(First POSTED Tuesday, September 4, 2007)
The last whale was caught on November 20, 1978. That day nine whales were harpooned.
To fill the annual quota of 713 whales, the three whales chaser ships had to take six female sperm whales. But on the last day of operation (November 21, 1978) no whales were harpooned.
An extract from The Last Whale describing the last day of whaling in Australia:
November 21, 1978 —
The whale chasers dressed up for their last day. Each of the three vessels had flags and bunting flying. The crews had resigned themselves. The industry was gone and their jobs as well.
Those who’d never fired the harpoon cannon got their chance. Skipper Paddy Hart thought he’d give everyone a go. That way they would recall, years later, that they’d actually sent a harpoon flying. “We discharged a lot of shells,” he said.
The Mayor of Albany, Harold Smith, who had fought the political battle on behalf of the whalers, and Ken Marshall, the district’s senior state public servant, joined the crew on the Cheynes II.
“We didn’t see a bloody whale all day,” Harold Smith said. The last whale caught by the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company was the previous day (November 20, 1978).
“As we came in, the manager (Geoff) Reilly fired a harpoon in the direction of the whaling station as a gesture. They came in right close to shore at Frenchman Bay and fired over at the whaling station.
Steam whistles blew as they returned to harbour. Bob Wych, chief engineer on the Cheynes IV, pushed the ship hard. He belted the shit out of the engine coming home and they gave a couple of toots coming through the heads.
On the Cheynes III, skipper Gordon Cruickshank relaxed the no-alcohol rule and broke out the beers. “What are they going to do, sack us?” he told the crew.
© 2008 Text Copyright Chris Pash. All Rights Reserved.
Photograph © Copyright ED SMIDT. All Rights Reserved.