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Whaling history on the NSW South Coast – some quick facts

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Wild About Whales
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Marine mammals
Pod of orcas. Photo: Sapphire Coast Tourism

Today whales in Australian waters are admired, revered and honored. A sight to behold. Truly majestic and a delight to all who see them on land or on the water.

But they’ve endured a mixed history and the ‘VIP’ status of whales in our waters today sadly hasn’t always been the case. And a lot of our whaling history stems from the Far South Coast of NSW.

Here’s some quick facts you may not know about whaling history on the NSW South Coast:

  • Killer whales, or orcas, took advantage of other whales’ annual southern migration through Australia’s waters, targeting vulnerable whales in elaborate hunting strategies in and around Twofold Bay near Eden, on the NSW Sapphire Coast.
  • The first humans to engage with the orcas’ quest for whale meat were the Yuin warriors and their people. Their relationship began hundreds, if not thousands of years ago.
  • When orcas hunted, they would sometimes herd their prey onto the shores of Twofold Bay, the Yuin people would render medicinal oils, even hopping inside the carcass to cure ailments, and dine upon the flesh.
  • In the 1830s and 1840s when Europeans began shore based whaling with hand harpoons and rowboats on Twofold Bay, some competed with the orcas and tried to drive them away.
  • In 1901, famous whaler George Davidson, a third generation whaler, petitioned the NSW Government to protect all orca.
  • By the late 1920s, both the orca pack and whale hunts had dwindled, and the whalers heard reports of steam-ship based whaling operations that had started shooting orcas in Australian waters.
  • The Davidsons stopped whaling in 1930, the same year a famous Orca called Old Tom died. The town’s people gathered his body and preserved his skeleton, establishing the Eden Killer Whale Museum to house it.
  • You can immerse yourself in this story on the Killer Whale Trail.
  • You can find out more about Australia’s whaling history in general and just how much times have changed for our favourite marine mammals.

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