Old Tom

This week we arrived in Eden. We went to a museum which was a memorial to a killer whale called Old Tom. Back in 1800s Eden was a little whaling town. It has a very rare story of orcas and humans working together.

Old Tom was the leader of his pod and they would hunt other whales into Twofold Bay. The orcas would work in groups. The outer group would heard the whale into the bay then form a line to block the escape.

Then inside the bay was the next group that would trap the whale. Old Tom would make his way over to the whaling station and breach and slap the water to alert the men. The men would yell RUSHO and jump in their boats. Tom would lead them to the whale sometimes by taking their tow rope in his teeth and towing the boat.

The boats back then were row boats so they would spear and stab the whale and tie it to a buoy. Eventually the dead whale would float and they could tow it back to the station.

The men would take the blubber and the orcas would feast on the lips and tongue of the whale.

Apparently one whaler tried to haul a whale in without leaving the lips and tongue for the orcas. Old Tom got angry and started grabbing at the tow rope and lost a few teeth. The man won but felt bad for not feeding the orcas after all, they heard them into the bay for the men.

When Old Tom died shortly after in 1929 the orcas didn’t return and whaling in Eden ended in 1930. When Old Tom’s body was found he had lots of mouth disease from his missing teeth which is believed to be the cause of his death. The Old Tom memorial museum was opened in 1931.

They still celebrate whales returning in Eden with an annual festival and sound the siren to alert people to get to a lookout and watch the whales in the bay. Often the whales bring the calves into the bay for a rest on their journey.

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