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Fowlers Bay

Location 

Zone 53, 
Map 5434, 
E 257800 - N 6457500 

Topographic map, the Fowlers Bay Whaling Station is situated on Point Fowler (Courtesy: Mapland)
 

History 

On 28 January 1802 Matthew Flindersí vessel, Investigator, anchored in Fowlers Bay, which he named after his first Lieutenant, Robert Fowler. The following is a description given by Matthew Flinders: 

"The cliffs and rocks of Point Fowler are calcareous, and connected with the mainland by a low, sandy isthmus of half a mile broad. No fresh water was discovered around the shores of the bay, nor was there any wood large enough for fuel, near than the brow of a hill two or three miles off...Fowlers Bay, however, may be useful to a ship in want of a place of shelter" (Flinders, 1802). 

In 1840, the two American whaling ships Martha and Amazon arrived and anchored at Fowlers Bay between 10 June and 28 August 1840. Both vessel left the Bay on 10 September 1840, the Amazon killing 41 whales during the period at anchor. From this catch, 33 Right Whales and 8 Humpback Whales. 

John Eyre arrived at Fowlers Bay on 17 November 1840 and used the location as a starting point for his attempts to overland to Western Australia. His description follows: 

"Upon walking round the shore of Fowlers Bay, I found them liberally strewed in all directions with the bones and carcasses of whales which had been taken here by the American ship I saw at Port Lincoln, and had been washed ashore by waves. To judge from the great number of these remains...the Americans must have had a most fortunate and successful season." 

At present there have no evidence about the presence of whalers at Fowlers Bay during the 1841 and 1842 seasons, however Parsons quotes a report which stated that in 1840 "four French and one American (whaler) fished between this (Port Lincoln) and Fowlers Bay" and in 1841 six foreign whalers were reported in the same area (Parsons, 1981, p23). 

In 1843 the Hobart whalers George Cummings and Richard Harris are reported to have made an overland journey from a "whaling station at Fowlers Bay" on their way to Port Lincoln. The following is a report from the South Australian Register 16 December 1843: 

"On Saturday last it was stated in this journal that two whalers, just arrived at Port Lincoln from Fowlers Bay...Richard Harris...in the end of August last, along, with his mate George Cummings performed the arduous journey from a whaling station at Fowlers Bay to Port Lincoln. Calculating the distance at 200 mils, and that they would get supplies at Peters Island and Streaky Bay, where there were whaling stations, they took with them ten days provisions. At Peters Island they got a chart of the coast which was of great service...(The three whaling stations mentioned above were occupied by parties from Hobart Town, from which our travelers had last come) South Australian Register, 16 December 1843.  

Archaeology 

Two distinct sites are associated with whaling at Fowlers Bay station. One of these sits was a sand spit in the western corner of the bay which revealed a large collection of whale bone. The second site was a D shaped dry stone shelter which was located on the end of Point Fowler, this might have been the look out point for the whaling station. Some evidence was located including whale bone but very little material could be linked to the whaling period. Iron material, including two large wrought iron spikes, a triangular shafted iron rod and a scatter of iron.  
 

References 

Credland, A.G. 1988. "Captain Richard Copping of Hobart Town", Great Circle, Vol 10 (1): 22-32. 

Eyre, J. 1840. 

Faull, J. 1988. Life on the Edge: the far west coast of South Australia. The District Council of Murat Bay, Ceduna, SA. 

Flinders, 1802 

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

Parsons, 1981, p23 

Staniforth, M - A brief  history of Fowlers Bay (to 1860)  

Staniforth, M. (nd) Three whaling station sites on the west coast of South Australia - Fowlers Bay, Sleaford Bay and Streaky Bay, Flinders University of SA. 

Newspapers: 
South Australian Register, 16/12/1843 
 
 

By Rebecca O'Reilly 

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Created and maintained by Mark Staniforth and Nathan Richards.
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S.Lawrence@latrobe.edu.au
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