CC BY-SA, © Eileen Henderson


'whaling and the hebrides', the islands book trust (2008)

Location: Harris
archaeology, travel by sea

Bunavoneader whaling station

The whaling station here was founded in 1904 by Peter and Carl Herlofsen, a father and son from Norway. It was an ideal location: a safe harbour with access to both the hunting grounds of Rockall and St Kilda, and the markets of Glasgow.

The station employed largely Norwegian crews to work on the hunting vessels, but locals were hired to work at the shore station during the summer hunting season. Carl, the station manager, lived and worked from a prefabricated villa brought from Norway and was known for his hospitality.

The station shut on the outbreak of the First World War when Norwegians, classed as ‘aliens’, could no longer stay in the country. It resumed operations in 1919 but the company went bankrupt shortly after due to the falling cost of whale oil. Attempts by Lord Leverhulme to operate the station also failed and it closed in 1928, reviving briefly for two seasons in the early 1950s before shutting down for good.

In its heyday the station was a small industrial complex, with processing equipment such as cookers and boilers, machinery and winches, a slipway and flensing platform, workshops for the joiner and the blacksmith, and dock for the whale catchers. Some of these remains are still visible, along with a memorial to Carl Herlofsen’s dog Sam.

More information on visiting the area can be found here.