Image Humpback whale carcass, Tangalooma Whaling Station, c1957 - item 2 of 2

TLF ID R8169

This is a colour photograph of several men with long-handled flensing knives removing blubber from a whale's carcass as it lies on the flensing deck of the Tangalooma Whaling Station at Moreton Island in Queensland. The men do not appear to be wearing safety equipment and are dressed in work clothes. Several people look on in the foreground and on the left. The roofs, chimneys and clouds of steam of the factory processing the whale blubber can be seen in the background.

Educational details

Educational value
  • The photograph shows the process of flensing - manually stripping blubber from a whale carcass using 1.5-m-long knives. After being killed the whales were inflated, taken back to the onshore Whaling Station and winched onto the flensing deck. The whale would then be dismantled and its blubber cut into long strips. All bone, meat and blubber would be cut to fit into the factory digesters, where it would be cooked under steam pressure and the oil collected.
  • The Tangalooma Whaling Station and factory, based on Moreton Island close to the port of Brisbane and to the annual migratory routes of the whales, was a mainstay of the Australian whaling industry from 1952 to 1962. It operated 24 h a day, seven days a week during its best seasons and its catch was originally worth some $30 million annually. Catch numbers began to fall from 1960 and as a result the Station was economically unviable by 1962.
  • The whale carcass seen here is that of a southern humpback ('Megaptera novaengliae'), one of 6,277 harvested and processed by the Station during its ten years of operation. Limitations on the Station's catch included an annual quota from the Australian and Qld governments of 500 whales, later increased to 700, in the whaling season from 1 May to 31 October. Whales were required to be more than 10.5 m long and no mothers and calves were to be taken.
  • The onlookers in the photograph are probably some of the tourists who often came by boat to see the operations of the Station, revealing how what was acceptable to one generation can become largely abhorrent to another. The tourist groups included primary school children taken to learn a 'real-life lesson' (Courier-Mail 1955, cited in Wiseman, 'The slaughter at Tangalooma', Courier-Mail, 18 November 2007). Ironically, the Station is once again a tourist resort but now it offers whale-watching tours.
  • All parts of the whale were used, with the three main products being whale oil, baleen (whalebone) and whale meal. Oil, the most valuable product, was sent overseas and used in margarine and other edible fat products. The baleen was also exported and used in the fashion industry while the high-protein whale meal was used as livestock fodder throughout Australia.
  • Tangalooma closed as a whaling station in 1963 when it was estimated that few more than 100 of the now endangered whale species remained. In that year humpback whaling was banned in Australian waters. By 2006 numbers had recovered to an estimated 8,000.
Year level

4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • Science
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Rosemary Spenceley
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Rosemary Spenceley
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and State Library of Queensland, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements