Lamafa - The world's last traditional whale hunters

Lamafa – Hunting the ancestor’s gift

Reportage Outline

The clans inhabiting the tiny village of Lamalera, on the sunbaked Lembata island (Nusa Tenggara Timur Province) have been spearing and landing sperm whales by hand for at least six centuries. Their artisan subsistence whaling has overcome heavy missionary influence, the Japanese occupation of Lembata during World War II and a well-established Catholic education system. And because the Lamalerans have been doing this since the dawn of time, they carry on, even with a permission from the Indonesian government – as long as they hunt for their own consumption and not for commercial sale. This might change as conservationists (like WWF) are incessantly prodding Indonesian governmentals, demanding stricter regulations for hunting practices within the Savu seascape and the Ombai Strait; a migratory bottleneck of regional importance. So far, the environmental activists have limited impact, due to sluggish governmental actions and nonetheless the withstanding Lamaleran clans. Although many Lamalerans have been well educated over the past decades, most families pursue subsistence lifestyles, with only minor exchange of currency.

Does the eroding cultural gap between generations accompanied by an araising money-culture justify concerns of natural sustainability? This photo reportage reveals the mariners’ struggle to keep this age-old heritage alive, and thus their own survival. My two-week field-research involves personal observation, statements from the village adat (local nongovernmental judgment), as well as opinions and sailor’s yarn from Lamalera’s elderly „Lamafa“- the chief harpooners.

For we are all killers, on land and on sea; Bonapartes and Sharks included. It is not, perhaps, entirely because the whale is so excessively unctuous that landsmen seem to regard the eating of him with abhorrence; that appears to result, in some way, from the consideration before mentioned: i.e. that a man should eat a newly murdered thing of the sea, and eat it too by its own light. But no doubt the first man that ever murdered an ox was regarded as murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if he had been put on his trial by oxen, he certainly would have been; and he certainly deserved it if any murderer does. Herman Melville, author of Moby-Dick

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The Controversy

The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling allows some indigenous people to hunt whales, though commercial whaling was banned in 1986, and this is certainly what the Lamalerans are keen to highlight, nothing goes to waste – a valid point of contrast to fanatic mass fishing and the waste in bycatch it evokes. Lamalera’s whalers use similar traditional methods like western mariners practiced in the early 19th Century. An era when the crews adventured great oceanic distances in search of whales and their blubber for oil extraction – long before certain species were hunted to near extinction.

Annually, sperm whales („Ikan Paus“ in Bahasa or “Kote Kelema” in Lamaleran language) and other cetaceans migrate between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. Throughout the main ocean season (also called „Leva Season“) from May until late October, these giant sea animals pass the Savu Sea. They will feed on the many big squids of Pulau Lembata’s southern shore where the Lamalerans are already awaiting them. Today the villagers are hunting sperm whales and other marine species largely as they have for centuries, but certain things have changed ever since. Whereas until the late 90ies the villagers had only been taking to the sea for livelihood in simple sailboats called „Paledang“, they’re now also using engine powered boats („Johnson“) to pull the Paledang offshore once a whale is sighted, and to venture out in search of their daily prey. Conservationists are alarmed because the villagers catch not only sperm whales, but also protected deep-sea species like manta rays, orcas, dolphins and oceanic sharks with their engine powered boats all-year round to provide food and a living for their community

*In 2010 the Ministry of Tourism (East Nusa Tenggara) and some fellows from the World Wildlife Fund came to Lamalera to talk about conservation, and the idea of touristic whale watching in the area. As they were having their speech, some Lamalerans set off and returned shortly after with their whaling knifes to chase the environmentalists out of their village, claiming they had been living a fine life without governmental institutions, so there wouldn’t be any need to talk. Then, ten military soldiers rolled in, standing against a hundred outraged villagers and their knives. More discussions followed, but no solution. Ever since venturing to Lamalera to bring up the “conservation topic” bares certain risks.

The Indonesian government continues to permit the whale hunts, but intends to create a conservation zone that would push the Lamalerans far out to sea and limit their radius of action, paradoxically encouraging them to modernise their fleet so to become more efficient hunters.

