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Books & Poetry

Poem: Whales at Encounter Bay

Books & Poetry

With South Australia’s whale-watching season in full swing, today’s Poet’s Corner sees Rob McKinnon reflect on a brutal practice of the past.

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Whales at Encounter Bay

Ramindjeri dreaming told of the man whale Kondili
who brought fire to his country with his dance.
But then the whalers came to Ramindjeri land,
brought large iron pots.
The South Australia Company began operations,
the world had great demand for the oil and bone
the prices paid in London were high,
the new colony’s first export.

High lookouts were set up at The Bluff
and when the whiff was raised the boats would sail,
harpoons, lances and lines ready,
their catch taken back to the bay to be boiled
in the large iron pots.

Whales secured by a toggle through the jaw,
flukes by a hawser so the work could begin.
The bay would be reddened by the blood.
Then the men went to the meadsman’s house for grog.

Within thirty years the venture was abandoned,
the Company long gone after the whales
departed for less dangerous waters.
More profits were to be made in transporting other goods.

Elsewhere, however, the killing continued,
numbers down to extinction levels
before the slaughter mostly stopped.
But only by a tenuous balance which must be maintained.

In time, their numbers built up in safer seas,
the Southern Right and Humpback whales
returned to Encounter Bay
to find warmer waters and give birth to their young.
Absolution granted for previous evils,
they again visit to frolic in the bays and the Bight.
Arriving mid May, they are eagerly anticipated.
From cliff tops and headlands vantage points are sought.

Today Encounter Bay has houses and streets,
recreation fishing only at The Bluff.
Hotel guests search for glimpses of these majestic beings,
met with shrieks of awe, not salivation for profit.

Rob McKinnon and his wife and three children live in the Adelaide Hills. He works in human relations for a large Australian utility company, and has been a reader and writer of poetry for a number of years. This is his first published poem.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to Submissions should be in the body of the email, not as attachments. A poetry book will be awarded to each accepted contributor.


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