E 607500 - N 6125500
Thistle Island is located 35 kilometres
south east of Port Lincoln. The whaling site is located at Horny Point
on the beach front termination of a minor track which joins the unsealed
road to Point Brown. This road links with the Flinders Highway approximately
5 kilometres south east of Smoky Bay.
Thistle Island was named by Matthew
Flinders after John Thistle, master of the Investigator, and drowned near
the Island in 1802. The South Australian Company had investigated the possibilities
of whaling in South Australian waters before settlement took place. A report
in 1834 revealed that Thistle Island had plentiful numbers of black whales,
sperm whales and seals and in 1838 a station was established at Thistle
Island. The South Australian Company hired 35 men to operate 4 boats under
command of Mr McFarlane, and employed the Company ship Victoria
to supply the station and cut in the whales. Despite problems with a rival
company, the station had a successful season
The South Australian Register,
1 September 1838 were optimistic in their description of the whaling station
at Thistle Island:
The Fisheries - "We are glad
to hear that our fisheries continue successful. The Companyís station at
Thistle Island have already taken 75 tuns..."
However the season was of very limited
success with only 65 tuns of oil being recorded, despite the statement
above, and the season finished early. Another attempt at whale fishery
took place the following year in 1839 however when the station failed again,
the whaling station was abandoned altogether.
Four buildings were identified on
the seaward side of the track which leads the main homestead to Whalers
Bay as the accommodation area. The buildings were composed of limestone
nodules, and all except one remain in scatter form. Approximately 250 metres
east of the accommodation area, a natural platform, rocky in nature was
used as the flensing platform and trying out facilities. A try pot removed
from the flensing area is being used as a pot plant at the main homestead.
Artefacts recovered included clay
pipes and bottle glass fragments, iron and copper nails, a knife blade
and fish and bird bones (Kostoglou & McCarthy, 1991, p27).
Kostoglou, P. and McCarthy. J. 1991.
Whaling and Sealing Sites in South Australia, Australian Institute for
Maritime Archaeology, Special Publication No:6, 24-28.
Parsons, R.H. 1981. Port Lincoln
Shipping, R.H. Parsons, Magill, SA.
State Heritage Branch, 1993. Thistle
Island Whaling Station Excavation Report, Austral Archaeology.
South Australian Register,
By Rebecca O'Reilly
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Australian Whaling Site Index