A Whale of a Time at Sumner

Whale at Sumner Provides Amusement for Trippers

“Considerable excitement was caused at Sumner at about 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon, when it was reported that something like a large upturned boat was seen about 3 or 4 miles out from the beach.

To find out what it was, Acting-Pilot Joseph Hint’s got a crew together and went out in No. 2 Lifeboat. Reaching the object, they discovered that it was a large whale, which had apparently been dead several days. It, was floating belly upwards, and at first it, was doubtful whether it was alive or not. When it was found that it was dead, the party ventured closer to it.

A castaway - the large and very dead whale washed up on Sumner beach on 17 August, 1913. Source: Taken from the supplement to the Auckland Weekly News 28 AUGUST 1913 p048. Image: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19130828-48-6.
A castaway – the large and very dead whale washed up on Sumner beach on 17 August, 1913. [1]
For the rest of the afternoon much interest was taken in the body, which was gradually washed in shore by the incoming tide. About 5.30 it reached the bar, and coming in head-first, it eventually reached the rocks on the eastern side of the beacon, and passed through a narrow strip of water between some rocks close to the Cave Rock. The currents then slewed it round, and it settled on a ridge of rocks just opposite tho Cave Rock.

A young man named Douglas Laurenson, a nephew of Mr G. Laurenson. M.P., rushed through tho water up to his waist, and to the great amusement of the spectators, and laid claim to it by grabbing it round the tail. Thinking that that was insufficient to claim it, he returned to the shore for a knife to cut his name on it. Another young chap, named W. G. Carter, then rushed in, and there was a keen contest as to which should carve his name on it first.

The whale was subsequently tethered to the rocks, and has since been visited by a great number of people. It is just upon 35ft long. The measurement of the girth has not yet been ascertained owing to its having sunk somewhat in the sand.

Since the tide has receded, several amusing incidents have occurred in connection with the dead whale. One man tried to walk on it, and owing to its slippery condition, he sustained an abrupt fall. Another man was resting his umbrella on it, when the point of tho umbrella made a puncture in the outer surface of the whale, causing anything but a pleasant smell to be emitted. This had the effect of the crowd quickly scattering to a considerable distance.”

The carcase is that of a sperm whale, and is light in colour. Its weight is estimated at about 15 or 20 tons. [2]

And what became of the Whale’s carcase…

“The dead whale which stranded next to Cave Rock at Sumner on Sunday evening, was “towed off” at high tide yesterday and taken across the Estuary to the New Brighton side and secured on the beach at a point nearly opposite Redcliffs. The claimants to the carcase (Messrs D. Laurenson and W. G. Carter) propose to cut it up where it now lies and try it out for oil, of which it is expected to yield a large quantity. It was at first stated that the carcase was that of a sperm whale, but it is now said to be a “right” or a “pike” whale. It is understood that the Museum authorities are endeavouring to make arrangements with the claimants to the dead whale, to strip the bones of all flesh and blubber and to secure the skeleton for the Museum.” [3]

A cast being takend of a tooth strapped whale which had washed ashore at Allandale in Lyttelton Harbour in 1912. The cast was hung at the head of the staircase in the museum. Source: Taken from the supplement to the Auckland Weekly News 11 APRIL 1912 p002. Image: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19120411-2-2.
A cast being taken of a tooth strapped whale which had washed ashore in the mudflats at Allandale in Lyttelton Harbour in March 1912. The cast was ‘painted and toned, before being hung at the head of the staircase in the museum. [4]

  1. Source: Taken from the supplement to the Auckland Weekly News 28 AUGUST 1913 p048. Image: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19130828-48-6.
  2. Whale at Sumner, Press, Volume XLIX, Issue 14747, 18 August 1913, Page 3.
  3. News of the Day, Press, Volume XLIX, Issue 14748, 19 August 1913, Page 6.
  4. Taken from the supplement to the Auckland Weekly News 11 APRIL 1912 p002. Image: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19120411-2-2. Also “Plaster Cast of a Whale” Evening Post, 26 March, 1912, page 3.
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