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Thar She Blows (c.1931)


This short documentary about whaling features members of the Norwegian Whaling Company on a whale hunt. It includes the capturing and killing of a whale, the dissection of the carcass, and the process by which the whale blubber is converted to oil.

Curator’s notes

Thar She Blows is introduced with a brief dramatised scene in which a couple tell an old sea captain ‘a whaling story’. The scenes on the boat which follow, shot by cinematographer Walter Sully, present the thrill and excitement of a whale hunt. The calm voice-over contrasts with the action and movement on screen and is strangely unsettling in its depiction of the animal’s distress (‘a wounded whale utters cries that are pitiful to hear’ and 'bellows in a mad frenzy of endeavour to escape’).

The film was originally silent, but sound was added by Cinesound to show off its newly developed sound-on-film recording system. Walter Sully had worked for De Forest Phonofilms, a pioneer of early sound-on-film technology in Australia, and shot feature films for Cinesound including Showgirl’s Luck (1930) and On Our Selection (1932).

Thar She Blows screened at Sydney’s Prince Edward Theatre in 1931. Frank Hurley captured comparable scenes of whalers off the coast of Australia in Siege of the South (1931), made around the same time.