Whaling, then and now education resource

Maori and other South Pacific people first harvested whales in the South Pacific, taking food and materials from stranded animals.

This low-impact ‘whaling’ would change from the early 1800s, when ships from Europe and America came to hunt the bonanza of whales in Pacific waters. Around the same time, shore-based whaling stations became established in New Zealand.

In the twentieth century, whaling became more industrialised and deadly. But during the 1970s, New Zealand’s attitude to whaling changed – from general support to active opposition. Now whale watching has become one of New Zealand’s most lucrative tourist enterprises.

Find out more about the history of whaling.

At the exhibition

Emphasize to your students that this section is about whaling from early harvesting by Maori to whaling today. Explore the immediate area then gather the students back to discuss the following questions and topics.

Questions for 5 to 10 year olds

  • Why did whalers choose to come to New Zealand?
  • Which is your favourite picture and why?
  • Find the whalers tools, what tool would you like to use and why?
  • What did people use whales for after they were killed 100 years ago?

Questions for 10 years old and over

  • Which picture do you find disturbing and why? Do you like any of the images and why?
  • Imagine you lived on a whaling ship, what would life have been like for the whalers? What hardships do you think they went though?
  • Discuss the impact of whaling on whales over the last 200 years?
  • Discuss the impact of Traditional harvesting on whale populations.
  • Discuss the changes that have occurred with whaling and the attitude changes of people that have occured over the last 200 years.
  • Discuss some of the products that have come from whales over the years. Can you think of any new products or uses of whales today? If so, what are they?

Teachers notes:

Maori welcomed whale strandings as they supplied meat bone and ivory and were considered a gift from Tangaroa the guardian or god of the sea. Rich traditions around stranding sites have developed though out Aotearoa.
European people arrived in the late 1700s and took back the knowledge of many whales in the southern waters thus many whalers arrived carving a great sway through the whale populations. The most sort after being the Sperm and Right whales.
Whales were hunted for the meat, baleen, ambergris, oil, ivory and bone.
Attitudes in New Zealand have changed in more recent times to focus on conservation and tourism.

 

Whales lined up on the deck of a Japanese whaling ship, 21 December 2005. Photograph by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, reproduced courtesy of Greenpeace New Zealand.
Whales lined up on the deck of a Japanese whaling ship, 21 December 2005. Photograph by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, reproduced courtesy of Greenpeace New Zealand.
Charlie Heberley aiming a harpoon at a whale, Cook Strait, about 1944. Reproduced courtesy of Heather Heberley
Charlie Heberley aiming a harpoon at a whale, Cook Strait, about 1944. Reproduced courtesy of Heather Heberley
Greenpeace members protesting against whaling, 1988. Photograph by The Auckland Star, reproduced courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Dominion Post Collection, EP-Environment-Greenpeace-01)
Greenpeace members protesting against whaling, 1988. Photograph by The Auckland Star, reproduced courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Dominion Post Collection, EP-Environment-Greenpeace-01)

Top: Sperm whale, courtesy of Brandon Cole. Right: Orca fluke, photograph courtesy of Dr Ingrid Visser, Orca Research Trust