Whale of a Time

By Geisha Bar

Today was another day that I learned a new and interesting thing, and this one is actually an Australian piece of history!

In New South Wales, in the port of Eden, there were human hunters of dolphins and whales etc, in the 1800s and early 1900s. What’s remarkable is that they were assisted by a pod of orca (killer whales) in their hunting work!

The local indigenous tribe (the Yuin tribe) considered killer whales their totem spiritual animal, reincarnations of the ancestors – there are even tales of the tribal ancestors riding the whales. It’s thought that the Koori warrior black and white sacred dress is a nod to the orca, and it’s said that Aboriginal Australians have been interacting and cooperating with orca for more than ten thousand years.

Between 1840 and 1930, an entire pod of orca were often seen assisting hunters, led by a large male orca affectionately named “Old Tom”. The orca would locate whales and lure them into the bay, then let the humans know they were there. Old Tom was the one who would breach and tailslap at the mouth of the river where the hunters lived to signal there was prey to catch.
The killer whales would help the whalers drag in their catch after they had harpooned them, by gripping the ropes in their teeth to haul in the game. Old Tom’s skeleton graces the Eden Killer Whale Museum, and there are visible rope marks on his teeth from this!

The orca were rewarded for their help, of course – and they would eat the lips and tongue of the caught whales, a deal known as “the law of the tongue”.
Apart from Old Tom, there were at least 20 other killer whales that were individually recognised and named during their partnership working with humans.

How amazing is that?! Animals are absolutely brilliant, especially our friends in the ocean. There are also videos on Youtube of orca hunting in packs and using coordinated cooperation skills to hunt seals on ice, with complex manoeuvres.

Blows my mind!

Love, Akika xoxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxox