June 2023 marks 30 years since Hull City Council and local fishing charity STAND joined forces to buy the Arctic Corsair and turn it into a floating museum for everyone to learn about the trawler and her successful career.
Here’s brief rundown of her history and future.
The Arctic Corsair was built by Cook, Welton & Gemmell in 1960 and, at that time was a modern, conventional side trawler with the registration number H320. She was a state-of-the-art fishing vessel with the latest technology and as soon as she was in service, she quickly became successful. For many years she was among the top money earners. In 1973, the trawler broke the world record for the landing of cod and haddock from the White Sea.
During the third Cod War the Arctic Corsair, under the command of Skipper Charlie Pitts, was involved in a confrontation with the Icelandic Coastguard gunboat, Odinn which resulted in the trawler ramming the Icelandic vessel causing considerable damage to both vessels. This incident was the culmination of months of frustration for British vessels who had been harassed and exposed to hostility and dangerous warp cutting practices from the gunboats. Both the Arctic Corsair and the Odinn were out of commission for a period while repairs were carried out.
When the Cod Wars were lost and traditional fishing grounds off Iceland and Norway became restricted, the industry went rapidly into decline and the Arctic Corsair like most other Hull trawlers was laid up without work. However, after a long period of inactivity she was put back into service in 1985 commanded by Skipper Bernard Wharam, who on five consecutive three week trips broke world record earnings for a side trawler.
In 1993, after being laid up for almost five years, the trawler was purchased by Hull City Council to be converted into a maritime attraction. Fishing Heritage group, STAND, led by the then Chairman Adam Fowler, played a major part in the acquisition and refurbishment of the vessel. The job of refurbishing the vessel was undertaken by numerous stalwart volunteers, many of whom were retired trawlermen and this form of workforce is still in evidence today.
Since being open to the public, the Arctic Corsair’s excellent and knowledgeable volunteer tour guides have shared the trawler’s rich history with thousands of visitors from across the world. She is now also listed on the Historic Ships register, which is an indication of her importance within the heritage of Hull’s Fishing Fleet.
The Arctic Corsair volunteers have provided both an all-year-round voluntary maintenance workforce and a seasonal tour guide service of experienced personnel.
Now, the Arctic Corsair is undergoing restoration and once complete will, for the first time be out of the water, berthed in a dry dock at the historic and poignant North End Shipyard, a hidden gem along the River Hull.
The new attraction at North End Shipyard will not only generate the local history but preserve and secure the Arctic Corsair for years to come.
Once restoration is complete later this year, the trawler will make her final journey from Dunston’s, along the Humber Estuary and River Hull, arriving at North End Shipyard where the complicated and complex task of dry berthing her will take place. It will be here the Arctic Corsair begins a new chapter in her fascinating history.
When berthed, landscaping work to create the sidewalks and finishing touches will get underway and the new maritime experience is expected to open to visitors during summer 2024.