02/10/2012, Eden Killer Whale Museum, Eden NSW
We finally discovered something amusing about Australia that Bill Bryson missed in his book "In a Sunburned Country".
In the book Bryson took genuine delight in describing uniquely Australian things like giant road side sculptures and the many unique Australian living things that can cause you an agonizing death.
He missed this one which is unusual for Bryson since his research is usually first rate.
In the Killer Whale Museum here in Eden they have a display for a very weird treatment for rheumatism that was an additional revenue opportunity for the whalers here.
The picture at the top of today's blog entry shows how they would cut a hole in the skin of a whale carcase and then made people sized holes in the blubber. The patients would then get into their individual blubber holes and sit there in the very warm whale blubber for as long as they could stand it. Gentlemen were immersed naked but ladies wore a loose fitting gown. Since they were each immersed in separate blubber pockets it is very likely that established standards of Victorian proprietary were observed, otherwise the treatments would have been even more popular.
The primary side effect of this novel therapeutic modality was that the patients smelled like dead whales for a couple of weeks following the treatment. According to the descriptions in the Whale museum display that was not a particularly enticing aroma. I would expect that one of the related, and more beneficial, side effects is that you would not have much trouble getting an empty seat beside you on the bus.
Patients were quite enthusiastic and were quoted as planning their next treatment as soon as they completed the fist one. Why not, their social life was probably not very active following the first treatment.
02/10/2012, Eded NSW
We first heard about the Eden Killer Whale Museum from Mike and Sue Powell on the boat Yaraandoo II and it sure turned out to be a good tip.
The museum is a short walk from the beach into town and was really worth the effort.
In the 1820s the first shore based whaling operations started here in Eden. Whales were plentiful and fed close to shore during their annual migration to Antarctica. Lookouts were posted and when whales were sighted teams of men would take their boats out and harpoon the whales. They would pull the dead whales into a cove near Try Beach and boil down (try) the whale blubber to get whale oil which had significant markets in the pre petroleum days.
As the years went on overfishing reduced the whale populations so the the whaling operations were becoming a marginal business. Then a very curious partnership evolved between a pod of killer whales and the human whalers.
Led by a an alpha male Orca named "Old Tom" a pod of killer whales would herd humpback and sperm whales into the bay and actually get the attention of the human whalers to come out and kill the prey.
The humans would leave the dead whales in the water for a while and let the killer whales enjoy the tongue and lips of the dead whales. Then the whalers would use a large wooden windlass to pull the dead whales close to shore so they could peel off the blubber rich skin and boil it down in large kettles on the beach to extract the valuable oil.
Eventually Old Tom died and, without his leadership, the whaling operations ended as there were not enough humpbacks and sperm whales to make it a profitable business. The rest of the pod of killer whales seemed to be unable to carry on the organized herding without Old Tom to run the show.
Old Tom was really into whaling and would actually grab the harpoon lines in is mouth and hang onto the struggling whales until they tired and could be killed. He was also said to have pulled the whalers' boats.
When Old Tom died they kept his skeleton and it is now an exhibit at the museum. The picture at the top of today's blog entry is of Old Tom's skull. You can see how some of hs teeth were missing where the lines he pulled on wore his teeth down.
The exact age of Old Tom was speculated to be at least 100 years in the newspaper reports of the time. More modern aging techniques (based on dental examination) suggest that he was probably about 35 when he died.
The museum also had a lot of other interesting exhibits including a display on Australian architecture and a display about a rheumatism cure that is too amusing not to have a blog entry of its own.
02/10/2012, Eden NSW
We had a long day today but we finally got anchored in Snug Cove in Eden.
We saw a variety of conditions today. It blew hard for a while, then it rained like hell and the wind was so light the sails could not tell what direction it was coming from. Then it picked up again and the swell started to build.
We got into the harbor here at Eden before the swell got too bad but we did have a bit o green water coming into the cockpit.
It is dead calm in the anchorage here and no swell makes it past the breakwater when the swell is from the ESE. It was like magic when we motored past the breakwater.
The wind instruments stopped working today. Dont know why and will start poking around with that tomorrow and see if its something simple.
Our first order of business tomorrow will be going to the whaling museum.