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Despite the better angels of my nature, I feel constrained to go where the prudent would fear to venture. The nautical archaeologists have despaired of one particular ship type: the "mysterious" hulc (also spelt hulk in english). This is a type of ship depicted on town seals, coins, illuminated manuscripts, baptismal fonts, church pews and probably toilet walls during the late mediaeval period. It seems to have largely supplanted the cog but also predated it. Having plodded through many learned disquisitions on the subject and squinted at dozens of poorly done illustrations of vessels which look strangely like those in the "Owl and the Pussycat", I have decided to dive down the rabbit-hole.

The problem is that no-one has found a single wreck which can with a straight face be identified as a hulc. And this is a vessel said to be widespread from the baltic to Portugal and beyond for centuries. Curiouser and curiouser. 

 

And what are the supposed characteristics of this apocryphal beastie? It was, on the basis of town seals etc. to be a largeish banana-shaped vessel with often depicted reverse-clinker planking (reverse lapstrake), no keel, no stem or stern post, square sails and a funny looking collar round its neck. If you told a five year old " draw daddy a sailing ship", this is what they would draw.

 

Nonetheless, whole forests have been denuded by learned nauticals writing exhaustive academic blatherings on this unicorn of the oceans. Academic reputations have risen and fallen on the deck of the Incredible Hulc. Here are some typical examples of the elusive animal which seems, like the Cheshire cat, to have faded away leaving only a quizzical grin.

 

13th-century-borough-seal-of-new-shoreham.jpg.b115a2e0f85a8ef6071fe20743155bdc.jpg432px-Codex_Manesse_Friedrich_von_Hausen.jpg.79f804469b9f5151c5d084b7522fda84.jpgbrendanwhale.jpg.4ba4f18f43e55a2eef9a4849cbab56dd.jpg7384502_hulcseal02.jpg.15849b3e0ed53665d0c25f1ae4da4d3b.jpg729378712_hulcseal04.jpg.8a30a5896f3f6f96dc456332841b20d8.jpg1940824591_salisburycathedral.jpg.41dd20bef7724944d7ab6a11b1696eee.jpg288px-Worcester_chronicle_-_Henri_I_in_a_hulk.jpg.e1bbad6d788b1604cceb84ddb5ab6492.jpg

 

Is it possible to do a model of one of these things based on the above? Maybe not but perhaps it would be fun to try.

 

As a first toe in the ocean, I spent last weekend at the drawing board trying to pull all the elements together into something that looked sturdy, workaday and able to withstand storms in the Baltic and Bay of Biscay. It also had to be somewhat banana-like. Here 'tis:

20200914_152426b.jpg.4718b224c4c000900c4637d88a9f6dbe.jpg

 

I think it looks like your generic mediaeval ship and lacks only castles. I don't think it quite catches the eccentricity of the banana boats and I plan to rethink.

 

"I see nobody on the road" said Alice.

"I only wish I had such eyes" the King remarked in a fretful tone. "To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance too!"

 

Cheers

Dick

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1 hour ago, druxey said:

Is this to be a Snark or Boojum? I look forward to the Incredible (in the original sense of the word!) Hulc.

As there is no extant picture of either, I would hesitate to conjecture. However, I hope I will not end up finding a boo..........

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Well, I may be barking up the wrong tree but I did a bit of searching and since you include the seal of Winchelsea in your examples

 

kent-seal.jpg   Winchelseaz1.jpg 

 

which appears to be a Nef as Winchelsea was one of the Cinque-Ports.

 

Nef (ship type)

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The Nef , anciently also Naves , Cinque-Port-Schiff or to differentiate it more clearly from the general French name Nef for ship , also called Norman Nef , designates a single-masted merchant ship type, which in the Middle Ages from the 11th to the 13th century was mainly used in Western Europe Coasts and with the southern English city union, the Cinque Ports , was very common. The Nef is generally known for its depictions on city seals, the depiction of cruise fleets and the possible depiction of early Nef types on the Bayeux Tapestry .

The above was translated using Chrome's built in translator.

Some Model info and pics here. 

 

The more biblical images may be something else altogether. The 'whale' image (larger version here) may be fishing boat size.

 

 

 

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iMustBeCrazy, I'm really curious as to where you got that definition of nef - because I've been calling that type of ship a nef and I thought it was just me . . . do you mean to say that's the official name of the thing and I somehow came up with it independently?

 

By the way, surely the Winchelsea ship doesn't qualify as a hulc because it has a stempost and sternpost. Which way the planks overlap is a little equivocal, but from a pic with better detail it looks more like standard clinker than reverse . . .

 

1676288990_SealofthecityofWinchelsea(1274).thumb.jpg.1c6847f9f56e81dfbee714b38ffeb286.jpg

 

At least the bowsprit doesn't get mixed up with the rudder sometimes . . . 

