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The Whaling Station - Betty's Bay

Where penguins roam freely today, years ago, a tragedy took place. Stony Point, Betty's Bay was not always the peaceful haven that it is today. Years ago, as far as 1788, British, French and Americans came to South African waters to hunt the great southern rights.

According to a brochure of the Tourism Board a whaling station was established in 1913, at Stony Point on land belonging to a Mr. Walsh who leased 60 acres to Mr Frank Cook who employed a small group of Norwegians. They built the station and managed the factories. The history goes that in 1917 Irvin & Johnson Ltd. took over the whaling station, which they operated till 1930.

Surfing the net, I found another interesting story. 'n Skrywer wat die geskiedenis van Kleinmond opgeteken het skryf dat die Walvisstasie gedurende 1913 opgerig is en die grond aan sekere Walsh broers behoort het. Mnr Frank Cook, die eienaar van 'n klein skeepsredery het 30 morg by hulle gehuur.. Hierdie walvisstasie het as "Waaigat" bekend gestaan. (Ek is doodseker daar bestaan geen dispuut oor waar die naam vandaan kom nie). Die "Southern Cross Whaling Company" het hul werksaamhede van hier af begin. In 1915 is die maatskappy gelikwideer en die geboue het blykbaar leeg gestaan tot en met 1925 to daar weer jag gemaak is op die walvisse. Teen 1930 het die prys van walvisolie so gedaal dat die stasie uiteindelik sy deure moes sluit. A person by the name of Susan Jahme disputes the above and claims that Captain Frank Cook, later Major Frank Cook, OBE was her great Grandfather. Her version of the history of the whaling station is quite different.

Her version is as follows: "He formed, built and owned "Southern Cross Whaling Station" in 1907. (Apparently the original title deeds were in the name of Captain Frank Herbert Cook.) It was situated in the Pringle Bay and Hangklip area. The ruins of the station is in the Southern end of the H.F.Verwoerd (perhaps name has changed,) Coastal Reserve and the old slipway can be seen at Stony Point. Four little whaling ships were stationed there. Two of them named the "Uno" and the "Balena."(Not sure of the names of the other two.) They provided links to the outside world, as it was very lonely and remote."

She includes very interesting Photographs depicting "Southern Cross Whaling Station 1910" For those who don't have access to the Net, photographs of the old Whaling station can be seen at the Whaling station Restaurant on Clarence Drive in Betty's Bay.

Whatever the true story, the fact is that the foundations of some of the main buildings are still there to remind us of the huge massacre that took place.

Of the large constructions like the boiler shed, the blubber house (the old building that served as a whale-oil warehouse.) the oil storage tanks, the employees' quarters, meat house, guano factory and pump house, not much is to be seen. Visitors can see the remains of the blubber tanks, the railway line, the original slip way and the two manager houses.

'n Mens kan beswaarlik glo dat die bedrywighede by die walvisstasie so groot kon wees dat daar ongeveer 220 mense in diens was. Die meeste van hierdie mense was in kwartiere by die stasie gehuisves. Hulle het water vanuit 'n reservoir in die berg gepomp en hul eie groente verbou. Sekere proviand is vanaf Kleinmond met 'n pont oor die palmiet vervoer en ander het per skip aangekom. Werkers moes met klein bootjies uitvaar om die goedere van die skepe af wal toe te vervoer. 'n Ontstuimige see en sterk wind het soms hierdie taak baie moeilik gemaak. Dit word beweer dat tot 300 walvisse per jaar deur die stasie verwerk is.

Vandag raak dit weer besig in Stony Point maar gelukkig is dit hierdie keer nie vir die uitwissing van walvisse nie, maar vir die bewondering en bewaring van ons pikkewyne.

Bronne: "The Old Whaling Station - Stony Point Betty's Bay" Hangklip-Kleinmond Tourism Bureau (genoemde foto's is op hierdie webwerf te kry)

Interesting facts from the Net 1700's - British and American whalers are operating in Southern African waters. 1792 - The first southern right whales are taken by Cape colonists in Table Bay. By 1805, 12 000 southern right whales have been killed between Walvis Bay and Maputo.
1808 - The expansion of shore based whaling operations in St. Helena Bay, Simonstown, Kalk Bay, Gordons Bay, Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay. The primary target is the southern right whale.
1830 - The decline in the industry is already apparent - southern right populations are dramatically reduced - and the shore based industry struggles on till the end of the century with humpback whales now supplementing the catch.
1878 - The advent of modern whaling techniques - introducing steam powered catcher ships, bow mounted cannon and explosive harpoon heads.
1908 - The South African Whaling Company is established in Durban.
1912 - The 1st Norwegian, steam powered, whale catcher ship arrives in Plettenberg Bay on Boxing day. She is called The Plettenberg.
1913 - Over 10 000 whales are taken from Southern African waters this year and the population of humpback whales is diminishing rapidly.
1914 - Blue whale, fin whale and sperm whale now dominate the catch.
1924 - Factory ships are now larger, better equipped and fitted with stern chutes to load whales. Range is extended to Antarctic waters. Shore based processing factories are now almost obsolete.
1929 - False Bay sees the last attempt in South African waters to take a southern right whale from an open boat using a hand-held harpoon.
1930s - There are some attempts to regulate the industry - these are mostly unsuccessful. Southern right whales are now so uneconomical they are afforded some protection.
1939-45 - There is some relaxation on international whaling - while humans focus on killing each other.
1946 - The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is established to try sustain and manage stocks - with little initial success - the smaller species are now being targeted to meet quotas.
1950s - Hunting and striking ability is increased beyond the ability to process whale carcasses.
1960's - First fin whale and then sei whale stocks are reduced dramatically. Large numbers of sperm whale are still caught periodically.
1968 - The minke whale - smallest of all the baleen whales - is now targeted to meet quotas.
1973 - The whaling industry in South Africa is no longer viable and 37 countries sign a moratorium not to hunt whales.
1979 - The South African Government places a total ban on all whaling activities along her coast and the IWC declares the Indian Ocean (North of 55 degrees south) a sanctuary.
2003 - Since 1986, 23 000 whales have been hunted and killed - and those are only the ones we know about