„This is about survival“

 “We’re living in a machine-era! Nevertheless, the number of sperm whales we catch annually has not increased despite the use of engine-boats to support the Paledang crew. Last year we’ve hunted down 25 whales. Some years we might catch 40, but sometimes not even one. On average, we need to kill 3 sperm whales a year to feed all our families. We Lamalerans believe the whales are a gift from our ancestors, Ina Leva and god. The Indonesian government officially allows us to carry on with the traditional whaling so we can maintain our livelihood. They might change the rules regarding the radius of action, whereas the ministery of fishery and maritime aims to conserve manta rays and turtles. „However, we don’t follow those rules“ because this is about survival! We couldn’t get through if only relying on the whales. Thus, we shall be allowed to retain and practice our traditional way of life. Lately, we have been getting lots of pressure from the media world etc. but no one seems to really understand the deeper sense of our situation. Our people here struggle for one spoon of rice or a piece of corn. There is no fertile soil and the entire topography is stony which makes growing crops impossible, so we have no choice but to take full advantage of what the sea offers us. Thus as long as no one can provide us the salary needed, we have to carry on.“ Yosef Bataona „Jeffrey“ – head of Lamalera village, and one of the main „Adats“ (Age-old traditional judgement of customs and practices)

Spearing whales for survival – Condemn or admire?

As we’ve gone through agricultural and industrial revolutions, to the modern world, this question certainly causes some distress. Traditional whaling is incredibly difficult and therefore an unpredictable path of day to day survival. But think not that this infamous village has only brave harpooners feeding on marine megafauna to show her visitors. Not at all. Lamalera might teach some weighty lessons of how the transition to a cash economy leaves out some of us.

Most of the fishing tradition dates back way before the transcontinental Republic of Indonesia even existed. Historical tales indicate that the Lamalerans originated from Sulawesi, where they waded out with nets for mackerel or other small fish; more experienced, they pushed off in boats and and captured bigger prey; and at last, launching a small fleet of sailing boats on the Banda Sea, explored this watery world until they must have reached what is now Lamalera. The first European record of their existence is an anonymous Portuguese document from 1643.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

„Their days are numbered…“

„Lamalera was one of the most amazing stops in the early days of the 80’s and 90’s. The children astounded us, as even the very young ones threw themselves fearlessly into ferocious surf, and always lived, with much laughter. Lamalera was connected to the rest of Lembata island only by a foot path, which only a few experts could navigate by motorbike. The village was entirely subsistent on trading whale parts and oil with the rest of the island in exchange for living essentials. So they walked for days, with immense slabs of blubber on their heads. Many of the houses had roofs of whale skin, with support beams of whale ribs, and instead of garden gnomes in their immaculate gardens, there were whale vertebrae, skulls and enormous stingray tails. They are among the handful of the world’s communities still subsisting, legally, on spearing and landing whales by hand. Their days are numbered as the last, hands-on hunters of the world’s largest toothed carnivore, the sperm whale – of Moby Dick fame.“ Dr. Lawrence Blair – Anthropologist, BBC filmmaker and author of the famous documentary  „Ring of Fire“ (On my question what he observed 40 years ago)

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

May 2018 – the roofs of whale skin with support beams of whale ribs are gone, but the rest seems to remain largely unaffected from ongoing modernization. The culture of fine teamwork and a system of sharing and exchanging sea harvest is well preserved as in medieval times. Every week they mingle at the local trade market, where fellow Lamalerans swap their sundried fish or whale meat with corn, vegetables, fruits and other commodities from the mountain dwellers, creating a self-contained business ecosystem. Some fish will be sold for money though. „It depends on each person if the share is being kept, exchanged or sold to others. There is no law or rule we’ve ever agreed on“, explains Yosef Bataona. Trusting the villagers, whale meat has never been traded onto other islands outside Lembata.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

