Did you know there was once an orca in Australia that helped whalers spot whales to hunt in the ocean?
The orca was known to the whalers as Old Tom, and he helped these whalers for almost four decades.
One of the first shore-based whaling stations was built on the mainland of Australia in the coastal town of Eden in the early 19th century.
The station played a crucial role in how the town functioned and had some pretty special guests who helped them make their catch.
As autumn transitioned into winter, a population of orca whales would make their way into Eden’s waters for food. The whaling station used to see them as inconvenient, as the orcas would eat the whales they intended to hunt.
However, the indigenous people of the Yuin nation, who had been whaling in that area for thousands of years, were able to develop a special relationship with the orcas and use their hunting skills to their advantage.
The most notable of those orcas was Old Tom. He was massive, being around 22 feet long and weighing six tons.
Old Tom led a group of orcas that would herd passing whales into Eden’s Bay. He’d use his tail to signal when he spotted a whale and would even sometimes tow the whaler’s vessel towards their catch.
The whalers and orcas created a system called the “The Law of the Tongue.” This meant that whenever the orcas helped them hunt a whale, the whalers would tie it to the back of their boat so the orcas could swim along and eat it.