Page:The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 2 (1898).djvu/480

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448

THE ZOOLOGIST.

his human enemies. And to witness one of these mighty struggles is worth travelling many a thousand miles to see; it is terrible, awe-inspiring, and wonderful.

The Killer ranges in length from 10 ft. to 25 ft. (whalemen have told me that one was seen stranded on the Great Barrier Reef in 1862 which measured 37 ft.). They spout, "breach," and "sound" like other Ceta- ceans, and are of the same migratory habits as the two "schools" which haunt Twofold Bay, always leave there about November 28th to cruise in other seas, returning to their headquarters early in July, when the Humpback and Finback Whales make their appearance on the coast of New South Wales, travelling northwards to the breeding-grounds on the Brampton Shoals, the coast of New Guinea, and the Moluccas.

The whaling station at Twofold Bay is the only one in the Colony — the last remnant of a once great and thriving industry. It is carried on by a family named Davidson, father and sous, in conjunction with the Killers. And for more than twenty years this business partnership has existed between the humans and the Cetaceans, and the utmost rectitude and solicitude for each other's interests has always been maintained — Orca gladiator seizes the Whale for Davidson, and holds him until the deadly lance is plunged into his " life," and Davidson lets Orca carry the carcass to the bottom, and take his tithe of luscious blubber. This is the literal truth ; and grizzled old Davidson or any one of the stalwart sons who man his two boats will tell you that but for the Killers, who do half of the work, whaling would not pay with oil only worth from £18 to £24 a tun.

When the men have done their part, comes the curious and yet absolutely truly described part that the Killers play in this ocean tragedy. The Killers, the moment the Whale is dead, close round him, and fastening their teeth into his body, bear him to the bottom. Here they tear out his tongue, and eat about one-third of his blubber. In about thirty-six to forty hours the carcass will rise again to the surface, and as the spot where he was taken down has been marked by a buoy, the boats are ready waiting to tow him ashore to the trying-out works. The Killers accompany the boats to the heads of the bay, and keep off the Sharks, which otherwise would strip off all the remaining blubber before the body had reached the shore.

The Killers never hurt a man. Time after time have boats been stove in or smashed into splinters by a Whale and the crew left struggling in the water to be rescued by the "pick-up" boat; and the Killers swim up to them, look at — ay, and smell them — but never touch them. And wherever the Killers are, the Sharks are not, for Jack Shark dreads a Killer as the devil dreads holy water. "Jack" will rush in and rip off a piece of blubber if he can, but he will watch his chance to do so.