Posts Tagged ‘whaling’

The Protest at the Gates

September 7, 2011

Pat Rose Farrington (Centre) at the gates of the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company, protesting against the last whaling station in Australia. Albany, Western Australia, August 28, 1977 (Copyright 1977. All Rights Reserved. Jonny lewis Collection)

 From The Last Whale, Chapter Ten ‘At The Gates’: “Pat (Rose) Farrington was at the centre of the crowd of banner-carrying anti-whaling activists, while floating at the back was the life-sized blow-up plastic Miss Cachalot … “

Protest at Australia's last whaling station August 28, 1977 (Copyright 1977. Jonny lewis Collection. All Rights Reserved)


The Phantom Returns

July 2, 2010

The Phantom, Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin, has emerged from the jungle.

As chronicled in The Last Whale, The Phantom took a leading role in the original Save the Whales campaign which eventually saw the end of ‘commercial’ whaling and the creation of the South Ocean Sanctuary.

The Phantom was spotted in Morocco in June 2010 where the International Whaling Commission was meeting. He told friends he was again taking an active role to stop whaling. He’d withdrawn from the world stage in the 1980s because he felt the whales were safe. This had dramatically changed with proposals which may allow commercial whaling again.

See the photograph taken by Australian Jonny Lewis. Jonny and Jean-Paul formed the Whale and Dolphin Coalition in 1977 to take action against Australia’s last whaling station in Albany, Western Australia.  They both piloted Zodiac inflatable boats to run interference against the three vessel Australian fleet.

It was Jonny Lewis who coined the nickname The Phantom after Jean-Paul’s ability to appear out of nowhere to fight evil.

Jonny Lewis and Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin reunited in Morocco. The Phantom was particularly concered at Japan’s plans to take Cachalot (sperm whales) which have the largest and most complex brains on the planet. He regards these whales as his personal totem.

What year did whaling end in Australia?

February 26, 2010

The ABC TV program Can we Help? ran a segment (Friday, April 24, 2009), Moment in Time, about the end of whaling in Australia.

On the program Chris Pash, the author of The Last Whale, says: ‘Every boy at school wanted to be a whaler because they were big tough guys and they earned big money and it was a wonderful adventure. In town, they were regarded very well, they were paid well and contributed to the economy.’

The program runs some very good archival footage of protests in 1977 against the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company at Albany, Western Australia. You can download the clip (24/04/2009) Episode 11 Can We Help?

Chris Pash: ‘I quite enjoyed going out on the whaling ships and I like the people themselves, good Aussie blokes enjoying themselves, bit of mateship, bit of fun but the killing bit, I don’t think even they liked that, there was a hint of sadness every time they landed a whale.’

Australia harpooned its last whale, a female sperm whale, in November 1978.

Whale Hunter Turned Protector

February 25, 2010

FIRST POSTED Sunday, December 14, 2008

Paddy Hart, the master and harpoon gunner of the Cheynes II whale chaser ship when Australia’s last whaling station closed thirty years ago, was in Tokyo last week (December 2008) to protest whaling by Japan.

During the lead up to the closure, Paddy was a whale chaser skipper out of Albany, Western Australia, during Greenpeace’s first direct action in Australia. Activisits took to Zodiac inflatable boats to place themselves between harpoons and whales.

As recorded in The Last Whale, Paddy played a leading role on the side of Australia’s last whalers during the first Save the Whale Campaign in the 1970s. Now he’s on the side of the whales.

“Greenpeace asked me to come along and tell Japanese people that there’s life after whaling, and I am honoured to be there,” Paddy said in Tokyo. Paddy met Steve Shallhorn, the CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, at the launch of The Last Whale, the book by Chris Pash about the final days of whaling in Australia.

He called on the Japanese people to ask their government to find alternative ventures for whalers.

“They’re spending money and losing money on food people don’t even like anymore. Also, there’s no humane way to kill a whale, speaking from experience as a whale gunner.”

