Friday, January 25, 2008

Santa Cruz - Flores Island - Azores History

Buildings with lovely lines, symbols of past prosperity. Typical harbour. Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição. Important l9th c. building with an elegant facade Chancel. Magnificent altar Church of São Boaventura. Part of a Franciscan monastery (17th c.). Baroque building. Chancel showing the influence of Mexican-Spanish art. Painting of the Annunciation of the Virgin (16th c.), attributed to an artist of the Portuguese school.

Elegant town

Lajes - Flores Island - Azores History

Picturesque town and fishing port, surrounded by green fields. Well worth a visit is the chapel of Nossa Senhora das Angústias (18th c.), built as the result of a vow made by Spanish nobles who were saved after the wreck of their galleon. Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário. 18th c. building. High Altar. Carved wood.

Fishing port - Lajes


Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Odyssey of the "Alabama" - History - Flores - Azores

During the American Civil War the Southern forces used privateers as one way to attack the Northern merchant navy. The most famous of them all was the "Alabama" which, built in England in 1862, came to receive her armament and ammunitions near Flores and then immediately started out in pursuit of the Northern whalers which were in local waters and rapidly sank them. After that, the "Alabama" continued as a privateer, sinking about 70 ships until, in June 1864 she was attacked and destroyed by the "Kearsarge", of the United States Navy in the area of the English Channel. The transfer of the "Alabama" to the Confederates cost England an indemnity of over 15 million dollars in gold for the damages she had caused.

One of the crewmen of the "Alabama", was a brave sailor from the island of Corvo who, after his adventures, was nicknamed Alabama. His descendants still live on Corvo.

Death of a Pirate - History - Flores - Azores

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Azores served as a base for the restocking and protection of the Spanish galleons filled with valuable treasure from Mexico and Peru and, for that reason, their waters were infested by pirates.

In 1591. a fleet of 16 English privateers, under the command of Sir Thomas Howard, cast anchor off the north coast of Flores to plunder the island, rest the crew and wait for the galleons to arrive. Warned in time of the presence of a Spanish defence squadron with a larger number of ships, the English fleet, except for the Revenge under the command of Sir Richard Grenville, was able to withdraw rapidly. Sir Richard delayed his flight, either waiting for his crew's return, or he thought that the approaching sails belonged to the galleons filled with treasures having been sighted, and choosing to fight instead of running away, the Revenge threw herself at the Spanish fleet and for hours resisted heroically the attacks of many enemy vessels until she was boarded and her last twenty defenders, among them Sir Richard Grenville, were taken prisioner by the flagship San Pablo. Sir Richard died 2 few days later.

This heroic deed the subject of a poem by Tennyson, is viewed by some historic artist as a demonstration of the "intolerable pride" and "insatiable ambition" of Sir Richard Grenville, which made him hated by men under his command and feared by his enemies.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Telegraph Cables - Horta - Faial - Azores History

With the laying in 1893 of the first telegraph cable linking Horta to Carcavelos in Portugal, the first step was taken in a sequence that would make the town one of the largest telecommunications centres in the world in the first half of this century. The initial cable, laid with the prime purpose of transmitting the meteorological observations needed to forecast the weather in the Azores and its influence in Europe, was joined in 1900 by cables of German and American companies, and completed by further moorings in 1903 and 1904. After the 1st World War, new cables were laid in 1924,1925, 1926 and 1928. The 15 cables that linked Horta to the main capitals of the world required skilled personnel for their maintenance and operation as well as suitable technical facilities. A series of buildings that came to change the town's appearance were therefore constructed on the street named after Consul Dabney; they are a witness to the cosmopolitan atmosphere of that golden period in which people of various nationalities fraternised with the local population at festivals, sporting events and walks about the island.

