- Four of 12 hunters swam to shore, but their companions went down
- Search has failed to find any trace of the men, their boat or the whale
- The incident compared to fictional story of the hunt for Moby Dick
Four of the 12 hunters on board the wooden boat managed to swim to the shore, but their companions went down with the flimsy vessel after the whale at first dragged the vessel along - before diving.
Villagers said it was a mystery why the eight disappeared without trace because they were in an open boat when it was pulled under in the waters off the island of Lembata, in eastern Indonesia.
A major search by tribes people and marine police has failed to find any trace of the men, their boat or the whale, the Jakarta Globe reported today.
Traditional whale hunters on Lembata usually hunt sperm whales, known locally as koteklema, but because they have become scare in recent years the villagers have turned their attention to orcas.
'We've searched everywhere for the men,' said Yoseph Daison, chief of the village of Lamalera.
Killer Whale, leaping in the air B90C17 FL1108, Kitchin/Hurst;
Lembata district chief Eliaser Sunur said he had asked the naval base in the regional capital, Kupang, to send ships to help in the search for the fishermen.
Lamalera village, on the southern tip of Lembata, is one of only two traditional whaling communities on the island.
Between them, they usually hunt about a dozen sperm whales a year.
The incident has provoked varying views on social media, one writer comparing it to the fictional story of Captain Ahab who hunted the white whale, Moby Dick, in revenge for the boats it had sunk.
But another writer emphasised that the hunters search for whales to provide just enough meat for their whole village and was a process filled with religious rites and taboos.