Whitby and Stanley became twin towns in 1981, at the instigation
of the then Governor, Sir Rex Hunt, who came from that area,
and wanted to recognise their shared whaling history as historic
coastal towns. An exchange of paintings of the two whalebone
arches, by local artists, was made in 2016, to mark the 35th
anniversary of the twinning of the two towns.
A painting of the Whalebone Arch in Stanley, by Falklands artist
Vicky Chater, was personally delivered to Whitby by her, when
she also accepted the gift of this painting of the Whitby Arch by
their local artist, John Freeman.
There has been a whalebone arch on Whitby’s West Cliff, (chosen
as a site for the arch because of its proximity to the Captain
Cook monument), since around 1853, dating from Whitby’s time
as a thriving whaling port. Ships returning from the whaling
grounds of Greenland would tie a pair of jawbones to the mast
to let anxious families at home know the ship had been successful
and there were no casualties.
The jawbones were kept as souvenirs and often ended up being incorporated into the gable ends of houses or were placed in fields as rubbing posts for cattle.
One pair of jawbones was made into a decorative arch overlooking the town. In 1963, the Norwegian shipping company ‘Thor Dahl’ presented a pair of 20ft jawbones of a 113 ton fin whale, caught in the Weddell Sea in the Antarctic, by their whaling ship Thorshovdi and this arch replaced the original.
Exposure to the elements over 40 years resulted in serious deterioration of the whalebones, so there is now a third arch on the site! The existing arch is slightly smaller (15ft), and consists of the jawbones of a bowhead whale, killed under licence by Alaskan Inuits, and unveiled in Whitby by Miss Alaska in 2003. It is not known how old that particular whale was, but the bowhead whale can live to be 200 years old. The new jawbones were a gift from another of Whitby’s twin towns, Anchorage in Alaska.
A painting for the
The historic heart of Stanley
Vicky with her son Finn and His Excellency The Governor, Mr Colin Roberts
at the unveiling of the picture at the Historic Dockyard Museum in Stanley on Friday 6th Jan 2017.
The Artists - John Freeman and Vicky Chater
Falkland Islands Museum & National Trust