Gregg Swanzey, Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tom Goux, Program Coordinator
Tel. (508) 992-4900
FAX (508) 984-7719
George McClain of Gloucester was one of the pioneer designers of a new type of fishing schooner whose fine lines offered extra speed to market for the best price and a deep, heavily ballasted hull for stability to withstand North Atlantic gales. McClain, a former schooner skipper and prominent public figure in 1890s Gloucester, designed the 112' Morrissey with a 13' draft and 8,500 square feet of sail. ERNESTINA's one hundred years of active service attests to the quality of the McClain model
The black-hulled Morrissey first set sail for the Grand Banks on March 14, 1894, just six weeks after her launching. William E. Morrissey was the ship's skipper (Effie was William's daughter) and on that first trip he kept the Morrissey out salt-banking for four months. When the schooner returned to Gloucester in July her hold held 250,000 pounds of salted cod. This was the biggest catch that any schooner brought in that month and it fetched a decent price: $4.00 per quintal (100 pounds) for large fish and $3.50 for small.
The Morrissey worked most often as a dory trawler. The crew of twenty fishermen would pair off in each of the ship's ten dories and trawl for cod, haddock or halibut from lines paid out of tubs. When the dory was full of fish the men would row or sail back to the schooner which in the meantime was manned only by the captain and cook. On occasion a storm would blow up sending the dories away from the ship with only a handful of crew, yet the records show that in all her years of fishing the Morrissey lost only one man.
The Morrissey's high performance was due in part to the skippers who sailed her. Beginning with William Morrissey, a succession of Gloucester's best fishing schooner captains guided the Morrissey on her voyages. John McInnis, Josh Stanley, Henry Atwood, and most famous, Clayton Morrissey (he went on to skipper the racing schooner Henry Ford) were all masters of the Morrissey during her Gloucester years. (It should be noted that the captain at the wheel in the statue on Gloucester's Western Avenue is Clayton Morrissey himself).
In 1905 the Effie M. Morrissey began fishing out of Digby, Nova Scotia under the command of Captain Ansel Snow (Snow was later a skipper of the Canadian Bluenose). Snow and others continued to fish and occasionally carry freight with the ship out of Canada for twenty more years. In 1912, the Morrissey made such a record run that a ballad, sung by many a Grand Banks fisher, was inspired. Frederick William Wallace, a writer and photographer, wrote an account of this voyage that appears in his book Roving Fisherman. Sailing from Portland to Yarmouth, the ship logged two hundred miles in twenty hours, reaching at times a speed of sixteen knots and carrying only her foresail for the last eight hours.
In 1924 Captain Robert Bartlett bought the Effie M. Morrissey from his cousin, Harold, who had been fishing the ship out of Brigus, Newfoundland. Bartlett was an experienced captain and ice navigator who had skippered Admiral Peary's ship, the Roosevelt on the famous expeditions on the quest for the North Pole. During the summer of 1925, "Captain Bob" took the Morrissey on a fishing trip to Labrador. The Morrissey sailed into coves where her crew set traps for cod or, later in the season, jigged for fish out of motor boats. Icebergs posed a constant threat; Bartlett recounts several episodes when the engineless Morrissey just missed wrecking by approaching bergs. In 1926 the charismatic "Captain Bob" Bartlett persuaded George Palmer Putnam, a well know publisher, to fund an exploratory trip to Greenland. This was the beginning of the Morrissey's twenty year career as an arctic exploration vessel. After the installation of a her first diesel engine and sheathing of the hull with the Central American hardwood, greenheart, the Morrissey voyaged north with George Putnam and his son David. The voyage inspired David Putnam's David Goes to Greenland (1926), first in a series of popular children's book from the decks of the Morrissey.
The Morrissey, sailing out of New York City, went as far as eighty degrees north latitude (within 600 miles of the north pole). "Captain Bob" took both students and scientists with him on his trips north sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of the American Indian, the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, Explorers Club of New York and others. The Morrissey's adventures, including running aground and becoming icebound, are chronicled in several books including Bartlett's autobiographical Sails Over Ice (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1934) and in the Pathe Newsreels shown in movie houses throughout the country. Films produced during "Captain Bob's" trips are available on video narrated by men who sailed with Bartlett as teenagers, Mr. Fred Littleton and Mr. Austen Colgate.
Hundreds of experiments and studies were carried out from the Morrissey's decks over the years including charting Greenland waters, oceanographic sampling, Arctic plant and animal collections and anthropological studies of Innuit life.
During World War II the Morrissey charted northern waters and carried supplies to Arctic naval bases commissioned by the Army Air Corps and the Navy under joint command of Captain Bartlett and Commander Alexander Forbes, USN. Commander Forbes describes this vital joint American-Canadian effort in Quest for a Northern Air Route, (Harvard University Press 1953).
With the death of Captain Bob Bartlett in 1946, the Morrissey was sold to two brothers who planned to fit her out as a yacht and sail to Tahiti for a charter business. She never made the trip; the ship caught fire at the dock in Flushing, New York and was scuttled to save her.
