The history of whaling in South Africa.
Whales have been hunted for their meat, oil and blubber from as early as 3000 BC. There are many coastal communities that have a long history of whaling, but the commercial whaling with organized fleets started in the 17th century. Whaling increased in the 18th and 19th centuries. Large factory ships turned whaling into whale harvesting in the first half of the 20th century. After the 1930s more than 50,000 whales were killed annually worldwide and in 1986 the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling to increase the whale stock.
When whaling begun it was confined to coastal waters, normally on the whale’s migration route. The oldest record on how they hunted the whales was by having small boats in the water trying to scare the whale onto land where they would be killed. A later technique that was used is the drogue. A drogue is a semi-floating object that attach to an arrow or harpoon. When the arrow or harpoon had been shot into the whale the buoyancy and drag of the drogue would tire the whale out, giving the whalers the opportunity to approach and kill the whale.
Most whaling was done in the Northern hemisphere and it was in 1788 that the first whaling ship conducted whaling in the Southern Ocean. Whaling started in Durban, South Africa in the beginning of the 19th century by Norwegians and ended in 1975. Jacob Egeland and Johan Bryde raised money in Norway to come to Durban and start their first whaling station. The South African resident whale specie (Bryde’s whale) is named after Johan Bryde. The whaling was good in Durban and by 1912 six different whaling companies were registered in Natal. In 1937 the whalers in Durban acquired factory ships to follow the migrating whales to their feeding grounds in the Antarctic during summer, and their breeding grounds in Madagascar during winter. By the mid-1960s, South Africa had depleted their fin whale, Sperm whale and Sei whale population so they started hunting the smaller Minke whales. South Africa banned whaling in their waters in 1979.
Whaling was started in Plettenberg Bay by John Sinclair, and the first whale oil left Plettenberg Bay in 1834. In 1908 a Norwegian family invested heavily into forming the Beacon Island in Plettenberg Bay into a whaling station. They brought in whaling steamers, meat boiling plants and renowned whalers to make whaling in Plettenberg Bay a great business. This was not a success both because of the First World War that stopped the export of oil to England and over exploration of the Southern Right Whales coming into the bay. In 1916 Beacon Island close down because of a fire and only 1 whale had been caught that year in the bay. Part of the iron slipway that the whales was pulled up on and boiling pots from the time can still be seen on the Beacon Isle hotel that replaced the whaling station.