Posted on

Chief whaler hangs up his harpoon

Chief whaler hangs up  his harpoon


Some may be wondering why no humpback whales have as yet been caught in Bequia this whaling season. One of the reasons may be that Orson ‘Balaam’ Ollivierre,{{more}} Bequia’s most skilled whalerman since the death of the famous Athneal Ollivierre, has, in a brave and unprecedented move, decided to hang up his harpoon.

The National Trust of St Vincent and the Grenadines has been engaged on a drive to encourage Bequia whalers to embrace whale watching as a viable alternative to whaling. In mid-February this year Orson agreed to work with the National Trust on this project. He handed over his whale boat, “Rescue,” to the Trust with the hope that it would be placed on view, along with his whaling equipment, so that it could be displayed for all time as an integral part of Bequia’s history. The National Trust has handed it over to the Bequia Heritage Foundation and arrangements are being made to display it at the Bequia Boat Museum at Friendship Bay.

Orson Ollivierre began whaling with ‘Uncle Athneal,’ as he calls him, many moons ago. Some 23 years ago, when Athneal was getting set to retire, there was a feeling in Bequia and internationally that when he stopped whaling, that would be the end of whaling in Bequia. However, Balaam decided he would like to continue, using his own boat. The first whale actually contacted from Balaam’s whaleboat, Rescue, was actually struck by Athneal Ollivierre on February 26th, 23 years ago. Now 23 years later on the same date, Orson has handed over all his whaling equipment to the National Trust to be a part of history.

Last year alone Orson struck and landed three whales. Orson is of the view that he has served the people of Bequia well over the years. But he now feels that the time has come for a change. He believes that whale watching will be more lucrative than whaling and is taking steps to be the first to venture into this new area. Certainly his knowledge of whales will be invaluable. Like a true pioneer, he is leading Bequia into a new time in its history.

It appears that with Orson’s retirement from whaling, we are one step closer to the dream of Dr Earle Kirby that one day we capture humpback whales with our cameras and not with harpoons. Congratulations, Orson Ollivierre, in making this giant leap.

Louise Mitchell Joseph

SVG National Trust