Friday, December 5, 2014

2/12/14. Albany. Whale Station Museum, Frenchmans Bay.

2/12/14. Whale Station, Frenchmans Bay. 

One of the ship/chasers of the fleet that operated out of this station. 





We took a 45 min guided tour that was very informative.

Although there were other whaling stations and fleets in the area for many many years, this Australian owned station was only opened in the fifties, 1955 I think, and closed in 1978. Photos and film of the men who worked this station show them in stubble shorts, bicolour tee shirts, thongs and long hair. The reason the station was closed was because the oil/fuel to run the ships got too expensive, the demand for whale products decreased and, more importantly, the number of whales decreased, mainly because of how 'successful' the station had been in the past. There were a number of protests held on site at the time too, but they were only at the very end of its declining history. (They already knew they were closing before the protesters/greenies/hippies,rentacroweds, turned up). So, all this combined, making the whole business unprofitable, Green,  the guy who owned it all,  gave the whole kit and caboodle to the Albany JayCees who had the museum up and running by 1980. They have done a wonderful job of preservation,  presentation and public access and the narration handles the topic of whale slaughter, then and now for what ever reasons very sensitively. All credit to them.

This skeleton I am gazing in awe at is a Pigmy blue whale, and it's huge! How big were the full size ones! As big as a jumbo jet apparently. Wow! My mind boggles at the possibility of a creature that big. 

This is the deck area and the hatches thru wich the whale flesh was cut off the carcass and put down the hatches into the boilers below. The stench would have been horrific, 

We listened to a recorded sounds and narration of the flensing station and and boiling pots in action. There was historical film to watch too. All very gruesome and in colour. Not recommended for the faint of heart, the weak of stomache or kids that ask too many difficult questions that adults don't want to answer. 
That's a baleen type whale jaw bone archway. 
This is a skeleton of one of the toothed variety of whales.  Sorry, I didn't take notes At the time and have forgotten, but I do know it's not a pilot whale or an orca as this skeleton is too big. 

I have mixed  feelings about the place. I expected it to be very depressing, but it's not. It is very interesting. 
You've got to keep in mind that at the time, before the advent of the crude oil industry, kerosene, synthetic oils and plastics, that whaling was a very necessary industry. Whale oil was the best for so many things, and the Industrial Age used it up by the millions of gallons, as did public and domestic lighting. It would have been a dreadfuly dirty, hard labour industry to be working in and most of the men were very skilled at what they did and highly respected for that skill. They ended up filthy and smelly and even pubs would close there doors when they heard the whalers were coming up the street. There was no such thing as workers compensation because it was considered to be a job so dangerous that no insurer would cover them. There was no easy way or safe way to do the job so OH&S didn't get a look in. And life on board the ships must have been dreadful too, so cramped and never able to get away from the stench. Four hours on and four hours off shifts and all hands on deck when the whales were sighted. Away at see for 6 weeks or more, depending on how successful they were in filling the quota. 
The ten oil storage tanks thru which many many millions of gallons of whale oil went  have all been turned into mini theaters. The 3D animated movie was very well done and quite convincing that you could reach out and touch the creatures as they swam past you. 
There was also a very well made movie about sharks in the area, and another on whaling in general. 
All in all, it's a must see if ever you are in Albany WA.

View from the cafe.

We then did a Brief tour around the peninsular and around town. Saw dog rock. And yes, it really does look like a dog's head. 
I  Should have made more notes, we were both very very tired that night and now three days later, as I write this up from notes I find it hard to recall it all. We did love Albany. Very NZerish. Quite a few there too.
Cheers
D.

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