William Scoresby, Senior (1760 – 1829)

One of Whitby’s famous son’s is William Scoresby, the famous whaler and explorer spending most of his life around the Whitby area when not at sea catching whales!

Few other names in the history of Arctic exploration are so well known as that of Captain William Scoresby. 

Born on the 3rd May 1760 on a small farmstead called Nutholm in Cropton, just 20 miles from Whitby nearer to Pickering, just to the west off the A169. 

After a brief attendance at the village School, at the tender age of 9, Scoresby was employed on his father’s (also called William Scoresby) on the family farm.

Some 20 years later in the winter of 1779/80 William Scoresby sailed as apprentice to John Chapman, a Quaker ship owner also from Whitby, on the ship ‘Jane’.  The ‘Jane’ was engaged in the Baltic trade in the summer seasons and in winter was docked in Whitby Harbour.

Having obtained numerous books Scoresby started studying marine navigation in his spare time and as a result in 1781 was able to recognise the dangerous position off a Baltic Island and saved the ship from foundering.

As other ship mates made life at sea for William Scoresby unpleasant he signed on with the ship the ‘Speedwell’ carrying stores to Gibraltar near Spain. The first voyage was ill-fated and resulted in William Scoresby being taken prisoner by the Spanish but he managed to escape and returned home to Cropton as a stow away aboard a ship bound for England.

Scoresby was happy to work at his father’s home and farm for the next couple of years and during this time he met and married Lady Mary, so named this because she was born on Lady Day.

In 1785 William Scoresby returned to sea on one of the Whitby ships ‘Henrietta‘ involved in the Greenland Whale Fishery.