William Scoresby


William Scoresby senior was born in 1760 in the village of Cropton, 20 miles south west of Whitby, on a small farming Estate called Nutholm. His attendance at school was rare because of the distance from is home and the weather condition encountered. At the age of 9 his father removed him from school to work on the farm later he went to work at another farm where he was treated so badly he  decided not to work in the farming profession that is father wanted him to purse. He run away to Whitby in the winter of 1779 and secured from Mr. Chapman a Quaker a three year apprenticeship on the ship "Jane" as the ship was laid up fro the winter  he returned to home to the farm and studied all he could for his new  job being interested in navigation. He returned to Whitby in march 1780 to help with the refit of the Jane at the beginning of April the Jane put to sea encountering a storm of the coast of Norway. this nearly wrecked the Jane.

William Scoresby senior

William Scoresby make two further voyages with the Jane before leaving to join the government cutter the Speedwell sailing with stores for Gibraltar. Off the cape of Trafalgar the government cutter became an enemy prize Scoresby along with another sailor escaped  reaching the coast and stowing away on an English ship that was there exchanging prisoners of war. Returning home he Married the daughter of a yeoman  farmer one Mary Smith they has three children Mary, Sarah and William (Junior). In 1785 he returned to the sea on board the Greenland whaler "Henrietta" under  Captain Crispin  Bean and by the time he went on his sixth voyage he had risen to second officer, the "Specksioneer". This title of Dutch origin meant the officer in charge of fishing apparatus and chief harpooner. In 1790 Captain Bean informed the ships owners that he would be retiring and suggested Scoresby Senior be his successor and was appointed the Captain  over the protest of the crew. On his next voyage Scoresby experience numerous mutinous events. The next voyage Scoresby insisted that he would pick his own crew his careful choices paid off and he returned to port having caught eighteen whales by far the biggest catch in Whitby.

Monument to Scoresby in Whitby

Monument to Scoresby in Whitby

In 1776, the British Government had offered a reward of 10,000 to anyone who could penetrate north of 89 degrees, this was East or West of the Berring Straits. Whilst Scoresby (senior) did not gain this prize, he did reach beyond 81 degrees in 1806, breaking through the ice at Spitzbergen. In 1810, Scoresby (senior) joined three Greenock businessmen to form the "Greenock Whale and Fishing Company" of which he was appointed manager. In 1814, Scoresby (senior) retired from the company. He remained ashore until 1815, then purchased the ship "Mars" which he commanded for the next two whaling seasons. Another year of retirement followed and he then purchased with his own savings, a teak built ship called "Fame". The fitting out of the ship was delayed as there was the possibility the Government wanted use of her, but this did not materialize. The Fame was ready for sea for the 1818 whaling season, with Scoresby (junior) in command, sailing from Liverpool but returning to Whitby. The following Spring, Scoresby (senior) resumed command and moved the Fame, which had more draught than any of the ships he had sailed, to the deeper waters of Hull. Fame had four more voyages and in 1823 proceeding as far as the Orkneys, when she set on fire and was totally destroyed. Captain William Scoresby (senior) had just seen his career at sea come to an end.

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William Scoresby


William Scoresby Junior

In 1806, William Scoresby (junior) left Whitby to attend Edinburgh university, where his interest in science was noted. However, he did not complete the courses, leaving to go back to sea and spending a short time in the Royal Navy. Later in London, he was introduced to Sir Joseph Banks, who had sailed on the first voyage of Captain James Cook in 1768. William Scoresby (junior) returned to his studies at Edinburgh university and married Eliza Lockwood on 25th September 1811, returning to sea in 1812, taking command of the Resolution. In 1813, he took command of a new ship built in Whitby, called the "Esk". The maiden voyage on the Esk was to be a successful one, both scientifically and commercially. During this voyage, Scoresby (junior) proved that the temperature of the sea is warmer below than on the surface. He sent his findings to Sir Joseph Banks and together had a proper instrument made. The first time it was used at a depth of 300 fathoms, the wood swelled and the glass broke. Scoresby (junior) then made a similar model, cast it in brass and with the aid of a mechanic, attached valves made by Carey. It weighed twenty three pounds and he called it the "Marine Diver" On 28th June 1817, according to his records, the Diver was lowered to a depth of 7,200 feet, raising it some two hours later, but the main line broke and lies at the bottom of the ocean. Whilst on this voyage in 1817, Scoresby  visited Jan Meyen island, surveying the land, geology and wildlife and he found that the longitude and latitude were incorrect, naming the spot where they had landed, "Jameson Bay". He also noted a remarkable diminution of the polar ice, allowing penetration to within sight of Greenland's East coast. In 1819, Scoresby and his family, which was now including two sons, William and Frederick, moved to Liverpool, where he was to command the new ship "Baffin", having been built to his own design. The plans, in his own handwriting, and a scaled model of this ship can be seen in Whitby museum. Whilst the ship was being built, he continued his writings and in 1820, published his book "An account of the Arctic Regions" which still forms a landmark in Arctic studies today. The Baffin was launched on 15th February 1820, having a successful first voyage and in 1822, he mapped the East coast of Greenland, having his findings published that same winter. The original chart can be seen in the Whitby museum.

Lively and Mulgrave in Whitby Harbour

Lively and Mulgrave in Whitby Harbour

On the return from this trip to sea, he was informed of the death of his wife. He made one more voyage to sea in 1823, which brought little success and so decided to retire from the sea, after undertaking twenty voyages. He too, like his father, was deeply religious and decided to join the church. He was ordained at York in July 1825 and was appointed as curate to Bessingley, together with sole charge for the church of St Magnus, just over a mile from Bridlington. His saddest duty during curacy, was to preach at St Mary's parish church, Whitby in 1826, on the occasion of the loss of two whaling ships that had sailed from the port. The "Lively" was lost with all hands in an Arctic storm and the "Esk" sank at Marske, less than thirty miles from her home port of Whitby. Sixty five brave men were lost to the sea, twenty were from Shetlands and the remainder coming from Whitby. It was this loss which effectively ended Whitby`s whaling industry. Scoresby (junior) maintained his keen interest in the sciences and in 1838 was asked by the Admiralty to assist in the construction of compass needles, combining different laminae of tempered steel. He agreed, asking for only acknowledgement to anything that was achieved by him. For two years, the Admiralty said the needles he had produced were not up to the required specifications, yet several years later, the Admiralty began to use one the specifications to a needle produced by Scoresby . Bitter rows broke out, but the Admiralty were not about to give the acknowledgements to the deserving inventor. Between the years 1766-1816 whaling became a major industry in the town 2,761 whales were brought into the port. Processing of the carcasses was under taken in order to provide gas for the lighting of the town bones for the women's  corsets and a whole range of other products. Arches made from whale jawbones where erected everywhere. Invention came from necessity and  it was a Whitby man named hall who invented the swivel harpoon gun is invention was presented to the royal society which awarded him a cash prize.


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