The Azores
History

Azores
FROM WHALING TRADITION TO RESPONSIBLE WHALE WATCHING

The Azores are considered to be one of the best destinations in the world for whale and dolphin watching. In Azores archipelago you can find several species of cetaceans that pass between the nine islands. The depth near the coastlines can be up to three thousand meters deep, this is one of the important facts that creates the perfect conditions for a lot of cetacean species. In the Azores we identified already around 28 different cetacean species from the 81 total registered worldwide.

XVII Century

The whale industry in the Azores was introduced by the new North American generation. Big sailing ships, called Yankees, were the first to adventure in the Azorean waters to hunt whales. They captured and then they melted the meat that originated the oil used for lighting.

XVIII Century

Because of this American influences, a lot of North American ships stopped here in search for shelter and supplies. In order to run away from the Azorean crises many man left the islands to move to the USA in the pursuit of a brighter future.

1864

In the end of the XVIII century a lot of emigrant came back from the USA to start the whaling industry in Azores. On board the Americans developed better skills on hunting whales.

1896 – 1949

The big ships were substituted by a more coastal whaling. There were a lot of sperm whales close to our shores. The lookouts – vigias – were added to this tradition to help locating the whales from shore. Smaller wooden boats leave the shore in the direction of the sperm whales.

1960

The whaling tradition in Azores started to fade away in the end of the 60’s. Even though the whaling hunting methods were traditional were killed many animals. Between 1896 and 1949 were killed around 12 thousand whales.

1987

This was the last year that Azoreans captured whales in Pico Island. Finally the end of the whaling chapter in the Azores was over.

1989

The convention on the conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitat in Europe in September of 1979 a treatment was created. The rules that stopped all kind of marine mammals from being killed in Portuguese waters were created then.

1993

The first whale watching company was created in Lajes do Pico, in Pico Island. A year later Futurismo Azores Whale Watching started its activity in São Miguel Island. The whale watching expertise from the Azorean companies kept alive the whaling history until nowadays.

1960

The old whaling boats that were recovered are now used in boat racings. The old whaling factory in Pico Island is now a Whaling Museum located in Sao Roque village. The old lookout spots are now being used still to locate the animals from land to send the whale watching boats into their location.

Present Day

Whale and dolphin watching in Azores is more and more rooted in the Azorean culture. The sperm whale is still the gem of the Azorean waters and there are more and more living here, this is why it’s the cultural and tourism Azorean symbol.

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