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100 years on, Old Pelion Hut retains its charm

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History of shore-based whaling

Introduction

Whaling, Lady's Bay, Tasmania

Whaling, Lady's Bay, Tasmania
(Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery)

The first European settlement in Tasmania was established on the shores of the Derwent River in 1803. Almost immediately the colonists discovered that a vast whale population inhabited the local waters during the winter months. The taking of whales for their oil and bone was to become vital in the economic development of the colony, with the first shore based whaling station beginning operations just two years after the initial settlement.

Whilst the Tasmanian shore based whaling industry faced a number of barriers and restrictions in its early years it was well established by the end of the 1820s and peaked in the late 1830s. By 1850, just forty years after its commencement, it had virtually come to an end. From this time, pelagic whaling conducted from large ocean going vessels dominated the local industry until its demise in the 1880s. With the collapse of the shore based industry many abandoned whaling stations fell victim to subsequent agricultural or urban expansion, however isolation combined with a lack of development of large sections of the Tasmanian coast ensured that substantial physical evidence remains of this industry.

Further Information

Lawrence, S. and Staniforth, M. (1998). The Archaeology of Whaling in Southern Australia and New Zealand. The Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology, Special Publication 10.

Nash, M. (2003). The Bay Whalers: Tasmania's Shore-based Whaling Industry. Navarine Publishing, Canberra. This publication is available for download as a PDF (24 Mb).

Lawrence, S. (2001). Foodways on two colonial whaling stations: archaeological and historic evidence for diet in nineteenth century Tasmania. Journal of the Royal Australian Historic Society, 87(2):209-229.