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Whitby - Whitby Jet - Amninite Jet found in Whitby
Aminite Jet

Whitby Jet  is a type of brown coal, a fossilised wood of an ancient tree which similar to our present day "Araucaria", or commonly known as the monkey puzzle tree. These trees flourished in the Jurassic period, about 180 million years ago. When the trees died, they fell into the swamps, rivers or eventually found their way to the sea. The trees would become waterlogged and sink to the bottom, where they lay for millions of years. Dead and decaying organisms, mud and detritus falling on top of the already decaying monkey puzzle tree, causing great pressure, flattening the trunk and branches, together with chemical changes, created what we see today, "Whitby Jet" . Jet has been used as a jewel and talisman for over 4000 years. The ancient Greeks and Romans called the black stone "Gagates" and in the first century AD, Pliny wrote in his natural history notes:- " Gages is a stone, so called from the town and river Gages in Lycia. It is black, smooth, light and porous and differs but little from wood in appearance. The fumes of it, burnt, keeps serpents at a distance and dispels hysterical affections, they detect a tendency also to epilepsy and act as a test to virginity. A decoction of this stone in wine is curative to toothache and in combination with wax, it is good for scrofula." Since the times of Pliny, we have come a long way and improved our knowledge of its chemical and physical properties, taking all that was noted with a pinch of salt.

Analysis of the oil contained in "Hard Jet", confirms that it was formed under sea water, while the "Soft Jet", was probably under fresh waters. There is little difference in appearance between hard or soft jet, but hard jet is a tough and durable material, whilst soft jet is far more brittle and having a tendency to crack when worked with or subjected to heat. Nineteenth century workers of jet in Whitby were convinced that jet like amber was a solidified resin. Both were light materials in weight and had the fascinating property of picking up bits of paper as they developed static electricity when rubbed on wool or silk. Studying slices of jet under a microscope gives conclusive evidence of its woody origin, for the annual rings of the original wood can often be seen.

Whitby -  Whitby Raw Jet
Raw Jet

Whitby - Whitby Jet turned into Jewellery - made in Whitby
A Roman jet pendant or
betrothal medallion

Jet is found throughout the world, although not all of it is the hard jet. Differences between hard and soft jets, lignite and cannel coal is so small, we can say that a type of jet is found in, Russia; Turkey; Germany; France; Spain; Portugal and North America, as well as in England. Works of art from Germany and Spain, show that hard jet was in these two countries at sometime. However, there is no doubt in the minds of our Yorkshiremen and Whitby jet craftsmen, that the best hard jet of all the world comes from Whitby.

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe ( 1853 - 1941 ) A nationally and internationally acclaimed pioneering photographer who helped to develop photography as an art form. 

Sutcliffe worked in Whitby from the mid 1870`s until his death. Most of his photographs for which he is now famous, were taken out of season. They include many of the harbour, fishing boats, children at play and fishermen.

Sutcliffe`s equipment ranged from the cumbersome brass and mahogany full plate camera, with their wet collodion process of the late nineteenth century, to the hand held bellows type of camera, of this century, using celluloid negatives. The Sutcliffe gallery in Flowergate, Whitby, publish several volumes of his images and can be purchased by the visitor to Whitby.

Whitby - Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
Frank Meadow Sutcliffe

Whitby - One of Frank Meadow Sutcliffe photographs called The Water Rats

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe started his photographic career using wet collodion in 1875, but soon turned towards the dry plates. He followed in the wake of Emerson, whose fame lies in the photographing of Whitby scenes. Sutcliffe`s most famous picture image, called " Water Rats ", caused considerable wrath of the Whitby church and clergy, for the corruption of the young. It is said, that they excommunicated Sutcliffe, for exhibiting what they felt to be indecent. By the same contrast to these clergy, Prince of Wales ( later to become Edward VII ), purchased the very same image.

Sutcliffe retired from the photographic world he loved so much in 1922, but remained a curator of the Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society from 1923 until shortly before his death. The Society still operates today.

Whitby Harbour
Whitby harbour extends to over 80 acres and is well worth taking a look around. The famous port of Whitby, steeped in history, is still a working port of trawlers with their fishermen; boat builders and of cargoes coming and going. Whitby hosted the visit of her long lost ship that of Captain James Cook, the "Bark Endeavour". A visit that will be remembered by all who saw her enter the pier ends of the harbour, sailing proudly back to her place of birth.

On Whitby's East and West piers, are two lighthouses placed at the harbour entrance, dating back to 1835 and 1855. The lighthouse on the West side of the River Esk is worked manually and only used when vessels are expected, to indicate that it is safe to enter the harbour. By day, a black ball is hoisted on the 83 feet high lighthouse. In the summer, it is open to the public and when you reach the top, there is a fine view. The light from this lighthouse shows green and has a range of ten miles. The lighthouse on the East side of the River Esk is 54 feet high and shows a divided red and green light, the red light showing when the vessel entering the harbour is on an unsafe course, (although in the main, this light is now discarded, due to the placing of a new red light on the church steps, serving the same purpose). Whitby has a permanent dredger working daily during the summer months, keeping the River Esk free from the silt, so the trawlers and smaller craft have clear passage to their berths. The marina in the town was built in 1979 and has moorings for 200 craft.

Whitby - Whitby Harbour as seen at night
Whitby Harbour at Night



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