Maritime history is long and eventful, speaking of a simple technology that can go a long way. Since the beginning of this mode of transportation, the ships have undergone a lot of transformation. Today ships are much more tech savvy, sans the heavy hulls or sails, but today’s ships have evolved over long time, surpassing many of its ancestors on the way. Among the types of ships that were once common but are no longer to be seen around much are the hulks.
Hulk ships: The meaning
Talking about this particular ship among other ancient ships, a hulk ship was like any other ordinary ship used for conventional purposes, but had only one difference – they didn’t float. To put it simply, a hulk ship was a ship that can stay afloat the water but cannot be used for any successful excursions. Such ships were usually the old ships in a condition too dilapidated to allow them onto the open oceans.
They could either be too old or worn out or lacking some essential machinery which is beyond repair. Such ships were considered unsafe for purpose of sailing but not completely useless to be discarded as a whole. Hence, somewhere in between the two, a solution was worked out where the ship with it floating structure and rest of it was retained to allow it to stay afloat on the water. These ships were very common during the 18th and 19th century, a time when world was witnessing lot of development in terms of trade and discoveries and ships were being used quite commonly.
Uses of hulk ships
A hulk ship or the hulks, as they were also called sometimes, could be used for a lot of purposes. Since they could steadily stay on the still waters without posing much danger, they came to be used mainly as a storage place for different types of things ranging from commodities of trade to people.
The use of these ancient ships was restricted to being used a warehouse on water that was almost more convenient to most of the traders. Storing their materials on these ships allowed the traders easier loading and unloading on to the other ships and hence became a very common use of these sedentary ships.
Types of hulk ships
Sheer hulk: A hulk ship, once marked such, could be used for a lot of purposes. Each purpose converted it into different kinds. The most common type of the hulk ship was a sheer hulk- a demisted structure that allowed sailors a comfortable way of repairing another in-service ship. These hulks could be used to store extra masts, sails or any other equipment that needed to be loaded on to the ship being repaired providing a more convenient way of doing so.
Prison ships: There was a type of hulk ship which was even more common than the above mentioned and it was the prison ship. As the name indicates, a prison ship was used as a place to keep the prisoners until they could be transferred to prisons overseas. During the 18th century, such kind of hulks became extremely common, especially in parts of Britain where constant development of trade meant production of hulks was often and continuous.
Hospital hulks: These hulk ships included the hospital hulks which served as temporary hospitals for varying durations. Because they offered a place to tend to the sick easily, sometimes they were used for such a purpose for extended periods.
Storage hulk ships: Storage hulk ships however were also one of the most common types of ancient ships. These ships could be used to store a wide range of commodities like the spices and condiments, fabrics, inks and paints, gun powder etc. Besides these, any of the substances of common trade back then could be stored in one of such ships.
Recruit hulks: Another use the hulk ships were put to was to serve as a collecting unit for recruited sailors. These ships were mainly used as a place to offer lodgings to these sail men until they went off to their excursions.
Alternatively, many types of hulk ships emerged which included likes of school hulks, convict hulks, stationary store ships etc. However, as the maritime history progressed its way through the pages to the new world, hulk ships became obsolete and today, what remains of them is just accounts of various purposes they served before finally perishing away.