The school holidays ended yesterday. We spent a week of the holidays on the far south coast of New South Wales. The highlight was whale watching in Eden. What a joy! Cruising beautiful Twofold Bay, on a calm and sunny morning, seeing; birds, seals, dolphins and whales.
We also enjoyed looking around the Eden Killer Whale Museum. For about one hundred years Eden was a whaling port. The industry started in Twofold Bay in 1828 and ended in 1930 with the closure of the Davidson whaling station. The Museum does an excellent job of telling visitors about the area’s interesting history.
One thing that especially intrigued me was the story of how people would sit in a whale carcass as a remedy for rheumatism. This seems to be one of those past practices you read about, but you can’t imagine. On my return from holidays I felt compelled to find out more.
Somewhat surprisingly I found a number of references to the whale-cure for rheumatism in Troves Digitised Newspapers. Below are extracts of two of the more descriptive accounts. The first was published in The Menzies Miner, a paper from the West Australian Coolgardie Goldfields, on Saturday 26 June 1897. This one is a patient’s, slightly, comical story of taking the whale-cure.
The second account, from the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate was published 30 December 1895. This article explains the whale-cure and also gives a good overview of how the whaling at Eden worked.
Is it a coincidence that both newspapers’ readership were miners? Or does it reflect that cures for rheumatism were of particular interest to people whose bodies ached from days of hard labour.
Do you find the whale-cure hard to believe? Have you come across a past practice that you find hard to believe?