pt

parcialmente nublado
14°
parcialmente nublado
vento W 15 nós
humidade 67%

Whaling

Developed mainly on the second half of the 20th century in the Azores, whale hunting was a very significant activity for the economy of the islands, mainly on Pico and Faial. People would make use of every part of the sperm whale. Fat would become oil, which would be exported and then used as fuel and lubricating oil or even sold to the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries to make soaps and perfumes. Bones, when transformed into flour, were used as fertilizers or cattle feed. When whalers were lucky enough to find ambergris inside the sperm whale, profit would double, as this is a very rare product, therefore a very expensive one.

It would all start with the rocket launched by the "vigia" (watchman), who would spend hours in the lookout, with his binoculars, waiting and looking for the movement or the blow of a sperm whale. The rocket was a signal to gather the crew and take the boats out to the ocean in search of those huge mammals; a search that could last for hours or even days.

Foreseeing a hard, dangerous fight between man and animal, and using obsolete techniques and small, weak boats, the seven crew members would bravely and boldly put out to sea, each one of them with his own task.

The Azorean whaling boat is unique and beautiful, quite aerodynamic, adapted from the canoes on board of those large American whaling ships of the 19th century which would stop at the bay of Horta to take brave seamen from the islands, as Melville describes in Moby Dick (1851): “No small number of these whaling seamen belong to the Azores, where the outbound Nantucket whalers frequently touch to augment their crews from the hardy peasants of those rocky shores… How it is, there is no telling, but Islanders seem to make the best whalemen”.

The epic dimension of whale hunting in the Azores has been inspiring to many artists, historians, journalists and writers, such as Raul Brandão (Ilhas Desconhecidas), Vitorino Nemésio (Mau Tempo no Canal), Bernard Venables (Baleia! Baleia!: Whale Hunters of the Azores), Dias de Melo (Mar pela Proa), Antonio Tabucchi (Lady of Porto Pim), among many others.

Whale hunting in the Azores came to an end in the 80’s, but people are still proud of their whaling history and tradition. Therefore, the whaling heritage has been restored for cultural purposes. In fact, the Whalers’ Museum, in Lajes do Pico, or the Whaling Station in Porto Pim, Faial Island, are must-visit places. Whaling boats have also been restored, but with a view to sports. Several teams from different islands compete in sailing and rowing regattas or even in international regattas (North-American boats from New Bedford).

Whale hunting has now been replaced by Whale Watching. This activity largely contributes to the growth of tourism industry in the Azores, as every year there are more and more tourists who will only return home after watching and photographing these huge, soulful animals.

 

Check "What to see?" Interpretation Center - Whaling Station