The Law of the Tongue
I just saw the most profound video I think I have ever seen. "Nature" is a program on PBS here which had a show about the unique relationship between man and Orca in an area in Australia known as Eden. Eden was a town which from the early 1800 to 1930 depended upon whaling as a cash industry. Seems it was easy because man there had a helper. The local pod of killer whales would drive the baleen whales into the shallow Twofold Bay and the men would then kill them. The Carcass would then be left overnight for the Orcas. The reward was the Orcas would get the tongue of the huge beast which apparently was a delicacy to them. This came to be known as the "Law of the Tongue."
This history of this relationship went back to aboriginal times and had existed for many years. When the White man came, he as in all things, exploited it for commercial purposes and in the end caused its demise. The aboriginal peoples would attract the Orca by lighting fires and pretending to be lame walking up and down the beach. The aborigines came to see the Orcas as brothers and sisters. Eventually however, the great slaughter of the wales out to sea brought the demise of the practice along with a few scattered incidents at Eden.
The incident that is said to have caused the end was an Orca who had accidentally stranded himself on the beach was slaughtered by a stranger, unfamiliar with the relationship of the Orcas and the whalers. The man was basically run out of town on a rail, threatened with death by the aboriginal population who also ceased their work with the white whalers after this point.
One poinent story points to "Old Tom" which was an Orca who bonded with George, one of the human whalers They hunted together for many years and when the industry started to die, Tom began to starve. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Tom suffered from an abcessed tooth and the infection is what finally killed him. With the death of Tom, the cooperation of the Orcas tailed off. but the industry was dying anyway.
The relationship was a unique one and is not likely to be repeated in the same sense ever. One hears stories of dolphins rescuing humans and Orcas protecting people and this is one of those unique tales of the animal kingdom.
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