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Early Romance and Adventure.
Xntne porch of the Perth puduc Library are blocks, harpoons, darting guns, knives,, blubber forks, scrapers, ladles, sMnimfjrig pans and other strange
utensils which are a vivid reminder or the 'days when whaling was a consider able: industry in Australian waters. There are old people in the coastal towns of this:. State who still remember when whalers used to boil down blubber; on the sea shore and when hard-living sailors brought a tang of the sea .and high adventure into the quiet routine of col onial rural life. Sir MaCPherson Robert--, son is visiting . England to initiate a movement for the development of the southern seas .but if, as a result of his efforts, whaling is, again operated from Australia, such scenes will not occur lor the technique of . the, whaling fleets has changed to an ' extent the old - whalers would not have believed ; possible! v There are two methods of whaling; bay whaling and deep-sea whaling. The former was most popular in Western Australia. There, were-* two . stations^ Doubtful Island and two at the Swan Biver, but French: and;; American, .deep;-, sea whalers operated, all along, the south ern coast. It is estimated that as early as 1837 whalers forking off the. Western Australian coast' secured £30,000 worth of ? oil. - Bay whalers jweht; after the -Black whales, a somje,what sleepy species, in small boats. :This 'method of capture was « practised 4n Tasmania, .South Aus tralia and Western, Australia. A station was ? established, on. the \ coast ? and the whalers harpooned,, the monster in the mariner so graphically described, by Her-, mart Melville in Vl&oby, IMck' and by Oswald Brierly, a 'strikiog figure in the Australian industry , who; subsequently be came 'Marine-. painter' to :..Hef; Majesty: the Queen.' Between 1837 and 1845 com? panies were operating from. Premantle, Bunbury, King George's Bound and other centires but the- nidustry aotfn died out in this State-jandremalnedv; dead until revived at Point' dbates. ^ -'?
; Early J)eyelppinents*. The possibilities Of whaling^in Austrar, Hani waters wefe- early Tecognised. Shjp masters'in cnarge-^ot; transports coming to Sew South, Wales waxed;;: enthusiastic over(the number c*' wbales^tnfflr saw. One' ship's master told Governor Phillip .that he had seen morB-.whales'in one trip to Australia than* he had seen in three years along the coast of Brazil. Ebor Bunker, master of the .William and Ann, was so impressed by what he saw that he made representations to the Champions, - a whaling firm of note-.ui London, and persuaded them to fit him out for a whaling cruise. He broke the record to Australia in the Albion, a 362-ton ship, in 1799, by completing the voyage in three months 15 days, and in 1801 he took-bact with him 155 tons of oil. As early as 1790 excitement was caused in Sydney Harbour by the -appearance of a sperm whale, and in 1804 William Col lins,' harbour master of .Hobart, reported that he had seen 50 or 60 whales at a time: in the Derwenfc River. The observations of travellers and colonists aroused .. interest ; in -England andvseveral whalers1 were- .soon operating'. Sam! Enderby- and Sons, London ship owners, were early in the field.' One of theif vessels, the- TgrnWa., was- the . first whaler to round Cape Horn into the Pacific, the vanguard of a host of others, mostly American. By August, 1800, the Enderbys and Champions were -able to tell 'Lord Liverpool that they had* suc ceeded in establishing 'a whale fishery on the coast of New South Wales.' On December 26, 1797, the 'merchant ad venturers hi the southern whale fishery' had- asked the British Government to allotf their ships to refresh at ports and 'islands in the southern Pacific. At that time they were restrained from proceed ing north of the equator and east of Madagascar because the Government had subsidised the northern fisheries and had restricted the operations of the southern whaleman in . the interests of the East India Company. This caused bitter feel ings among the southern whalers* but the Government was sympathetic and by December. 1801, the boundaries, of the whale-fishery had been extended- .Per mission had also been granted for the whalers to sell goods in the colony so thatvthej.fCOUldihuyvrsufficiejit'prjttEiBiflJMt to equip them for long voyages. The Americans Appear. On June 28, 1804, there were nine Lon don whalers on the New South Wales ccast, rV Assistant-Surgeon Thomson, re turning to London about that time from the colony, said that Sydney merchants were^also taking an interest in the in dustry And were fitting small vessels to engage? in the trade and were building warehouses to store oil. In Tasmania, WilUam Collins, harbour -master at Hobart, was urging, the establishment of whal|ng in the Bass Strait and adjacent islands. It was estimated that the cargoes of boats operating off Australia that year would lie, worth £121,500. But the Aineri cansjhad already begun to Challenge the British interests. . The American