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Kunama 1956

A Whaling Station

When we were living in the Lismore district, we went one day during the whaling season to Byron Bay. As we walked towards the jetty we noticed that a crowd had gathered, and when we came close we saw that they were looking at a whale which had just been hauled up on a trolley.

As a diesel motor pulled the whale to the treating works we followed and saw the whole treatment. First men wearing spiked rubber boots attacked the huge body with razor-sharp flensing knives, and huge strips of blubber were dragged up a ramp into the factory. Here they were boiled in gigantic coppers to remove the oil, which was pumped into enormous, red storage-tanks.

The bones were hauled up to a large electric saw, where they were chopped up, and the pieces taken to another part of the factory to be made into "Blood and bone" fertiliser. While it was all very interesting to watch it was not very nice to smell.

While we were watching the men working, there was more excitement as a car equipped with short-wave radio raced to a stop at the factory. The news quickly spread that another whale had been seen, for this was the "spotter car" which patrols the headlands.

Of course we hurried to the beach, and luckily for us the whale was close in, so we were able to watch the "chaser" getting into position for a shot. The whale must have dodged a lot, because it was about half an hour before we saw the puff of smoke which indicated that the harpoon had been fired. The chaser had a slow trip back to the jetty towing the whale, but when it arrived a powerful winch soon dragged the great body up the ramp to the treatment works.

The company is allowed to kill two hundred whales a season. Only large whales may he caught, and cows with calves must not be hunted. A whale weighs about a ton to every foot in length, and the ones we saw weighed about forty tons.


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