15th Century Scandinavian Holk
A hulk (or "holk") was a type of medieval sea craft, a technological predecessor of the carrack and carvel. The hulk appears to have remained a relatively minor type of ship apparently peculiar to the low countries of Europe where it was probably used primarily as a river or canal boat, with limited potential for coastal cruising. The name hulk may come from the Greek word holkas, meaning a towed boat, which would be consistent with the use of the hulk as a river barge. The word hulk also has a medieval meaning of "hollowed-out" or "husk-like" which is also apposite for the shape of the basic hulk. In the fourteenth century the hulk began to develop until it was able to rival the cog as a major load carrier in the medieval economy. Whether this was a consequence of a perception of the cog's shortcomings or a result of a shift in the economic geography of Northern Europe towards the Dutch low countries is not easy to discern. By the 15th century, the hulk was replaced by the caravel.