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D'Estrees Bay


Zone 53 
Map 6426 
E 735500 - N 6017300 
The site is approximately 20 kilometres south west of American River, Kangaroo Island. The whale fishery was located at the southern most beach front margin of DíEstrees Bay and included a lookout at Turline Point. 

  • Aerial photograpy of D'Estrees Bay Station (Courtesty: Mapland)
    D'Estrees Bay overview (photo by M. Staniforth)


    The whaling station at DíEstrees Bay was used between 1841 and 1844, however the fishery proper was mentioned in 1843. Messrs Bennett and McEllen and the South Australian Company owned the whaling station which was overseen by Mr Thompson (Manager) and employed 13 men and two boats. After 1843 the station, according to the Police Commissioner Tolmer, was sold to the Station owners Hagen and Hart: 

     "On the south side of the Island Messrs Hagen and Hart have two fisheries, one at Flour Cask Bay nearly opposite American River, and the other at Doyleís Bay, 5 mils to the west. The party at Flour Cask Bay have caught several fish, but the other party have been unsuccessful" (South Australian register, 25 September 1844). 

    The station is believed to have stayed in Hagen and Hart ownership until it was abandoned in 1844. From the investigations of the historical record it has been learnt that Flour Cask Bay and DíEstrees Bay are one and the same. The stations were generally named after the bay in which they were situated and it seems that at some stage the name Flour Cask Bay was added to the wider bay that appears to have always been known as DíEstrees Bay. 


    The survey revealed two separate sites that are related to the one station in DíEstrees Bay. The first site was found where it was shown on a 1911 map and the second site was found about 2.5km from the first site at an area marked Point Tinline on modern maps.  
    The site consists of a well, the Bates cave complex and a scatter of fragmented whalebone. The well is located 1.5 kilometres north of the whaling station and extends to one metre. It is probable that the well was dug by whalers employed at DíEstrees Bay. The Bates Cave complex  was reputedly  occupied by some whalers at the station. Located within the Cave were pieces of glass and ceramic, bone and bricks. Whale bone is scattered along the track that follows the beach front from Point Tinline road. 

    D'Estrees Bay Whaling Station Site (photo by M. Staniforth)

    At Point Tunline there are two features including scattered limestone and brick remains of a building. They are located approximately 2.5 kilometres south of the Bates Cave and are associated with the former whaling fishery. The first of the two structures was a rectangular excavation through the limestone caprock approximately 1.5m in length. The use of this structure is not clear. It might have been used as a wind-break by the look-out on Point Tinline or as a supplementary water catchment facility. From this site, approximately 60 metres west are the remains of a building foundation made from limestone nodules and red earthen hand made bricks. 

    During the 1997 survey a small amount of surface deposits were recorded for later analysis. Five items of ceramic were identified from DíEstrees Bay site, Site 1. Why whalers used these pieces of decorated plates and cups rather than tin plated and drinking vessels that were far more durable has been discussed by Susan Lawrence. She says that: 

     "One of the things that we can learn from the quantities of broken plates, cups and bowls is that despite their migratory lifestyles and low wags, bush workers preferred the fashionable transfer printed earthenware to more durable tin. It also tells us that the consumer revolution had succeeded in making these delicate goods so ubiquitous that they reached even the most marginal of places, ad penetrated all levels of society. From the wide range of decorative patterns found on the dishes, we can conclude that modern tasks for using matching sets of dishes were not yet well established" (Lawrence, 1998:4). 

    Other items found at the site: 
    Clay pipe - a fragment of a pipe stem, made from thin clay. 
    Black bottle glass - fragments of bottle glass is indicative of the drinking that seemed to occur on a regular basis on whaling sites "Alcoholic beverages were frequently consumed, as we know from the amount of bottle glass." (Lawrence, 1998:4). 
    Whale bone - were found in several different areas of the DíEstrees Bay site.  Due to the number of whales and the nature of the industry it is to be expected that there would be whale bone scattered all over the whaling station. Howver only a few pieces of whale bone were found scattered along the top of the cliffs which was where the living area was probably  located. 
    Brick - Red and yellow brick was found on both the Point Tinline and DíEstrees Bay sites.  This type of brick was generally taken to the site for three reasons. The first was that it was used to make fireplaces and hearths that the whalers built in their drystone structures for cooking and heating. The second use was for chimneys for the said fire places. This was a secondary use and would depend on the amount of brick available. The third use for this particular brick was for the bases of the try pot fires where the blubber would be boiled down to produce whale oil. The brick would make up the base of the furnace upon which the iron pot would be placed. 


    Kostoglou, P. and McCarthy, J. 1991. Whaling and Sealing Sites in South Australia, Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology, Special Publication No:6, p30-32. 

    Nelson, N. 1997. Right Place, Wrong Time. Unpublished Honours Thesis, Flinders University of South Australia. 

    Rebecca O'Reilly 

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