(A thing, as the Bellman remarked,
That frequently happens in tropical climes,
When a vessel is, so to speak, "snarked.”)

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Quite so, Craig. Which is when it gets very confusing. Some would say that hulc is a generic term for a heavy seagoing vessel of any type including nefs. Let us say that for the purposes of this conjectural and very suspect model, a hulc has no keel (but may have a false keel), is reverse clinker planked (although it may be normal clinker), is banana shaped and has no stem or stern posts. The Winchelsea thingie is expunged from the list. Clear as mud in a beerbottle!

 

Prof. Jonathan Adams has written on this subject somewhat sceptically (I cant imagine why!):

Something is wrong, for if vessels of this type existed in any numbers, especially over a period of many centuries, then there must have been losses, abandonments and re-use. It would be odd then, even given the vagaries of the archaeological record and all the other factors that influence patterns of discovery, if none had been found.

..................

But as we know that ships called hulks certainly did exist, including their equivalents elsewhere such as the Portuguese urca, in view of the number of medieval ships and boats that have been found, the implication is that among their number we may have been looking at hulks all the time.

Adams, J. R.. A Maritime Archaeology of Ships: Innovation and Social Change in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe . Oxbow Books. 

 

So the implication is that the hulc as a distinct type may not have existed but was a whole horde of different hull types lumped together (even nefs) and that the funny looking banana boats are an artefact produced by deluded illuminators and by sculptors forced to fit pictures of ships on round coins and seals. That would be sad. So I prefer to believe on the basis of no science that it would be nice if hulcs were real and would like a lovely spurious model of one to put on my shelf.

 

By the way, I have a cunning plan which may show how reverse clinker is not as silly as it sounds and indeed has theoretical advantages over normal clinker. 

 

The whale pictured under the boat is I think a representation of the voyage of St Brendan not the Bible 

 

Yours spuriously

Dick

 

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18 hours ago, woodrat said:

Despite the better angels of my nature, I feel constrained to go where the prudent would fear to venture.

    Venture forth.  We are right behind you.  <Who brought a flashlight?>

 

    One theory I have heard regarding the banana shape is:  The bow and stern planks are curved as they are so they can be nailed bolted (clinker style) in such a way as to provide the support one would normally get from a stem/stern post.

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8 hours ago, Louie da fly said:

I'm really curious as to where you got that definition of nef - because I've been calling that type of ship a nef and I thought it was just me . . . do you mean to say that's the official name of the thing and I somehow came up with it independently?

You probably read it somewhere sometime and it stuck in the back of your mind. The definition came from a wiki in German (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nef_(Schiffstyp), no English version exists so I've attached a PDF of the translation.

Nef (ship type) - Wikipedia.pdf

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Alas, my trusty OED was not helpful on this point. Nef comes from the Latin nave, and can mean a hollow space, hence the nave of a church. There seems to be no specific meaning in ship type. Hulc, was apparently a specific ship type, given in a list of other ship types in the 1480's but, frustratingly, gives no definition of the type either! Sorry, ladies and gentlemen. 

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1 hour ago, druxey said:

Alas, my trusty OED was not helpful on this point. Nef comes from the Latin nave, and can mean a hollow space, hence the nave of a church. There seems to be no specific meaning in ship type.

It seems that most references of 'Nef' as a ship are German and most (by far) in English are of a table ornament in the shape of a ship. This site http://www.cogandgalley.com/2011/05/nef-as-ship.html gives a publication in English as a reference but that too may use German references.

 

My next post will be back on topic (I think).

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Thanks, iMustBeCrazy. Yes, the name nef is just the mediaeval French word for a ship, so it's like calling a carrack a nao - context is all. The Wikipedia article is interesting (once I'd worked out that the word google translated as "straps" should have been "oars") - I'd like to follow up on some of  the sources the article is based upon, though - such as what's the evidence for the contention that it is similar to the Knorr with its clinker-built hull and rudder attached to the starboard side, but it is significantly more bulbous than its Scandinavian predecessor. and also that  the Nef was equipped with a continuous deck, but often rose steeply at the ends of the ship to the stems. I know of no evidence to back either of these contentions up - they may well be true, but I'd like to see the evidence, particularly as one of the sources it quotes dates back to 1914.

13 hours ago, woodrat said:

So the implication is that the hulc as a distinct type may not have existed but was a whole horde of different hull types lumped together (even nefs)

Which is my own opinion. But what the hey, in the frumious spirit of investigation and quest for knowledge, I think this is all very well worth while.

