In 1753 Whitby merchants formed a Whale Fishing company and equipped two ships The Sea Nymph and the Henry and Mary. But it wasn’t successful the catch was 3 whales for the year. Determined to have better success they equipped another two ships in 1754 Dolphin and Anne this time they had more success the Henry and Mary catching five Whales, and the Dolphin, three and the Anne two. Whale fishing depended on the experience, skill of the captain and his Crew the early Whitby whalers employed Dutch specialists. Due to the inexperience of the early Whitby Whalers as at the time there was only one harpooner from Whitby one Thomas Grey. In 1754 the Sea Nymph sailed with a mixed crew, four of whom were Dutchmen three mustering as harpooners and one an apprentice. The Henry and Mary mustered one Dutch harpooner Manken Prudom 1754-56 and a Dane mustered aboard the Anne in 1756 employing foreign sailors was short lived.
It was better in the long-term future of the whaling trade in Whitby if the crew of these Whalers established themselves as successful local captains; Francis Banks (pre Scoresby) was a line Captain and then a harpooner on the Sea Nymph 1753-56 Thomas Hodgson later commanded Whalers in Newcastle and Whitby was a mate on the Anne.In 1768 the two most successful ships in the British Whaling fleet were the Royal Exchange of Newcastle (12 Whales 2,300 Seals) and the Jenny of Whitby with a cargo of 9 Whales 570 Seals and 4 Polar Bears. Whitby emerged as the major whaling port in the 1770`s with a large stock of second hand ships and a healthy trade with the Baltic Whitby was ideally placed to exploit the opportunities offered by the Greenland trade. Whitby built ships were known for the strength and quality of construction (Captain Cook used Whitby built ships) Whalers had a double hull and many carried ice plates on the bow of the ship slightly below the water line. The Volunteer was built at Whitby, in 1756. A 302-ton ship, round-sterned, 97 ft long and 27 ft wide. It had its hull doubled in 1771 to protect it from the Arctic ice, and went on its first voyage in 1772. It made a record for Whitby of 54 whaling voyages. In 1815 Volunteer only caught 2 whales (which gave 4 and a quarter tons of oil), but in 1811 it caught 23 whales (148 tons of oil). Had a long career as a whaler and its last whaling voyage was 1825. The average crew when whaling was 40.
Known for their toughness and nautical skills the Whitby whaling fleet not only had to endure the cold and the hardships of the arctic on their return they also if unlucky had to content with the Press Gang and Privateers. During the war of American independence Whitby whaling fleets sailed with Letters of Marque the whalers sailed in a well armed squadron precautions against privateers were taken but this wasn’t the only problem they faced. The Admiralty ordered officers commanding warships together with the press gangs to ignore the protected status of the whalers; Adamant bound for Whitby had a boat crew impress (press-ganged) while trying to escape at Hartlepool. HM sloop fury followed the whaler along the Yorkshire coast and while in the Whitby roads along with the armed tender boarded the Adamant and press-ganged her crew. The Freelove of Whitby homeward bound From the Davis Straits was stopped at Alnmouth bay by the armed ship Content while trying to press gang her crew the Content was attacked by two French frigates. Content engaged the French while the Freelove came close inshore to escape the local papers criticized the Freelove saying that if they had helped both French ship would have probably being brought into shields. Content had already press-ganged 30 of the Freelove crew leaving her under manned to fight any engagement. Content spotted five other Whitby Whaling ships homeward bound and convoyed them to Whitby and press-ganged sailors from all of the ships.
From 1819-1822 whaler owners faced a stark future withdraw their ships from the whaling trade or carrying on in the hope that fewer ships going to the whaling grounds of
Greenland would improve there chances of catching more Whales. It seemed to work in the short term there was a reduction it the
British whaling fleet only Whitby continued to send the same number of ships to the whaling
grounds. Whitby still had a fleet of 10 whaling ships in 1824 but it wasn't the economics that caused the industry to die. In 1824 3 ships returned with out catching any whales and the rest had poor catches misfortune was the main cause.
WHALING SHIPS OF WHITBY, 1753-1837