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Tonsberg House Whale Capture Record
Base H - Signy Island Antarctica

  ©Copyright P. Ward - picture taken 1985 / 86

A summary of whale catches in the South Orkney and South Shetland whaling grounds by the Tonsberg Hvalfangeri whaling company based in Tonsberg Norway. 118,159 whales in total of which 61,336 were Blue Whales were caught in 19 years between 1911 and 1930. I don't know how many of those were caught and flensed around Signy. The object that the record is painted on is a whale vertebra, while the piece of wood it is hanging from is a stave from a barrel left by the whalers.

When the whalers first arrived, they didn't have to venture more than a mile or two from the whaling station (initially  an anchored factory ship, before the shore station was built) in order to get the season's supply of whales. By the 1980's in my time on Signy, sightings of whales of any kind were rare usually confined to distant pods of small Minke whales seen offshore. Despite my being a marine biologist and spending much time travelling around in small boats at all times of day I never saw any whales close up in 2 years any where near to the shore.

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This picture is one of a collection assembled in 2007 on the 60th anniversary of Signy Island Base: 60°43'S 045°36'W. Thank you to those who sent their treasured memories of their time in Antarctica and allowed them to be made into a commemorative cd and then placed here on the web.

The reunion weekend was 14-16 September 2007

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