Thirteen men died in the "Diana". One of the survivors, who kept his own log-book of the ordeal, was the cooper, Joseph Allen of Hull. As Smith describes it: "We cannot sleep, we cannot even eat what little food we have, we cannot rest below deck, in the cabin, upon deck, anywhere. Restless, uneasy, anxious, we will not have a moment's peace of mind or body so long as we are in this awful ice".

Extract from the "Scotsman", April 1867.

The "Diana" was trapped in the pack ice from 21st September 1866 until March 17th, 1867, when she escaped as the pack broke up. Her scurvy-ridden crew then forced her across the Atlantic, reaching Ronas Voe in the Shetlands on April 2nd. The newspaper reporter was appalled:

"Coleridge's Ancient Mariner might have sailed in such a ghastly ship, battered and ice-crushed, sails and cordage blown away, boats and spars cut up for fuel in the awful Arctic winter, the main deck a charnel house not to be described. The miserable scurvy-stricken, dysentery-worn men who looked over her bulwarks were a spectacle, once seen, never to be forgotten... Most pitiable of all were the ship's boys, their young faces wearing a strange aged look not easily to be described. "
Despite these terrible privations the "Diana's" engineer, Emmanuel Webster, was able to write home to his family "... me and my cousin are first rate... our only complaint has been the knife and fork not being so brisk"!

In 1868, the "Diana" went sealing, but without success. In 1869 she went whaling and when returning into the Humber with the oil from one whale on board, a storm swept her on to Donna Nook (Lincolnshire Coast) sands where she broke up.

With the exception of occasional visits by factory ships and their flotillas of catchers (which ceased in the early 1960s with the sale of the British whaling fleet), Hull's long association with whaling ended with the loss of the "Diana" and the port has no links with the massive slaughter of the great whales which still continues in the Antarctic (1975) using every conceivable technical sophistication, a far cry from the days when the Hull men went:

"Where the whale and the shark and the swordfish sleep.
On the craggy ice, in the frozen air.
Heedless of dangers if game be but there.
Encountering all the great whale to snare".

By the mid-1850s the number of Hull whalers had dwindled to a handful, and the only successful British whaling was now centered on the Scottish ports of Dundee and Peterhead, where steam-powered whalers had been successfully introduced. The Crimean War from 1854 to 1856 forced oil and bone prices sky high and resulted in a final fling on the part of the Hull whale and seal companies, who fitted out a few ships with auxiliary steam, mainly for the sealing trade. One of these was the "Diana", the second Hull whaler of that name, a 350 ton German-built ship which Messrs. Brown of Hull fitted with a small and very inefficient steam engine. Great hopes were expressed that she would revive the Arctic trade. Instead she became its epitaph when in 1866 she became beset in the Davis Straits and drifted south all winter in the pack, eventually struggling into the Humber after 14 months, with the captain's body in a tarpaulin on the bridge.

extract from "The Great Whale to Snare" Kingston-upon-Hull Museums


The following link is another account, this time from a Shetland Island perspective, of the tribulations of 'The Diana'


'The Diana'

by James A Pottinger