domingo, 13 de setembro de 2009


Indeed, the native whale-fishing in Azores started in 1860 in Faial and Flores islands, spreading later into the whole archipelago.
In Pico island the coast whale-fishing will have started in São João, with the societies «Lemos and Matias» and Maciel Brothers. The first one with formal insurance began working in Calheta de Nesquim, in 1876 (once again the Dabney family, now the sons, and George Olivier, living in Faial) and captain Anselmo da Silveira, born in this small village. (1)
Along the years the cachalot fishing and its commercial transformation had a great development. In the 20th century it has a significant importance to the Pico island economy, largely due to the enterprising strength of the societies Armações Baleeiras Reunidas, Lda, (1942), with the chief-town in São Roque do Pico, where Cristiano de Sousa (who administrated also a similar factory in Flores island) became famous by the opportunities for business then created, and the Sociedade de Indústria Baleeira Insular, Lda., SIBIL (1948), with the chief-town in Lages do Pico.
In the fifties, the cachalot-fishing close to the coast declined, due to the market depreciation of the whale transformation final products, train-oil and meals.

I remember once, I was 27 years old, when I was awaken early to see for the first time three dead cachalots arriving to the Cais do Pico wharf, pulled by a ship’s boat. Despite the majesty I got very sad. I also remember the sea blood tinged, the years one after another, as the result of animals cutting up, the remaining acrimonious smell and the fear of the sharks when bathing in the coast, when the waters were clean, everything in a mixture with a very active life, without to rest, lots of people involved in the factory and commercial work, and also in the exportation of the final products.
Only after the finish of whale-catching I started the summer holydays hobby of fishing mackerel and long-beaked fish with my dear and longing friend professor José Duarte Garcia. He taught me so much about fish and fishery, but also the essential of this Azorean men tale, made of huge risks.
The history, the iconography, the memory, in a certain way the each one of the Azorean persons essence, is intimately tied to the labour in whale-catching, that, in many places in the islands, goes on being celebrated on their way.

Henrique Pinto
August 09

(1) Garcia, J.C., Semana dos Baleeiros, 1998
(2) Garcia, J.C., A Fábrica da Baleia de São Roque do Pico, 2008
(3) Goulart Costa, S., Azores, Nine Islands, One History, Institute of Governmental Studies Press, University of California, Berkeley, 2008
(4) Madruga da Costa, R. M., Inroduction to Annals of Dabney Family in Fayal, by Roxanne Dabney

PHOTOS: Main catholic church, city of Horta; whale, by Alain Debord; Calheta de Nesquim; whalle small boats named botes baleeiros, Lages do Pico; touristic whale-watching, Azores; city of Horta, 19th century

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