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CASTINE, Maine – The untold story of Maine Maritime Academy's (MMA) historic schooner Bowdoin will be illuminated in an upcoming exhibit at the Castine Historical Society scheduled for the summer of 2012. The exhibit, entitled “Schooner Bowdoin on the Greenland Patrol”, will run from June 25 through October 15, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sunday, 1-4 p.m. Since her launch in 1921, the schooner Bowdoin’s 28 Arctic voyages have enriched her history with tales of adventure and exploration. During World War II, Bowdoin served as a U.S. Naval vessel, and this exhibit will reveal the vessel’s previously uncelebrated contributions to the strategic operations of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy during World War II as part of the Greenland Patrol.
The Greenland Patrol, an effort by the United States to support Greenland during the Nazi occupation of its mother country, Denmark, relied heavily upon private and non-military purposed vessels to conduct survey and supply operations. As a seasoned Arctic schooner, the Bowdoin was uniquely suited for the regional activities, climate, and ocean conditions.
The Castine Historical Society has joined together with faculty from Maine Maritime Academy to create this major exhibit, featuring student-generated multimedia maps and designed to encourage interactivity and continued research. The exhibit will also showcase charts from the Greenland Patrol that have been contributed to the exhibit by the family of the late David Nutt of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Nutt was the navigation officer aboard Bowdoin during World War II. Nautical history enthusiasts will be captivated by the portfolio of original charts from the exercise.
In her 90th year afloat, the Bowdoin serves as MMA’s traditional sail-training flagship. The vessel was designed by William Hand and launched at the Hodgdon Brothers Shipyard in East Boothbay, Maine. The schooner sailed on 25 scientific expeditions to the Arctic Circle under the command of Adm. Donald MacMillan prior to the vessel’s withdrawal from Arctic service in 1954. During that time, Bowdoin sailed 28 degrees north of the Arctic Circle, and wintered over four times in the region while frozen in ice. Bowdoin sent the first shortwave communications from the region in 1923 while wintering in Refuge Harbor, Greenland. MacMillan became internationally known for his explorations in the far north and received Hubbard Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society in 1953. He was also well-known for his inclusion of high school age students in his epic expeditions.
Today, the vessel regularly cruises Penobscot Bay and local waters providing a hands-on sail-training platform for MMA. Each summer Bowdoin cruises a variety of New England waters, from Massachusetts to the Canadian Maritimes. Throughout the sailing season, the schooner serves as a public ambassador for the college, promoting traditional sail-training techniques and serving various student and community groups. The vessel still ventures to the waters off Greenland and the Arctic, recalling the vessel’s historic roots in exploration and research while providing a unique setting for traditional sail training. Bowdoin most recently returned to the Arctic in summer 2008, retracing the vessel’s historic routes while providing a unique student opportunity to learn the fundamentals of ocean voyaging, from pre-voyage planning and provisioning, to hands-on sailing and navigation. Soon after acquiring the vessel in 1988, the college sponsored two similar seafaring adventures to the Arctic, the vessel’s first voyages to the North since the 1950s. Inspired by a nostalgic look to the vessel’s cold-weather design and construction and its historic role as an educational platform for students, MMA planned sail training trips that took students to Nain, Labrador, in 1990, and 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle to Disko Island, Greenland, in 1991 aboard the Bowdoin. Another trip to the Arctic was completed in 1994.