Tom returned each year to Eden (located on the south coast of Australia) as part of a Killer whale pod who hunted wales with the resident Homo sapiens.
The arrangement was that the pod herded migratory whales into the bay, blocking off escape routes and chased them around until they were exhaustered. They then swam in close to shore and the whaling station, thrashing the water with their tales to signal to the whalers it was now the time to man their whale boats and harpoon and harvest the whales. The pod in turn was rewarded with the tongues (of no use to the whalers)which can weigh up to 4 tonnes and the lips as their share of the spoils.
No one was aware how this unique and brutal partnership began at this exact location but it is likely the aboriginals formed a bond before the whalers adapted to this routine.
Both parties witnessed and shared in the tragedies of the sea, and one such event occurred when a fearless young man had decided to take all of his family out to sea one fine day, boasting he was an expert seaman; unheeding wise advice to stay within the confines of the bay.
A sudden unexpected squall capsized his small boat and all of the family tragically drowned in the heavy seas. All of the bodies were recovered by the distressed community except for the father.
Tom knew where his body had lodged,firmly wedged underneath a rock with an entanglement of sea weed, but despite his best efforts of continually circling the area for several days his message was not understood. Joining up with the pod they decided to all swim around in circles for days until it was rather too obvious even to the most casual of observers what they were indicating. His body was recovered and it was decided on a burial service at sea, with the Killers.
But just as the trust strengthened, tragic events were about to tear it apart forever.
Tom and the whales sometimes were prone to become overly enthusiastic chasing the whales around the bay and losing concentration at times becoming temporally beached in the shallower water. On one such occasion a stranger,observing the stranded killer whale rushed into the water with his gun and shot it dead.
Before the local community of whalers realized what had happened the stranger had fled as the traumatized whales hastily left the bay, never to resume their migratory return. Tom and some of the other whales however did return as they had recognized the man as a stranger unconnected to the community of whalers.
The final betrayal of trust concerned Tom.
There had been change in the captaincy of the boat and the captain decided not to cut out the tongue and lips for Tom on that fateful day before hauling the smaller( larger ones were usuually left for several days)carcass ashore. One of the old time crew said to the captain “Tom is not going to like that, he’s likely to turn nasty and I don’t blame him! “.
But no amount of persuasion would change the skippers mind. So as he gave the order to the crewman who reluctantly headed for home.
But Tom had the rope in his mouth and was intent on pulling the boat back out to where the whale had previously lay dead in the water. There was an almighty jerk, as if a hand had reached out in fury and shook the boat in rage.
A tug of war ensued, the skipper was not going to be dictated to by a mere killer whale, so he ordered full throttle ahead until it all ended when they witnessed an amazing sight. The rope had apparently caught around one of Tom’s teeth which finally gave way as they witnessed its dislodgment and saw it sink to the sea bed.
Tom swam away in humiliated defeat.
Tragically the tooth cavity became infected with an obsess, and, unable to hunt, Tom died of starvation. His was washed up on the forshaw and it was decided to preserve his body and his skeleton which today can be seen at the maritime museum.
The missing tooth is evident and even the jaw has markings that are the same size as that of the roap and harpoon lines that entwined his mighty mouth so long ago when he become imprisoned within the bowels of the cruel sea.
That is what I think may have happened but there are many slightly different versions of this fascinating partnership.