As our previous visit to Hull was in June, we’d decided to leave the “Maritime Museum”:http://www.hullcc.gov.uk/portal/page-_pageid=221,631051&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL thinking it would be better on our December trip, when the weather was likely to be colder. It has been stated that, between the 1920s and 30s, Hull was ranked the 3rd largest port in the UK after London and Liverpool, so the visit could prove both interesting and time consuming.
As Hull is the 2017 UK City of Culture, we were greeted by the enthusiastic volunteers who suggested the route we took, starting with the whaling section. There were various displays, storyboards and huge whale skeletons, all of which reinforced how dangerous whaling was. The weather was often very bad and huge saws were used by the crew to cut through the packed ice to free their ships. However, sometimes, the whalers got stuck for months on end. In particular, the Diana, suffered this fate in Baffin Bay for over six months. The wife of one of the seamen, assumed the ship had been lost and remarried, only for it to return, along with her husband, days after she had tied the knot.
We read about the difference between an Eskimo and an Inuit and how it was similar to calling English people, Europeans. Two of the Inuits, Memiadluk (aged 17 years) and Uckaluk (15), were brought back by a Captain John Parker and ‘exhibited’ in Hull, Manchester and York, wearing their native costumes along with artefacts from Greenland including a canoe, hut, bows and arrows. On their journey home, the ship stopped in Orkney, where Uckaluk contracted Measles and died shortly afterwards.
There were various examples of the whaler’s craft of scrimshaw (carving on bone) on display, plus the ‘tools of their trade’ – harpoons, knives and those required to remove the blubber, whalebones and other valuable commodities of those times and a stuffed polar bear.
The displays also chronicled the demise of the industry, right down to the last whaling ship that was sunk coming back from a trip and how parts of the process still remained on land for some time afterwards.
We then moved on to the fishing industry with lots of models of various fishing vessels, spats with Iceland, ‘the Cod War’, famous skippers and other tales, before visiting the first floor and the former Dock Offices. Here, in a beautiful room with fake-marble pillars and carved cherubs adoring the ceiling, there was a display of art by local children.
There is also had a quiet area for reflection on the many lives that were lost and a book of remembrance which was open at the current date: there’s also a digitised version allowing searches to be made using various criteria to trace family or others.
There was also a special display of four Turner paintings, shown with others that depicted whaling from the same era and which also included photographs, a medium that Turner himself was interested in.
We spent nearly two hours in the museum – free like so many in the City, but it would be easy to spend much longer.