Malus Island - Whaling Site


City of Karratha

Place Number



Mermaid Sound Dampier Archipelago

Location Details

Local Government




Construction Date

Constructed from 1870

Demolition Year


Statutory Heritage Listings

Type Status Date Documents
(no listings)

Heritage Council Decisions and Deliberations

Type Status Date Documents
RHP - To be assessed Current 16 Jan 2004

Other Heritage Listings and Surveys

Type Status Date Grading/Management
Municipal Inventory Adopted 01 Sep 2013 Category B
Register of the National Estate Permanent 21 Mar 1978

Statement of Significance

The Malus Island whaling site is the most northern and remote colonial-era shore-based whaling station in Western Australia. It provides an evocative reminder of an early phase of resource extraction in the Pilbara of fuels for export. There is potential for further archaeological evidence to be located at the island through excavation.

Physical Description

The site lies in the north east corner of Whalers Bay, providing a well sheltered anchorage with a sandy bottom suitable for processing captured whales. The physical remains of the trying station are located on high ground above the cove.


The history of whaling at the island begins with American whalers, who had been visiting the Dampier Archipelago and the coastal northwest since the early part of the 1800s. In 1801 the whaler Kingston arrived at the ‘Rosemary Islands’, as they were sometimes referred to, following Dampier (KWM logbook 263). Log books from several American whalers in the 1840s suggest that the islands were suitable for several months of whaling and that these were reliable waters for whales. In 1870, Pearse Bros and Marmion acquired the schooner Argo to fish for whales on the north west coast, with John Tapper as chief headsman. They had likely been inspired by the success of the Emily Smith, a whaler from the Eastern Colonies, at the Rosemary Islands. An establishment was set up on Malus Island in 1870, which resulted in a very successful season; in July 1870 they sent three tons of oil down to Perth. They were later joined by other whalers. It is not known exactly when the whaling ceased, but it declined rapidly from the late 1870s along the WA coast. In 1971 very little remained of the whaling station: two whaling ovens, one with a pair of trypots, a brick oven and a blubber cutter. One of the trypots and the blubber cutter were removed to the WA Museum. Another trypot, taken by a member of the public, was lost while being towed between Malus Island and Dampier. The site was rebuilt by the local Apex club.


The archaeological record includes the remains of the trying station and a small oven. The site has archaeological potential as the whole sandy bay could provide further material evidence of whaling on the island, such as residential areas.


Very Little


Very Poor

Other Reference Numbers

Ref Number Description
30 Municipal Inventory

State Heritage Office library entries

Library Id Title Medium Year Of Publication
7647 Cultural heritage assessment and management proposal for historical archaeological sites : Dampier archipelago, Western Australia. Heritage Study {Other} 2004
2310 Dampier Archipelago Historic Sites Survey 1979 Report 1979

Place Type

Historic site


Epoch General Specific
Present Use VACANT\UNUSED Vacant\Unused

Historic Themes

General Specific
OCCUPATIONS Fishing & other maritime industry

Creation Date

29 Mar 1996

Publish place record online (inHerit):


Last Update

16 Feb 2021


This information is provided voluntarily as a public service. The information provided is made available in good faith and is derived from sources believed to be reliable and accurate. However, the information is provided solely on the basis that readers will be responsible for making their own assessment of the matters discussed herein and are advised to verify all relevant representations, statements and information.