 

One from the mid 15th century:

 

443761229_C.1460DecameronHarvardMSRichardson031f_152v..jpg.765f99e46d318b9873963de423f2d2a8.jpg

 

C. 1460 Decameron Harvard MS Richardson 031 f. 152v.

 

 

And as late as 1588, accounts of the Spanish Armada refer to a large number of "hulks" being part of the Spanish fleet. Now this is an English translation and I don't know what the original Spanish word was, but perhaps it was urca, as above. Here are a couple of possible 16th century candidates:

 

       1104143075_1558DePiscumandAquatiliumAnimatumNaturaConradGesner.gif.1b3344b81dadfc1eddfe929dd2ded552.gif                                            1027286588_CosmographySamuelMunster1598.jpg.c8d2c86db43de416c521f5c04740a2ea.jpg      

 

1558 De Piscum and Aquatilium Animatum Natura Conrad Gesner                                                     Cosmography Samuel Munster 1598

 

And as you can see, these pictures also show the snarks . . . 

 

Dick, it occurs to me that as the hulc seems to be a northern development it would be somewhat rounder amidships than your diagram above, more like a knarr

 

2076964056_KnarrOttar-Skuldelevreconstruction.JPG.f3c16966cbcf8c6572eb04ac944dee9e.JPG

 

though the bow and stern would have to be rounder to allow for the lack of a stem and sternpost.

 

                                     

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6 hours ago, Louie da fly said:

Dick, it occurs to me that as the hulc seems to be a northern development it would be somewhat rounder amidships than your diagram above, more like a knarr

My first draft was twice as wide as the second. As a plan of action I will not be probing blindly with a flashlight. I will use as a sort of template the patia boats of the Bay of Bengal. These vessels had reverse clinker up to the turn of bilge and clinker to the gunwale. They were successful fishing boats and, as I will detail in a later post, have distinct theoretical advantages over clinker.

 1682673782_patiareverseclinker11.thumb.jpg.5f578cc92c9cce674491bf49a28157e2.jpg

this is a rough plan view of a patia. But I really have no idea of the beam to keel ratio of a hulc. All suggestions will be considered.

 

Dick

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Well, I think I've been running around in circles chasing others who are running around in circles chasing their tails. Many seem to be jumping to conclusions and using those conclusions to 'prove' other conclusions.

 

What I haven't seen is any hard facts.

 

Anybody know Latin?

 

The Texas A&M University in 'an introduction to Nautical Archaeology'  https://nautarch.tamu.edu/class/316/hulk/   gives hoc hulci signo vocor os sic nomine digno (by this picture of a hulk I am called mouth thus by a worthy name) for the text on the New Shoreham seal.

 

Google translate gives:

 

Shot0002.jpg.d417eb7c3b5cffb61fc15188ec827a93.jpg

 

Shorehams1b.jpg.76af4a99dd38967050c1965520ab28f6.jpg

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1 hour ago, woodrat said:

They were successful fishing boats and, as I will detail in a later post, have distinct theoretical advantages over clinker.

I am interested in the concept of reverse clinker, and agog to find out what the advantages might be.

I read the article on the patia, and definitely learned several new things.


The section of a patia showing the reverse and normal clinker is interesting- the reverse clinker strakes are /appear to be well overlapped, so that it has elements of 

the a sandwich method of building and must make for a robust hull

 

Meanwhile, back at the plot.  At some future time you are going to construct a banana to the likely recipe, having regard to all the archeological, pictorial and sigillographic evidence. ( the latter evidence agrees uniformly that the hulk Fits neatly in a circle and seems to have shrouds spaced evenly down the whole length of the hull(c))

 

Since I had never heard of a hulc as a type of ship, there is nothing I can contribute apart from my support, admiration of your frumiousness and the suggestion that the building should probably be carried out with a no11 vorpal.

 

image.png

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Yes, that's a good translation - as I see it, the idea of the inscription is a play on words, that it's appropriate to put a hulc on the seal of Hulkesmouth.

 

Aha! New thought! Even better! 

 

Signo is "I signify" or "I show", vocor is "my name is"  and os is "mouth" so perhaps it should be

 

"By this hulc  and [the word] mouth I show that my name is the same as this worthy name (i.e Hulkesmouth),

 

so yes it's actually a much cleverer pune or play on words than any previous translation has made clear.

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Is it possible that all these terms are for the same ship?   And also, the style of the art.  It wasn't it until much later after this period that true dimensional artwork came about.  Before that, very stylized as some of the pictures show a minimal amount the hull in the water.  

 

I'm not an expert but it does seem that the artworks progressed in detail and the way the ships appear.

 

The alternative is that they actually did look and float like that and were very tiny given the size of the passengers.

 

I am enjoying this conversation (as well as on the other builds of this era) and am learning a lot.

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I thought it would come to this, which is why I avoided the etymology of hulc.

All the googlies are wrong . dingno is a misspelling for digno. Louis the latin fly's translation was a noble attempt.

