World’s only Whale Crier

Posted: 2 March 2012 by Jenny Meyer Category: Attractions, Children, festivals, Hermanus, Things to do, Uncategorized, Whale Watching Tags: , , , , ,

 

The World’s only Whale Crier

While other towns may still have a Town Crier – an officer of the court who makes public pronouncements – Hermanus is the home of the World’s only Whale Crier.  It is the only town in the world to have its own Whale Crier. Dressed in black and white with a black feathered cap, the Whale Crier’s job is to patrol the cliffpaths (close to Eastbury Cottage) during the whale season and alert the land-based whale watchers, to where whales have been spotted, by blowing on a kelp horn. 

The Whale Crier’s origin can be found in August 1991 when a Transvaal visitor came into the Publicity office, very excited about having seen the whales with the comment, “This must be the best kept secret in the Cape “.   A secret was the very last thing Hermanus wanted its whales to be, however!   The matter was discussed by a group of  business friends who were searching for ways to improve business in Hermanus.   Jim Wepener kept pressing the importance of Whale Watching as a major tourist attraction for the village and came up with the idea of the Whale Crier as a publicity stunt to focus public attention on the whales.   The idea was accepted and a suitable Whale Crier was sought out.

 Hermanus’ first star Whale Crier was found in Pieter Claasens.  First an employee of the Old Harbour,  he took up this unique job in 1992.  Although Pieter initially had to endure the mockery of his local friends for dressing up as a ‘papegaai’ (parrot) his friendly manner and knowledge about the whales soon endeared him to both visitors and locals.   As media interest in the world’s only whale crier grew, Pieter became one of Hermanus’ top tourist attractions through dozens of press and TV interviews.

Pieter Claassens - Hermanus First Whale Crier Pieter Claasens – Hermanus’s first Whale Crier

In 1996 Pieter reached what was possibly the highlight in his career when he was invited to Topsham in the UK where he was guest of honour at the annual Town Crier’s competition.   He opened the proceedings with a call on his famous kelp horn and then shouted his greetings from Hermanus in true Town Crier fashion.   He received resounding applause and was later also made honorary Town Crier of Britain.

Due to poor health, Pieter retired in 1998 and it was a great loss to all who had known him when Pieter died in 2000. In the time that Pieter had performed his job with gusto and enthusiasm, he had grown into an international icon for Hermanus and a beloved symbol for whale-watchers universally.   His humble kelp horn had brought him fame, but unfortunately never fortune, because Pieter Claasens was a man of moderate means when he died.

Hermanus Whale Crier-Wilson Salukuzana     Wilson Salukazana – Hermanus’s second Whale Crier

 Wilson Salukazana took over from Pieter in 1998 and took the Whale Crier icon to even greater heights.   During his time as the Whale Crier, Wilson represented Hermanus at numerous occasions, such as his visit to Great Britain, representing Hermanus as the only whale crier in the world in the city of Manchester, and did much to publicise the town as one of the world’s best whale watching destinations. Wilson’s strong belief was that “to be a really good whale crier, like my late friend Pieter, you must be able to give the community excitement”.  Wilson assuredly did this and became extremely popular with the tourists, telling them many stories.  He became  fondly named as the most photographed man in Walker Bay.  Wilson served as Hermanus’ beloved Whale Crier for eight years and then happily retired at the age of 66.

Zolile Balleni took up the reigns next with big shoes to fill.  Zolile did a sterling job and his huge smile and charming character was a great attraction to visitors.  Sadly the pressure of holding such a prestigious position overwhelmed him and he too resigned.  Pasika Noboba became the next person to bear the iconic title. His passion for nature, children and the elderly won him high respect in the community and by tourists.  His great knowledge of marine and plant life was a great asset to all and he wore his title with dignified pride. In 2011

Eric Davalala (pictured in our cover photo) took over the title and is the current Whale Crier of Hermanus, eager to please and, of course, point out the whales to all who wish to see them.

Eastbury Cottage is just a short stroll from the cliff paths from where you can watch the whales from relaxing on benches or walking along the paved pathway.  The cliff path is wheelchair friendly (as the crow flies from Eastbury Cottage) from the Protea Road access point towards the village.  You can also hear the whales “blowing” on a quiet evening or morning from your accommodation and the garden at Eastbury Cottage.    It’s a good idea to have a photo taken with the World’s only Whale Crier with your children and family!  Remember to take your camera.

Author: Danica Kreusch

Edited: Jenny Meyer Fenn

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