, Newburyport, MA

May 14, 2013

Historian to discuss famed Essex whaleship Thursday

Amesbury City Notebook
Mac Cerullo

---- — 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.

DiTullio said she is particularly excited for Stackpole’s visit because he brings an infectious passion for shipbuilding history and is knowledgeable about Amesbury’s history as well.

Registration is required for the event and seating is limited, so prospective guests should reserve their seats by calling the library or by registering at the library’s website. Doors will open at 6:15 p.m.


Three more candidates have pulled nomination papers from the city clerk’s office, signaling their intent to run for office in the upcoming fall elections.

District 3 City Councilor Donna McClure has taken out nomination papers, although according to City Clerk Bonnijo Kitchin, she is unsure of whether she will seek re-election in District 3 or try to run as a candidate for councilor at-large.

Kitchin also said District 5 Councilor Joseph McMilleon came in to pull papers, indicating he will seek re-election in the fall elections as well.

Rounding off the new entrants was Eric Bezanson of 115 Whitehall Road, who pulled his nomination papers after initially trying to take them out way back in January, months before they were available. Bezanson will be running for councilor at-large.


The city will be holding a hazardous waste collection day early next month when residents can dispose of items that are normally not accepted during trash pickup.

Some of the items that are normally considered hazardous include light bulbs, car fluids like gasoline and oil, aerosol cans, metal cleaners, roofing tar, hazardous chemicals like those used in photo developing, floor polishes, oven cleaners, rug and upholstery cleaners and paint strippers and thinners.

The waste will be collected on Saturday, June 8, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Water Street Parking Garage, and the event is open to all.

The cost to dispose of hazardous household waste will be $24 per 10 gallons or pounds of waste, which is approximately half a car load, and $44 per 25 gallons or pounds of waste, which is about a full car load.


The city will also be conducting a curbside leaf collection on Saturday. Residents should place clippings in brown recyclable bags or loose in a marked barrel, and bags must be on the curb by 6 a.m., according to DPW administrative assistant Laurie Pierce.


Do you know any older people in town who can’t be stopped, the type of person who is involved in seemingly every club and community service organization in town?

The mayor’s office is accepting nominations for this year’s Older American Service Award, which seeks to recognize an older Amesbury resident who has consistently and continually given back to the community while making volunteerism and service a priority.

If you have parents, friends or just know people who fit that description, nomination forms will be available on the city’s website and at the Costello Transportation Center. Nominations should be submitted by Friday to Eric Gregoire, the mayor’s chief of staff.

Forms can be mailed to City Hall or emailed to Gregoire at The winner will be honored at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 28, at 9 a.m. at the Senior Center.


One last thing that came across my desk this past week that sounded fascinating, a group of Sparhawk Middle School students recently went on a field trip to Surgi-Care, Inc. to observe a pair of knee surgeries being performed on a set of cadaver knees — one arthroscopic procedure and the other a full knee replacement.

I don’t know how many of you out there have actually seen a knee replacement surgery performed first-hand, but for me personally, just imagining what it must look like gives me the willies. It must have been quite the experience for the students to see it for themselves, certainly more memorable than your average day at school, that’s for sure.


The following meetings are scheduled this week and are open to the public:


City Council meeting, 7 p.m., City Hall Auditorium.


City Council Budget Hearings, 7 p.m., City Hall Auditorium.


Mac Cerullo covers Amesbury for The Daily News. He can be reached at 978-462-6666, ext. 3238 or by email at Follow Mac on Twitter at @MacCerullo.