By Dan McDonald
An exhibit chronicling one of the chillier chapters in the saga of the Schooner Ernestina, formerly Effie M. Morrissey, opened Saturday at the Ocean Explorium on Union Street.
The 116-year-old Ernestina has survived hurricanes, was once scuttled after a fire, and for numerous years weathered trips to the arctic, said Abbey Spargo, the organization’s education programs coordinator.
It is one of two arctic schooners still in existence, said Spargo.
“Her stories are stories of determination and grit,” said Laura Pires-Hester, who is involved with the Schooner Ernestina Commission. “And she has many more stories to tell.”
Saturday, the Explorium, mere blocks away from where the Ernestina is docked, opened its exhibit titled “Sea & Ice: The Extraordinary Life of Captain Bob Bartlett.”
Bartlett, a Newfoundland native and well-known arctic explorer during the early parts of the 20th century, owned the Effie M. Morrissey, now known as the Ernestina, from 1926 to 1946. He made annual scientific expeditions and anthropological studies of the arctic. His trips were often funded by the National Geographic, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Museum of Natural History.
His adventures form the basis of the exhibit.
Various photo displays highlight the life and times of Capt. Bartlett, who once traversed 700 miles of frozen sea near Siberia to get help for his stranded crew. One television screen shows grainy newsreel footage of an undulating sea and arctic climes that was taken aboard the vessel in the early 20th century.
A spherical video display of the globe, located in the center of the Explorium, chronicles various stages and routes of the ship’s history.
Several luminaries, including Consul General of Canada to New England Neil LeBlanc, Consul General of Portugal at New Bedford Graca Fonseca, state Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, and Mayor Scott Lang attended Saturday’s opening ceremony of the exhibit, which was designed by the Historic Sites Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
Lang called the opening a “perfect wedding between four countries,” and lauded the commonality of interest between Canada, the U.S., Portugal, and Cape Verde in sea commerce, culture and industry.
Henrique Mendes, of Cape Verde, bought the vessel in 1948, rechristening it Ernestina. It sailed among the Cape Verde Islands and made cross-Atlantic trips, carrying passengers and goods back and forth from the United States.
After the Cape Verde government presented the ship to the U.S. government, the ship came to New Bedford in 1982.
The Ernestina is the oldest surviving Grand Banks fishing schooner with ties to the Atlantic cod traditions of Nova Scotia, Portugal, and Cape Verde.
In 1986, Ernestina started to be used as a sailing school ship in New Bedford.
The Ernestina Sea Shanty Chorus, travelling to a festival in Newfoundland honoring Capt. Bartlett last year, saw the exhibit and made the initial connections that eventually lead to the exhibit coming to New Bedford.
April 18, 2010 12:00 AM
By Dan McDonald