Paddy is living proof that there is a life after whaling. “I have sympathy for the whalers in one sense because I’ve been in that situation. But, if whaling stops, like us, they can get on with it and find something else to do.”

“If they want to start killing humpback whales, they should know that they’re the backbone of a $300 million industry in Australia,” Paddy said.

“It’s taken 40 years for the whales to come to trust us and let the boats come close to see them. As soon as these fellows start shooting them, we’ve lost that trust and that industry, and our grandchildren will never see a whale.”

Maritime History Book Prize

February 24, 2010

Australia's last whaling ships. Photo Copyright Ed Smidt. All Rights Reserved

The Last Whale by Chris Pash was shortlisted for the 2009 Frank Broeze Memorial Maritime History Book Prize.

Pash said: “I am happy for the recognition it gives to the last whalers of Albany, Western Australia, and happy also that the work of the anti-whaling activists is not forgotten.

“I don’t see myself as a maritime historian – my job was to re-create the sea battle between the last whalers and the group of activists who tried to stop them in 1977.”

Pash said that while whaling was reviled by society today, it played a major part in building settlement in Australia.

“Whale products, not wool, were Australia’s first exports,” he said.

“Understanding both groups – whalers and activists – provides insight into the issues surrounding whaling today.”

The Last Whale, published by Fremantle Presss, captures and preserves the final days of a major part of Australia’s maritime history – whaling. The last whaling station closed in 1978 in Albany, Western Australia.

The $2000 Frank Broeze Memorial Maritime History Book Prize is awarded every two years by the Australian Association for Maritime History (AAMH) and the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM).

The 2009 prize went to Captain Cook: Voyager Between Worlds (Hambledon Continuum, 2007) by John Gascoigne.

Frank Broeze was born in the Netherlands in August 1945, and died in Perth on 4 April 2001. He was one of the founders of the AAMH and the founding editor of its journal. He was the President of the International Commission of Maritime History and Vice-President of the International Maritime Economic History Association for many years. He also served on the Board of the West Australian Maritime Museum and was its deputy chairman from 1994 until his death in 2001.

The Last Whale Harpooned by Australians

February 23, 2010

(First POSTED Tuesday, September 4, 2007)

Gordon Cruickshank on the Cheynes III in 1977. Photo Copyright Ed Smidt. All Rights Reserved.

Over the 26 years that the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company operated, about 16,100 whales were harpooned: 14,600 sperms whales; 1,500 humpback whales (according to Whale World).

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.

“It was a beautiful trip, a lovely day and we had a nice meal, a good steak. It was a great experience. I’d never been before and, after that, they closed up. They were a good bunch of guys, that’s for sure. They accepted the situation and that was the end. It was a good atmosphere.”

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.

The Last Whale Documentary

February 22, 2010

Filming at Australia's last whaling station

A documentary based on the book, The Last Whale, has started with filming in Albany, Western Australia, the site of Australia’s last whaling station. The Director is Mick McIntyre.

“This documentary will get inside the heads of the whalers as they hunt sperm whales in Western Australia in the 1970s,” said McIntyre.

McIntyre is close to finishing a six to seven minute trailer, which will used to seek funding for a full length documentary.

The documentary will feature interviews filmed with whalers and activists based in Western Australia, New South Wales and Europe. While filming, McIntyre and author Chris Pash uncovered new footage of the 1977 anti-whaling protests against Australia’s last whaling station in Albany. They are keen to source more.

“There must be reels of home footage on whaling gathering dust in attics.

“We’re keen to obtain any old movie footage of whaling in Australia, particularly in Albany,” said McIntyre.

Author Chris Pash said The Last Whale chronicled the final days of whaling in the English-speaking world and marked the first direct action by Greenpeace in Australia.

“This story has important lessons for today’s anti-whaling campaign, currently deadlocked in international diplomacy and a cultural divide between East and West,” he said.

