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.
It started with the loss of the whaling ship Livley  wrecked of Greenland with no survivors. In 1826 with the most notorious wreck to occur of the Yorkshire coast in September 1826 the whaler Esk returning home was with 30 miles of Whitby making slow progress against a Southerly breeze in the evening the Esk shorted her sail and moved closer inshore. Within hours a violent easterly storm blew up catching the Esk on a lee shore despite the efforts of the crew she grounded on Saltscar  reef in between Redcar and Marske. A crew from the Redcar lifeboat station tried several times to get to the Esk but all attempts failed. In the early dawn light the Esk broke up tossing her crew into the sea only three men survived whaling from Whitby never recovered from the tragedy.


A total of 58 ships sailed during this period, on a total of 577 voyages. Seventeen ships were lost. A total of 2,761 whales, 25,000 seals and 55 polar bears were brought back. 

1753 Henry and Mary Lost October 1857
1753 Sea Nymph Owner: Will Reynolds.
Lost 1785
1754 Dolphin Capt William Watson.
Last voyage 1756
1754 Ann Sold 1762
1757 John and Ann Last voyage 1758
1757 Leviathan Owner: J.N.O.Yeoman
Capt Christopher Yeoman
Lost 1758 (captured by French)
1758 Henry and John Owner: J.N.O.Yeoman
Capt Charles Todd
1761 James and Mary 1726 Owner: J.N.O.Yeoman
1767 Jenny Capt Banks
1769 Porpoise Owner: J.N.O.Yeoman
Capt R.Woodhouse
Lost 1772 (wrecked)
1769 Peggy Lost 1771
1772 Volunteer 1756 Captain in 1809 was Capt Thomas Keld
Captain in 1821 was Capt Craig. 
Last whaling voyage 1825. Lost 1842
1772 Hope Lost 1790
1774 Loyal Club 
1774 Delight 
1774 Providence 1756 Owner: Will Skinner
1775 Hercules 
1775 Addison 
1775 Freelove 1746 Owner: J.Walker
1775 Speedwell Owner: Thos Holt
Lost 1782
1775 Esk Capt in 1813 was Capt Scoresby jnr
Capt in 1821 was Capt Dunbar 
Lost off Redcar 1826
1775 Two Sisters
1775 British King
1776 Rachel
1776 Henrietta 1764 13 seamen pressed by HMS Princess of Wales 22 July 1804
4 crewmen pressed by HMS Spitfire 1808
Captain in 1809 was Capt John Kearsley
Sold to Aberdeen 1820
1776 Providence Owner: Will Frankland
1776 Nancy 
1777 Marlborough 1761 Owner: H.W.Yeoman. Lost 1791
1778 Adamant 
1780 Chance Capt Buller. Lost 1788
1784 Earl Fauconberg 1765 Capt in 1791 & 1799-1800 was Capt Francis Agar
Armed & carrying Letters of Marque 1799
Sold to Grimsby 1801
1784 Unity Owner: H.W.Yeoman 
1785 Jenny's Adventure Owner: Will Swales. Lost 1786 
1785 Lively 1765 Captain in 1791 was Capt Webster.
Capt Jackson & part of crew pressed by HM Brig Mosquito 1805
Captain in 1809 was Captain John Smith
Lost with all hands April 1826
1785 Loyalty 
1785 Nautilus Captain in 1791 was Capt Roland.
Burnt at Whitby Harbour Feb. 1795
1785 Resolution 1766 Capt in 1808 was Capt W.Scoresby, armed and carrying Letters of Marque
Capt in 1811 was Capt Scoresby jnr
Sold to Captain James Hogg of Peterhead 1829
1786 Ann and Elizabeth 
1786 Whitby 1770 Lost at Gaspe, St.Lawrence May 1827
1786 Harpooner 1769 
1787 Martha 
1787 Unity
1791 Prospect Capt Banks (1800)
1800 Experiment Capt Francis Agar (1800).
Capt Baxter (1801)
Sold to Hull 1801
1802 Aimwell Built by Fishburn & Broderick
Owner: Francis Agar 1804 - 1807
Captain in 1809 was Captain John Johnston
Surgeon & 3 men lost 1810 when a whale stoved in a boat
Lost 13 March 1824. Struck by large piece of ice off Greenland.
1803 Oak Brigantine
1803 Resolution 1803 Built by Fishburn & Broderick
Captain 1803 - 1810 was Capt W. Scoresby snr
Captain 1810 - 1813 was Capt W. Scoresby jnr 
Sold to Peterhead 1829
1805 William and Ann Captain in 1821 was Capt Terry.
Lost 1830 (wrecked in ice) - Capt Terry & crew saved.
1811 James Captain in 1821 was Capt Quickfall. 
Last voyage 1825.
1813 Esk 1813 Built by Fishburn & Broderick
Captain: W.Scoresby jnr 1813 - 1817
Lost 1826
1815 Valiant Captain in 1821 was Capt Francis Agar snr.
Lost (wrecked) 1822 under Capt Francis Agar
1816 Phoenix Owners: W.T. & E. Chapman.
Captain in 1831 was Capt Mills
Last whaling voyage 1837. 
Sold to Scarborough for timber trade.
1816 Mars Built by Fishburn & Broderick
Capt W.Scoresby snr. (1815)
Capt Scoresby jnr (1817)
Lost 1828
1818 Fame Captain 1818 - 1823 was Capt W.Scoresby snr
Destroyed by fire at Stromness 1823.
1819 Harmony Capt in 1821 was Capt Baker
1823 Valiant 1822 Built by R.Campion
Owners: R & J Campion
Captain Francis Agar jnr. Last whaling voyage 1825.
Captain Agar remained master after whaling ceased & died on board 8 Dec 1827.
1833 Camden Sold to Scarborough 1837

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