||Click on the flag to return to index page of Jewish History Australia.|
How it is that throughout the world killer whales (orcas) often competed with and were killed by whalers, but only in Eden on the south coast of New South wales did orca packs collaborate with whalers to hunt whales. The reason: spiritual beliefs of aboriginal whalers were recognised by the Solomon Davidson management. What in Australia are called Killer whales, and elsewhere orcas, are actually a species (or perhaps multiple species) of dolphin which prey in packs on whales. A remarkable predator, orcas are a widely distributed species.
In traditional whaling, killer whales were considered a nuisance, and were hunted down.
But at Twofold Bay, Eden, an entirely different style of land based whaling was carried out from about 1840.
The classic account of the whaling operation at Twofold Bay was given by
journalist Tom Mead in his book Killers of Eden, first published by Angus and Robertson in 1961.
Mead writes about the Juin people
using a style of language unusual in that period just before the 1967 Referendum.
In Chapter 16 Mead recounts:|
It was only natural that the darkies should think so, bound to so many legends and superstitions about the killers. They believed that when a whaler died he was reincarnated and came back to earth as a killer in the Twofold Bay pack, many of whom bore the names of aborigine whalers who hasd passed on. Before the white folk came to Twofold Bay the killers had hunted the grampus - a porpoise-like cretacean - and frequently ran these creatures ashore, where the blacks would feed on them, strengthened in the belief that the killers were sacred because they even provided food for their faithful.
In a more recent book, Killers in Eden, contemporary writer, Dr Danielle Clode, who is a zoologist, gave a more complete account of how the spiritual beliefs of the aboriginal whalers employed at Twofold Bay brought about this amazing collaboration. At the start of the whaling enterprise it was found that as many as five boats were required to keep killer whales away from a harpooned whale. The aboriginal whalers refused to kill an orca. Accepting these spiritual beliefs lead to partnership and collaboration between the local pack of killer whales and the land based whalers in their small boats.
About 1860, the large Solomon family commenced trading and farming in the Eden Monaro district. At Eden, the Solomons joined forces with a Mr Davidson, in running a land based whaling station at Twofold Bay, employing mainly aboriginal workers.
The Solomon/Davidson partnership ceased about 1916. The Davidsons continued the operation until about 1932. Apart from wool, the trade in whale products was undoubtedly one of the earliest exports from Australia.
Some of the Jewish angle to this story is recorded in early volumes of the Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal (AJHSJ), which are available on the CD produced by AJHS (Vic) in 2007.
M.A. Schalit, A Glimpse Into Early Jewish History in Monaro,AJHSJ, Vol 2, pp 160168 It is also the case, and reported in the AJHSJ, that Jews were involved in early whaling in New Zealand.