Lajes do Pico was the first settlement on the island of Pico, in the Azores, and became an important commercial fishing port and whaling center for many centuries. Its old stone houses with their long balconies bear testimony to the village’s opulent past. Culturally, whaling was a huge deal here until it was outlawed in 1984. Many find it very interesting how the Azorean methods of whaling changed very little over the centuries.
Opened in 1988, the Museu dos Baleeiros (Whaling Museum) is housed in three nineteenth-century boathouses, a restored blacksmith’s workshop and a new section that contains a comprehensive library of books and research connected to whaling. After watching a short film on the history of whaling in the Azores, you can tour the museum where you will see a beautifully restored canoe, or whaling boat, vignettes of nineteenth-century life in the small whaling town, artifacts of the whaling industry and an interesting scrimshaw display. It is fascinating to see how men in a canoe, bearing only harpoons, rope, and lances, were able to catch those enormous whales and get them back to the shore and out of the water.
The Museu dos Baleeiros is located in the center of Lajes do Pico and is open Tuesday through Friday from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm. On weekends and holidays, it is open from 2:00 pm through 5:30 pm. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Today, the Azores is one of Europe’s premier whale watching destinations. Of the over 80 species of whales and dolphins in the world, 24 can be found in Azorean waters. Sitting on the mid-Atlantic ridge, the waters surrounding the archipelago get deep so fast that sperm, blue, right, minke, sei, humpback, killer and false killer whales pass well within sight of land.
The best time to see the whales is during the spring when migrating whales pass close to the islands. A permanent population of dolphins and Sperm whales just about ensures daily sightings throughout the summer months.
Whalling Museum Address
Rua dos Baleeiros, 13 – 9930 LAJES DO PICO – AZORES – PORTUGAL
Tel: (351) 292 679 340 – Fax: (351) 292 67 20 60