Beacon Island Whaling Station

Whaling in the bay was started by John Sinclair with the first cargo of whale oil leaving the shores of Plettenberg Bay in 1834.  A number of other men continued to whale in the bay, but it was Cornelius Watson and Percy Toplis who managed to obtain the first lease to use Beacon Island as a whaling station.  In 1908 the Thesen family of Knysna bought the whaling station from Toplis and invested heavily into what they hoped would be a lucrative whaling business.   

Over an 8-year period, they brought in seven whaling steamers from Norway, a meat boiling plant, an electric-lighting plant and a team of renowned Norwegian whalers.  Unfortunately their operation didn’t last long and whaling was halted in 1916.  The Norwegians had underestimated the whaling potential of the bay and World War I prevented the export of oil to England during that period.  One of the original iron pots used to boil the whale blubber can still be seen on the grounds of the hotel along with a couple of harpoons.

When the Norwegians took over the whaling station they imported a house from Norway which was occupied by the project manager Captain Jacob Odland.  The house remained when whaling ceased and became Hopwood’s boarding house, a forerunner of the Angler’s Inn.  The first Beacon Island Hotel was erected by Hugh Owen Grant in 1940 and the present hotel was built in 1972.