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Pilot on Board: August 7th, 1811

By Wednesday the Resolution was near to Whitby and riding on the flood tide. Scoresby brought the pilot on board to see them through the Sandsend roads. The ship was prepared for entering the harbour, taking down the boats and their davits, so that by 4AM, they were ready:

when all Ships had got within the Piers made sail for the Harbour. We were somewhat too late for the tide and soon aground near the scotch head on the SE side.

Scoresby would not have been happy in the part of the harbour below the bridge, and as became clear, he had good reason, but they were at least inside the harbour, and home.

Ornamenting the Ship: August 5th-6th, 1811

By now, there was much anticipation of home on board the Resolution, not least because a high spring tide was expected at Whitby on Wednesday morning, and with such a large cargo the ship would need plenty of water to be able to cross the bar. Scoresby’s thoughts were of making the most of the wind, and his comments show the extent to which captains of sailing ships had to anticipate changes in the weather. He is keen to record where his decisions differed from those of other captains, especially when he got it right:

All the Ships in sight lay starboard tacked we lay larboard tacked W, WbN, or WNW conceiving that there was a probability of the wind westering after a hot Day so it proved for at 8AM we tacked and lay SSW made all sail to the S1/2W. At 9 saw the Fern [FArne Islands] lights which we passed about 11PM.

Scoresby devised activities for the crew to keep them occupied, including making a figurehead. Ships in sight included theVolunteer, Lively, and Leviathan, which was heading for Hull. In the early hours of Tuesday, they were frustrated by the failure of the wind off Coquet Island, on the Northumberland coast:

At noon charming fine weather. Thermometer 73 [deg] Coquet Island 20 miles distant …

Yet, as the morning went on the wind strengthened from the South and South West, and they made slow progress tacking as far as Hartlepool on the Tees by evening. The Aimwell and the Lively were to the North, Scoresby says, and the Volunteer to the South. As the light faded Hunt Cliff came into view “10 or 15 miles distant” which meant they were almost home.

Fine Weather: July 31st-August 4th, 1811

By the end of July, the Resolution was as far south as mainland Scotland, and making good progress down the east coast. The starboard side of the ship was painted, and there were coastal vessels nearby, as well as the whaler, Volunteer. On August 1st Scoresby guessed that the coast he saw through the gathering gloom was Kinnairds Head, Fraserburgh, and on the 2nd they “fetched in with land close by Peterhead saw the Enterprise and two Fishing Brigs in the Roads”. There were many fishing boats nearby now, and it was warm. Scoresby recorded 72 degrees Fahrenheit on the 31st.

On August 3rd, strong southeasterly winds meant that the Resolution spent the morning tacking and getting almost nowhere, but by noon on Sunday the Cheviot hills, in the borders, were in sight. There was also news of the whale fishery in the Davis Straits:

The Leviathan [Hull] came up from astern got a list of the Streights Ships from him he has 10. On the whole the fishery in that quarter has been very bad many Ships having but one or two fish each. Two or three clean. One lost and another under Ice three Days and got into harbour where a piece of Ice 10 Tons in weight was taken out of the hold.

Voe Skeery: July 28th-30th, 1811

By Sunday July 28th, Scoresby judged that the lines were now dry and in good order, so they were put away. The following day, in a turbulent sea, to the north of the Shetlands, the captain of the Aimwell visited. Later, around 2AM, land was spotted:

[P]resently we saw a rock above water and about a mile and [a half] distance found it to be the Voe Skeery (The Voe Skeery is the most dangerous spot on this Coast to make lying surrounded with sunken rocks very low and 10 miles from the main deep water (45 Fathoms) at [1.5] miles distance. The Aimwell … supposing we did not see the land hoisted a light and fired 2 or 3 musquets.)

Jackson assumes, probably correctly that this was Ve Skerries, off the west coast of Shetland. Considering how dangerous these rocks seem to have been, it is surprising that a lighthouse was not built there until 1979.

As the sun came up the Aimwell‘s “Shetland men” left the ship on one of the boats, and returned home. The following day, July 30th, some returned, to sell fish and eggs to the whalers. One of the men who came on board the Resolution from Shetland had sailed on Scoresby’s father’s ship, the John. He had arrived at the island 22 days earlier, and reported that the John had 16 whales of “size” on a voyage lasting less than two months. Two ships of war seen in the distance.

A Kind of Goose: July 27th, 1811


As the Resolution made its steady progress southward, reaching Lat 61 on July 26, and Lat 60, by the 29th, Scoresby observed more birds than before, including gulls, and what he called “a kind of … Goose a Brown Bird with a White spot on each wing”. Jackson wonders if this could be a Greylag goose, but I think it was more likely a Eurasian Widgeon, which is native to Iceland, Scandinavia, and the northern British Isles. The male bird displays a white shoulder spot in flight.

As the presence of birds suggested, “At 3PM descried land … [which] proved to be the black barren Cliffs of Farroe”. Scoresby records a “strange sail” in sight at dusk, and as night fell, the Enterprize “hoisted her Ancient” and left the convoy, heading for the Pentland Firth on her journey to Peterhead.

The image above comes from

Approximation to Some Land: 25th-26th July, 1811

Thursday July 25th brought thick fog and “much rain”. The 15 lines which had been drying on deck were stowed away. Friday brought better visibility, and Scoresby tried to sail faster by keeping the wind “on the quarter”, that is, not sailing directly with the wind. This allowed him to take advantage of the stay sails on the mizen mast. The Southwesterly swell slowed their progress, however.

With the Resolution still in convoy with the Aimwell, Enterprize, and Volunteer, Scoresby took the appearance of Arctic Gulls and “Looms” (Jackson suggests guillemots), to suggest that they were near to the Faroe islands, and so it was, but he was far from sure: “our Compass differs so much that we cannot tell exactly how we steer sometimes”.

Southings: July 19th-24th, 1811

Over the next five days, Scoresby records very little in his journal besides the ship’s position, and their rate of progress. Starting on Friday at Lat 70 deg 12N, by the following Wednesday they had reached Lat 66 deg 12N, and were heading mostly South and West, towards the Faroes, Shetland, and Orkney.

On Monday, in fog, Scoresby fired a gun to signal the convoy to tack, and he recordes that the Aimwell answered. The Enterprise was discovered to be no more than 50 yards away, which was dangerously close in “impenetrable Fog”. Progress was often slow, the ship travelling at around 2 to 4 knots for most of the week, but in Tuesday the fog cleared, the wind increased, and Scoresby noted that they had “Made 90 Miles Southing”.

On the 24th, Scoresby’s journal records that with coal supplies running low “the fire is extinguished immediately after the Dinner is cooked”. It was also discovered, in these damp, foggy latitudes, that some of the sails were becoming mildewed, and they made an effort to “loose them at all opportunities”. Later in the day, as the weather turned fine: “Loosed all sails to dry began to suspend two Boats lines in the Suns rays”.