The Whale Hunters of Lamalera

[the-whale-hunters-of-lamalera--Film-list-image]
© Blake
52 minutes / Colour / 1988
Directed by
John Blake David Wason

Anthropologist Robert Barnes

Country of production United Kingdom

Series Disappearing World Series

The Whale Hunters of Lamalera was filmed over a period of four weeks during June 1987. Lamalera is a village which is perched on the rocky slopes of an active volcano on the southern coast of the island of Lembata, in Nusa Tenggara Timur in eastern Indonesia. An anonymous Portuguese document of 1624 describes the islanders as hunting whales with harpoons for their oil, and implies that they collected and sold ambergris. This report confirms that whaling took place in the waters of the Suva Sea at least two centuries before the appearance of American and English whaling ships at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The film follows the daily life of the villagers of Lamalera, a community of about 1500 people. The Christian Mission has been in place in the community for a hundred years, schools have been established and a training workshop teaches carpentry. It is a fishing village in a region where most communities support themselves by agriculture. Lamalera has very little productive land, so the villagers have to fish in order to survive. Their preferred quarry is sperm whale. Catching sperm whale with hand-thrown harpoons from small open boats powered by muscle and palm-leaf sail is no easy task, and the hunt is by no means uneven between man and whale. The tail flukes of a whale can smash the timbers of the boats and many boats are temporarily disabled by their prey. Harpooners have been disabled and killed. But the attraction of the whale is its size. The flesh of the whale (and shark and manta ray) is cut into strips and sun dried in the village. The meat is then carried to small markets where it is bartered with mountain villagers. One strip of dried fish or meat is equivalent to twelve ears of maize, twelve bananas, twelve pieces of dried sweet potatoes, twelve sections of sugar cane, or twelve sirih peppers plus twelve pinang nuts. Commercial whaling is banned throughout much of the world, but subsistence whaling is permitted by International Whaling Commission regulations in Alaska, the USA, the USSR and Greenland. Indonesia is not, however, a signatory to the IWC. Seven whales were caught in Lamalera in 1987.

Language and subtitles English and Original Language with English Subtitles

Region South-East Asia

Country Indonesia

Keywords Hunting / Gathering / Fishing Animals Everyday Life