Still, open-air boathouses collectively extend the full width of the beach, hosting some 14 wooden Paledang and 20 engined „Johnsons“, all pointing seawards. Patiently longing for the call „Ba leo, ba leo! – Carry the rope!“, they’re ready to take their shipmates on a whale hunt at any time. Certainly, time has brought some change. Lamalera A and Lamalera B, numbering some 4’000 people, is now on the electrical grid, has a flaky phone signal since 3 years and the local high school even offers a wifi spot, running simultaneously with the electricity from 6 am to 6 pm. While the economy has traditionally been barter based, this has slightly changed with road access which connects Lamalera with Lewoleba since roughly 20 years. As the outside world is calling, the younger descendants frequently set off for further studies in cities like Jakarta or Kupang to eventually support their families with the wage of better-paid jobs. That’s undoubtedly the reason why you’ll see a handful of nice houses camouflaged from all the rustic shacks. But yet, there are many barriers to the spread of broad prosperity! The Lamalerans live the most simple life a modern person could imagine. Usually, a family of six shares only 30-40 m2 plus some yard. Under the eaves of each hovel and within the yards, blackened bits of whale meat or pale yellow cuts of manta ray hang out to parch. Their furniture involves a couple of plastic chairs they will stitch together again when falling apart. Cupboards I have seen rarely – There wouldn’t be much stuff to store anyway. When you witness how a young boy is mixing coffee into his rice from yesterday, so that it’s not too dry to eat, may slightly change your perceptions of what you’ve thought is a simple life. A local credit union opened in town 2 years ago, offering loans for villagers to pay for modern needs like petrol, electricity bills and their children’s education. Ever since many villagers have already learned that loans cause other problems, and stay away from the debt trap. A few bad catches, they confess, and they would fall behind on their payments and slide deeper into deficit. It puts unhealthy pressure on them while catching fish. Thus they prefer to earn little, step by step, it lets them sleep better. (By now, 30-40 percent of all Indonesian citizens have no bank account, and spend their little salary day by day.)

„There was this certain year where we caught barely any fish, just by the end of the season, the fish came and we could make the money needed to pay our bills. I’ve learned that we were all more focused and generally more happy during the time of struggle, as it was about survival. The more fish there was and the more competition we had, the more greedy we’ve become. Thus I believe happy people don’t have the best of everything – They make the best of everything. Mark, Owner of a successful commercial fishery in Alaska

Ba leo, Ba leo! – Carry the rope!

On a sunlit Friday afternoon, I reach the small bay of Lamalera, just when the fishermen are about to land their freshly speared sea harvest. Everyone congregates to help pushing the Johnsons back into the shelters, even the youngest children and the one-armed elder. It seems they have been quite successful today; roughly a dozen manta rays, a marlin, a dolphin, a black giant tortoise, and a shark are pulled ashore to be chopped up shortly after. Overlooking the mess of animal parts, I’m suddenly remembered of my scuba dives in Komodo National Park where manta rays promise good money from underwater tourists. Indonesia is home to the world’s largest manta ray sanctuary, which has immense long-term tourism value; but in Lamalera this vulnerable species remains a very common and delicious catch.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

In case there is some spare time, the boys will merrily paddle round on their styrofoam blocks, go surfing on their wooden boards, or they practice throwing a bamboo stick in imitation of the honorable Lamafa – the chief harpooners – they aim to become one day. Around 7 pm, most have already taken their dinner; some rice, a piece of corn and a tiny portion of whatsoever sundried sea creature. A cup of tuak (raw palm wine) or sometimes the slightly stronger Arak (distilled Tuak) will put the men to sleep – Some youngsters will stay up for a while, gathering near the only wifi spot in town to enjoy some youtube sessions. But just about one hour later, one can only hear the few squealing piglets and the waves touching continuously the seashore.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

Dawn. Like a Swiss clockwork, the whole lot of disciplined village roosters crows everyone out of their beds – sometimes in a chorus, then again in shifts. Thus the fishermen have no choice, but to flock down to their Johnsons as though they have never done else. However, most crews won’t leave shore without sprinkling their boat with some blessed water at first, followed by a prayer to God the Almighty, Mother Mary and their ancestors.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

On “Satu, Dua, Tiga … (1,2,3)”, the shipmates push their boat altogether over wood trunks straight down into the surf. Routinely, they will return home from the hunt in the late afternoon, or much earlier, if there is a call for „Ba leo“.

