Whale Watch Azores 


For hundreds of thousands of years the dolphins and great whales roamed the oceans, living in harmony with their environment. The whales were at the top of a food chain that balanced and regulated itself. Yet in the space of less than three hundred years, the incessant greed of man had decimated their numbers in some cases, to the point of extinction.

Whaling was introduced to the Azores in the 1830's by Yankee whalers and to the local people, it became an important part of their economy and culture. The whalers endured a punishing way of life, pursuing the whales in open boats using only hand harpoons and lances. But the hardship they faced was nothing compared to the cruelty inflicted upon the whales, during the hunt. The fight between man and whale was so finely balanced that it would typically take several hours to kill each whale.

Azorean whaling continued in the same traditional manner right up to 1985 when environmental protection legislation in the E. C. and U. S. ultimately killed the markets for their whale products. Around that time IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare) decided that a research programme to study the feasibility of "whale watching", might convince the Azoreans that their economy could benefit more from whale watching tourism, than whaling. So in 1987 a 46ft. sailing ketch was purchased and renamed 'Song of the Whale'. For five seasons she served as a research platform for an international team of scientists led by Dr. Jonathan Gordon of Oxford University. As well as the whale watching feasibility study, benign acoustic survey methods were developed to count sperm whales. In addition, valuable insight into the social behaviour and habits of sperm whales was gained. 




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