How the Truelove spent 130 years at sea


We’ve teamed up with Hull Museums to bring you a weekly series of historical facts and tales.

This week we look at Truelove, the last surviving ship in Hull’s whaling history.

At war

Built in 1764 in Philadelphia, America, the Truelove came into English hands during the American War of Independence.

During the war she had been used as a privateer. This meant that she was armed, owned and crewed by a private organisation, but commissioned by the government for purposes of war.

A whaler

Hull wine merchant and ship owner, John Voase, was the first Englishman to own Truelove. Soon after his purchase, he converted her into a whaling ship.

She was extremely successful, making over 80 voyages. Over the years she was used to hunt more than 500 whales, as well as many seals, polar bears, walruses and narwhals.

The vessel was also used for general trade with Baltic ports and regularly brought in wine from Portugal.

Danger struck the Truelove crew in 1835 when the ship was caught in ice in Melville Bay, Greenland. Twenty ships were crushed during this incident, but the Hull ship remained unscathed.

Famous captains of Truelove

One of the city’s most noted whaling captains, William Barron, sailed aboard Truelove. His first journey in 1849 was during his apprentice years – he was the youngest on board. Twelve years later he would become Captain.

John Parker captained Truelove for 17 years. He was also a master on the whalers for 27 years; a record that was not broken by any other.

Lastly, William Wells sailed the Truelove. He went on to become an advisor to the well-known Arctic explorer, Benjamin Leigh Smith.

As transport

In the mid-1800s, Truelove transported a couple from Greenland to Hull so that they could take part in talks in Manchester and York. The couple, Memiadluk and Uckaluk, were visiting England to raise awareness of the dire conditions of their homeland.

Unfortunately, the couple died on their way home due to an outbreak of measles on board the ship. Plaster casts of the Greenlanders’ heads, as well as the captain of Truelove, can be seen at the Hull Maritime Museum.

Returning home

In her last years, Truelove sailed alongside the more advanced, steam-powered whalers and continued her career throughout the 1850s and 1860s.

On her 109th birthday, she travelled home to the port of Philadelphia, where she was presented with a flag.

The end of an era

There were several talks about what to do with the historic vessel. One suggestion was to use her as a floating museum, but this never came to fruition.

Her last days were spent on the Thames. In the 1890s, after an incredible 130 years at sea, Truelove was broken up.

The ship is famous as she outlived all the other boats that were built at the same time. She survived the harsh conditions of the whaling industry and continued to be used alongside ships with more advanced technologies.

If you want to find out more about Truelove, visit Hull Maritime Museum in Queen Victoria Square.

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