Lagoda - New Bedford Whaling Museum


Step aboard the spectacular Lagoda, the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s half-scale model of the whaling bark. 


Bourne Building

Step aboard the spectacular Lagoda, the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s half-scale model of the whaling bark. Built inside the Bourne Building in 1915-16, with funds donated by Emily Bourne in memory of her father, whaling merchant Jonathan Bourne, Jr., Lagoda is the largest ship model in existence.

Today, visitors can imagine life on a whaleship by climbing aboard an 89-foot, half-scale model of the Bark Lagoda, which dominates a large gallery at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, with its sails set and gear rigged. It was built in 1916.

Named by mistake

When the original Lagoda was built in 1826, the owner meant to name it after Lake Ladoga in Russia. However, as the letters were applied to the transom, the “d” and the “g” were misplaced. Sailors believed that correcting the name would bring bad luck, so the vessel sailed as the Lagoda. Built of live oak, with three masts, it had a square stern and a billethead – a decoration on the bow, in place of a figurehead. The Lagoda sailed for more than 60 years.


From merchantman to whaling ship

For its first fifteen years Lagoda was a merchant ship. Purchased by Jonathan Bourne of New Bedford in 1841, it was converted to whaling by adding tryworks (an onboard brick hearth with iron pots, used for processing blubber), whaling gear, and five whaleboats.

A “greasy” ship

Lagoda‘s whaling career made a net profit of $651,958.99 for Jonathan Bourne. One of the most successful ships ever to set sail, Lagoda was considered very “greasy” (the whaleman’s term for profitable).

From ship to bark

In 1860, Lagoda became a bark, which meant that its rigging was changed to cut down on the number of crew needed to handle the sails. From the 1860s to the end of the nineteenth century, the bark was the most popular type of whaleship because it could sail closer to the wind than a full-rigged ship.

Surviving an Arctic disaster

In 1871, Lagoda was among 40 vessels that searched for whales in the Arctic. One day at the end of the season, the wind shifted and ice began to pack in around the ships. Lagoda sailed south, narrowly escaping. Thirty-three ships were crushed, 22 of them from New Bedford. The 1,219 survivors sailed and rowed whaleboats through fierce gales to seven vessels which had survived outside the ice pack. Lagoda was one of them and carried 195 people to Honolulu.

The end of the great days

Jonathan Bourne sold his bark in 1886, knowing that the great days of sperm whaling were over. Lagoda sailed from the United States for the last time on November 12, 1889 and ended its career as a coal hulk fueling steamers at Yokohama, Japan. C. F. Keith has noted that it is “. . . ironic that the Lagoda‘s last days should be spent serving. . . the steam vessels that were to spell the doom of her type of craft.” Sold again in 1899, the bark later burned and was broken up at Kanagawa, Japan.

Thanks To:

Thanks to funding from the Navigating The World capital campaign, the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, and the National Park Service, renovation of the Bourne Building began in 2010 and is now complete. This restoration has provided a space enhanced to last another 100 years with modern lighting, climate control, and fire protection. Museum visitors may also explore our Lagoda Interactive kiosk.


Bourne Building
Opened: June 23, 2012

So, you think you want a job whaling, do you? This exhibition presents whaling from the perspective of a new recruit.  From your first encounter with whaling agent Jonathan Bourne (1811-1889) to your voyage’s end and your payout at the conclusion of the exhibit (and an imagined two-year voyage between), you’ll encounter the men, materials, and activities aboard a typical whaling vessel like our iconic half-scale Lagoda.

Drawing from the Museum’s immense and unique collections of artifacts and documents, the exhibition demonstrates the thrills and dangers of going to sea to do battle with the world’s largest animals.

From “Thar she blows!” to “Homeward Bound”, all of the hard work, skill, and bravery required by a New Bedford whaler comes to life!

You will begin by meeting Jonathan Bourne in his Counting House office, his desk rife with correspondence and account-books. Bourne’s recreated voice will greet you and sign you aboard Lagoda, his favorite vessel of his whaling fleet. Material from real Bourne letters are knitted together into a fascinating audible narrative about the role of the Agent and the complexity of managing an international business in the mid-19th century and a crew that traveled the globe.

Using dynamic displays that highlight the drama of the “Nantucket Sleigh Ride,” “A Dead Whale or a Stove Boat” and “Cutting-In,” giving a real sense of scale to this monumental enterprise, whaling is interpreted with all it’s power to capture the imagination.

Whaling had periods of excitement upon which this mystique has formed. Processing the blubber of a single whale took one to three days and our collection is rich with the artifacts of this laborious process. Cutting spades, blubber hooks, boarding and mincing knives, pikes, trypots, bailers, strainers, and casks illustrate the different jobs assigned onboard once a whale was caught.

Finally, once the hold contained enough full casks of oil the Captain would declare that the vessel had “made  a voyage,” and it was time to return to home port. Once there the cargo was off-loaded, tested and graded, and sold.  After years away how much would you be paid?  How about Jonathan Bourne who you met at the outset? You might be surprised what your final take will be.

So you want to “Go a whalin’” do you?  Learn what it was really all about.


Bourne Building

Exhibitions_On View_Spectacle in Motion_Logo Pt 2

Stand on the bow of the world’s largest model whaleship, the Lagoda, and watch the Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage 'Round the World scroll by in a life-sized digital format projected in a full theatrical setting, and experience what Benjamin Russell and other whalers saw as they left the port of New Bedford and traveled the sea in search of whales.

