TITLE: The Flying Arrow. Ch. 9. The Killer Whale Museum
By Zillah Williams
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1. bring in the subject of Jonah and the Whale in a natural, teaching kind of way, to help young people realise that it isn't just a fairytale.
2. bring up the subject of my character Jess' interest in the disappearance of Benjamin Boyd, and introduce the means by which she might find out more.
3. create a natural atmosphere in the Museum,
4. finish on a note of some suspense and interest.
The Killer Whale Museum
The Museum was an angular white building overlooking the sea. Two flags snapped in the stiff ocean breeze from flagpoles on either side of steps leading up to the entrance.
A round building stood in the forecourt. Baz pointed to it as they walked past. "That’s a replica of a lighthouse," she said. "You can get shown round on weekends."
Inside the Museum they payed the admission fee, then paused while deciding which display to look at first. A big whaleboat was against one wall being admired by a chattering group of young children with two adults keeping a watchful eye on them. A plump man, with a mostly bald head, seemed to be explaining the exhibit.
"Over here!" Jess made a beeline for a glass case surrounded by a wooden rail and containing an enormous skeleton. A man and woman were standing by the exhibit, silently reading printed information from a plaque. Jess leaned her elbows on the rail and gazed rapturously at the bones.
"Wow!" she breathed, "An Orca".
The man looked up. "Hey, that’s right," he said. His accent was American. "That’s what it says here, and you knew it!"
Jess gave him a shy smile. "Yes, well, I’m into whales – and things."
Suddenly, the plump, bald-headed man, detached himself from the group of children and came across. He wore a badge identifying him as a volunteer guide. Walking up to Baz, he greeted her with a warm smile. "Well, hello, Belinda. You've brought some visitors to look around?"
Abby and Jess exchanged surprised looks. Belinda?
Baz laughed. "Now you know why I’m called Baz," she said to them. "It’s short for Belinda." Turning to the man she said, "Hi, Young Tom, would you show them round? I don’t know nearly as much about it all as you do."
Young Tom? This time the girls’ surprise was shared by their parents. What bits of hair Young Tom still had was definitely grey! The American couple looked bewildered too.
The man chuckled, seeing their astonishment. "You’re wondering why Baz calls an old man like me, ‘Young Tom’, aren’t you? Well, I’ll tell you." He jerked his chin towards the display. "It’s so I don’t get mistaken for Old Tom there. But call me Tom." He indicated the skeleton. "You’ve heard the story of Old Tom?"
All, except Baz, shook their heads.
"We’ve just been reading about it here," the American woman put in, pointing to the plaque.
Tom took up a position slightly to one side of the front of the display, his feet apart and hands clasped behind his back, as he addressed his audience of seven. "Well, back in the the 1800s and into the early1900s there was a big whaling industry operating out of Twofold Bay and, Old Tom here used to lead a pack of killer whales that’d lure the baleen whales into the Bay where the whalers could harpoon them. Old Tom is the most famous of the killer whales of Eden."
"An Orca," said Jess.
Young Tom nodded. "That’s right. An Orca. A killer whale – not really a whale, Orcas are dolphins."
"Did you mean they’d deliberately bring other whales to be killed?" Kate asked.
Tom nodded. "Oh, yes. They’d thrash the water with their tails to let the whalers know they’d herded the baleen whales into the Bay. The baleen whales migrate from waters to the north of here. Then, when the whalers harpooned a baleen, the killer whales helped kill it by rolling over its blowhole to stop it breathing. The whalers would reward the killers by throwing them the lips and tongue of the dead whale to eat."
"That’s gross!" Abby exclaimed in disgust.
"It’s not very nice, is it?" Tom agreed. "But Orcas are predators. They’re also known as ‘Wolves of the Sea’ because they hunt in packs. They’re intelligent, and in captivity they are gentle and friendly and can be trained to perform quite amazing tricks."
Two girls, backpackers, drifted across from another display, and began to listen.
"He couldn’t have swallowed a man, could he," said the American woman, "not even a very small one."
Tom pursed his lips and frowned judiciously. "You’re thinking of Jonah and the Whale in the Bible, aren’t you?" he said. "Well, the Bible account says Jonah was swallowed by a ‘ large fish’. It doesn’t actually say it was a whale – although there have been reports of seamen swallowed by whales. Hoaxes perhaps, but then, perhaps not. However," he indicated Old Tom, "Orcas are much smaller than the biggest whales, which can go up to 30 metres long."
Jess considered Old Tom’s skull, her head on one side. "His mouth’s too small," she said. "But proper whales have got really big mouths and they can make their throats and bellies expand when they swallow food – and they don’t have teeth like that."
"That’s correct," said Tom. "Whales filter their food out of the water through baleen plates, a kind of cartilage hanging down from the roof of their mouths. As I said, whaling used to be a big industry here in Eden. The records go back to 1791 but it was at its peak in the 1830s when the Imlay Brothers operated out of Twofold Bay. The 1840s depression forced them out of business."
"Pardon me," the American man attracted Tom’s attention, "My wife and I have just been out to Boydtown. This Benjamin Boyd built it, didn't he?"
"Ben Boyd!"Jess broke in. "He disappeared, didn’t he?"
"That’s right," Tom said, and nodded toward Baz. "If you’re interested in Ben Boyd’s disappearence you should talk to Professor Rogers, Baz’s father. He’s made quite a study of it." Turning back to the American he said, "Boydtown, yes, Ben Boyd built Boydtown as a base for his whaling operation. You might have seen the observation tower he built still standing on the shores of Twofold Bay."
Tom warmed to his subject as he answered the man’s question, but Jess had lost interest. He’d said that Baz’s dad knew about Ben Boyd’s disappearance. She had to meet him! "Scuse me," she apologised, darting between the backpackers and worming her way past several other people who had attached themselves to the group.
Jess was so intent on getting to Baz that she didn’t notice, as Abby did, the man who attached himself to the group and positioned himself behind their father. Derek turned as he felt the man’s hand on his shoulder.His eyebrows lifted in an unspoken question. The man nodded, whereupon Derek drew Kate aside, spoke to her briefly and planted a kiss on her cheek. Then the two men walked swiftly to the exit.
Abby stared after them. She recognised the man as the red-headed painter she’d seen arriving at the Grange the previous day.
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