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"A Voyage by God's Permission": Captain Scoresby and Arctic Whaling

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"...and there was no doubt on my own mind, when I stood on the taffrail as the ship was turned toward the wind, that I was nearer to the pole than any individual on the face of the earth." - William Scoresby the Younger

Over the course of his 30 voyages as a Captain, William Scoresby Sr. became Britain’s greatest whaler. In his quest to reach new fishing grounds, the Captain sailed farther north than any sailor had previously. Sailing from the coast of Greenland, Scoresby mapped the region for other whaling ships to follow and invented new tools and technology for the ships that would sail into the cold and icy waters. While Arctic whaling was a dangerous profession, Scoresby was successful in bringing in a total of 533 whales in his career without ever wrecking a ship. This captain’s exploration and innovations benefited Arctic whaling and gave the western world its first glimpse into the unknown of the north.

Captain Scoresby passed his legacy to his son, William Scoresby Jr., who continued his father’s work. The younger Scoresby continued to map the Arctic regions and studied its biology and landscape. He brought his expertise back to England where he published the first comprehensive text on the topic entitled An Account of the Arctic Regions with a History and Description of the Northern Whale-fishery. These maps and discoveries are still commended and remembered today. The log-books and publications of this whaling family showcase the contributions they made to whaling and Arctic discovery.