Which there is today! „Ba leo, Ba leo! – Carry the rope!“ – yells the lookout guy on the village’s top, waving his white shirt maniacally to inform the seafaring crews to return as quickly as possible – It’s one of the last days before the Leva Season is official to be announced. Once a whale is spotted, there is a mad sprint to the beach where the traditional Paledang boats will be immediately taken to the sea once the clans reached shore. By lucky chance, I’m able to follow the crew of Petrus Glau Blikolulong „Papa Petro“ – a highly respected Lamafa for 21 years. Experienced Lamafa like Papa Petro enjoy the tremendous appreciation of the whole village, as they shoulder a weighty responsibility for the community. The Lamafa tradition is handed over within the 10 clans, though within the main family if possible. Traditionally a young fisherman will work his way up to that very position after being water bailer or spotter. If he’s able to prove his courage to the crew, he might be elected to take the place of one of the 20 aging Lamafa in Lamalera.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

Our Paledang glides to sea. We’re the very last crew to go on this thrilling voyage. „Usu Teti Lepe Hau – I come from Lepe island“, is written on the whale-craft. The name refers to a real island where their ancestors have dropped anchor hundreds of years ago before eventually settling in Lamalera. They might have fancied a life on Lepe, but the island disappeard because of a Tusnami. By hints I’m placing myself between ropes and blood-encrusted planks. „If you don’t behave we’ll use you as shark bait“, jokes old Papa Lausan, flashing a smile with his two leftover teeth. It’s a wild set of sun-blackened mariners I’m with. In front of me sits the „Breung Alep“ the Assistant of Lamafa Petrus. He is almost equally important because of his responsibility to manage the „Leo“, the sacred rope which is attached to the hook. In the back, another VIP, the „Tuan Perahu“ – the boat boss, who governs control of the Paledang. Some more sailors act as whale spotters monitoring all directions, or they pour out the water in our boat. Whilst we’re being dragged from the Johnson, Papa Petrus persistently sharpens the hook until he claims it to be spicky enough and stuffs it onto the 4 meter long bamboo cane.

And there he is! The sperm whale of Moby Dick fame. The sea rebels are getting in Rage. Only a few flying fish consider the water surface to be safe, but even those are on the way somewhere else. On the narrow boat deck prevails a bloodthirsty mood driven by decades of experience in collective baiting – hence pure man’s business; rushing around, rowing, sweating, roaring. It all sounds like; “Aye idiots accelerate! Left! To the left I said! Don’t ye know where left is? Can’t ye see the whale you fool, how big does the animal have to be?! By the Almighty, slow the f*** down!

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life. And if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat, you would not at heart feel one whit more of terror, than though seated before your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side. Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Certainly, the danger to the Lamalerans during a hunt is not unlike the life-and-death struggle described in Moby Dick, Herman Melville’s famous novel about the Nantucket-based whalers – but most often the severe menace is limited, they might get tangled in the Leo-rope, or being squeezed between the whale and the Paledang, which rarely happens.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

We let go the rope which connects us to the engine-powered boat and approach the giant by rowing as to remain in long-established boundaries. Eyes on the now appearing black back of the toothed predator, we are slowly inching forward. It sounds quite like in the last set of a great tennis game when the players comment each ball they hit with a loud; “Uuuhm, Ahhhm, Ouuh!”

Then there is this flawless silence, as the whale’s side seem to be close enough – Having the harpoon ready, Papa Petro awaits the right moment, and finally leaps off, using the force of his own body weight and the iron tip of the bamboo harpoon to pierce the thick skin of the sperm whale. If the Lamafa is successful, the boat will be connected to the whale by a „Leo“ at the end of the harpoon. The whale may try to dive deep aiming to escape, putting the boat and the crew at menace. Whales can take hours to tire, even after being speared by multiple harpoons. So you might just be dragged along at full speed for several hours – a situation that old Western whalers knew as the „Nantucket sleigh ride”. In our case; Petrus pierced the whale’s flesh, but its tail somehow shook off the harpoon – Thus the wounded whale contrived to escape and is now on the loose. The Johnson crew hurries back and we start chasing the whale once again.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

That is to say, spearing a whale ain’t easy at all. The grim reality is that a fair part of hunting a whale consists of being exposed to a merciless sun for hours while scouting desperately for a surfacing whale tail. No one dares to say a word. With the sea being moderately calm, I only notice the sound of ripples gently clashing to our yawning Paledang. It’s so silent, that even the rustle of a shipmate’s self-rolled cigarette made of tobacco and dried palm leaves can be heard. Meantime, I am struck with the singular posture Petrus maintains. Our Lamafa stands erect and motionless, looking straight out beyond the ship’s ever-pitching prow.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

We’re about 10 Kilometers away from Lamalera, and after some hours of spotting around the decision is made to venture back empty-handed.

