Old Tom (killer whale)

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A Killer Whale swims alongside a whaling boat, with a smaller whale in between. Two men are standing, the harpooner in the bow and another manning the aft rudder, while four oarsmen are seated.
Old Tom swims alongside a whaling boat, flanking a whale calf. The boat is being towed by a harpooned whale (not visible here).
Skeleton of Old Tom in the Eden Killer Whale Museum.

Old Tom (c. 1895 – 17 September 1930) was the name given to an orca by whalers in the port of Eden on the southeast coast of Australia. Old Tom measured 22 feet (6.7 m) and weighed 6 tons. The skull measured 1.02 m and the teeth measured about 5.31 inches (13.4 cm). Old Tom was thought to be the leader of a pod of killer whales who helped the whalers by herding baleen whales into Twofold Bay.[1] The killer whales would help kill the whales; in return, the whalers allowed the killer whales to eat the tongues and the lips of the baleen whales, an agreement known as the Law of the Tongue.

On 17 September 1930, Old Tom was found dead in Twofold Bay. Before his death Old Tom had been thought to be over 80 years old,[2] but on examination of the remains this estimate was reduced to about 35 years.[3] However, this method of age determination is now believed to be inaccurate for older animals.

Old Tom's bones were preserved and his skeleton is now on display in the Eden Killer Whale Museum.[4]


  1. ^ Gaskin, David Edward (1972). Whales, dolphins, and seals, with special reference to the New Zealand region. St. Martin's Press. p. 120. ISBN 0-435-62285-4. OCLC 704625. 
  2. ^ W. F., Perrin (September 5–19, 1978). Growth of Odontocetes and Sirenians: Problems in Age Determination. International Conference on Determining Age of Odontocete Cetaceans (and Sirenians). La Jolla: International Whaling Commission. p. 144. 
  3. ^ Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission) 13 (13401-17400): 112. 1983.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Wannan, Bill (1987). A Dictionary of Australian Folklore: Lore, Legends, Myths and Traditions. Viking O'Neil. p. 398. ISBN 978-0-670-90041-1. 

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