Many are stunned when I tell them whaling in Australia only stopped in the late 1970s. “Really?” they reply. “We were doing that then?” Albany’s whaling station, and the last in the English-speaking world, closed 45 years ago this week, on November 21, 1978. Australia was hunting whales of the Moby Dick type, sperm whales, more properly called cachalots — the largest of the toothed whales. Then came the 1970s Save the Whale campaign, backed by Friends of the Earth and others, with strong grassroots support in the Eastern States. Malcolm Fraser, the then prime minister, told me decades later that he got more mail about this issue than any other, including the then hot one, abortion. As this political issue emerged in Australia, across the world a fledgling environment group, Greenpeace, was making its own waves. The images of long-haired, bandana-wearing activists in open boats, French-made Zodiacs, confronting the Soviet whaling fleet in the North Pacific became the representative image of saving the planet. Watching was a Frenchman, with considerable resources (money) and a single-minded focus to end whaling. He would later claim to be at one time the biggest donor to Greenpeace. Calling himself Jean-Paul Fortum Gouin (as it turned out this wasn’t his real name), he looked around the world and saw Australia as ripe to be an example to the rest of the world by ending whaling. He arrived in Australia for the June 1977 International Whaling Commission meeting in Canberra. By the end of August that year, he had assembled a team and placed them at the Esplanade Hotel at Middleton Beach. He booked every room, paid in advance, telling the hotel manager: We’re wildflower enthusiasts. Canadian Bob Hunter, the first president of Greenpeace, was there, creating what he called a media mindbomb: getting an issue into the living rooms of voters. With him were Australians Tom Barber (who later built the world’s first commercial wind farm) and photographer Jonny Lewis. The media circus loved the contest: Two Zodiac inflatables following the three steel-hulled whale chasers out of Princess Royal Harbour over the horizon to put themselves between harpoons and the whales. In a public relations misstep, the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company allowed journalists on board to watch the action. This ensured coverage across the world and further fuelled the anti-whaling sentiment among voters. Malcolm Fraser set up a judicial inquiry into whales and whaling but at the first hearing in Albany in July 1978 the whaling company announced the closure. There is debate on the “why” of this. The market for sperm whale oil was shrinking and the anti-whaling activists had further restricted it. The whaling station, a health and safety nightmare, also needed significant capital investment to replace cobbled-together equipment. It had limited life left in it. The last whale was taken November 20, 1978. The next day was the last day of operation. No whales were taken. Chris Pash was a reporter at the Albany Advertiser 1975-78, covering the protests and the closure of the whaling station. His book, The Last Whale (Fremantle Press), was published 2008.