The Last Whale was released by Fremantle Press in 2008 to critical acclaim. It portrays the raw adventure of going to sea, the perils of being a whaler and the ‘crazy, but somehow magical’ commitment that lead activists to throw themselves into the path of an explosive harpoon.

The Last Whale was shortlisted for the 2009 Frank Broeze Memorial Maritime History Book Prize.


Kase Van Der Gaag, former master of the Cheynes II. Photo by Chris Pash

(Pictured: Kase Van Der Gaag, the former master of the Cheynes II whale ship, in Albany, WA, on November 15, 2009)

No Humane Way to Kill a Whale: Tim Winton

February 19, 2010

(FIRST POSTED Monday, November 5, 2007)

Photo by Chris Pash

Novelist and ocean activist Tim Winton credits his school days in Albany during the last days of whaling as deeply influential to both his work as a writer and environmentalist. His second novel, Shallows (1984) winner of the Miles Franklin Award, deals with the confrontation between whalers and conservationists on the high seas.

Tim Winton penned the following when he heard of an historic meeting between two of the main protagonists in the last days of Australian whaling. In 1977 Jonny Lewis and Kase Van Der Gaag duelled on the southern ocean, Jonny a protester in a tiny inflatable, Kase the skipper of a whale chaser. Both meet in Albany on November 3, 2007, in opposition to the resumption of whaling and the coming hunt by the Japanese fleet of humpback whales.



By Tim Winton
© Copyright 2007 Tim Winton
When I went to school in Albany in the 1970s whale-killing was a brutal fact of life. The sight of whales being butchered onshore was a bizarre tourist attraction. In the almost thirty years since the industry’s demise, Australians’ attitude toward the marine environment has changed enormously and nowhere else is this social evolution more marked than in our appreciation of cetaceans.

Nowadays whales and dolphins retain a commercial value as live tourist attractions. They grace almost every tourism poster and pamphlet and website, becoming an alternate coat of arms to WA in particular, along with the whaleshark. They are the basis of a sustainable industry — eco-tourism — whose contribution to our economy is considerable. They help keep small coastal communities alive — even towns like Albany, that once thrived on their slaughter.

Beyond economics, though, whales have accrued an even greater worth, something less tangible than a dollar figure. Their cultural value might be much harder to quantify, but anyone who under-estimates its does so at their own peril. In thirty years whales have become emblematic. Ordinary Western Australians are passionate about whales.

For many coastal Western Australians the annual migration of humpbacks and southern right whales helps define the passing of seasons. The glimpses we snatch of them spouting and leaping and resting in bays and coves have become a kind of reassurance, for the more urbanised we become the more we treasure enduring instances of wildness. And the more educated we become about ecology (even if our learning reveals how little we really know) the more seriously we take our mega-fauna. You might say that whales in particular have taught us a little humility in this regard.

When so many marine species and habitats are in serious trouble, the slow recovery of the humpback from the very brink of extinction has given us hope. The fact that they still exist has come to stand as a signal of our own cultural evolution, because we know that if we had not changed our attitudes to whaling a generation ago, and if the majority of nations had not changed alongside us, then there would be as little to see out there on the water as there was when I was a boy, when the only whales you’d glimpse were being sawn up and boiled. If we hadn’t progressed in our thinking since the 1970s, there’d likely be no passing whales at all. No whaling industry. No whale-watching. No whales, full stop.

On a recent trip to the Albany region I saw more live whales in a week than I ever saw in all my high school years living, diving and surfing there. This time I wasn’t even looking for them; they were visually and ambiently unavoidable, and I can’t tell you how good it felt. At a grim time in history it renewed my awe of these great creatures’ resilience, but it also restored my faith in the nobler side of human nature.

But nearly three decades on from the cessation of whaling in our waters, it’s a shock to realize that humpbacks are not secure in our southern or western waters. Most of us have assumed that this is a battle that has been fought and won. But the price of victory, it seems, is indeed, eternal vigilance. While most nations have moved on, a few have not. Some have been steadily regrouping and retooling for commercial slaughter.

