Driving along the A63, as it merges wit the Clive Sully, the major artery of Kingston-upon-Hull, having passed under the Humber Bridge and continuing to hurtle towards the city centre, I see the Lord Line building, that rotting and abandoned monument, casting its shadow over the city and its estuary.
Built to serve Hull’s deep sea trawlermen, the Lord Line and its surrounding out-buildings somehow repeatedly avoid demolition and redevelopment –– much like the city itself (at least until recently).
Elsewhere in Yorkshire, reminders of a once-proud mining industry slip from view. In Sheffield I’ve heard they turn slag heaps into public parks, ski slopes, golf courses. Geological matter so deeply excavated cannot be put back but it is nonetheless buried, becoming one more layer of the city’s substrate, albeit uneven, the scar tissue of shifting industries.
In Hull, you can’t escape the water. It haunts and mocks. Worked or not, it laps the shore and the tide never changes.
Cod, like coal, was to be a pawn in wider political and economic issues, but in the early weeks of 1968 the enemy was atrocious weather. [via]
Many of the 20th century’s mining disasters are well known. Subterranean terrors calcify the public imagination. The darkness of Hull’s oceanic disasters are equally unfathomable and far less visible. The first two months of 1968 in particular are known for the Triple Trawler Tragedy, claiming 60 lives alone. Coastal industries have the unfortunate complication of being at the mercy of “fanged noumena”.
Is not transcendental philosophy a fear of the sea? Something like a dike or a sea-wall?
A longing for the open ocean knows at us, as the land is gnawed by the sea. A dark fluidity at the roots of our nature rebels against the security of terra firma, provoking a wave of anxiety in which we are submerged, until we feel ourselves drowning, with representation draining away. Nihil ulterius. 
Some 6000 deaths have been recorded at sea since records began but Hull has prospered as a fishing town long before then. The true numbers are unimaginable.
In the 12th century, the fishing monks of Meaux Abbey established what was then Wyke-upon-Hull as a site of national important for fishing and trade, leading to its eventual nomination as a King’s Town. The word “Wyke” comes from the Scandinavian vik — meaning ‘port’ — which suggests the region was important for a few hundred years before records began.
Wyke is a name that locals will recognise as belonging to a local Further Education college but perhaps without knowledge of its origins. The same goes for the city’s peculiar accent which still retains the soft vowel “ø“.
Hull remains a Viking town, through and through, but it has a tendency to forget itself.
After hundreds of years of gradually increasing prosperity, Hull’s fishing industry succumbed to the Cod Wars of the 20th century — successive wars over fishing territories between the UK and Iceland, of which Iceland won each one successively. Boats and shipsremain a familiar fixture of the city’s edges and rivers but the smell of fish that once clouded the city in its prime is now, for better and for worse, long gone.
How much thought is given to the olfactory consequences of post-industrial decline?