Whaling - Whale Watching

World-wide, by 1845 twenty six thousand whales had been killed!  Nearly one hundred years later in 1935 “whaling ceased” (in most countries waters).  So few southern right whales surviving this time in history, that from this time on they became protected internationally.

The Whaling industry on Norfolk was instigated due to the visiting American whalers.  The Pitcairners had only been recently settled when the whalers would call for water and supplies.  As a result of their experiences islanders got together and bought boats and gear to commence whaling and later building their own boats in the style of the Americans.  The industry is a dangerous one, overturning boats, towed out to sea and ocean through day and night.  Damage, injury and sometimes loss of life all took its toll.  Market for whale oil was found in both Australia and New Zealand.  It made sense to position the “factory” for the industry in Cascade.  This took place after the Ball Bay station was destroyed by fire in 1950.  1955-56 saw the larger Cascade station in existence and run by the Norfolk Island Whaling Co td.  This resulted in quite substantial export gains to the island, but was short-lived and by the end of 1962 the industry was ostensibly shut down. 

A testament to better days is the fact that Whale Watching and not harvesting is now the norm for the island.  We have some annual “watchers” that arrive from their everyday lives on the mainland to visit with us and scan the horizons for whales in our Norfolk waters. Merv and Adrian have been coming for years to catch sight of and collect data for whale watching.  This is done predominantly in the months of September and October – the time of the whale’s Southern migration. 

This passion and dedication is also shared by local fisherman, conservationists and whale enthusiasts all partaking in a regulated count.  Quite often a sighting will be voiced out on the local radio station so that visitors and locals alike can get down and enjoy the sightings of the whales.  In the past five years we were blessed with a particularly special visit from a mother and calf.  It was Bounty day and a whale had been sighted cavorting and breaching just offshore along slaughter bay and not far at times from the jetty.  The two nearly stole the show!  A visit to our museums in Kingston and to the Lions Clubhouse black and white photo display will nourish your appetite for looking at exactly what a gruesome and physically demanding ordeal harvesting whale can be.  The photos and exhibits are well worth the visit.


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