It lay on the seabed in Whangamumu harbour for who knows how long, was discovered by a snorkeller, retrieved and taken to Auckland by launch in 1995, conservation treated , then put on display in the finder’s house, for many more years. Last month, this harpoon was presented to Russell Museum where it joined several other whaling artefacts. Its return prompted questions, not all of which have yet been answered.
Not long after the Whangamumu whaling station became part of the nation’s conservation estate, DOC staff also found a harpoon, identical to this one, submerged in the bay. It was retrieved, treated for rust by Kelly Tarlton, and mounted on the whaling station site as a “permanent” display. Staff were surprised, in 1989, to find it gone. Who would remove it and why? Had the replacement fibreglass head been mistaken for bronze? Upon arrival here we found that the thread on the bomb head already in our collection fitted the thread on this harpoon perfectly. Together the two parts would have been fired by the powerful bow gun of the whaling steamer “Hananui”.
Is it the same harpoon? We will probably never know.