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Monday 6 September 2021

By Maritime Media Volunteer, Julie Corbett.

From the 8th floor of Hull College, you can see a lot of Kingston upon Hull. You can see the Humber Bridge and Grimsby dock tower. You can see over to the Yorkshire Wolds and the green fields beyond Ganstead roundabout. You can see nearly all sides and edges of Hull. From this height you should be able to see between 20 and 22 nautical miles.

View of east Hull from the eighth floor of Hull College

I'm standing here high up in this building because I am a volunteer for The Hull Vigil. You can read more about this year long performance here. The Hull Vigil is part of Hull’s Freedom Festival.

Hull College and the Vigil shelter

I travel here from east Hull often walking along the southside of Holderness Road. The Vigil shelter becomes visible between Williamson and Thomas Street. Then the curvature of the road and the intervening buildings obscure that top corner of the college. The shelter becomes visible again as I approach, Drypool or North bridge.

When I think of the Vigil, the act of watching and being seen to watch I picture the crow’s nests of whaling ships of the Greenland fisheries. This image was enlivened by The Kraken an installation commissioned for the Hull Maritime Project. Read about it here.

Tentacles patrolling from the Hull Maritime Museum

What would William Scoresby Snr. (1760-1829), the man credited with inventing the crow’s nest have made of those bright mobile tentacles and huge eggs?

The crow’s nest was much more to do with navigation through ice filled waters then the spotting of whales. The structure was also far enough above a ship’s iron rudder work to get more reliable compass readings than from the binnacle when in Arctic waters.

Sketch of a crow's nest by Julie Corbett
A bracket to display the crow's nest in the Hull Maritime Museum

Herman Melville made a little fun of Scoresby in Moby Dick satirising him as Captain Sleet. I feel this is harsh as those whaling trips were all about icy waters and unrelenting cold. In the Arctic, masters and men had little protection from the elements. It was a very precarious living.

In the first chapter of Moby Dick there is a section about the act of looking out from the ports of New York City. It describes men on ship’s rigging and masts leaning out ‘for a better seaward peep’.

Every time I look up and from the college, I see a different view. When I am on the 8th floor, I always look to the Humber I always think of those at sea now and in the past.