The first whaling ships left the port of Hull in 1598, soon after the discovery of Greenland. The industry was thriving by the early nineteenth century after many recessions and revivals. During the years 1815-1825 Hull had 2000 men employed in the trade and she could boast over 60 whaling vessels making it the largest fleet in Britain. Using our important collections to illustrate, this section of our website explores Hull's whaling history from its peak to its decline in the mid to late nineteenth century.
At its height Hull could boast one of the largest and most successful whaling fleets in Britain. Discover how it all began, how the whalers' braved arctic conditions to catch their whales and how the introduction of steam powered vessels signalled a decline for the Hull whaler.
Sailors could be at sea for months at a time when searching the arctic seas for a catch. Inevitably they had time on their hands and a wealth of teeth and bones from marine animals at their fingertips - the result was the unique and fascinating craft of scrimshaw. Read on to find out more.
The methods used to catch whales did not vary much throughout the years but the weaponry evolved as whalers developed more efficient ways to kill their catch. Discover the different types of weapons used to catch whales from the simple hand harpoon to the explosive bomb lance.
Amongst the much-loved objects on display at Hull Maritime Museum is the full-size stuffed polar bear, posed with mouth open and teeth bearing. Seen as cuddly by some visitors and scary by others, this all-time favourite stirs all manner of reactions. Read on to find out more...
The 'Truelove' was a barque obtained by the British during the American War of Independence. She was converted into a whaling ship and so began an illustrious and colourful history that saw her become the oldest surviving vessel of her class. Read about her successes with whaling, how she transported natives from Greenland, and her final visit back home to Philadelphia some 100 years after her 'birth' there.
At one time a great number of whaling ships and their crew set sail from Hull but that was all to change. In 1866 the Diana set sail on a whaling expedition but its perilous journey proved the dangerous nature of the occupation and the struggles faced by sailors. She became Hull's last whaling ship, read on to find out why.
Scrimshaw was the sailor's art form. Carving the bones of their catches, they produced pieces which depicted a surprisingly wide variety of subjects. From real life observations to imaginary characters, religious tales to Greek myths. Read on to discover the mariner's motifs.
Discover the history behind Ferens' marine paintings; from Dutch influences to the depiction of the whaling industry.