Folk Art and The Whalers

Hull’s Whaling History

Hull dominated the whaling industry from 1800 to the 1830s when it declined with falling stocks. The industry became increasingly dependent on seals to make a catch. There was a revival in the 1850s with the introduction of the ‘Diana’ - the first steam ship whaler. The high price of whalebone i.e. baleen, would fetch up to £2,000 a ton. Therefore a catch of two whales was enough to keep a whaling ship in profit. The prosperous period was 1815 to 1824 when Hull had 2,000 men employed in the trade. After this period the number of whales at Greenland diminished and hunting transferred to the Davis Strait.


The oil-rich blubber was essential for heating, lighting and soap making. It was used to soften coarse woollen cloths and various industrial processes including tanning. The numerous bi-products included baleen which stiffened corsets and bodices for ladies dresses or became umbrellas; bristles from within the baleen were made into brushes.


By 1835 Hull Whaling was in severe decline. The last of the Hull whaling ships, the ‘Truelove’ had left the fishery in 1868 having made a total of seventy two Arctic whaling voyages. The demise of the ship "Diana" in 1869 brought the industry to an end in the town.

During the 1970s the world began to realise that many species of whales were becoming endangered with extinction. Whales take a long time to breed and rear their young and consequently will take a long time to recover from being threatened with extinction. Since the 1970s, whaling quotas have been put into place to protect whales and marine mammals. This has protected many but some whaling continues above these quotas by countries such as Japan and Norway. Some countries want the ban on whaling to be lifted so that they can carry on whaling as before.


To find out more about Hull's Whaling history, click here to go to the 'Voyage to the Arctic: A Whaler's Tale' Learning Journey!

Document icon Learning article provided by: Hull Maritime Museum | 
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