Australian governments and NGOs have been at the forefront of this necessary vigilance. Many diplomatic efforts have been made to bring recalcitrant whalers into the fold. Politicians, public servants and activists have done a lot of good work in good faith. But with limited results. Despite a welter of procedure and process and protocol, whaling activity has increased.

In the effort to curtail this renewed slaughter it seems that two crucial avenues have not been fully investigated. Legal action, and direct action. Given the political and cultural sensitivities involved, neither of these is anybody’s idea of the first and best way to solve the problem, but after the failure of all diplomatic and procedural efforts, there seems to be no alternative left.

There is still no humane way to kill a whale.

There is still no sustainable model for a humane whaling industry.

Whaling belongs to an era when issues of sustainability and humane methods had no meaning. That era has passed and it will not be mourned.

This week’s (November 3, 2007) meeting of two old foes, Jonny Lewis and Kase Van der Gaag, symbolises just how far we’ve travelled as a community. It also says a lot about the town of Albany and how it has moved on. Jonny and Kase were both players in an end-game that helped define our contemporary view of marine stewardship and our sense of interdependence with nature. Their reunion is something to celebrate because, despite all odds, it marks a kind of social progress and cultural unity that none of us could have predicted a generation ago. No doubt these two blokes will have stories to tell and a few old scores to settle. The rest of us can only watch on with some pride and a little amusement and take the opportunity to renew our determination to see whaling ended in our waters for all time.

I am happy to add my voice to the throng of ordinary Australians demanding that our Government take all steps necessary to secure the safety of whales in our waters. I applaud IFAW‘s efforts in bringing this before the public, and urge coastal communities to support their initiatives. AMCS (Australian Marine Conservation Society), whose logo is the humpback, wishes IFAW every success in this endeavour.

I also extend my thanks and support to those who undertake peaceful direct action to thwart whaling in our territorial waters in the absence of Government initiative.

© Copyright 2007 Tim Winton

Tim Winton is Patron of the Australian Marine Conservation Society

Jonny Lewis, Tim Winton, Chris Pash

Two Harpoon Tom

February 19, 2010

Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin and Tom Barber 1977. Photo Copyright Jonny lewis

(First Posted Wednesday, September 12, 2007)

Tom Barber had close calls with explosive head harpoons twice during the campaign against the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company at Albany, Western Australia, August/September 1977.

Tom, fellow Australians Jonny Lewis and Allan Simmons, Frenchman Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin and Bob Hunter, a Canadian and co-founder of Greenpeace, went up to 30 nautical miles into the Southern Ocean to run interference against the three whale chasing ships.

Tom and Jean-Paul made official complaints to the police about one incident.

In a written statement to Police, Tom Barber said: ” “We were about to cross behind the whale when we heard the thump of the harpoon discharge. The harpoon struck the whale near the centre of its back. The whale then put its tail in the air and then dived. The rope from the harpoon struck the water about four feet from our boat. Our boat was under power and drifting towards the area between the whale and the whale chaser. Our boat then crossed the rope between the chaser and the whale and our propeller became entangled in the rope. The rope lifted the motor on our boat and I had to release the pivot pin. The whale chaser was also bearing down on us.”

Jean-Paul said the harpoon “shot across our bow and the harpoon cable slapped the water a couple of yards (two metres) ahead of us”.

Tom Barber 30 Years Later at the thirtieth anniversary of Greenpeace Australia

Chasing Whaling SHips from Sea Level

February 19, 2010
(First Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2007)

King George Sound, Albany, Western Australia. Copyright 2007 Jonny lewis

By Chris Pash
The Last Whale

Jonny Lewis was drowning in the raw beauty and power of the Southern Ocean. Initially, he couldn’t speak as he looked out across King George Sound, Western Australia, to the horizon. The immensity of that body of water overwhelmed him.

“We went out there?” Jonny said eventually. He couldn’t believe that thirty years ago he and his friends took an open boat south to the end of the world.

