Your browser is unsupported and may have security vulnerabilities! Upgrade to a newer browser to experience this site in all it's glory.
Skip to main content

8 March 2021

Olwen Evans-Knibb, is a Maritime Media Volunteer for the project and she tells us more about the history of the steam trawler, Diana.

Two paintings of the Diana are being conserved as part of the project.

Here's what Olwen discovered as part of her research.

Remember the amazing Shackleton exhibition? Getting stuck in the ice in winter was an occupational hazard for the whalers in the Arctic too.

The trawler Diana was the first steam trawler to sail from Hull in 1858. She was built in 1840 and the steam engine was fitted in 1857. Unfortunately, she had a tragic journey in 1866.

Diana Hull 1867
Oil painting entitled ''Diana', Hll', painted by an unknown artist 1867.

Her captain at the time was John Gravill Sr., a whaler with a career spanning almost 40 years. The ship became trapped in the ice in Baffin Bay and was stuck in the drifting pack for several months.

The captain and many of the crew died due to the harsh conditions and the lack of fresh food. Most of the crew were Shetlanders and their bodies were buried at Lerwick, but Captain Gravill's body was brought back to Hull and it is believed that as many as 15,000 people attended his funeral.

Diana Hull
Oil painting entitled ''Diana', Hull', painted by an unknown artist, 1867.

A memorial was erected through public subscription a couple of years later. The inscription includes a heart-rending description of the dangers faced by the whalers at that time:

“His death resulted from exposure, anxiety and shortness of provisions and fuel during a four months imprisonment in the ice, surrounded by all the dreariness and perils of a cold and desolate Arctic winter, the subsequent death of thirteen of the crew from scurvy and starvation rendered the voyage one of the most disastrous and melancholy on record”

John Gravill Memorial
A memorial was erected

The monument also shows an image of the Diana trapped in the ice.

In October 1869, the Diana was wrecked on Donna Nook sands. The crew were all rescued, but it was the end for the Diana and for a part of Hull's history. She was the last whaler to sail from Hull.

The Monument Shows An Image Of The Diana Trapped In The Ice
The Monument Shows An Image Of The Diana Trapped In The Ice

By a strange turn of fate, Captain Gravill, when first in command of the Diana in 1857, rescued his own son John who was also a whaling captain and had become trapped in the ice. His son, Captain John Gravill Jr., went on to become Captain of the Diana himself from 1858 – 1860.

When he died, a memorial to him was added to the monument to his father.

Captain John Gravill Jr Memorial
Captain John Gravill Jr., went on to become Captain of the Diana himself

**We endeavour to make sure all the research and facts we present by staff and volunteers is accurate and checked with rigor. However, we are only human so please let us know if you spot any errors.**