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Lamalera - The Armourless Whalers of the World

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

I visited Bali a while ago in 2007. A beautiful magical place. While we were there, we were fortunate enough to learn about a photovoices project on the last whale hunters of Lamalera. It's a village in the Lembata island in Indonesia that survives by hunting whales. I have since been super fascinated by them. For someone as chicken as I am, the idea of a bunch of people setting off to hunt whales in nothing more than basic wood boats using hand made harpoons is completely awestriking (if there is such a word!). Photovoices had collected pictures taken by the whalers on their expedition and when we saw them, it was like a fairy tale come alive.

Ardiles Rante: http://www.lightstalkers.org/images/show/451555

The men of the community set out in two or three boats to hunt whales. Once the whales are surrounded, a designated point man (a Lamafa) with a harpoon leaps into the air, with his leg lassoed to the canoe (bunjee-jumping style), and spear the whale. Lamafas from different boats sometimes take turns. Once they managed to kill the whales, they put a rope through its blowhole and and haul the whale back to the shore. It has been narrated that the battle with the whales sometimes goes on for days. Imagine that --- out in the ocean battling with the largest mammal on earth --- not to harvest it for wealth or sport or fame --- but simple survival. Following a hardcoded primeval instinct.

And think about it. There's nothing -- nothing to protect or save them if the need arises. No big ship, no lifejackets, no radios - nothing. The boy we saw spearing the whale in the photographs was apparently killed when his rope got tangled at the helm and he was pulled under. Terrifying. And here we are -- dinosaurs of the modern world trained to stomp the first cockroach that we come across!

Watch this video. Taken on a hunt by a brave traveller. The drumrolls and symbals need to clang in your head -- for when you look at it -- it seems too easy!

A Whale Hunt In Lamalera - Indonesia from Boris Glumpler on Vimeo.

Recommended links

Photovoices Project
Real experiences blogged by travellers:
Boris Glumpler at http://vimeo.com/1937097
Some amazing photographs can be seen on the Photo Voices website. It's a must see. | Award winning photographs by Adriles Rante
The Stone Age Whale Hunters | The-stone-age-whale-hunters-kill-bare-hands.html


shilpa melissa rodrigues said...

Rabs, coming from someone who passionately shares your desire for world travel - more travelogues, please! I actually hadn't even heard about a Lamafa until I read your blog. Can't wait for the next one.

Rabia Fathima said...

Yay! I have my first follower ... thank you Rod!

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