It is a landmark in Hull city centre.
And the water surrounding Princes Quay shopping centre certainly makes it stand out.
But it is more than just an aesthetic asset, providing homes for wildlife and a venue for water sports.
Beneath the surface there are a number of secrets.
And it could be deadly for people to jump in.
At one time Hull docks reached right into the city centre and what is now Queens Gardens was once a dock.
Where Princes Quay now stands was known as Junction Dock and opened in 1829. It was later renamed Prince’s Dock in honour of Prince Albert for the Royal visit in 1854.
The dock was open for 139 years and closed for shipping in 1968.
When Princes’ Quay opened in 1991 it was surrounded by the brackish water fed by the River Humber. Over time the water has become completely fresh as it is now cut off from the Humber and fed by rain water.
How much water is there?
There are two very good reasons why you should not jump into the water at Princes Quay.
One reason is that it really isn’t very warm. It never gets beyond 18C, which sounds okay, but it will probably give you cold water shock, which could prove deadly on a hot day.
The second reason is it is deep. In fact it is eight metres deep and there are hardly any ways of getting out with high walls on every side.
The water feature is roughly 197m long and 124m wide. Taking into account the depth that means it contains almost 43 million gallons of water – enough to fill 65 Olympic-size swimming pools.
The fish, what about the fish?!
The story goes that when Princes Quay shopping centre was first built the brackish water attracted lots of algae. This algae proved a perfect breeding ground for flies which ended up plaguing shoppers in the centre.
The solution was to introduced algae-munching fish to the water and rid the centre of the fly problem.
But in the past few years you will have noticed an increase in fish activity. In fact they have become quite the attraction at Monument Bridge and large numbers congregate in the hope of being fed by shoppers.
In 2010, Princes Quay put more than 1,000 new fish to the water. These consisted of:
- 100 ghost carp
- 500 gold carp
- 200 rudd
- 400 golden orfe
What lies at the bottom?
Being so deep, what lurks at the bottom of the water at Princes Quay is something of a mystery.
Even operations and car park manager Liz Briggs is not entirely certain what is there.
She said: “Many years ago divers did go to the bottom but no one has been down recently. I think they found a few trolleys and even a car.
“I think there is general rubbish and I believe some of the old dock workings still remains below. I imagine there is some weird and wonderful stuff down there.”
Again, if you are thinking about diving in to the water and the depth and cold has not put you off, there is another deterrent.
There are eels lurking at the bottom. Okay, they are not monsters but it is believed a population became trapped down there when Princes Quay was created and remain there to this day.
Apparently, one day several decades ago, a vessel with a consignment of sugar sank in one of the docks.
With eels partial to the sweet stuff, they feasted and there was a population explosion which still exists in Princes Dock.
How is the water maintained?
To be honest, according to Miss Briggs, not too much maintenance is needed.
But each day, crews will head out in the boat, you may have seen them, and collect any rubbish blown in and remove any weeds growing.
Miss Briggs said: “It is fairly easy to maintain. We have issues with weeds growing and make sure big plants don’t take hold. They also collect rubbish blowing into the water on windy days.
“The crews also ensure the life buoys are in good order as we take water safety very seriously.”
Alongside the fish, a dye is used to ensure algae doesn’t grow.
Miss Briggs said: “We use a dye called Dyofix which stops algae from growing. That is also why you will notice the bluey tinge in the water.
“We also have to maintain the water temperature and ensure it doesn’t get too warm to prevent legionella forming.”
How big an asset is the water to Princes Quay?
The answer is simple – huge.
Not only does it provide a beautiful backdrop if you are tucking into a Nandos meal or a pizza at Pizza Express but it provides a great setting for a number of events.
Miss Briggs said: “The water is a massive asset. It is a focal point for the shopping centre and also provides a home for moorhens and ducks.
“We have held a number of events over the years including canoe polo, triathlons and we even had a jet skier performing a number of tricks.
“But it isn’t just leisure. Humberside Fire and Rescue Service often use the water to practice water rescues.”
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