As the Panorama was being conserved, it was photographed at high resolution and now there is a fully digitized recreation of the entire painting for the first time in history. To re-create the original Panorama, this exhibition features the digital version of the life-sized Panorama projected to simulate the 19th-century experience on a theatrical stage (similar to the concept on the cover of the Museum’s Summer Bulletin and the stage graphic above). The stage set is based on drawings and prints from the period and is installed off the Lagoda’s bow so visitors can experience the performance from the deck, from theater seating on the floor level, or from vantage points to the port and starboard of the iconic whaleship. As the original score and narrative have been lost over time, they have been recreated and remastered for the new installation, and includes new research and points of interest.

Illustration of the mechanics of a moving panorama

Illustration of the mechanics of a moving panorama

Dive deeper into the specifics of the Panorama story on a large, touch-screen, interactive kiosk. The kiosk features a map of the voyage, information on related Museum artifacts and paintings, and the Panorama’s conservation history. You will be able to zoom in close to any scene or detail that interests you and get rich context for each section.

Enhancing the experience, artifacts from the Museum’s permanent Collections further illustrate Russell’s own global travels and connect locations represented in the Panorama with relevant ethnographic material and objects. Exhibitions that tell the stories of Yankee Whaling, the connections with the Azores and Cabo Verde, as well as the many stories told in the existing Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World exhibition help amplify the content of the Panorama. The Panorama in the context of its own time – the era of the “public spectacle” is explored in the exhibition, and includes complementing pieces from the Museum’s permanent Collection.


Explore the digital version of The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage 'Round the World with expanded access to the history and narratives of Purrington and Russell’s Grand Panorama.



Section of Roll 1 from "The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage 'Round the World" by Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington. Now viewable online via the Whaling Museum's Digital Grand Panorama on

More About the Panorama

Online Exhibit

Explore the digital version of The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage 'Round the World with expanded access to the history and narratives.

Audio Tour

Dive deeper into the scenes and stories told throughout the Panorama. Walk the Panorama and the tour takes you around the world through the eyes of a whaler.

Past Exhibit

A Spectacle in Motion: The Original. The exhibition presented America’s longest painting. All 1,275 feet of the Panorama was on exhibit to awe visitors. This was the first time in generations the entire Panorama could be seen by the public.

Exhibition Catalog

This two-volume publication dives into the detail and narrative of the Panorama and allows people to quite literally hold the entire artwork in the palm of their hands.

Conservation Spotlight

Created when giant paintings unrolled in front of a paying audience, this Panorama survives as a nationally important artifact of American culture.


Restoring North America’s Longest Painting by Bob Seay, January 5, 2018.

AP News

A whale’s tale: Longest painting in North America restored b

Press Release

New Bedford Whaling Museum awarded $180,000 for restoration of famous panorama – America’s longest painting by Gayle Hargreaves

Thanks To "A Spectacle in Motion" Supporters


  • The William M. Wood Foundation

Title Supporters

  • The New York Community Trust – Wattles Family
  • Charitable Trust Fund, Recommended by Gurdon B. Wattles

Platinum Supporters

  • Ruth & Hope Atkinson
  • BayCoast Bank
  • Bristol County Savings Bank
  • Cynthia & Douglas Crocker II
  • Carol M. Taylor & John H. Deknatel
  • Nye Lubricants

Diamond Supporters

  • Butler’s Hole Fund, Recommended by Rick & Nonnie Burnes
  • Bess & Jim Hughes

Gold Supporters

  • Amy & Andy Burnes
  • The Chardon Family
  • Faith & Dick Morningstar

Silver Supporters

  • Bay State Wind
  • Christine & Eric Cody
  • Eastern Fisheries
  • Tally & John Garfield
  • Island Foundation, Inc.
  • Joseph Abboud Manufacturing
  • Mary Myers Kauppila & Keith W. Kauppila
  • Ladera Foundation
  • Sharon Lewis – AB Bernstein Private Wealth Management
  • Tina & Paul Schmid
  • Sylvia Group

Bronze Supporters

  • BankFive
  • Jewelle & Nathaniel Bickford
  • Boston Marine Society
  • The Castelo Group
  • Ruth B. Ekstrom
  • Barbara & Paul J. Ferri
  • Constance & Stanley Grayson
  • Randy Harris
  • Lang, Xifaras & Bullard
  • Matouk
  • Page Building Construction Co.
  • Anonymous, 2 donors

Pewter Sponsors

  • Anchor Capital Advisors LLC
  • Christina M. & Charles E. Bascom
  • John & Romayne Bockstoce
  • Civitects, P.C.
  • Ann & Richard Connolly
  • Vanessa & John Gralton
  • Jessie W. & Llewellyn Howland III
  • Betsy & Rusty Kellogg
  • William W. Kenney
  • Edith R. Lauderdale
  • Susan & Anthony Morris
  • Sloan & Wick Simmons
  • Charles Smiler
  • Fredi & Howard Stevenson
  • Ulla & Paul Sullivan
  • Sigrid & Ladd Thorne
  • Grace & David A. Wyss
  • Ann & Hans Ziegler

Major support for the conservation and digitization of the Panorama was provided by the Arcadia Charitable Trust, The Henry P. Kendall Foundation, National Park Service – in cooperation with the staff of the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, and the Stockman Family Foundation Trust.

A Spectacle in Motion received significant support from the City of New Bedford; Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism; National Endowment for the Humanities; National Maritime Heritage Grant program, administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, through the Massachusetts Historical Commission; and the Southeastern Massachusetts Visitors Bureau.