Jewel of the Pacific: The Rat's Tale (1932)
In this 1932 travelogue shot and narrated by Frank Hurley, rat tails bring a reward of sixpence each (equivalent to about $5 today) and Lord Howe Island locals join the hunt for the pests.
In this clip, two women take their three fox terriers to smoke out a family of rats hidden in the hollow of a log. One of the women lights some straw and makes a fire to smoke the rats out and the terriers wait at the other end ready to pounce. The second woman grabs the rats from the terrier’s mouths.
The women chop off the tails, collect them in a batch and send them to the island executives who tally them up in their book and credit their accounts accordingly. The rat tails are then discarded and burnt to ensure that they aren’t counted more than once.
In 1918, rats were introduced by accident to Lord Howe Island when a cargo ship ran aground on its shores. The introduction of the rats had an adverse impact on the palm seed industry, as rats fed on the seeds of the palm. From 1920, in an effort to combat this, islanders were rewarded for hunting rats, receiving payment for each tail handed in. Although an innovative way to keep the rat population under control, this method of pest reduction was not incredibly effective. Hurley’s narration in this clip displays his cheeky side and his playful use of words adds humour to the depiction of this unusual outdoor activity.