Chris Scott Wilson                   Writer                                             

©2010 C.J.S.Wilson

Story of The Esk  part 2

After borrowing a pump from a passing ship they sailed through the bergs and drift ice, but trouble still courted Esk. A Few days later a storm tore away the fothering sail and all hands manned the pumps until a new one could be fixed. After only 24 hours, heavy seas again wrenched it off. When the problem was mastered, the stern post was found to be loosened by the pounding. If the post failed, the ship would founder immediately. John again took her in tow. On 23 July, Scoresby must have breathed a great sigh of relief when Shetland’s Hangcliff was sighted. John cast her off and stood out to the open sea while Scoresby coxed Esk to make to make landfall at Lerwick at 5.30 am on the 27th. Only after lengthy repairs did she set sail for Whitby.

         The Esk sailed again the following year for the whale fishery, Scoresby again in command, but it was a poor season. Discouraged, on return to Whitby he decided to give up the sea and become a minister, but only after a further whaling voyage in the Fame, of which he was a co-partner.

The Esk2 Shipwreck01 narwhal2A

above :  Narwhals, named Unicorns for their single 8 foot long tusk. These would be taken if Right whales were scarce




right: The ill-fated attempt to turn Esk over for repairs. Note the anchors hanging from the mast trees.

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The new master of Esk was Captain Dunbar who had sailed with Scoresby’s father and from whom the younger Scoresby had learned some of his fishing skills. For eight years Esk met with varying success and on 5th September 1826 she was making slow headway home against a southerly breeze after catching only four whales. After discharging the Shetlanders at Lerwick, her crew numbered 27, all eager to reach Whitby.

     Captain Dunbar took advantage of the inshore tide as Esk passed Hartlepool, but suddenly an easterly gale sprang up, driving her shoreward. Sails were shredded before they could be reefed as the frantic crew fought to bring her into the wind. At nightfall, the mainsail ripped from top to bottom, twisting her broadside to heavy seas which smashed against her beam ends. At 10.30 their fears were realised when she grounded opposite the cliffs at Marske. They fired guns and burnt a distress light when they saw lanterns through the spume, but crashing waves were by then sweeping the decks and lifting the ship, only to smash her back onto the seabed.

     At 5.15 am the Esk went to pieces.

     That morning, 6th September 1826, saw mountainous seas washing debris ashore, breakers revealing timbers and bodies tangled together in the indignity of death.

     William Scoresby junior later wrote he thought of the Esk with great affection, and it was he who conducted the memorial service at St. Mary’s church on Whitby cliff top. 3,000 people attended the service, and influenced by Scoresby’s preaching, gave generously for those families deprived of their breadwinners.

    Only three men survived the wreck.


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Dykes, Jack   Yorkshire’s Whaling Days   Dalesman 1980

Godfrey, A & Lassey,P.   Shipwrecks of the Yorkshire Coast

                                                                                              Dalesman 1974

Scoresby, Wm (jnr)  Narrative of the Loss of The Esk & Lively,

                                                           Greenland Whalers    Rodgers 1826

Stamp, T & C.  William Scoresby, Arctic Scientist.  Caedmon 1976

Young, Rev G.   History Of Whitby Vol II (1817)       Caedmon 1976