 Leva season – Flux of ancient beliefs and christian traditions

There stands a Whaleman’s Chapel, a sacred place even before the missionaries came across to spread the word of God. Many centuries ago, the Lamalerans used this very place to store their deceased people, practicing a bizarre ritual. „These bodies haven’t been buried though, but sunbathing by the beach until the skin was stiff and parched. Then they were to be cleaned with ocean water by a spiritual leader and put back onto the sand to rot. Right here…“, explains Gusti who’s an expert on Sociology in the area, pointing at the small chapel in front of us.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

Today’s evening, the whalers crowd the beach to discuss new rules for the upcoming whaling season and to eventually sort out issues between certain clans. In Lamalera, they have 3 major clans originating from 3 brothers; the Bataona are like the major adat (or government) of the sea, this clan manages all activities offshore. The Blikololong take care of the regency, per se they are the spiritual leaders and therefore responsible for all traditional rituals in the village. And last but not least; the Levotukan – which are responsible for development (building or maintaining the road etc.). Furthermore, there are 7 more but smaller clans with other duties.

Besides eradicating minor problems, it is about how to act as a team. Too much of engine sound scares a whale off – they’ve figured out. And the more engine powered boats coming to assist a crew at once if, the smaller the chance to catch a whale. In the new Leva Season, the crews to be nearest to a whale will decide if, and when, they need support from their comrades, while the others will extend their radius of patience and wait in fair distance for a sign.

Sunday morning – a merciless rooster clan wakes up the Lamalerans as usual at dawn,  as though they would be a faithful herd of chicken furiously crowing to announce the Christian mass. The villagers are all devoted Christians and they have well established a coexistence of their original belief and Christianity – a transition which has been largely influenced by a German priest who arrived in Lamalera some 100 years ago.

Don’t whale it too much a’ Lord’s days, men; but don’t miss a fair chance either, that’s rejecting Heaven’s good gifts. Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Sundays are the only day of the week where the whalers hang out to recharge their energy, dozing on their Paledang or drinking Tuak and Arak with their mates. Nevertheless, some men don’t aim to rest, instead, they maintain their boats, repainting them or fixing the leaks. Others may untangle their fishing nets, while the children are having fun at the beach.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

Overlooking the mellow bustle, one may not quite imagine, that tomorrow will be one of Lamalera’s most important days of the year, as some important clan fellows already prepare themselves mentally for a long hike up to Ile Labalekang to worship the sacred whale stone.

Even the bravest whale hunters need otherworldly support. During the “Ie Gerek” ceremony the leaders of the 3 major clans will adventure to the top of the mountain, requesting the land owner’s permission to open the new Leva Season. The spiritual leader of the Lango Fugon Clan will then sacrifice a chicken near the holy whale stone to call the whale spirit. Chosen leaves of the mountain’s vegetation which bare the whale spirit will be carried down to the beach, to be drowned in the surf.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

In case no whales can be caught within 3-4 months of time, they will repeat the ritual and beg for further spiritual support. With the arrival of the twilight, the blend of spirit superstition and world religion becomes more visible, as the Catholic mass is about to start. The tiny chapel has been festively decorated with polished whale spines and a skull which had to be carried by not less than a dozen men. Tonight, the bishop reminds the villagers that bad deeds will upset their ancestors and therefore almost logically cause bad results, in contrast, all good deeds will help to pursue a blissful life. The ancestors are of higher importance because it’s them who will carry all wishes of the Lamalerans to God.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

Before the Catholic missionaries arrived in Lamalera, the villagers believed in Lara Wulan „the god of the sky“, Tana Ekan „the god of the earth“ and „Ina Leva“ the mother of the sea. Additionally they were worshipping their ancestors (which became saints with the rise of Christianity). These forefathers are responsible to faithfully carry the wishes to Lara Wulan. The priests made them believe that water has been created by God. This has been was accepted, as it was quite easy to replace Ina Leva by holy Mother Mary. Ina Leva alias Mother Mary together with their ancestral saints will always prepare food for this village – which are the whales.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

Before the Corpus Christiwill be shared among the people led by the hymns of a local chorus, the bishop calls out the names of the fishermen who died on duty. Like the crew members from the Batafor Clan who vanished in 1925 after going on a hunt. Their boat had been found but not the crew. Yes, even if quite rare, there is death in this business of whaling. The ceremony ends with the fading flicker of candle lights which the Lamalerans have been sending to sea as offerings for their ancestors.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

As for the last part of the Leva Season opening, the boats are blessed by the bishop and the sail of a traditional Paledang will hoised – it will put to sea symbolically for all others.

