Friday 16 July 2010

Whitby West Cliff

Whitby has many claims to fame!

It was the home of Captain James Cook (1728 - 1779), the famous British explorer, navigator and cartographer (he was actually born in Marton). He mapped Newfoundland, and made three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which time he landed on the east coast of Australia and circumnavigated New Zealand. He also explored the Great Barrier Reef, crossed into the Antarctic on several occasions and mapped the mouth of the St Lawrence Seaway during the seige of Quebec. Ultimately, he died in the Pacific during a fight with Hawaiians.

Historically, one of the biggest industries for Whitby fishermen was whaling. For 80 years, between 1753 and 1833 ships sailed from the port into the Scandanavian waters to hunt the giant mammals. It is this connection with the whaling industry which prompted the erection of the whale bone arch. The original arch was erected sometime after 1853 but, as it began to decay, a competition was held to see who could catch the biggest whale to replace the arch. The winner was a Norwegian, Thor Dahe, who caught an 80ft, 150-ton fin whale in the Weddell Sea off Antarctica, the jawbone of which was erected on the West Cliff above Whitby in 1963.

Forty years later, a dilemma was faced as the whale bone arch once again began to exhibit signs of decay. Ethics had moved on and there was no question of the killing of another whale to replace the bones, but in April 2003, Alaska stepped in, donating the jawbones of a Bow Head Whale killed under licence by Inuits.

The original arch is dispayed away from the ravages of rain and North Sea winds, in the Heritage Centre.

Whitby is also famous for it's Abbey (seen on the top of East cliff, across the harbour).  Most people who go to look round approach up the famous 199 steps, which climb steeply from the harbour below. If you click on the picture, you should be able to follow their path up the cliffside. They are a bit of a pull, but tomorrow's picture will allow you to decide whether or not the view is worth the climb :)


  1. I never realised the arch is a modern replacement! When I visited a couple of years ago I hopped up the 199 steps. I can't remember why now :-)

  2. HOPPED!!! Ouch. Cramp :(

  3. I saw an arch very like that when we visited Stanley, in the Falkland Islands - it was such a little bit of England way down in South America.

  4. Nice picture. I have climbed those 199 steps a few times and I am sure that your photograph tomorrow will confirm that the climb is worth it.

  5. You framed that photo exquisitely. I want to jump right on through the screen and land in that archway.