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  • Writer's picturekellinthewoods

Tower by the Sea - Davidson Whaling Station & Boyd Tower, Eden

I recently headed down the coast to Eden for a little weekend away with the fam. Eden is famous for its whaling history, and while we were there we drove out to the historic Davidson Whaling Station which includes Loch Garra homestead and the site of the tryworks on the beach below, where four generations of whalers would process the bodies of the whales they caught out in Twofold Bay.



Loch Garra was built around 1896

Kiah Bay, where the try works once stood, was home to the longest-operating shore-based whaling station in Australia.

The whalers did this with the help of the local pod of orcas, or killer whales. The orcas, lead by a big male called Old Tom, would 'help' the whalers by alerting them to the presence of baleen whales out in the bay, then assisting them in chasing and herding the whales like big sheepdogs. In return for their help the orcas were given the lips and tongue of the whale - what a treat!


If this sounds fmailiar, it might be because you've read Shirley Barrett's wonderful novel Rush Oh!, which is set right here in Kiah Bay during the whaling season of 1908.


"When Mary Davidson, the eldest daughter of a whaling family in Eden, New South Wales, sets out to chronicle the particularly difficult season of 1908, the story she tells is poignant and hilarious, filled with drama and misadventure.


It's a season marked not only by the sparsity of whales and the vagaries of weather, but also by the arrival of John Beck, an itinerant whale man with a murky past, on whom Mary promptly develops an all-consuming crush. But hers is not the only romance to blossom amidst the blubber...


Swinging from Mary's hopes and disappointments, both domestic and romantic, to the challenges that beset their tiny whaling operation, Rush Oh! is a celebration of an extraordinary episode in Australian history, when a family of whalers formed a fond, unique allegiance with a pod of frisky Killer whales - and in particular, a Killer whale named Tom."


I loved this book and to be honest, my wanting to see the try works and Boyd Tower (read: dragging my family down miles of remote dirt roads in the middle of nowhere) was largely due to having read it. I highly recommend it!


By the 1920s whaling was declining, and when Old Tom died in 1930 it signalled the end of an era. His body was towed back to Kiah Bay by the Davidsons and his bones cleaned and numbered so that they could be displayed in what would become the Eden Killer Whale Museum. (For more information about Eden's whaling history, try this link).

Old Tom at the Eden Killer Whale Museum. He looks happy, right?

After the whaling station, we headed out to Ben Boyd Tower, located on a remote headland south of Eden in Ben Boyd National Park.

Over twenty metres tall and facing the sea on three sides, the tower was designed by local entrepreneur Benjamin Boyd in 1847, with the intention of becoming a lighthouse. When Boyd's finances failed, the tower was taken over by the Davidson family. They used it as part of their whaling operations, with lookouts stationed in the tower firing guns to alert boat crews in Kiah Bay when a whale was spotted.



Pretty cool, right?

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