Bequia Whaling 12:59.1N 61:14.0W
Tue 6 Apr 2010 15:20
Whaling in Bequia
I am worried, to an extent, about what folk will think about the next entry, it is one of the most controversial things we have seen or written about. But I might be building it up too much; but one family have relayed the photographs to folk at home and the response was not enthusiastic or positive.
Niether Colin or I are squeemish about culling, I have worked and learnt to cook in the highlands of Scotland where the some local communities rely on the in fluze of money during the sporting season; there culling dear that could otherwise eat through entire forna and flora, of northern scotland if not kept under control. This isn't quite the case in the case of a Whale nor is it like the question over fox hunting, well I don't think it is now we have attended.
Colin had been out on a Boys farwell to Giles, they bumped into Kirsty, one of Charlie Chans old friend, Kirsty lives in Bequai. I was woken that night by an excited colin telling be
we're off to see a whale. Given a Whale had not been landed for a few years it was really rather exciting.
It was really quite fantastic effort as 20 of us woke breakfasted and where in a bus on our way over to Friendship Bay by 8.00. Giles had to catch his flight up to Antiqua so couldn't join us.
Here the locals are allowed to catch 2 humpback whales a year within a short season. Once at the town of Padget Farm, previously named Derick due to the amount of Dericks that lived there, we where ushered into a piroque with 75hp on the back, which took us over to the Whaling station, in quite a choppy sea, one or two of the children where unsure about what they were about to see, but we where able to tell them that unlike the killing of most animals every single bit of Bequai whales were used, and boy we were not wrong.
On arrival at the Whaling station I really did have to swallow hard, It was really rather alarming having to step off the Piroque into a blood red sea. The first sight was of the whale in almost it's original state but with about 4 men sitting on top starting the butchering. One guy clearly brandishing his blade at us. This is not for the tourist, it is definitly something that is very much at the heart of Bequinas community.
You do get over the foot bath pretty quick. Once you come across the family chopping up the blubber, the children found this fascinating to touch and everyone, once ashore, was incredibly inclusive.
This really is a big community event, we met Miss J from the book shop and she was saying it was the first time she had attended, as previously she had never sure she agreed. But she became a convert once she experienced, in her words, the energy and sence of bringing together of a community. There was a fabulous atmosphere, insta drinks Bars were set up, Ladys selling Yumming buns with spicy chicken and the old and young doing there bit.
One of our friends from the Step Up Bar had actually been on the Whale Boat so was able to give us an amazing account of the whole process of the catch. Unlike other country still permitted to catch Whale, Bequai is only only to catch 2 per year and only under sail and with a harpoon (not the gun type). It must be terrifying being towed by a whale going faster than a 45 hp out board speed boat..................
In my mind it just feels right and proper that a country is able to continue it's cultural right. Young children to the very ancient of Bequai worked together to show how things were done. There were of course those who where celebrating a little to hard and the drunks brandishing knives and yelling abuse at everyone was alittle nerve wracking, but the St Vincent coast guard was called and a man with an AK47 arrives not letting the situation blow up! Unlike some other countries not one iota of the mammal is wasted or thrown away. Bequai/Belgian lady said she had been coming to Bequai to visit here father for all her life and now lived in St Vincent, told us how surprised she was when she watched the discovery channel to see the guys and cranes in scotland taking 6 days to sort out the whale that had been stranded in the Forth a few years ago. The boys in Bequai can stripe a whale within 5 hours.
Our first sight of the whale
an event for all the family
Man with kalashnikov and Colin leaning on the whale.
Experience finished, and we jump on the next water Taxi back to Paget Farm. A hairy wobbly ride with kids screeching and parents considering their tactics if the boat were to overturn. All worth it for fresh roti and swordfish bakes washed down with Harroun Beer from a hut at the other end, not bad for 10.30 in the morning.