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An ex-Durban whale catcher still survives

By Allan Jackson - March 2005

I'm once again indebted to my informant John McDonald who was formerly Chief Chemist of the Union Whaling Company in Durban. This time I'm grateful to him for the information that one of the company's whale catchers is currently on display in Western Australia. The vessel, formerly known as the Wilfred Fearnhead, nows forms one of the main exhibits at Whale World in Albany, Western Australia.

The vessel was sold to the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company in Albany by the Union Whaling Company after it had had a disasterous season in 1967. The company retrenched 50% of its staff and sold half of its catchers including one, the Wilfred Fearnhead, to the Australian company, who promptly renamed it the Cheynes IV. The museum is built on the site of the old Cheynes Beach whaling station and the buildings and facilities are still to be seen in addition to the Cheynes IV, a collection of art featuring marine mammals, a whale skeleton display, an aviation display, and many more interesting things.

Whale World looks to be an interesting little museum and well worth the visit. The proof of that is in the fact that more than 1,3 million people have visited it. This is in marked contrast to the situation in Durban where little has been done to preserve our whaling past and where the splendidly-sited waling station on the Bluff has been in use as an armed forces gun range and out of bounds to the public for many years.

  • Further details on Whale World are available from the museum website.

Picture courtesy Margaret Surmon

Catchers lined up at the quay on Salisbury Island in Durban. The picture was taken sometime before the sale of the Wilfred Fearnhead to the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company. The vessel is the one closest to the camera.


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