Sperm whale hunting in 1800s
Primarily from May through October, during the season known as lefa, men pick up their harpoons and head to sea, on the lookout for the telltale spout of their favorite prey: sperm whales. The community of several hundred households may catch as few as none or as many as 40 sperm whales in a year; the fishermen also drag many manta rays and the occasional killer whale, pilot whale, porpoise, dolphin, or shark back to shore. Once a successful sperm whale hunt is over, the meat is divvied up between dozens of families according to long-established protocols. But the hunt remains important for day-to-day survival in Lamalera and is a source of pride and identity. The rocky land around Lamalera, on the southern shore of Lembata Island, is unsuitable for most crops.