If you go down the beach today you’re sure of a big surprise. @emmastothard’s life-size polar bear is keeping a watchful eye over Staithes from the top of the rock armoury. Made from woven white willow over a central steel armature, it really is a thing of beauty that you must see in person. The polar bear was positioned by the pier in time for @staithesfestival this September, I finally got chance to check it out yesterday whilst doing my #2minutebeachclean. It was an icy cold day, perfect temperature for viewing this Artic inspired sculpture.
Emma’s inspiration behind making the polar bear is linked to two local sources. Emma wanted to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s first voyage of discovery to the Pacific and Southern Oceans in 1768. Cook actually spent a lot of his early life here in Staithes and even though he never encountered a polar bear during his expeditions– he was killed in Hawaii in 1779, his successor Captain Clerke did, only five months later.
Alongside this Whitby seaman, William Scoresby Sr, who was a master whaler and inventor of the barrel crow’s nest, thought it was a good idea to bring a polar bear cub home. The local seaman kept the cub tied to the deck of his ship after an Arctic voyage in the early 1800s. During the long journey to Whitby, Scoresby thought that the cub had become tame, he was able to walk it around on a leash. When they arrived back in the fishing town the noise and unnatural surroundings was too much for the poor cub, it raised up on its hind legs and broke free running through the town. Locals were terrified and ready to kill the scared animal, Scoresby surprised everyone and walked up to the polar bear, putting it back on its leash. Not long after the polar bear ended up at the London Tower Zoo where it eventually died.
Thankfully there’s no polar bears roaming the local streets and beaches, but you can stand next to Emma’s sculpture and get a real feel of their size and grandeur. 🌊❄️