This was the first look he’d had since 1977 when he launched an outboard powered inflatable from Middleton Beach, Albany, at the start a 17 hour duel with a whale ship.

He turned to me and said: “We were mad.” The sea looked like it could swallow a 16 ft Zodiac inflatable in a moment and leave no trace.

I see this view every year when visiting Albany for Christmas and often think of Jonny and his friends in 1977. I expressed what I’d always thought. “It’s not something I would ever have done,” I said. “You guys were out there, on the edge, mad and magical at the same time.”

“I don’t think we even considered that,” Jonny said pointing to the ocean. “We were on a roll, bouncing off and egging on one another … we didn’t think.”

In 1977 Jonny Lewis and his crew formed the Whale and Dolphin Coalition (later to morph into Greenpeace Australia) in Sydney to take direct action against Australia’s last whaling station run by the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company.

A key figure was Frenchman Jean-Paul Fortom-Gouin, nicknamed the Phantom, who bankrolled the campaign and brought Canadian Bob Hunter, Greenpeace founder, to Australia to lend his expertise honed in the North Pacific against the Soviet whaling fleet.

They opened the campaign in Albany on August 28, 1977. A few days later Jonny and Jean-Paul trailed one of three whale chasers, the Cheynes II, captained by Kase Van Der Gaag, across the Southern Ocean.

“That was an historic day,” Jonny said. “It was the first time anyone had kept one-third of the Australian whaling fleet from its work.”

The campaign ran for several weeks with Jonny, Jean-Paul, Bob Hunter and others taking the Zodiacs out up to 30 nautical miles to act as human shields for the sperm whales. There were two close calls with harpoons but no injuries.

“It’s incredible that we consistently went out so far to sea,” Jonny said later. “It felt, looking over the Sound and beyond, overwhelmingly beautiful and dangerous.”

Jonny returned to Albany in November 2007 to attend an event at Middleton Beach. Jonny stood with Kase Van Der Gaag and Paddy Hart, Australia’s remaining former whaling ship captains, to protest Japan’s plans to take 50 humpback whales.

For Jonny the return to Albany was about meeting Kase. “Kase is deep and feels deeply. I also sense his sadness. It’s everyone’s sadness, a kind of ‘life’ sadness about what we’ve done to the planet, the whales and one another.”

Kase left whaling soon after Jonny and his friends ended their direct action campaign in 1977. He worked in the north west of Western Australia on tug boats. Today Kase speaks against whaling. “I owe it to the whales, the whales I killed.”

Today Kase feels like he’s in the presence of God when he sees a whale.

Jonny: “If only the Japanese whalers had similar feelings.”

For Kase the argument against whaling isn’t about numbers. It doesn’t matter that there may or may not be thousands of whales in the ocean. It’s the inhumanity. Kase: “There’s no such thing as a clean kill. They die hard.”

Jonny was taken with Albany and its current day green outlook. I took him to the old whaling station, now called Whale World, which closed in November 1978, where we met writer Tim Winton for a photographic session with The Australian newspaper. On the way back to town we stopped at the wind farm and then the headland to take in King George Sound.

“The town has this ‘brasserie’ feel, sophisticated eating and drinking,” Jonny said. “I felt proud of our accomplishments all those years ago. Thirty years ago I remember slinking along through Albany. Not so to-day.”

Jonny loved the wind farm built in 2001 to supply 75% of the city’s power. Jonny’s friend, Tom Barber, who had two close calls with harpoons in 1977, went on to build the world’s first commercial wind farm in California. I took a photo of Jonny to send to Two Harpoon Tom in the USA.

Steve Pontin, local writer and marketing guru for the city council, later sent Jonny photographs of dolphins at play at Sand Patch near Albany. Jonny: “They are my greatest souvenir. Dolphins are the reason I became interested in whales before we went to Albany in 1977.”

© Copyright 2007 Chris Pash. All Rights Reserved.