The Azores archipelago is a group of 9 volcanic islands located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
These islands have long served a stopping point for It is a sailors on their way back to Europe or crossing the ocean to reach the Caribbean. The Azores are also one of the world’s largest whale sanctuaries. Each year hundred’s of whales pass through the Azores on their annual migrations and more than 20 species of whales can be seen. Recently the Azores has become recognized as one of the premier places in the world to spot whales.
In the not so distant past, it was not safe to be a whale in this neighborhood. Whale hunting was one of the few economic opportunities for Azorian and used to be a source of cultural pride. It started being practiced back in the 19th century and was officially prohibited in 1982. The ban was fully implemented barely 30 years ago in 1986. Whales were used for fat to create oil, fuel and lubricant, and cosmetics. Bones were powdered and used as fertility treatments. In lucky occasions when whalers find ambergris inside the sperm whale, profits doubled, as this substance was used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, for soaps and perfumes. Many islands still have the remaining infrastructure from these skinning factories. Fortunately these days are over now people from around the world come to the Azores for whale watching tours.
Why are whales around the Azores?
The Azores are volcanic islands and like other islands, they are a source of lots of biodiversities. The rapid slope of the volcano into the deep is the perfect hunting spot for big whales like sperm whale that can feed until 2km deep to hunt giant squid.
More about our sailing route and some of our sightings during our 7 days out at sea:
With Atlas we travelled from Terceira to Saint Jorge and then to Horta. We spend 3 days in Pico before heading to Santa Maria where Atlas will stay for the winter.
During our venture, we were amazed to spot the dolphins from the elevated cliffs of Pico using binoculars and quite lucky to see many species at sea during our travels in between islands.
We are currently moored in the safe harbor of Vila do Porto on Santa Maria island and working on our project. Three days ago we went around the island. We didn’t spot any cetaceans but we saw a tuna hunt and a whale shark!! Despite its name the whale shark is a fish and the biggest fish in the world! What a magical moment!
The sailing vessel Atlas is in the Azores for the rest of 2020 and early 2021.
The goal of our time here is to develop and test our protocols for Expedition Glacialis. At times the team take breaks to snorkel or scuba dive and really enjoy the wonders of the ocean.
We hope you enjoyed this touch of wildlife!