Spoilt for choice as Whitby's ship comes in

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The Independent Online
Residents of a sleepy Yorkshire seaside resort woke up this morning to the bizarre sight of Captain Cook's ship moored in the harbour and the realisation that their football team is playing at Wembley this afternoon.

Not much has happened in Whitby since its former resident James Cook set sail from the tiny port in 1768 on his historic voyage to discover and chart New Zealand and Australia's east coast.

But last night thousands of visitors packed the harbour for a vantage point as a pounds 7m replica of his ship the Endeavour completed a seven-month journey from Australia.

The town's mayor, John Smith, was so overcome yesterday that he was moved to describe the ship's arrival as "the event of the century". Whitby, he said, was "humming with excitement and enjoying being under the world spotlight".

The drama is almost too real for a town which is usually only in the spotlight as the backdrop for the popular television series Heartbeat. Whitby also features in Bram Stoker's classic horror story Dracula.

But as the visitors flocked in, many Whitby folk headed out of town and down the M1. For supporters of Whitby Town FC, today marked an even more historic occasion; the club's first appearance in the final of the amateur FA Vase for 30 years.

"It's a remarkable coincidence both should be happening at the same weekend," said Mr Smith.

"In a way it's a pity they couldn't have been kept separate as it's causing problems for some people. There are shopkeepers who planned to be at Wembley to cheer on the team who are wondering if they ought to stay here because their shops will be busy with all the extra visitors coming to see Endeavour."

The new Endeavour was built in Perth and set sail for the United Kingdom last October under the command of Captain Chris Blake. Among the crew is Whitby sea cadet Carl Johnson, who joined her in South Africa. Captain Cook was born in the village of Marton, Cleveland, in 1728 and his maritime career began with a Whitby firm of sea traders. He joined the Royal Navy in 1755 and developed his skills as a navigator. Thirteen years later, he was given the chance to journey to the Pacific to observe the transit of the planet Venus across the Sun and to search for a presumed southern continent.

The replica will be open to public viewing for eight days at Whitby's Endeavour Wharf.

Scenic setting for vampire's birth

Whitby provided the setting for Bram Stoker's Dracula, after the ship containing his coffin was wrecked off its coast. The vampire claimed one of its victims - Lucy - in the town's graveyard and the when he metapmorphosised into a dog, is meant to have bound up the 199 Church Stairs.

In 664, the Synod of Whitby settled the date of Easter, decided that the rites and authority of the Roman rather than Celtic Church should be adopted, and ruled on the issue of whether priests should shave their tonsures in the shape of a ring or a crescent.

Caedmon, one of the brothers at Whitby Abbey in the 7th century, wrote the nine-line Song of Creation - one of the earliest surviving poems in the English language. Whitby has since been named the birthplace of the English Literature.