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Whalers in South Australia : History, archaeology and culture contact


Whalers often visited remote coasts to hunt their prey, and whaling stations were sites of early and prolonged contact between Aboriginal people and the colonisers. At Encounter Bay, Ngarrindjeri/Ramindjeri whalers worked alongside colonists; their work was held in high regard and well known. In contrast, there is little documentary evidence for interaction between whale crews and Aboriginal people at the more remote stations on the Eyre Peninsular. The whalers at these stations, where conditions were especially harsh, were generally viewed poorly by their managers. Bringing together historical and archaeological perspectives, this lecture treads challenging ground between cultural contact and nineteenth-century labour relations, unravelling what it meant to be a useful and productive whaler in 1830s South Australia, and how whaling may have affected Ngarrindjeri/Ramindjeri cultural traditions.

The speakers:

Dr Adam Paterson has had a varied career working as a heritage consultant, lecturer and, most recently, curator at the South Australian Maritime Museum. Since January 2014 Adam has curated exhibitions presenting Port Adelaide’s history, and another detailing the maritime experiences of South Australians during the First World War. His latest project is an exhibition titled Leviathan, which explores the special importance people have attached to whales, and how this differed among cultures and through time. Leviathan is supported by the Commonwealth Government grant scheme ‘Visions of Australia’.

Mr Chris Wilson is a Ngarrindjeri man and archaeologist based at Flinders University in the Yunggorendi Office of Indigenous Strategy and Engagement. Chris has been involved in community-based archaeological research projects along the Coorong and Lower Murray for many years. He works in association with the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority (NRA) with cultural heritage projects and management of projects including repatriation and reburial of Ngarrindjeri Old People's (human) remains from Australian and British museums.


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