Bay whaling was a rough game, one of the hardest and most dangerous in the world. It thrived in Hobart Town for half a century.
Bay whaling was very popular with the native youth many of whom looked forward every year to the excitement, perils and profits. Exports of whale oil and bone from Hobart Town showed a big increase in the period between 1827 -31.
Bay whaling entailed as many risks as deep sea whaling and there are records of many deaths. The bay whalers lived hard and worked hard. They risked life and limb every time they set out after a whale. Though the black whale was not as dangerous as the sperm whale of the middle grounds, boats were sometimes smashed and the men drowned.
By 1847 bay whaling had been discontinued. The last whale to be taken in the Derwent River was at eight o’clock in the morning of June 23, 1856. When the whale spouted in the river off Hobart Town a crew of whalers from a ship in the port set off after it.
The harpooner, a legendary Whaling Man was Captain George Watson, my great-great, maternal grandfather. The Flying Childers was built for him at Battery Point by his brother John.
This week the humpback has swum into my world to remind me that things are always as they should be at any given moment. I am appalled by the whole notion of my ancestor using a harpoon and I do not support the continuance of whaling in any form. However, he was working at another time, in a world completely different to mine. I unashamedly pay tribute to my great-grandfather’s bravery and I honour him; honour my families place in Australian maritime history.
The whale is the keeper of records from time immemorial. Whale remembers the past so that he can learn from old lessons, but do not need to dwell on past hurts. While it is good to acknowledge the past Whale is reminding me not to get caught up in memories but to release emotional attachments and be my unique self.