Friday, 17 September 2010

Killer Whale who cut a deal

On today's Sydney Morning Herald website is this engrossing story about a killer whale that forged an unlikely alliance with a group of Australian whale hunters.

Eighty years ago this week - on Thursday, September 18, 1930 - The Sydney Morning Herald reported the death of one of the most eccentric celebrities of NSW. The body of ''Old Tom'' was found washed ashore near Eden. The paper described him as ''the king of the far-famed pack of Twofold Bay killers'' and ''the last of his tribe''.

The story, ''King of the Killers'', said, ''For over 100 years he and others of the pack, at one time numbering as many as 30'' rendered an enormous service to the community by intercepting migrating whales and trapping them in the bay.

Since the 1840s, the whalers had abided by what locals call ''the law of the tongue''. When the killer whales had helped them with a kill, the whalers would tie the carcass to a buoy overnight allowing the orcas to take their feed.

Both benefited, Smith explains, because the killer whales only ate the lips and the tongue - the keenest meat on a baleen whale, leaving the whalers to harvest the profitable blubber and whalebone later.

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