The Morrissey was raised and towed to Rowayton, CT where Henrique Mendes, of the Portuguese colony of Cape Verde, purchased her for $7,000 and towed her to New Bedford for repairs. After six months of work by Henrique's son, Adilino, to ready the ship for her new service as a packet schooner, she sailed under Capt. Jose J. Perreira for Sao Vicente. Henrique Mendes placed her in inter-island packet trade in the Cape Verde Islands after changing her name to the ERNESTINA after his daughter.
Between 1948 and 1959 ERNESTINA made regular trips across the Atlantic between the Cape Verde Islands and Providence, RI. The ship carried cargo and passengers back and forth across the Atlantic. As a result of an agreement between Henrique and cranberry growers, many of the immigrants came to America to work in the cranberry bogs.
In the spring of 1949, ERNESTINA began her service as transatlantic packet schooner under the command of Capt. John Baptista, Jr. Henrique's son, Arnaldo was among the crew. The ship left Brava on May 14 and stopped at Fogo and Praia before going to Dakar. Finally, after 53 days at sea the ship arrived in Providence on August 6 and anchored off State Pier. Immigration officials ordered passengers to stay aboard until their claims to U.S. citizenship were investigated. Marriage was one way citizenship could be obtained but, because the owner of the vessel would be heavily fined if crew got off, unmarried American women might visit the ship to see if a match could be made. Once one member of a family was given immigrant status, he or she could bring the immediate family into the country. The ERNESTINA's second trip to the U.S. was made in 1950 with six women passengers, seven men, and fourteen crew members. She arrived on July 18 after a 38 day passage. Henrique Mendes taught his passengers some basic English phrases and the pledge of allegiance. They had fresh vegetables, lobsters, live pigs, goat, and cow aboard and a good cook, Michael Rosario. They celebrated the saints days and everyone's birthday, the young sailors making cakes and serenading the women. A romance started between Henrique's son, Arnaldo and his wife-to-be, Maria. They were married several years later in 1953. There are stories of hurricanes and dismastings, calms and other challenges of crossing the Atlantic under sail with such captains as Pedro Evora, Lucino Fortes, Arnaldo Mendes, Joao Baptista, Ricardo Lima Barros, Nonauto Brito Raimundo and, for the last voyages to the U.S. in 1964 and 1965, Capt. Alexander Fortes. After the inauguration of regular steamship service to the Cape Verde Islands there was less call for ERNESTINA to make transAtlantic passages. In 1965 she made her last trip to Providence as a packet. Nevertheless, she kept busy carrying passengers and goods among the islands and the coast of Africa even working as a school bus for high school children from Fogo and Brava to Praia and Mindelo.
By the mid-1970s the ERNESTINA's activity as a packet schooner was winding down. The schooner was getting old and could not compete with the steamships that plied the islands. In the United States interest in saving the historic ERNESTINA ex Effie M. Morrissey was building. An initial attempt to return the ship to the U.S. failed due to a dismasting in 1976 and the ERNESTINA ended up in the hands of the government of the newly formed Republic of Cape Verde.
The government decided to rebuild the ship and give her to the United States as a symbol of the ties of friendship uniting the two countries. Groups called the Friends of the ERNESTINA/Morrissey were formed in several areas on the East Coast in the United States; they sent money and materials to Cape Verde to assist the rebuilding. The Cape Verdean government spent over $300,000 on the ship. In August of 1982 the ERNESTINA, her hull completely rebuilt, sailed to the United States with a crew of Cape Verdeans and Americans. The ship was met with magnificent fanfare; thousands of people had been waiting since 1976 to see ERNESTINA return to her country of origin.
Since her arrival in the United States in 1982, the ERNESTINA has received in excess of 1.5 million dollars for her restoration from the Commonwealth. In 1986 ERNESTINA was granted designation as a National Historic Landmark as a result of award winning preservation efforts. As of 1994, ERNESTINA has received a certificate of inspection from U.S. Coast Guard for operation as a sailing school vessel and as a passenger carrying vessel. This dual certification allows a versatility in operation and a wide range of services, the basis of a majority of her funding. She now sails with a licensed staff from her home port of New Bedford.
ERNESTINA's restoration was complete in November 1994 with ceremony on Veterans Day. A bronze plaque was installed on her deckhouse acknowledging the efforts and bonds that stretch across the Atlantic to the Islands of Cape Verde that have made a valuable historical and cultural asset and functioning educational resource available to the people of the Commonwealth and the United States.
Carl J. Cruz, Vice Chairman
Assistant Chief Family Service Officer
Bristol County Probate & Family Court
Peter J. Lawrence, Treasurer
President, Boston Marine Society
Pauline Macedo, Secretary
Designee of Dept. of Education
Director, Mass. Office of Travel and Tourism
Executive Director, Coalition for Buzzards Bay
Peter C. Webber
Commissioner, Mass. Dept. of Environmental Management
Deputy Commissioner, DEM
Designee of Commissioner Webber
Gregg Swanzey, Director (email@example.com)
Tom Goux, Program Coordinator