CHARLES W. MOR­GAN OFF CAPE HORN

Soundings - - Seascapes - OIL PAINT­ING BY PAUL GAR­NETT — Steve Knauth

The wave in the fore­ground dom­i­nates the scene in Paul Gar­nett’s dra­matic Charles W. Mor­gan Off Cape

Horn. It’s called a gray­beard, the sea­man’s name for huge, rolling South­ern Ocean waves driven over count­less miles by end­less winds. They pick up a ship and drive her down into the next churn­ing caul­dron of water, foam­ing in re­lent­less suc­ces­sion. “Here we have the fa­mous whal­ing ves­sel Charles W.

Mor­gan on her maiden voy­age, which be­gan in Septem­ber of 1841,” Gar­nett says. It’s early De­cem­ber, two months out, and Capt. Thomas A. Nor­ton has shaped a course to pick up the north­east trades be­fore bear­ing away for Cape Horn and the Pa­cific whal­ing grounds.

Gar­nett went to the Mor­gan’s log­book to de­pict a par­tic­u­lar mo­ment in the voy­age. It’s Dec. 11, and the weather around “Cape Stiff” is rough: steep waves, gusty winds, break­ing clouds and far-off light­ning. The whaler is bat­tened down, with short­ened sail and boats pulled in.

It’s evening, and the oil lanterns are lit. “I could imag­ine Nor­ton in his cabin, the ship buf­feted by wind and rain, the deck rolling and pitch­ing as he sat at his desk writ­ing the day’s events in his log,” Gar­nett says. The stern view “shows the small­ness of the ship trapped within the power of na­ture’s fury.”

Gar­nett knows the feel­ing. He spent seven years as a ship­wright aboard the replica square-rig­ger Bounty, owned by the movie com­pany MGM. “That gave me ex­pe­ri­ences that could not be seen even with the most vivid imag­i­na­tion,” he says. “I can still hear in my mind the roar­ing and howl­ing of the wind, feel the rush of water slam­ming into the hull. Ev­ery marine paint­ing I have done has in some way been af­fected by my ex­pe­ri­ence on that ma­jes­tic ves­sel.”

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