Voyage to the Arctic: A Whaler's Tale

Hull's Whaling Industry

When did Hull's whaling industry start? 

The first whaling ships to leave Hull were in 1598 (when Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne). Whaling ships from Hull went to look for whales in the Arctic Ocean, near the coasts of Greenland, as well as Iceland and Norway.


Click on the Hull University link (at the bottom of this page) to see a map of the areas in which British Arctic Whaling took place.


When was Hull's Whaling industry at its best?

By the late 1700s Hull was becoming a major Whaling port. The huge whaling ships jostled with the merchant ships already on the River Hull, along High Street. The river became so crowded that it was said that a person could jump from ship to ship to get from one side of the river to the other!


To help with this over-crowding, a brand new dock was built. It opened in 1778 where Queens Gardens is now (the dock was filled in in 1935, to make way for the gardens we enjoy today). 


A famous Hull Whaling company was founded by Samuel Standidge in the 1760s  (click on the 3rd image above to see a painting of his whaling fleet in 1788).


Click on the Hull University link at the bottom of the page for a fact sheet about Samuel Standidge.


By the 1800s the whaling industry in Hull was famous! Nearly half of all Britain's Whalers were sailing from Hull, and the trade brought great prosperity to the town.  It reached its peak in the 1820s, when Hull had the biggest fleet of whaling ships in the country (about 60 vessels) and over 2000 men employed in the whaling trade.


What kind of evidence do we have of Hull's Whaling industry?

Between the Hull Maritime Museum, Hull City Archives and Hull Local Studies Library, we have lots of evidence of Hull's Whaling industry!


The collection at Hull Maritime Museum includes log books (which were written by Whaling Ship Captains), personal items which would have belonged to people involved in the Whaling industry, ship models (made by the Whalers themselves) and paintings and prints.


A particularly important piece of evidence we have is a journal (or diary) which was written by Doctor Charles Edward Smith, a Surgeon on board Hull's famous Whale Ship The Diana The Diana is famous because it was the last Whaling ship to leave Hull (in 1866).


The Journal was bequeathed (given to the Hull Maritime Museum) by Doctor Smith's son in 1952 and gives us very detailed evidence of the fateful journey of The Diana.

The led session 'Voyage to the Arctic: A Whaler's Tale' centres around the The Diana and Doctor Smith's famous journal!  Click here for more details.


To find out more about the history of Hull's Whaling Industry click here to visit the Hull Museum Collections Website!

Document icon Learning article provided by: Hull Maritime Museum | 
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