For over seven years, Hermanus residents and thousands of visitors who annually flock to our shores, have listened to the sonorous sound of his single-note kelp (dried seaweed) horn, which he blows to spread the happy tidings when whales are spotted in the bay. Wilson Salukazana is only the second man who was to be appointed to this unique post and Hermanus is the only place in the world with a whale crier.

Wilson the Whale Crier

The idea of a whale crier was initiated by Jimmy Wepener of Kenjockity Guesthouse and members of the Business Group in 1991 and Piet Claasen, who was the only one who could get a sound from the kelp horn, was chosen as first whale crier.

Wilson succeeded him in 1998 and in 2006, at the age of 66, Wilson himself decided to retire. He admitted that he would certainly miss the people, especially the many tourists. One of the major highlights during his period of office as whale crier, was his visit to Chester in Great Britain, representing Hermanus at the festival of town criers. Wilson enjoyed the trip immensely.

Wilson came to Hermanus in 1960, as a young man of 20 and worked at the Birkenhead Hotel in Voelklip where he assisted the manager with many tasks, including that of wine steward. Wilson was a steadfast worker and stayed with the Birkenhead for 14 years. In 1974, he was appointed at the First National Bank as messenger and assistant teller. He worked there for 24 years before he was approached by the then tourism chairperson to become the officially appointed whale crier of the Whale Capital.

Wilson lives in the township Zwelihle, and has seen it grow from a small collection of sub-economic houses to a thriving and bustling township, which is the largest in the Overberg. At one time he and his fellow councilors built the community hall and upgraded the stadium in Zwelihle. They also managed to establish their own police station in the townships. Street lights, sewerage system and storm water drainage followed. Sometime later Wilson was elected mayor of Zwelihle.

Wilson served the Zwelihle Welfare Society, a non-profit organization, in the capacity of honorary treasurer. He was instrumental in the establishment of a transit home for the disabled and the first creches in Zwelihle. For years he was the financial officer of the Qhayiya High School. He has always been interested in financial matters and studied bookkeeping through Damelin College.

For readers unfamiliar with the unusual art of making kelp horns, these are fashioned out of seaweed which grows abundantly around our shores. A retired gentleman, Brian Anketill, living in Hermanus collects the right type of seaweed from the beaches. While still wet, the kelp is moulded and formed into the shape of a horn and then dried in the sun. These are sold at Hermanus Museum shop and those for the whale crier are decorated with a trilingual slogan. It takes much practice to coax a sound out of this “instrument” – but all previous incumbents have succeeded admirably!

Article extracted from SJ du Toit – Whale Capital Chronicles III, Page 190.
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