Tassie’s Whale Boys: Hobart’s role in Antarctic whaling in the 1920s

Presented by Michael Stoddart, former Chief Scientist of Australia’s Antarctic program and was the first Director of the University’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies.
In November 1923, thirty years after the last Hobart whaler returned empty, a long black Norwegian whale ship, the Sir James Clark Ross, slid into port together with five small whale catchers to mark the start of an 8-year relationship between Hobart and Antarctic whaling.  She was to pick up the first of many Tasmanian young men to participate in the killing of 5,188 whales, the vast majority of them blue whales, and most from the Ross Sea.  Two years later saw the N.T. Nielsen-Alonso (pictured above) and her 5 catchers calling Hobart her summer home – an arrangement that lasted until 1931.
The whale boys came from all walks of life.  Most were in their early 20s and all joined up for adventure.  Not for them were thoughts of whale stock conservation, nor the cruelty inflicted by exploding harpoons.  Most found one whaling experience to be enough, for the work was hard and dangerous, and carried out in appalling conditions.  A quarter came back for a second time and a few for a third.  Two, from the same family, came back four times.  Several boys kept diaries; many took photographs.  Two wrote books about their exploits.
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