The World’s Largest Ship Model

There are many famous ships in the world that have found a second occupation late in life as museums: Cutty Sark, Peking and Balclutha are a few that immediately come to mind. However, there are not many ships that find themselves birthed or berthed inside buildings. Why, that would be pointless and rather silly. Or would it?

New Bedford Whaling Museum

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is about an hour south of Boston and 30 minutes east of Providence. For anyone traveling to Cape Cod from points south, it’s a short hop off Interstate 195. No matter where you are coming from its well worth the trip. It is the centerpiece to the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park and the largest museum in America devoted to the history of the American whaling industry and its greatest port. It is also the homeport of the world’s largest ship model, the Lagoda.

New Bedford Whaling Museum Lagoda

From the Whaling Museum’s website:

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., the 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. (more)

The Lagoda is currently undergoing a major restoration. While at first blush this might seem like a reason to postpone a visit to the museum, actually having the chance to see the master shipwright Leon Poindexter and his crew of skilled craftsman in action is worth the price of admission alone.


On April 15, 2008, The Standard Times had a very interesting frontpage article about this project this week. Shipwright finds inspiration in museum’s Lagoda. (Slide show) Poindexter explains that since the model was built at the end of the whaling era by the same workers who built the actual whaleships that sailed out of New Bedford. Today we are fortunate that it exists in a kind of time capsule within the museum’s Bourne Building preserving the near century old arts and techniques of shipbuilding.

While I often write about my high school years aboard the sailing school vessel Tabor Boy being the catalyst for my maritime career, the original spark for my passion for the sea was ignited by my childhood experiences aboard the Lagoda. Growing up across the river in Fairhaven, there were many family visits and school field trips to the museum and for a pint sized sailor, a half size ship model was the real deal. Here was something in a museum that a kid could actually touch and even climb on. These are the experiences that cultivate dreams.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is open daily from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and until 9:00 p.m. every second Thursday of the month. (telephone: 508 997-0046) (Google Map)

Photo and video credits:

Whaling Museum exterior: Moacir de Sa Pereira / moacirdsp on

Lagoda model: National Park Service

ST Video on YouTube

Leon Poindexter by Peter Periera for The Standard Tiimes.

Lagoda video Second Story Interactive Studios

Share this post :

Published by

Peter A. Mello

Father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

4 thoughts on “The World’s Largest Ship Model”

  1. I have 9.5 ft Cutty Sark model that came from New Bedford. It would seem to be 100 years maybe in age. Does anyone remember seeing something like this . Trying to find out history.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s