Marlborough Photographs from 1920
Swiftsure Whale Boat in 1960

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Record 21/29
Copyright Marlborough Museum - Marlborough Historical Society Inc
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Collection Marlborough Province - down the decades from early days
Photographer Brayshaw, Norman Henry
Description A black and white photograph showing Jackson's whale boat the Swiftsure on display at Canterbury Museum in 1960.

Information written on the back of the photograph in blue ink by Norm Brayshaw: "From Canterbury Museum 1960. Jackson's Swiftsure, Tory Channel, 32 feet long, duplicate." Meaning this is a Norm Brayshaw copy of the photograph donated by Canterbury Museum. There is no negative. The whereabouts of the originally donated photograph is unknown as at 2009.

A scan of this photograph will be used in the Changing European History Gallery 3 display in commemoration of the Marlborough Provincial 150th anniversary on 1 November 2009.
Caption December 2009:
Swiftsure - a shore whaler's whale boat. This double-ended rowing craft has been preserved and
has been on display at Canterbury Museum.

Custom built for shore whaling by the Tasmanian Liardet yard, the Swiftsure was 32 feet long,
shallow-draughted, had a step for a mast near the bow, and was steered by a big stern sweep.

Whaling had ostensibly begun in 1827 with Jacky Guard, but there were others, such as the Jacksons of Jackson Bay next to Te Awaiti whaling station, on the western side, just inside Tory Channel. Whaler Jimmy Jackson bought the Swiftsure for 40 in the late 1860s.

The Swiftsure used a crew of seven, with one man in the bow (the harpooner), and one on the sweep oar. When she closed in on a whale, the bow man threw his harpoon, and the whale dived, or made off at speed towing the boat. When the whale tired, the boat steerer usually went to the bow, and lanced the whale to kill it. A long, heavy tow home resulted. The Jacksons had caught 272 whales with the Swiftsure by the time they donated her to the Museum in 1915.

Jacky Guard began whaling at Te Awaiti Bay just inside Tory Channel in 1827.

By 1840, there were several shore stations in Port Underwood, and in later times on the Kaikoura coast.

In the early 1840s, the industry peaked. The Right Whale was the most sought after. The blubber,
rendered down to oil, proved invaluable as a high grade engine lubricant, and odourless lighting. It was also used in the manufacture of products such as soaps, paint, and rope.

Baleen, the fine filtering tissue from the mouth of a Right Whale, was used in many nineteenth-century products, such as buggy whips, corset stays and umbrella ribs. Whale meat was also used for human, and animal, consumption.

Stations in Te Awaiti and Jacksons Bays (in Tory Channel) regularly caught whales after 1900. The introduction of faster whale chasers increased the catch. Later, whaling mother-ships meant a further boost.

Marlborough Sounds whaling peaked in 1960, with 78 whales being killed in 16 days during June, and a total of 226 Humpback Whales being caught in the whole season. Whale numbers reduced dramatically.

New Zealand ceased whaling in 1964. Commercial whaling was no longer viable. The competition of large Russian, Japanese, and other whaling fleets, complete with factory ships, ended the industry.

Year Range from 1960
Object ID 2009.067.0086
Object Name Photograph
People Jackson, Jimmy
Place Canterbury
Title Swiftsure Whale Boat in 1960
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Last modified on: January 19, 2015