Staithes to Whitby

From the bronze statue of Cook looking out to sea on Whitby's West Cliff there is a panoramic view of all that makes the town what it is: the ancient Abbey and the squat St Mary's Church visible across the harbour, pantiled roofs of cottages little changed since Cook's time here. He lived on the east side, over the bridge in Grape Lane. It was here in John Walker's house that he began his apprenticeship, working late into the night reading about navigation and seamanship. Today the house forms the Captain Cook Memorial Museum and houses even more artefacts connected with Cook. Room settings and changing exhibitions give a flavour of the maritime trade of Whitby and the age of sail.

Cook would have climbed the 199 steps to worship at St Mary's Church close by the Abbey ruins where, in the year 664, the date of Easter was fixed by the Great Synod. Today the ruins are as majestic as ever and soon to be enhanced by a new visitor centre. The graveyard around the church was said to be the dark inspiration for Bram Stoker's tale of Gothic horror, "Dracula", begun during a visit to the town in 1897.

Whitby was a major whaling port for many years and an arch of whalebones frames the Abbey and church close to Cook's statue. The "Crow's Nest" at the mast head of vessels even today was the invention of Captain Scoresby, a whaling operator in the town, and a remarkable sculpture exists next to the harbourside.

Cook sailed from here regularly in Whitby 'cats' small sturdy vessels suited to coastal work - not then knowing how he would eventually become one of the world's greatest navigators and explorers in vessels built here in the tradition of these colliers. In spring 1755, James Cook left just such a ship in the Thames to join the frigate HMS Eagle as a volunteer, working his way up from able seaman to master of his own vessel, the most famous being 'HM Bark Endeavour' - built here in Whitby in 1765.

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