Whaling in Freycinet

Whaling in Freycinet

Whaling in Freycinet began in 1824.  Among the entrepreneurial business men first settled in the area was Swansea resident George Meredith, who established a whale fishery, The Old Fishery, at Parsons Cove. It operated until the mid 1830s.

Methods of pursuit, capture and slaughter in this idyllic area of pristine, sparkling water and white sand emulated the practices in other Tasmanian waters. Blood and putrid blubber polluted the shore and there were whaling stations at Sleepy Bay, the northern and southern ends of Wineglass Bay, Bryans Beach and Passage Point on Crocketts Bay. Large iron try pots reduced the blubber to oil, which was barreled for export. Remains of the industry in the national park are very sparse, limited to piles of whalebone, a few bricks, stone fireplaces and hut foundations.

The mainstay of the Tasmanian shore based whaling industry was Eubalaena Australis, otherwise known as the right whale. It was so named because it was considered to be the “right” whale to hunt; it was easily approachable in open boats, floated after being killed and yielded substantial quantities of oil which was used for lighting and lubrication. In some cases the species was referred to as the “black” whale because of the almost uniform dark colouring of its skin. Right whales grow to a length of between 15 – 18 metres, with a weight of 55 to 95 tonnes and may have a blubber layer up to 40 cm in thickness.

The right whale has a distinctively shaped head with a long, narrow, highly arched upper jaw designed for the suspension of baleen plates up to 2 metres in length. Baleen plates have fine fringes used for sieving the whales feed, small plankton, which is drawn into the mouth near or on the surface. The baleen plates are made of keratin, (which is the same as our hair and nails), so the plates were hard, but pliable and were used frequently in the manufacture of corsets, crinolines, umbrellas and fishing rods.