Yorkshire Museum

Extinct Auks

Our two great auks, now an extinct species, are in very good condition and are a rare treasure for a regional museum.

Please note: The Yorkshire Museum is home to an extensive and varied collection of items and artefacts. Whilst we make every effort to display a broad spectrum of our collections it is not always possible for all our collections to be on display at once. Please check the latest exhibitions to find out what collections are currently on display or contact us on 01904 687687.

Great auks were once widely distributed across the North Atlantic. It is believed that the last great auks were killed on 3 June 1844 on the island of Eldney.

The great auk was prized by collectors in the 18th and 19th centuries. Sailors undertook commissions from individuals and institutions to find new sites with great auks.

After they became extinct, great auks commanded high prices at salerooms, where they were very popular with Victorian collectors. The auks retained a high profile in popular culture after their extinction, with wine, cigarettes and even a trade union using the name Great Auk.

There are still 78 specimens and approximately 75 in existence in collections around the world.