The Law of the Tongue

Humans have trouble honoring treaties with each other, what are the chances they’d respect a contract signed with another species?

Pretty good … at least in one case.

The Orca king, Old Tom, directs an Australian harpoon boat toward a captured pod of whales.

Killers of Eden” is an in-development indie feature film that tells the story of the whales of Twofold Bay, Australia. From the early 1800s through to 1930, Australian whalers had an agreement with a local pod of Orcas known as “The Law of the Tongue.” The Orcas would herd baleen whales close to the shore of the Port of Eden, blocking their escape routes, at which point harpoon boats would set upon – and kill – the whales. The tongues of the baleen whales would be cut off by the whalers and delivered to the orcas as a food tribute.

The humans and orcas would cooperate in other ways as well. On occasions when a harpoon boat capsized during a hunt, orcas would chase away sharks until the humans could be recovered. When orcas became snared in the nets of fishing ships, the whalers would launch a rescue.

The “Law of the Tongue” expired with the death of the king of the Orcas, Old Tom, in 1930, at which point the remaining Orcas left Twofold Bay. Tom’s body was recovered and his skeleton preserved at the Eden Killer Whale Museum.

  • Ted Heistman

    this is an awesome article. looking forward to the movie!

  • Anarchy Pony

    That’s an odd combination of inspiring and depressing.

  • Anarchy Pony

    That’s an odd combination of inspiring and depressing.

  • InfvoCuernos

    I wonder if this is how dogs got domesticated. Good thing those whale got out while the getting was good. They’d be wearing collars and stupid sweaters now.