lindo Ferguson.

To sail on the Charles W. Morgan was an absolute thrill, amazing and extraordinary.  Pure joy! It was a dream come true and I recall every moment.  Approaching the ship in Provincetown was quite emotional for me.  She looked so majestic and I felt I was receiving the jewel in the crown of all my father’s work.  What a privilege.

On board and embraced by her structure I felt completely safe and secure.  What a perfect evening.  Sitting up on deck, under a full moon and clear skies and thankfully calm waters.  I was taking in everything around me and was struck by how little room on deck there was to process a whale.  There were ropes everywhere, every inch with their job to do and I felt pleased I wasn’t on a roster for a shift in the crows nest.  I would have stayed up all night but sleep took over and I didn’t want to miss a night in the fo’c’sle. Easy for me being 5’2” and the fan droned quietly to keep us cool.  A far cry from conditions 170 years ago.

My imagination really came alive as I felt the deck under my bare feet.  I found my mind constantly surging from the present to the past, the past to the present.  I loved the smell of the tar and watching the crew, so focused and coordinated to make those beautiful sails of their work.  I imagined the tryworks operating and the odours and only too pleased to look up at those snowy white smoke free sails.

In-between revisiting the past I was assisting Caroline Fitzgerald with her camera gear.  It was difficult to predict what was going to happen next what with the crew and the sails and commands and where the whales were being spotted.  Up on the Stellwagon Bank I witnessed huge beautiful humpback whales calmly going about their businesses. I really struggle to find the words and again I wander back and forth in time. When they lowered the whaleboat and rowed off I was surprised by how fast the boat could move.  But picturing them hanging out with the whales was a magnificent sight and it will stay with me forever.

It has been a trip of a lifetime and I don’t image (sic) anything as rewarding.  Thank you to the early whalers and the history they have made.  Thank you to shipbuilders who made the vessel strong enough to come to New Zealand.  Thank You Mystic Seaport for making our history come alive with the 38th Voyage.

[Back of painting]

The Charles W. Morgan in Mangonui Harbour 1840s

Painted by Roger Morris