Hannah Fleming’s beautiful oars took inspiration from a 1902 SS Active logbook held by the University Archives. The whaling logbooks given an insight into this industry and tell of successes and challenges. Sadly, the SS Active was to sink near Orkney losing all of her crew.


This day begins … (2019) by Hannah Fleming

“Deaths. Lives. Whales. This work explores an industry that was crucial to Dundee from 1753 – 1914. Through text and symbolism, the work brings back to life both the death of Dundee’s whaling industry and that of one of its ships, the whaler SS Active, from whose logbook of 1902 this work has drawn inspiration. Years of over-fishing meant that whales were becoming increasingly hard to find. Hence the Dundee Whaling Expedition of 1892-93, where four steam-powered ships, including the Peterhead-built SS Active, sailed to the Antarctic – and returned empty-handed. The 1902 logbook, kept by Dundee University Archives, describes one of the last whaling expeditions of the SS Active from Dundee to Hudson Bay. David Esplin, the logbook’s author, often started each entry with: ‘This day begins …’. On a later voyage, the SS Active foundered and sank off Orkney. All on board were drowned.”

Hannah Fleming is a mixed-media artist working across film, sound, installation, photography and sculpture.

River Deep Mountain High was an exhibition in the University’s Lamb Gallery to mark the Year of Coast and Watercurated by Archive Services. Artists, designers and creative writers were invited to respond to the University’s rich archive, museum and rare book collections on the themes of rivers, seas, coasts and mountains. Original photographs, journals, plans, models and specimens relating to whaling, the River Tay, the natural world and mountaineering inspired jewellery, artwork, sculpture, poetry and much more.

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