Sealers and whalers | State Library of New South Wales

Sealers and whalers

Sealing employed small ships and local crews. It provided the first opportunity for trade and commerce in skins and oil in colonial Australia.

Colonies of fur and elephant seals inhabited the islands and rocks of Bass Strait, which became the first destination for sealing gangs.

Several young Aboriginal sealers, including Bidgee Bidgee and Bundle, received their small share of the profits, often in the form of rations, clothing and liquor. In an unfortunate event, Boatswain Maroot from Botany Bay was stranded on Macquarie Island in the sub-Antarctic ocean without supplies for two years.

Commercial whaling began in 1791 when ships of the Third Fleet landed their stores and human cargo in Sydney and became whaleboats. They were seeking toothed sperm whales for their valuable oil and toothless baleen whales for whalebone. Many Aboriginal sailors would be involved in this rich international trade, particularly Tom Chaseland from the Hawkesbury River.

Quick Links