Town Docks Museum, Hull

Richard Cavendish trawls through the exhibits to examine the legacy of the city's whaling and fishing industry.

The singing of the leviathans in the deep echoes through the museum's whaling galleries, an eerie, haunting sound made the more poignant by the instruments of sharp-edged death in the showcases knives, hooks, flensing tools, lances, harpoons and harpoon guns, an evil black blubber pot. Whaling technology reached a peak with the explosive harpoon. Fired into the massive creature's belly, it lodged itself firmly there with four barbs that efficiently opened out for the purpose, and then exploded, sending shrapnel biting and shredding through the body of the whale, which would take about half an hour to die in agony.

A silent comment on these operations is provided by a grotesquely inconvenient Victorian garden seat made of whale bones and vertebrae. Whale oil was used for lighting and soft soap, and whalebone supplied ribs for corsets and umbrellas. For such products the Greenland Right Whale (the 'right' whale to hunt), anything up to sixty-five feet long and sixty-five tons in weight, was slaughtered virtually to extinction by men who risked their lives for their wages and the satisfaction of the chase.

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