Sharing is caring

It frequently happens that when several Paledang are cruising in company, a whale might be struck by the harpoon of one Lamafa, then escape, and be finally killed and captured by another one. Back in the days, the most violent disputes would often arise between the whalers, who’s getting which share – but in Lamalera, this follows straightforward rules!

Today, the body of the whale which had been previously pierced by Lamafa Petrus a week ago was found dead floating at sea. The whale must have drifted away by currents and eventually had been retaken by the crew of Lamafa Goris, who in a calm, snugly towed it alongside, without risk of life or line. Just yesterday, this very crew was blessing their „Leo“ – the sacred rope which is attached to the bamboo harpoon.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

Being aware of the gigantic catch, I walk over to Petrus who is leisurely repairing his boat. As I’m about to give him a high-five, I notice that he’s not in the great mood I’ve expected him to be. By hints, I learn that Papa Petrus, although having basically killed this whale, has no right to receive any share of it, as it belongs to the crew which brings the catch back ashore. However, now the whale is to be landed at Lamalera’s beach. Because he had been killed just before the official whaling season, the Lamalerans consider it a gift from their ancestors and Ina Leva. It requires over a dozen men to tie up this weighty gift.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

Whilst the clan is waiting for low tide, they will ostentatiously sharpen their knives. Those who catch manta rays, sharks or dolphins only share the catch with the boat crew. But one Ikan Paus (sperm whale) feeds entire clans, families, neighbours, and widows. Though, the butchery of a 15-meter long sperm whale is quite a hideous scene as one may imagine.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

I’m told that for bigger whales, they’d use chainsaws. But for this rather small fellow, knives should get the job down. Participating crew members will be rewarded with a share based on their role; The decision of which party will get what whale part comes from the boat maker of the traditional paledang – the „Ata Molan“. He will routinely point at parts and explain how these have to be cut. Normally the cuts will be divided along strict sharing rules as follows:

  • Lamafa (he will get the biggest share, although he will never keep or consume his share, instead gives it to the family, as the local belief always reminds him that if he would take it for himself, his kids may become stupid)
  • The clan of the landowner
  • The harpoon maker
  • The crew, the clan of the boat
  • The crew assisting to kill the whale on spot
  • The widows (the part near the tail is reserved for them)

Some might trade their share in nearby villages like Posiwatu, Imulolong, sometimes Lewoleba. Although an unwritten law says; you exchange whale flesh only for other foods, but never money – a few Lamalerans might sell their share to other villagers to eventually pay some bills.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

The whalers carve away blubber and dissect the whale to its very bits. It smells like another world as if the ocean would have taken over land. And in all this raging tumult of blood and knifes the kids find ample of opportunities to play if not already busy washing the cuts. Childish laughing, they build small dams of sand to block the bloodstreams.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

Not too long ago, even the blood was used for cooking a hearty soup. All part have their own benefit and purpose. Whereas some exotic parts like a whale penis can only be used for viagra-like Chinese Medicine, the blubber (whale speck) and all innards are of greater use. Tough a whale’s blubber is very thin, some of these whales will yield you upwards of thirty gallons of oil. The major part of the oil flows out of the head, and another fair portion will be rubbed out of the blubber by the families.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

Thus, the most useful part of the whale is its highly inflammable oil, which serves as fire kick-starter and old-fashioned lamp oil, sometimes as cooking oil, and even as nutrition for children (a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids). With 500 Million Rupiah (35000 USD) per kilo the most valuable part; „Ambergris“, which is only produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. Digestive system? Yes, whale vomit! Ambergris or in old French „amber“ is used in scents from perfume brands like Armani, Dior or Yves Rocher. Ambergris used to be very highly valued by perfumers because it acquires a sweet, earthy scent as it ages.

Speaking of Lamalera, the most essential part of a whale is obviously its meat, which in sundried slices will help many families to survive the upcoming days.

Changing well established microeconomics?

Whilst we think hapiness equals progress– there might be other ways. Some among us sapiens, just like the Lamalerans, don’t like transition too much, because they have pride and identity! And they know where their place is within a smaller society, whilst many modern cultures wander the world in search of happines and a feel of identity, but in the end their hearts remain restless.

Lamafa - The world\'s last traditional whale hunters

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