Historical information

Whale bones found in harbour area. Dr Imlay operated a whaling outpost in Santa Barbara Bay in the early 1800's. John Morris ventured into whaling in 1848. The success of these ventures is not known. Retrieved from the Gabo Island Harbour in 1999, the collection’s two venerable whalebones are reminders of the whaling industry that was associated with Gabo Island prior to construction of the lightstation. Evocative relics of this long ceased activity, they are now also symbolic of today’s concern for protecting and saving whales. The whalebones are the only known artefacts in the collection that illustrate the period when European sealers and whalers intermittently used the island for their activities. The Imlay brothers, who operated from Twofold Bay, Eden NSW, used the island as a base and lookout up until about 1846, and several huts were erected.Whaling was last associated with the island in 1848, when John Morris surreptitiously ventured into this activity while being paid to erect lightstation buildings for the NSW government. Gabo’s historic jetty store, which stands as the oldest structure on the island, was thought to be built by Morris and is possibly associated with the activities that led to his dismissal. The whalebones were recovered from the harbour, close to the location of the store and the site of the former whaling outpost.


The bones have first level contributory significance as evidence of the island’s whaling activities, which pre-date the history of the lightstation.

Physical description

1. Whale vertebrae, bleached white. 2. Whale bone, (rib) bleached white.