In the 18th century, the first men embarked on large sailing ships in search of whales they could capture and then melt their fat and turn it into oil that was used for lighting.
In the 19th century, the North American ships that frequently passed through the Azores in search of shelter and supplies gave rise to many Azorean men leaving for the USA looking for a better future than that which the crisis in the Azores allowed. In the US, these men learned refined techniques for whaling, returning later to start the whaling industry in the Azores.
Between 1896 and 1949, the use of large whaling ships was replaced by coastal whaling, as many sperm whales were found close to the Azorean coasts. Viewpoints were also introduced on land to locate the animals, which they reached in fast paddle-powered canoes. Although the capture method is essentially artisanal, with manual harpooning, thousands of whales were captured. However, in the 1960s, the decline in whaling began and everything started to change.
In September 1979, the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats was signed in Berne to protect animal species and their habitats, and in 1986 entered in force the Moratorium of the International Whaling Commission, banning the capture of all species of marine mammals in Portuguese waters.
After this chapter in the history of whale hunting in the Azores, the first whale watching companies began to appear in the Azores and the old whaling boats were recovered and are now used in competitions.
Nowadays, the former whale factory on Pico Island is a museum of the whaling industry. The old viewpoints have been restored and are used by whale watching companies so that boats full of lovers of these species can reach them.
Whale watching is currently one of the most popular activities in the Azores and is considered a mandatory experience for anyone visiting the archipelago. The sperm whale and other species of cetaceans became a symbol, if not the symbol, of tourism and culture in the Azores.