Idea #177 – In the footsteps of the Azorian Whale Hunters
Pico Island (in Portuguese: Ilha doh Pico) is the main island of the central group of the Azores Archipelago. From 1767, the “whaling” – meaning sperm whales hunting – had grown up there. In 1876, the first company “Aliança Calhetense” already possesses there a large fleet. From 1900, the whole archipelago lived only on the hunting and the first cooperatives appear, sharing profits between crews, watchtowers, and shipowners. About ten watchtowers were used along coast. In the fifties, the watchtowers were equipped with radio sets allowing to centralize the information and to guide whalers throughout the hunting. Every breath of whale was noted on a pad with its position, its height, etc…. The whalers encircled sperm whales and harpooned them in hands. The animal, exhausted and bled, was then winched on the port and cut. Flesh, fat and bones were cooked in big tanks to make some flour serving as food complements for animals. The present ambergris in the bowel was of use to the perfume shop, and the spermaceti, or oil of head, in the pharmaceutical industry.
In 1953, the world market of the oil of the whale got saturated and lot of Azorians leaves their islands. A few years later, the Portuguese government publishes a new decree intended to control and to limit the hunting whaler. From 1960 till 1970, the emigration accelerates and the industry suffers from a boycott of the European countries. In the sixties ten, factories close one after the other, and in 1981, only the Pico Island, Faial and Florae possess another activity of hunting. In 1987, any shape of hunting was definitively stopped and we shall not complain about it ! Today, sperm whales prosper again, and it is possible to observe them, what gave us the idea 171 to swim with them. Let’s g on the tracks of the whalers…
Where is it ?
Pico Island, Azores Archipelago, Portugal.