People have ascribed the name hulk to the greek holcas  (probably a towed barge) but this is not likely. It is probably originally  from the low countries.

 

Hulkesmouth was the old name of  Shoreham till 1541. My translation  follows thus: hoc (by this) signo (seal) os (this word which is usually translated as mouth also was used in latin as equivalent to portus or port. Therefore the play on names: port of the hulk = Hulkesmouth), hulci (of the Hulc) vocor (I am called) sic (thus) nomine (by a name) digno (suitable or fitting). Or loosely, "by this seal Hulkesmouth is given a fitting name". This is my translation. Steven's was close. 

 

It's all Laughing and Grief to me!

Dick

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40 minutes ago, Louie da fly said:

"By this hulc  and [the word] mouth I show that my name is the same as this worthy name (i.e Hulkesmouth),

I was going to say that a reasonable interpretation was "This is the symbol (sign) of Hulkesmouth".

 

But I decided to check if the Adur (the river through Shoreham) was ever called the 'Hulk'. Nope, nothing solid, not even firm.

 

I did come up with "In 1457 the port of Shoreham is named in a document as Hulkesmouth alias Shorham. The New Shoreham Borough Seal of c. AD 1295 shows a ship in a curved form." http://www.glaucus.org.uk/Toponymy.htm

 

That suggests the seal is almost 200 years older than the only reference to Hulkesmouth!

 

It also leaves it open that 'hulci' might refer to the ship.

 

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Seaography!  Like it, but the lettering is a bit ephemeral.

I suspect that flumenography comes into it as well as we are discussing a rivermouth, or “os” 

 

I like Steven’s convincing parsing of the Pune, or play on worrrrds.

 

Dick, whatever style of reverse banana you build, it is in danger of becoming the only physical representation of a hulc ( or is it an hulc?) and therefore cited in learned treatiseseses for ever.  If Steven can present evidence from any 3 random planks, you have a golden ( or possibly gloden) opportunity the recreate the hulc and Gift it to Posterity!

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Found something, seems well researched. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol6/pt1/pp164-166

 

Borough Seal Of New Shoreham (½)

The matrices of the seal used by the borough in the early 14th century (fn. 72) are round, 2¾ in. in diameter, and made of latten. (fn. 73) On the obverse are the arms of de Braose, a lion rampant facing sinister (allegedly through the engraver's carelessness) (fn. 74) on a field of cross-crosslets, impaling the three leopards of England; legend, Lombardic, s(igillum) communitatis burgde de nova shoram brewes. On the reverse is the representation of a ship with human heads and cross-crosslets; legend, Lombardic, hoc hulci singno vocor os sic nomine dingno, which alludes to the name Hulksmouth used of the river or harbour in the 14th and 15th centuries and is best translated 'By this sign I am called hulk's mouth, and a worthy name it is'. The ship is said to be of the time of Edward III, (fn. 75) but the last word of the legend on the obverse suggests a date before 1324 when William de Braose surrendered his life-estate in the honor of Bramber, including New Shoreham. The lion rampant facing sinister on a field of cross-crosslets was used on its seal by the urban district council from 1894. (fn. 76)

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As Craig has shown, There is no river Hulk for it to have a mouth. Mouth comes from the anglo-saxon mūða which does mean mouth as in outlet of  cf. Portesmūða meaning mouth of the portus. Hence my contention that os hulci means outlet or port for hulks. I think that whichever bored monk was given the job of coming up with a logo for Shoreham had a mean sense of humour which could only be satisfied by punning. The misspelling of singno and dingno is probably due to a dingbat of a carver who couldnt carve letters backwards or had too much mead for breakfast.

I'm going away to lie down for a while.😕

Dick

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3 hours ago, woodrat said:

Hence my contention that os hulci means outlet or port for hulks.

Damn! I was going to say that!

 

I do wonder whether the author might have included the "mouth"meaning of os as an extra pun (or pune) additional to "port". In the immortal words of Led Zeppelin "You know sometimes words have two meanings".

 

Back to the actual subject of the thread (i.e. building a model of a "hulc" , whatever that may be) are you planning to put castles on it? Additional to the reverse clinker and lack of stem and sternposts these seem to be a common feature, though never specified in academic discussions.

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6 hours ago, liteflight said:

Dick, whatever style of reverse banana you build, it is in danger of becoming the only physical representation of a hulc ( or is it an hulc?) and therefore cited in learned treatiseseses for ever.  If Steven can present evidence from any 3 random planks, you have a golden ( or possibly gloden) opportunity the recreate the hulc and Gift it to Posterity!

Yes, indeed, Andrew. With the Abominable Snowman at the tiller, a Sasquatch as the forrard hand and a unicorn in the hold. And yes, it should be an hulc.

 

Am I planning to put castles on it?

It would look like a nude banana without them

 

Dick

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