Whale of a time captured in rare Carnarvon jetty-life snapshots

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianMidwest Times

Retired primary school teacher Peter Mack contacted the Midwest Times with several photographs from his time at Carnarvon in the late 1950s.

Mr Mack said he arrived straight from teacher’s college in 1956, and had applied for the posting so he could catch bigger fish.

“I had the option of applying for lots of places but I thought there’s adventure up there and I was successful in getting a job at Carnarvon Junior High School as it was then,” he said.

As most pictures were of Carnarvon Jetty, we asked Mr Mack if it had been his favourite fishing spot.

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“It was everybody’s favourite fishing spot,” he said. “There seemed to be always a mulloway or two to be caught there and people seemed to go when the mulloway were on in the early winter.

“We used to get there early and catch yellowtail for bait and we used to pop them on the kingy line. That was a heavy line because you had to try and pull your kingy in quickly because it would wrap your line around the piles.”

A whale has just been winched up onto the catwalk at Carnarvon Jetty awaiting the flensers' knives.
Camera IconA whale has just been winched up onto the catwalk at Carnarvon Jetty awaiting the flensers' knives. Credit: Peter Mack

Mr Mack said there were also numerous tropical fish species.

“I was always interested in spearfishing and spent a lot of time under the jetty when the water was clear — catching big cod and trevally,” he said.

The jetty was vital to Carnarvon’s economic life, as State ships brought in provisions and took on cargoes of wool, bananas and whaling products.

“In those days, whale meal, used as fertiliser, was one of the main exports,” Mr Mack said.

“Most of the whales killed by the Nor-West Whaling chasers were humpback whales but one day in 1958, the chasers brought in a pair of blue whales — the only time this ever happened.

“Just about everyone downed tools, grabbed a camera and rushed off to see them.”

The Nor-West Whaling Company's Carnarvon base in 1957.
Camera IconThe Nor-West Whaling Company's Carnarvon base in 1957. Credit: Peter Mack

The whaling station closed in 1963. Mr Mack and his wife Frances have retired to Point Moore on Geraldton’s outskirts.

“I still manage to go down to the local rocks when the weather is good and fish for whiting,” Mr Mack said.

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