NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

May 14, 2013

Historian to discuss famed Essex whaleship Thursday

One of the world’s leading experts on shipbuilding history will be visiting Amesbury this week to discuss the city’s nautical roots and how one of the ships originally built here went on to become involved in one of the most famous sea disasters of all time.

Matthew Stackpole, the lead historian on the Charles W. Morgan Restoration Project in Mystic, Conn., will be speaking at the Amesbury Public Library on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. as part of the Amesbury Public Library’s ongoing “On the Same Page” series.

Stackpole will be sharing his own life experiences and knowledge of shipbuilding while also discussing this history of the Essex, a 19th-century whaleship built in Amesbury that was destroyed in the South Pacific Ocean by an angry sperm whale.

While it no longer carries the widespread cultural awareness as it once did, the Essex disaster was as well known in its time as the sinking of the Titanic is today. The story went on to serve as the inspiration for “Moby Dick,” and more recently it was the subject of Nathaniel Philbrick’s bestselling story titled “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.”

Philbrick’s book is the featured reading selection for the library’s “On the Same Page” program, which library director Patty DiTullio said is intended to have as many people in the community reading and talking about the same book and topic while offering events to help foster additional discussion.

This year the library has partnered with Lowell’s Boat Shop in the effort to help promote the city’s shipbuilding history, and earlier this spring the library scattered copies of “In the Heart of the Sea” around town for residents to find.

The program also ties into Lowell’s Boat Shop’s efforts to built a new, 19th-century replica whaleboat, which will be sent to the Mystic Seaport upon completion to join the soon-to-be-restored Charles W. Morgan.

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