Wednesday, September 21

Murder and mayhem – Mighty Tom’s trust betrayed

Tom faithfully 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 thoroughly exhausted. They then swam close to shore to the whaling station, thrashing the water with their mighty tales to signal to the whalers to man their whale boats 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 is aware of how this unique and brutal partnership began but it is considered likely the aboriginals formed a bond before the whalers adapted a prior practice with the use of more modern equipment.  
The common bond extended not only to whaling but to shared tragedies of the cruel sea. The locals recall an extraordinary event involving a fearless young man deciding to take all of his family out to sea one fine day, boasting he was an expert seaman. But unheeding wise advice to stay within the confines of the bay his small boat capsized as a consequence of a sudden squall. His family tragically drowned and 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 to continually circle the area for several days he could not attract the attention of the whalers. Tom then joined up with the entire pod who all swam around in circles for days on end until the whalers finally realized what they were all trying to communicate. His body was subsequently recovered and it was decided on a burial service at sea, along with the Killers who witnessed the event.

But just as the trust strengthened, a series of tragic events unfolded which tore apart that trust built up over many centuries. 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. However after some considerable time Tom and some of the other whales did finally return and it was thought maybe Tom was able to persuade the pod it was a stranger unconnected to the community of whalers who had committed the murder.

However much worse was to come. There had been a change in the captaincy of the boat and the captain decided not to cut out the tongue and lips for Tom on one  fateful day before hauling the smaller( larger ones were usually 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 skipper’s mind, greedy as he was to harvest the whale and not have to spend time in honoring the agreement with Tom and the pod. So he gave the order to the crewman who reluctantly headed for home.
But Tom then grasped the rope in his mouth with such force it was as if a hand had reached out and shook the boat in fury. A tug of war ensued, the skipper declaring 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. All Tom could do was to swim away in humiliated defeat. Tragically the tooth cavity became infected with an obsess, and, unable to hunt, Tom died of starvation. His body 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 exact same size as that of the roap and harpoon lines that entwined his mighty mouth so long ago when he became imprisoned within the bowels of the cruel sea.
My story is just one interpretation from the many that could be drawn from the material and photos of the whaler’s descendants, some of which can be viewed.

Old Tom           


susan said...

Good heavens, Lindsay, if you read that one to your grandchildren at bedtime the poor little things will cry themselves to sleep.

Now the Equinox has come and gone you'll be looking forward to Spring. I hope it's a lovely one for you. Do you have daffodils there?

All the best

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,
At the moment in South Australia residents have been buffeted by very severe weather, which was billed by the Bureau of Meteorology as a once-in-50-years event, to tear roofs off buildings and brought down trees and powerlines. The end result was most residents of the state lost their power as "transmission lines" came down and the network (50% of which is wind power)got out of sync and had to be shut down entirely.
We dodged most of the gale force winds here but it has remained very cold and wet, with daffodils flattened by storms. Some Flooding occurred in regional Victoria where residents had to be evacuated. The stormy weather could also spread to NSW.

Looking forward to some good weather and sunshine.
Best wishes