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Learn all about Whitby’s Whalebone Arch

The Whitby Whalebone Arch has become one of the town’s most famous landmarks, attracting visitors from around the world.

If you have visited Whitby, you’ve probably had your photo taken under the iconic Whalebone Arch! The history of the arch is as fascinating as the arch itself. It has become a symbol of Whitby’s maritime heritage. In this article, you can learn more about the Whitby Whalebone Arch.

Whitby Whalebone Arch today 

Whitby Whalebone Arch today.

In 1853, a bone archway was constructed on Whitby’s West Cliff, which perfectly frames the ruins of the Abbey. The Whalebone Arch is impressive. However, it is not the original and is the third to have stood in this location. The bones were replaced in 1963 with a replica from Norway and then again in 2003.

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After enduring decades of storms and gales, the arch began to crumble during the 1990s. It was replaced in 2003 by today’s arch. Today’s is made of bones from a Bowhead whale that native Alaskan Inuits legally hunted. The original bones are preserved at the Whitby Archive Heritage Centre.

Whitby whaling industry

Whitby whaling industry.

The whaling industry once dominated Whitby in the 18th century, a far cry from the charming town we know today. The Pannett Park area owes its existence to the prosperity derived from this industry. The two grand mansions of Bagdale and St Hilda’s Terrace were constructed using the fortunes from the blubber business.

According to reports, the ships that participated in the whaling industry in Whitby brought home 25,000 seals, 55 polar bears, and 2,760 whales during its heyday. Successful boats would return to Whitby with the jawbones of their best catch hoisted on the lower spars and a garland at the mast.

A dangerous occupation

In the past, whaling was a dangerous occupation that provided employment opportunities for many locals. The boats in the industry weighed around 350-400 tonnes and could accommodate up to forty to fifty crew members. These vessels also carried 25-foot-long rowing boats to pursue the whales. Unfortunately, many ships capsized, crushed by ice, or the crew members got hypothermia. Despite the hazards, being part of a Greenland whaling crew offered monetary rewards and a sense of excitement for many men in the town.

A view of Whitby Harbour through the Whalebone Arch.

What types of products were made from Whales?

Whitby’s bustling harbour was infamous for the noxious smell from rendering blubber from whales for oil production. The blubber was brought back in barrels and boiled down to make lighting, soap, leather, and other products. Even the refuse of fat, called fenks, was repurposed to make manure, Prussian blue, and ammonia. Almost every part of the whale was used. The tail turned into glue, the bones ground down for manure, and the bone from the mouth was used to create decorative items like umbrellas. The hair from the whalebone was even used as stuffing. 

How to visit Whitby’s Whalebone Arch

Visit Whitby's Whalebone Arch.

The Whalebone Arch is located at the top of the West Cliff next to the Captain Cook Statue and requires a bit of a climb. Once you reach the top, take in the breathtaking view of the North Sea, the harbour entrance and the town of Whitby. You can also learn about the history of the arch and its significance to the town by reading the information plaque nearby.

Location: North Terrace, Whitby YO21 3HA

If you plan to visit Whitby, add the Whalebone Arch to your itinerary. It’s a unique landmark with a fascinating history and will leave a lasting impression on anyone who visits. Just be sure to bring your camera!

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