Eden residents thronged to the cliffs watching a wild orca pack herding great blubber bearing baleen whales into Twofold Bay for the whalemen to harpoon and kill.
A spectacle of cooperation between orca and man that was unique in the world. As leader of the pack, Tom would swim to the whaling station at Kiah Inlet, leap out of the water and splash about until the whalers launched a boat, then lead the way to where the whale had been rounded up by the pack. In his impatience, Tom sometimes seized a boat’s harpoon line to slow a whale down and even towed boats holding the tow rope in his teeth. Over the years his teeth on the left side became worn down to the gums, rope grooving being clearly visible.
When the killing was over, the carcass would be anchored and buoyed, then temporarily left to the killer whales who ate only the huge tongue (often weighing over 4 tonnes) and lips. This suited the whalers who wanted only the baleen and oil bearing blubber.
After the ‘payment’ the orcas would leave, often cruising far offshore, using their echo locating ability to find more whale for their whalemen ‘partners’. The killer whale (Orcinus Orca) is the only whale that preys on other warm blooded marine mammals as well as fish.
Tom’s body was found floating in the southern part of the bay in September 1930, and some said he’d come home to die. Not a single killer whale showed up the season following Tom’s death, and without their help, shore-based whaling already on the decline through scarcity of baleen whales came to an end.
Through the foresight of J.R.Logan of Edrom and the work of G.Davidson of Kiah, Tom’s skeleton was preserved and the Eden Killer Whale Museum came into being in 1931.
In 1942 Australia, with sixteen other nations, signed and international whaling commission agreement placing complete bans on the taking of some endangered species to ensure that all may survive. Australia is now an anti-whaling nation.
From the Eden Killer Whale Museum. We highly recommend a visit if ever you’re in Eden.