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Bay whaling off the Boyd Town Lighthouse, Twofold Bay

Date: 1848
Overall: 305 x 410 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00005959
Place Manufactured:New South Wales

User Terms

    This engraving depicts two Southern Right whales being hunted at Twofold Bay by whalers in open boats. Several killer whales can be seen in the water - possibly assting the hunt. In the distance is a partially rigged whale ship, and the Boyd Town lighthouse can be seen high upon the cliff.

    This engravng was taken from 'A Geographical Dictionary or Gazetter of the Australian Colonies' by William Henry Wells.
    SignificanceThe establishment of Twofold Bay by entrepreneur Benjamin Boyd in 1844 opened up the region to American and other international whalers who were able to call in at the small settlements of Boydtown and East Boyd.
    HistoryIn the 19th century American whalers sailed south to the rich Pacific whaling grounds in search of sperm whales. During the 1840s several hundred ships pursued whales off the coast of Australia. Many called into Australian ports for repairs or supplies after a voyage half-way around the world. Meeting a whaler was the first contact many colonists had with an American.

    Whaling played an essential part in 19th century life. Industry and households depended on whale products for which there was no substitute. Whale oil was used for lighting and lubrication until 1860 when kerosene and petroleum started to gain popularity. The pure clean oil from sperm whales was a superior source of lighting and the finest candles were made from the whale's wax-like spermaceti. Light and flexible, baleen - the bristle-fringed plates found in the jaws of baleen whales - had many uses in objects which today would be made out of plastic.

    American whaling centred on the north-east coastal town of New Bedford, a booming industry in the 19th century with hundreds of ships regularly heading out to the Pacific Ocean. Australian whaling stations included the settlement at Twofold Bay, NSW which was established by entrepreneur Benjamin Boyd in 1844. In this region and in parts of North America whalers noted that pods of Killer whales regularly helped them in their hunts by herding migrating whales into bays and keeping the animals on the surface, making it easier for the hunters to kill the trapped whales. The Killer whales were often awarded the prize of the killed whale's tongue and lips.

    In 'A Geographical Dictionary or Gazetter of the Australian Colonies' (1848) Wells highlights the presence of and sudden increase in the number of American whalers in the region. He describes East Boyd as "the large whaling establishment of Mr Boyd; whence nine sperm whalers now sail: and inasmuch as Great Britain, and all her colonies, have only 59 vessels engaged in this important trade, which, in the Pacific alone, employs nearly 700 American whalers, the most correct idea of the value of the depots at Twofold Bay, is thus given". Wells goes on to state that "it is predicted that Twofold Bay will be the great whaling depot of the South". p 70.

    Entrepreneur Benjamin Boyd hoped to build a bustling development in Twofold Bay. He founded two settlements there in 1844, first the port at Boyd Town and then the whaling station at East Boyd. In 1849, Boyd’s investments had financially collapsed and he left Australia with his extensive plans for Twofold Bay not reaching full fruition. Many operations at the settlement stopped but the whaling station continued and became the longest operating shore station in New South Wales, only closing in 1930.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Bay whaling off the Boyd Town Lighthouse, Twofold Bay

    Primary title: Bay whaling off the Boyd Town Lighthouse, Twofold Bay, New South Wales

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