whaling industry had begun early in the I8th eentury when Christopher Hussey, of Nantucket, New England,- was blown out to sea and chanced to sight and capture a sperm whale. Previously the Ameri cans, had been content to follow hi the footsteps of .the Bed Indian*, who were experts at bay whaling, but Kussey's suc cess . at ^.deep-sea whaling encouraged others, to .push out from the shore. On 'August 14, 1804, .and again on De eemberr'30, Governor King reported that the N^ew. England whalers were serious competitors of ; the ? local men in the whalifig\ industry. In .art, attempt to re strict i^theiiT operations he had issued a proclamation;: forbidding foreigners to build 'any -boat or vessel of any kind in Bass :Sfcr^ttf...fcitt-;tixis: had little: effect on the-aarlng Americans who were. ex- perts faV; their iiade. . There were clashes between' the rival whalers and some of the American/masters forcibly expelled local men from, the fishing grounds. They also recruited- men from the colony and hi I805--3overndf' King- complained, that there^KPaa^a great dearth of agricultural labour,- because so many men had gone off itf-,th» American whalers. Frenchmen were iOso active ' along the Australian coasts Despite .subsidies from the Eng lish Government the- British whalers were no matChvfor the l?ew. Engiariders, who had experience and initiative and a tra ditions to uphold. The American. Civil War, Tiowever, brought them to conflict with qonf,ederate cruisers and ruined- the Industry; I. ' . ? '..-'' ?:???..-
The ney-dey, of deeprsea whaling in AustraTiart. waters was between 1790 and 1850./ When it was, at' its height bay vhaBngi1, 'suffered an- eclipse and . Tas manian seamen operated hi competition with, Americans in the frozen Behring Sea at the other side of the world. In 1841, however, there were 35 bay stations in Tasmania and; most of them. had four whaleboats, each1 manned by seven. men. In 1848 there were 37 whalers registered at Hobart. About . 1850 there was a fan in the value- of whale products and the gold discoveries' offered a counter at traction for the adventurous. Gradually the industry declined. In 1859 there, were 27 locally-owned whalers operating' from Hobart. By 1870 only 17 locally-owned vessels were engaged in the trade and five years later these had been reduced to 12. In June, 1896, the barque Helen was the sole -survivor. There was an even more rapid decline in New South Wales and in Western Australia the whaling boom lasted only about 12 years. In Australia generally a little bay whaling was carried on out there was nothing on a big scale until 1912 when the vanguard of the Nor wegians came to Australian was with an 8,000-ton whaler and three' steam gun boats. This was the beginning of a new era in whaling, an era of steam and scientific harpooning from bow guns and1 factory treatment at sea. : - The Sealers. Sealing was a sister industry -to whal ing in Australia during the early days. The islands off the coasts were thick with the -animals and mobs of men landed there and battered them to death until their- arms ached. So great was the slaughter that the seals soon became scarce and they have never since ap peared in such numbers. Major Lockyer, the first' commandant of Albany, visited the sealers' haunts in 1827 and said that the men were mostly runaway convicts and seamen deserters. He said they were little better- than- pirates and were the terror of the ships which called -for the skins. Their headquarters was Kan garoo Island and Major Lockyer described it as a dreadful scene of villainy. The sealers were as brutal as the bushrangers of the mainland hi their treatment of the aborigines and it is little wonder that the Tasmanians have become an extinct race. Apart from the risks and excitement incidental to the calling the whalers were concerned in many exciting and romantic incidents which makes one regret that there was not an Australian Herman Melville- among them. In the late 18th century and early 19th century, when England^ was at war, many of the whal ers were given letters of marque. Some of those which, came across the Pacific to New South Wales had been driven
from the Peruvian coast by Spanish cruisers. They, waited their opportunity, skipped back when the naval force had been reduced,: seized several prises and brought them triumphantly into Syd ney. In the, north there were frequent clashes with oMalay pirates and during the war between America and England in 1812-13 the American 32-gun !?? frigate Essex and the sloop Young Essex harassed British whalers to such an extent that the Phoebe (36 guns) and the Cherub (24 guns), of the British Navy, were sent to see what could be done about it. After a brisk action the British vessels were successful and the Essex was cap tured. These and. many similar incidents are the ingredients for a stirring Aus tralian historical novel, one full of ad venture and romance which will remind readers that the chain-gang and the bushrangers are not. the only fields for fiction in the records of early Australia