Happy 100th Birthday Schooner Bowdoin!

Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum & Arctic Studies Center Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum & Arctic Studies Center

Exhibition: Happy 100th Birthday Schooner Bowdoin!

Dates:

Location:

One hundred years ago, on April 9, 1921, a remarkable new vessel slipped down the ways at the Hodgdon Brothers Boatyard in East Boothbay, Maine. She was the schooner Bowdoin, designed by William Hand for Donald B. MacMillan specifically for sailing in the icy uncharted waters of the Arctic.

About the Schooner Bowdoin

She was the schooner Bowdoin, designed by William Hand, and built at the Hodgdon Brothers Boatyard, for Donald B. MacMillan specifically for sailing in the icy uncharted waters of the Arctic. A few months later, the Bowdoin was doing what she had been built for, serving as a base for scientific research and exploration in the Arctic, while frozen into the ice in Schooner Harbour, near the contemporary community of Kinngait on the south coast of Baffin Island. MacMillan sailed the Bowdoin north a further 19 times; their last voyage together was in 1954. Since then, the Bowdoin has been on exhibit at Mystic Seaport, an educational charter vessel, and is now the official sailing vessel of the State of Maine, and a flagship training vessel for the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. In this capacity she continues MacMillan’s lifelong work of education, including sailing to the Arctic when time and funding permit.

We look forward to celebrating this remarkable vessel throughout the year. To start things off, here are links to some of the many resources about the Bowdoin available online.

The Schooner Bowdoin docked

Exhibits

As the home of thousands of photographs of the Bowdoin, over the years we have mounted a number of exhibits focusing on her history:

Working through the Ice: The Bowdoin and the Effie M. Morrissey looks at the careers of two famous Arctic sailing vessels.

Schooner Bowdoin Summers looks at the adventures of the young men who sailed aboard the Bowdoin in the years following World War II.

MacMillan’s Last Voyage highlights a recently donated collection of Rutherford Platt’s photographs of the 1954 expedition, MacMillan’s last aboard the Bowdoin.

There are also exhibits on the Maine Memory Network:  

The Schooner Bowdoin: Ninety Years of Seagoing History, curated for the Arctic Museum by Mildred Goss Jones for the Bowdoin’s 90th anniversary, uses photographs from our collection to explore her long career in the North.

Wiscasset’s Arctic Connection, curated by Cindy Dykes, celebrates the many occasions when the Bowdoin left for the Arctic from Wiscasset.

Donald MacMillan standing at the rail of the Schooner Bowdoin.
Donald MacMillan standing at the rail of the Schooner Bowdoin.

Watch

Captain Jim Sharp, of the Sail, Steam and Power Museum in Rockland, joined by many of the other captains of the Bowdoin, reminisces about the vessel. He tells stories of her adventures as told to him by MacMillan, and describes his experiences restoring her after acquiring her from Mystic Seaport. When it opens for the summer, the museum also has exhibits about the Bowdoin.

The Maine Maritime Academy maintains a page about the Bowdoin, including links to current voyages (when they are happening). You can also watch an interesting chat with many of the past captains of the Bowdoin, sponsored by the MMA Schooner Crew.

Two Lives of the Schooner Bowdoin, a 1991 MPBN documentary.

Reading

The Bowdoin has been featured in many books and articles, but is the main subject in only a few. The Arctic Schooner Bowdoin: A Biography by Virginia Thorndyke was first published in 1995, but it has stood the test of time. You can find it here. For the centennial two other books are also in the works, one by Peter S. Zimmerman and one by Kathryn A. Beales.

A drier, but definitive read is the account of the Bowdoin that won her a place on the National Historic Register in 1989.

Discover

There are hundreds of photographs of the Bowdoin available to browse in our online collection. We have gathered a small selection our favorites here.

The Schooner Bowdoin aground.

Activities to Try at Home

Make Your Own Ice Boat!

Click on the link below to print this at home.

Make your own ice boat instructions

Schooner Bowdoin: Built For the Ice!

Click on the link below to print this at home.

Schooner Bowdoin: Built For the Ice! Activity Sheet