Keynote speaker named for ship launch

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Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ric Burns will deliver the keynote address at the July 21 launch of the Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut.

The National Historic Landmark ship has been undergoing a comprehensive restoration since November 2008. She will be launched and returned to the water in a public ceremony that begins at 2 p.m.

Burns is best known for his series “New York: A Documentary Film,” a sweeping chronicle of the city’s history that garnered several honors, including two Emmy Awards and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award.

In 2010 Burns wrote, produced and co-directed for “American Experience” a film about the history of the whaling industry, “Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World.”

“We are honored to have Ric Burns serve as the keynote speaker at our launch ceremony,” Mystic Seaport president Steve White said in a statement. “His extensive knowledge of American history and the role whaling plays in it will help us articulate the importance of the Charles W. Morgan in our nation’s maritime experience.”

The Morgan is the oldest American commercial ship still in existence. The 113-foot vessel was built and launched in New Bedford, Mass., in 1841 and had a whaling career that lasted 80 years and 37 voyages that spanned the far reaches of the globe. The ship came to Mystic Seaport in 1941. More than 20 million people have walked her decks since she arrived.

The launch is a key milestone in her restoration, which has been carried out at the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard at the museum. Once the boat is back in the water, work will continue with the installation of her spars and rigging, additional interior carpentry and preparation for her 38th voyage, which will begin in May 2014.

The voyage will take the ship back to sea on a tour to historic ports in New England, including New London, Newport, Vineyard Haven, New Bedford, Provincetown and Boston. Each port visit will include an interactive dockside program designed to inspire excitement and interest in America’s maritime heritage.

The ship also will sail through the whale-watching grounds of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to recognize the changing relationship of mankind to the whale.

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