Ship's Log of The Diana

The sad account of a Victorian whaling ship

This is a Yorkshire World Collections object, one of 100 chosen by young people aged 16-24, as part of the London Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.

This ship's log tells the tragic tale of the 'Diana', a whaling ship from Hull. The Diana headed for the Arctic in May 1866. At first the crew did well and they caught a small number of whales, but on the journey back the weather began to get worse and the ship was locked in a sea of frozen ice. It was trapped for over six months. Food was rationed, and fuel was in short supply; the sailors were driven to use anything they could get their hands on for food, even the wood from the ship's masts and seal clubs.

By the time the ice had thawed and the Diana had finally landed in the Shetland Isles, 13 men were dead including Captain Gravill, the captain of the ship. This log was written by the ship’s surgeon, Dr Charles Edward Smith, after the death of Captain Gravill.


A log in this context is the diary kept by the captain of the ship or, in his absence, the next in command. Recording facts about the weather, dates of arrival in ports, the health of the crew, any fears of attack etc would be invaluable for the owners of the ship and the insurers.

Young person's response to this object

It seems sad that this log book survived when many men on the ship died. However, the fact that it has meant we are able to remember their experience. Katie Chester

Watch these videos of trawlermen talking about whaling over 100 years later, just as hard a life still!

Other My Learning resources are Scrimshaw, the folk art of whalers, and Voyage to the Artic: A Whaler's Tale

Discussion Ideas:

  • This object is described as a log. What do you think is the purpose of a ship’s log?
  • Sailors in Victorian times spent months at sea during a voyage, as they did in earlier times.   How do you think they would have passed the time when they were not hauling on sails?
  • Why would a surgeon be an important crew member of a boat such as the Diana?
  • Do you think it is right to hunt creatures such as whales? Give reasons for your answer.

Activity Ideas:

Evidence shows that the whaling industry began many thousands of years ago. Find out about the following by using links in this resource.

  • Once it's caught, what use is made of the whale?
  • Why is it so highly prized as a catch?
  • Does whaling still go on?
  • What are the different viewpoints about whale hunting?
  • How does whale hunting affect the natural world?
  • If you look at top picture on this page full screen you can see a transcript of the words in the diary underneath the picture. Make a list of any words that you don't know, or think are 'old fashioned'. Then look up those words in a dictionary and decide - if there are more modern words to replace them with, which ones you would use?
  • Use the Google map below to find out if there is any land between Hull and the Arctic.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Hull Maritime Museum | 

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