Adventures of a Trepang Fisher
by George H. Sunter
ISBN 0 85905 234 6, (1997 reprint of 1937 edition with new material), Soft Cover, 140mm x 215mm, 292pp, illustrated, 380grams
$30.00 + POST
A Northern Territory classic.
George Sunter, pastoralist, buffalo shooter, soldier and author relates his life and adventures of a trepang fisher off Arnhem Land, Northern Territory.
He was engaged in trepang fishing from 1928 to 1932 when the market collapsed. Trepang, also known as beche-de-mer, are semi cylindrical tapering animals found in abundance on the sandy shores of Arnhem Land. Trepang was sold to the Chinese who used it primarily in soup and regarded the food as a delicacy and as a aphrodisiac.
In the 1930s Arnhem Land was still very much a wilderness and access was generally only possible by sea. At the time Sunter was fishing in the area there was no effective government control over the region.
Sunter's relationship with Aboriginal people is one of the main themes of this book. He was wholly dependent on his Aboriginal workforce in the labour intensive process of gathering and preserving the trepang. His exploits dodging sharks and crocodiles add spice to the story.
Adventures of a Trepang Fisher represents a remarkable and valuable document. It provides the most detailed description we have of Australia's first export industry. The book is no less interesting from an anthropological perspective, sympathetically documenting the culture of a people that, although in regular contact with foreigners for many hundreds of years, had succeeded in maintaining their hunting and gathering way of life. Finally, the book represents a vivid account of life on one of the last frontiers of European settlement on the Australian continent.