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Gurawul the Whale: An ancient story for our time

More than 70 years ago, the story of Gurawul the whale was told to Max Harrison by his grandfather and uncles. He promised them that one day he would travel to Tasmania and search for the whale dreaming of their Ancestors. This book tells the story of Max’s journey to fulfil that promise, and how he eventually came face to face with Gurawul.

In this book Uncle Max tells the story of Gurawul to a modern audience. He tells how millions of years ago, when the four-legged ancestors of whales still lived on land, they asked the Yuin Elders permission to go and live in the sea. The Elders agreed but in return the whales would have to care for all the living creatures in the ocean.

We learn how 14,000 years ago the whales led humans to safety with a trail of bubbles when the ancient Bassian Plain flooded, cutting Tasmania off from the mainland. Max’s grandfather and uncles had drawn the story for him in the sand … the frightened faces of the humans, and the whales leading the humans to safety with a line of bubbles.

Max’s whole life was linked to Gurawul, passing down the story and taking part in ceremonies along the south coast of NSW, singing up the whales and offering them safe passage on their migration around the coast of Australia to breed. 

When Max was 85 he travelled to Tasmania and followed a trail that led him to Whale Rock … the very image of Gurawul. He saw for himself the engravings of the frightened humans and the trail of whale bubbles, just as they had been shown to him 70 years earlier. Max revisited the site several times, taking his grandson and other young Yuin men with him to share the story and keep Gurawul’s memory alive for future generations.  

Max Dulumunmun Harrison

Yuin Elder Uncle Max Dulumunmun Harrison was an initiated Yuin man – a widely respected Elder who has been on the National Board of Elders, released several books on Aboriginal culture, including My Peoples Dreaming, given knowledge and was a...

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