By Stacey Smith
Discover a mystery between man and whale
Learn how a whale turns on his own kind to help man, for mutual benefit
Where truth is stranger than fiction
The story of Old Tom is amazing, yet tells the truth. It is hard to believe the things Tom and the other whales do. Read on for some fascinating whaling History that occurred in Twofold Bay, Eden, N.S.W.
Old Tom was a Killer Whale (also commonly known as Orca). Orcas have black and white markings and grow up to about 10 meters, and weigh about 7 ton. Old Tom led a pack of Orcas, commonly known as The Killers of Eden. The Killers of Eden, helped the whalers in Twofold Bay hunt the Humpback whale and the Southern Right whale. Old Tom was the last leader in the pack. Since his death on September 17th, 1930 whaling in Eden completely stopped.
The Killers helped the whalers a fair bit. Without them, whaling in Twofold Bay wouldn't be successful. Autumn was whaling season; the reason for this was that the Killers passed by the bay. The whalers recognised the Killers by the shapes of their dorsal fins.
When the Killers passed by the bay, and there was a whale swimming around on it's own they would herd the helpless whale into the bay. So it would be easier for the whalers to catch. Sometimes early in the morning or during the day when the whalers weren't out, the Killers would start the attack. Say if the Killers where swimming around out in the ocean and there was a good whale to catch, and the whalers weren't there to get it, the Killers pod would split. Half the whales would go to the whaling station and slap their tails on the surface of the water; this was a signal to the whalers that there was something going on (like an attack). Then the Killers would wait for the whalers to get ready and tow them or lead them to the other half of the Killers pod. The other half would have already started the slow process of the killing of the whale. Once the whale has been harpooned, the Killers would help speed up the whale's death. The Killers would swim all around it; swimming over the top of the whale stopped it from going to the surface to take a breath, and swimming underneath the whale stopped it from diving deeper. Some of the Killers would throw their bodies over the whale's blowhole to stop it from breathing.
For all the hard work the Killers had done, they get to feast on the corpse for one night. The killers would never let the whalers go without their reward, though the whalers couldn't go any way. A freshly killed whale usually sinks and it is way too much heavy for an oar powered boat to tow back immediately. In a few days enough gas builds up inside the dead whales body because of decomposition. The dead body would then float to the surface of the water. Then it was easier for the whalers to tow back the dead carcass.
The killers would have already gone out to sea waiting for their next victim to pounce on, feeling quite satisfied with their full stomachs of the dead whales tongue and lips. The whales only ever ate the tongue and lips. The tongue by itself weighs up to four tons. So the killers loved their reward. The loss of the tongue and the lips didn't worry the whalers. They only used the blubber. They used the blubber to make, soap, margarine, lubricants, leather, pencils, candles, crayons and that was just the oil out of the whales blubber. Some of the left overs were used for animal food.
On September the 17th, 1930 a retired whaler Allie Greg found Old Tom dead floating in the bay. Old Tom had returned home for his death. George Davidson wondered what he was doing and went to see what was going on. They were discussing what they should do with the carcass, the decided they should tow him out to sea and let him drift in the currents. Then John Logan came and he had another idea. John suggested keeping Old Toms skeleton and exhibiting it in the Maritime Museum, where Eden tourists and others could look at the most fascinating Killer Whale in the world. George towed the animal back to his Try-Works. There, George and his son Wallace cleaned and numbered the bones for reassembly. This was completed in 1931. The skeleton is now being shown in the Eden Killer Whale Museum.
Old Tom was claimed to have lived for 50-80 years, but not many people are sure. Whales have only one set of teeth for life, so scientists took one tooth out of Old Tom's jaw and showed that the tooth was only 35 years old. They also realized that Tom's bottom jaw was warn away to gum level, and teeth showing marks where harpoon lines have warn holes.
People say there must have been a look alike Old Tom or was there?
Dodd, Bill. Eshuys, Jo. Guest, Vic. Powwel, Judith (1996) Society and Environment, Volume 2, Victoria Queensland,
Universal Publishing Pty Ltd.
Mead, Tom (1961) Killers of Eden, Australia, Angus and Robertson.
Eden Whale Museum
Angel, Jeremy (Eden paper) Learning about the Killers of Eden, Daily Yomiuri.
Museum info-Whale Facts
- Right Whale Pamphlet
- Southern Right Whale Fact Sheet
- Humpback Whale Fact Sheet
- False Killer Whale Fact Sheet
- Photocopied information from a book
- Whales on the Net - http://www.whales.org.au/
- Greenpeace - http://www.greenpeace.org/
- Killer Whale Museum - http://www.acr.net.au/~kwmuseum/
Whales in Danger Information Service