The third week in September marks the anniversary of the death of Old Tom the Killer Whale, the most well known and loved of the orcas who hunted with the Davidson whalers. In 2016 it will be 86 years, since he last hunted on Twofold Bay.
Whaling had all but stopped by the time he died, but Tom still returned to the bay each year, often alone. When his body floated into Snug Cove on September 17, 1930, his friend and master whaler George Davidson took him to Loch Garra and the try works in order to preserve his skeleton.
The Eden Killer Whale Museum was founded, Tom’s skeleton is the only complete orca skeleton in the southern hemisphere.
It’s a story too big to tell here, but you can watch the ABC documentary Killers In Eden, (50mins) and listen to eye witness accounts on ABC South East. If you are in Eden, put aside a half day and take the Killer Whale Trail through Eden and Ben Boyd National Park to visit the sites where this tale unfolded and perhaps spot a few whales for yourself.
Below is the obituary that appeared in the Eden Magnet, September 20, 1930
Old Tom: The Last of the Killer Whales is Dead
For a century or more there’s been whaling – now there’s wailing at Twofold Bay. ‘Old Tom’, the last of the famous pack of Twofold Bay Killer whales is dead. On Wednesday morning, under the influence of favouring breeze and tide, his body, unheralded, came floating to rest gently in the bay which had been the killers battlefield and the scene of many memorable exploits during the last hundred years or more of Eden’s history. Old Tom had died at sea a day or two previously, and kind Nature had sent his body drifting in to be disposed of as might seem fit to his allies of old.
It was only last week that Old Tom was disporting off Leonards Island, in the vicinity of which he had caught a grampus, and he was commemorating the event with a display of unusual vivacity. What happened to bring about his demise is a matter of mere conjecture. Master whaler George Davidson does not know and, although he made a post-mortem superficial examination of the body, could form no opinion satisfactory to himself as to the cause of the centenarian’s untimely death.
Of Old Tom’s sagacity and many deeds of daring there are many yarns extant, but if anyone wants the true version there are few persons to whom one can with confidence apply, and one is master whaler George Davidson, otherwise known as ‘Fearless George’.
Of the old “Orca Gladiator’. Last of the Twofold Bay killer whales – Old Tom – renowned in war – it may be said that his end was peace, and that he dies regretted by all who knew him.
Talk to a local at Eden Visitor Information Centre on (02) 6496 1953