Museum Gallery 2

Why did whales get hunted to near extinction?

  • Whale oil, derived from the reservoirs in the heads of sperm whales or from rendering down whale blubber, was valued as a lamp oil as an alternative to smelly tallow candles or the more expensive beeswax candles. The streets of London and New York were lit by sperm oil lanterns.
  • Whale oil was used for soap—making, ointments, medicines, leather and fibre dressing, and other purposes.
  • Bone ash, from burning down whalebone as well as the bones of other animals, was used in making Spode porcelain in England.
  • The baleen plating found in the mouths of some species of whales, and also known as “whalebone”, was invaluable in the days before the development of light malleable steels. Light, tough and flexible, with fibres running parallel to each other, the “whalebone” found a multitude of uses from umbrella ribs and corset stays to industrial brushes. Even the backbone was sent back to England, fired to ash and mixed with clay for “fine bone china”
  • In about 1840 the material sold for 250 pounds sterling a ton on the London market, the equivalent of about $50,000 a ton in modern Australian currency.

Port Victor develops.

  • On July 13, 1865, Sir Dominick Daly, Governor of South Australia, officially declared Port Victor to be “ a port of import and export for the unloading and loading of goods”.
    Port Elliot had been found unsafe for shipping and at the time it was believed necessary to have a port on the South Coast as an outlet for the River Murray.
  • Goods brought on riverboats to Goolwa then transported by horse-drawn railway to Port Victor,
  • Ships moored to a floating Buoy (the black thing now hanging from our ceiling) with a chain that lay on the ocean floor, and then took turns at the jetty to  load cargo onto ships for export to Adelaide, interstate and overseas.
  • The Government built facilities, including a Customs House, the adjacent building, constructed in 1866 at Port Victor.