Boiling Chimney and Remains of Bunavoneader
Whaling Station - Isle of Harris - Western Isles - Outer Hebrides.
The Old Whaling Station - Bunavoneader ( Bunabhainneadar ) - a chimney and a few ruins - and a few whale bones are now all that is left of a once thriving whaling industry in the Western Isles.
The Whaling Industry - Western Isles
Between 1903 and 1920 a Norwegian family - The Herlofsens ran the successful whaling station at Bunavoneader - Bun Abhainn Eadar in The Isle of Harris, just along the Huisinis Road - Outer Hebrides.
Bunavoneader Whaling Station is best preserved example of a shore-based whaling station in the UK and is a designated Scheduled Ancient Monument
The Most visually striking is the square tall brick chimney, a landmark which, for the local community, is part of the remains of an aspect of their social, economic and cultural history. Originally there would have been three chimneys at this site. You can see surrounding the chimney are a lot of concrete platforms marking the locations of sheds and buildings that had been used.
The whaling station at Bunavoneadar was mentioned by 'Peter Pan' author Sir James Barrie in the play 'Mary Rose' that he wrote in 1920. He was actually staying at Amhuinnsuidhe Castle when he was writing.
Along the shore are the remains of a dock, against which the whaling-pursuit ships moored while the catch was hauled up the slipway
A fleet of catcher vessels worked out of the station. These were manned by the Norwegians. Many of the whales whales were caught - harpooned out at sea and then taken places like the Village Bay at St Kilda. Rockall and the Flannan Isles.
They were then towed back to the whaling station in Harris for processing. Boats took the whale products to Glasgow and returned full of coal for the whaling ships and the whaling station boilers.
The station became uneconomic again and the operating company concentrated its efforts on catching whales around South Georgia in the South Atlantic.
Lord Leverhulme bought the Whaling Station in Harris
Lord Leverhulme took over the whaling station after the first world war. Lord Leverhulme again played a large part in the whaling industry in Harris - he bought the whaling station from the Norwegians in the 1920's.
He thought he could in part control the pollution – which he thought was damaging fish stocks. He also thought it could be a successful commercial enterprise. He intended to cut a canal through the isthmus at Tarbert, linking the Atlantic to the Minch and giving easier access to the ports of mainland Scotland. Unfortunately like most of his projects - it failed. Unfortunately Lord Leverhulme died before his projects could be completed and and Lever Brothers ran things until closure in 1929.
The Whaling Station Re Opened in 1950's
The station re-opened in 1950 and again was run by Norwegians. . The crews that hunted the whales were Norwegian but the carcasses were processed by local people.
Oil - Whale Meal for Cattle Food
As before, the whales were killed largely for their oil and for whale meal to be fed to cattle and poultry.
However we can perhaps also assume that since rationing didn't finish till 1954 - it may also have a provided fresh meat source.
Some local men were employed to clean and pack the meat for despatch to Glasgow, the nearest large market. The company went into liquidation in June 1953.
Whales Caught at Sea - towed to St Kilda first - then to Bunavoneadar
Many of the whales were caught far out to sea and then towed in to Village Bay on St.Kilda. When four carcasses were ready they were pumped up with compressed air and towed back to Bunavoneader for processing.
The river Eadar had been dammed to provide water and electricity, and the boats that took some of the whale products to Glasgow returned with coal for the ships and boilers
Bunavoneader itself provided a safe harbour during bad weather, and as it was so near to the Tarbert - and the Stornoway road - this meant that there was efficient land transport
Local people from The Western Isles were Employed
During its heyday the whaling station employed many local people.
The catchers were crewed by Norwegians initially, with the local people employed each season to process the carcasses. Many older islanders can still remember the horrific smells that emanated from the whaling factory! The men's clothes and indeed their skin smelt.
The water power for the plant was taken from the river above the village and as the old pipes burst they sent up fountains of water Whale Jaw Arch
In 1975 two teachers from the school (Sir E.Scott School) in Tarbert dived just off the old whaling station and recovered two whale jawbones from the remains.
These two bones were set in concrete at the entrance to the school, where they remain to this day
Erosion Taking its Toll on the Remains of the Whaling Station
Due to erosion from the sea, the remains are in need of restoration work.
Conservation Plan for The Whaling Station
A conservation plan for the station has been prepared and the North Harris Trust are currently looking into ways to fund the considerable restoration work for the whaling station.
Work is required to conserve what remains and to make the site safe for visitors.
Bunavoneader Whaling Station - Isle of Harris
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