Pico Stories and Tips

The Island of Whale and whalers

old draw of Pico Photo, Pico, Portugal

For over a century, the shout of "whale in sight!" has echoed in the streets of the ports of Pico, preceded by the explosion of a warning rocket set off by the "watchman" stationed on a height with a broad view of the ocean. The canoes then set out and fight with the whale. In the Azores the whale is the spermwhale (the size of its head and the presence of theets are its main characteristcs). Then the great mammal becomes tired out...it is killed and tugged to the "factory" where the oil and spermaceti, used in making perfume, are extracted. The hunt finished only in 1984 when Portugal reached the EEC. It is strange to see that fomer whalers are not old retired men.

It was in the middle of the 18th century that the first American whalers appeared in the waters of the archipelagos. Soon they came every year, in larger and larger numbers, to hunt the sperm whale, and recruit harpooners and rowers from among the inhabitants of the Azores. Remember "Moby Dick" from Herman Melville? At the beginning of the book, Captain Achab came to Azores to recruit some whalers! Besides the groups that look rooted in the whaling ports of New Bedford and Nantucket, on the east coast of the United States, considerable numbers of Azoreans settled in the USA. Now many inhabitants of Pico speak fluent English because most of their family lives now in the USA.

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