Friday, February 8, 2019

Whaling in Natal: 1900 to 1975

SS Abraham Larsen Factory Ship with two tugs

In 1907, two Norwegians (Jacob Egeland and Johan Bryde) started whaling off the coast of Natal, with a factory sited below the Bluff in Durban. It was to become the largest land-based whaling operation in the world. Two steam whale catchers were brought out from Sandjefjord in Norway and whaling began on 3 July 1908 when the first whale, a 40 foot Humpback, was brought in to the port. The company was named the South African Whaling Company.

Objections were soon raised about the site of the whaling station, which was then moved to the sea side of the Bluff near Cave Rock, but the penetrating smell of the operations at the factory remained a problem for residents on the Bluff. The station was moved again, towards the South West, where the winds carried the smell in a different direction. 

Egeland and Bryde's partnership came to an end in 1909. With a cousin, Abraham Larsen, Egeland then formed the Union Whaling and Fishing Company in 1910. By 1912 thirteen whaling companies were registered in Durban. 

Union Whaling Company came into being in July 1920, formed by Larsen and Egeland who had started the Union Whaling and Fishing Company, and was to last to the end of the whaling era, merging with the Premier Whaling Company in 1954 and operating the largest shore whaling station in the world. By 1960 850 people were employed in the Company. Coastal whaling ended in 1975.




Very interesting post, Mole. Thank you.

Unknown said...

I heard there were 6 small whale stations along Natal coast. Do you know anything about this. Port Shepstone was mentioned. My son is trying to research this

Mole said...

Thanks for your comment. Will try to find further information. Best Wishes, Mole

Mole said...

Have a look at

In 1908 there was speculation that a whaling station was to be established on the north bank of the river. That too was a non-starter.

Hope this is helpful.

Mole said...

Hope you saw this comment and had a look at the link.

Mole said...

Some blog visitors have remarked on the 'barbarous' nature of whaling operations and indeed, so they were. However, they happened and history cannot be expunged. Events in the past must be read in the context of the past, not in the so-called enlightenment of today. Cruelty - to animals and people - is nothing new and is likely to continue as long as there are human beings on earth. Slavery is alive and well and living in many parts of the world.

Cherry Grobler said...

I do agree. My father used to work at the Whaling Station in the 1960s - in fact he went down to the Antarctic on a whaling vessel in the 1950s. In those days, (aside from the obnoxious smell) it was acceptable, and a part of the development of Durban. Now we see things differently. Then - it was part of life. Thank goodness we evolve! But with every little thing in life, all the good and bad aspects contributed to our lives today, and to current development and knowledge.

Mole said...

Thank you for your insight, Cherry. Best Wishes Mole.