Testimonies to that period are the buildings of the German company, D. A. T. now occupied by government offices but retaining their original design (the outstanding feature being the ballroom with stained-glass windows) and the group of the American company, Western Union, which has been adapted to serve as a hotel. Technological developments expanded the capacity of telephone cables to transmit messages while there was greater use of the radio and later satellites. All this led to the gradual extinction of the companies that operated in Horta, the farewell ceremony of the last company having taken place at the end of 1969.

Horta and Weather Forecasting - Horta - Faial - Azores

Mentioned almost daily to justify the good and bad weather in the forecasts for Europe and North America, the Azores are a region in the middle of the Atlantic where changes in atmospheric pressure take place and influence the climatic conditions in a vast geographical area. The importance of this phenomenon was stressed by Prince Albert of Monaco during the several oceanographic expeditions he carried out in the archipelago in the second half of the l9th century. This led to the setting up in-the Azores of meteorological observatories, the first and most important being that at Monte das Moças in Horta, the observations of which were transmitted by submarine cable to Lisbon, London, Paris, Hamburg and Washington.

The Whalers and Moby Dick - Faial - Horta - Azores History

The hulls were as black as coffins, The ships stank of oil and death. They were the hunters of the sea, the whalers. And every year they came to Porto Pim inlet to rest their crews and leave barrels of whale oil.
Horta was part of the odyssey of those rough men who would leave New Bedford to return years later, tired, sick and not always rich. Horta therefore appeared on the cyclorama painted on cloth that was displayed from town to town in the United States to show the life of the whalers, their ports of call and their hard toil.
In the spring and summer months, dozens of whalers would take shelter behind Mounts Queimado and Guia, All had Azorean crewmen, attracted by the risk and pay. They were appreciated for their resistance and courage, like the young Daniel who, in the famous book by Herman Melville, took part in the implacable chase of the great white whale, Moby Dick.

Long Tom - Horta - Faial - Azores History

In the battle between the American privateer "General Armstrong" and a British fleet in Horta bay in 1814, a cannon called Long Tom played a decisive role.
Made in France in 1786, it was part of the armament of the "Hoche", a vessel captured by the English during the Napoleonic wars. Sold to the United States, the cannon was set up on the poop of the "General Armstrong", and its destructive shots repeated the ships of the British fleet until the American brig was finally sunk.
Long Tom was recovered from the bottom of the harbour and after many years of service in Santa Cruz castle was granted to the United States in 1892. It is now on display at the Naval Arsenal in Washington.

The Dabney Family - Horta - Faial - Azores

John Dabney arrived in Horta towards the end of 1808 with the mission of serving as the first consul in the Azores of the young republic of the United States of America. A far-sighted business man. he soon set up store houses that attracted ships to Horta to put on fresh provisions and repair rigging and hulls, Outstanding among these ships were the whalers that would stay there for a month to rest their crews and unload whale oil. John Dabney, and later his heirs, also engaged in the export of Pico wine (then very famous) and oranges; the latter were then an exotic fruit in the United States, and thousands of cases of them were sent there every year in specially chartered ships.

The destruction of the vineyards and orange orchards by blights in the second half of the l9th century resulted in a sharp drop in the volume of business which led the Dabney family to leave Horta and therefore the Azores in 1892. Traces of their stay in Horta can still be seen in the town houses Fredónia and The Cedars and the charming villa called Bagatelle, as well as the former storehouses situated on the isthmus connecting Monte Oueimado and Monte Guia at Porto Pim.

Sea Week - Semana do Mar - Faial - Azores

The largest tourist event of the island is undoubtedly the Sea Week festival that is held in Horta between the first and second Sundays of August. It originated in the reception of the Portsmouth-Horta regatta in 1975 that motivated a large gathering, lasting one whole week and becoming a marking occasion. It seems that all started with the wine from Pico… The foreign sailors and yachtsmen appreciated the renowned hospitality and friendlyness of the people of Faial and so the festival was born, with the enthusiastic will and cooperation of the locals. In a first phase the event was organized by Horta's nautical club and Horta's Regional Commission for tourism, aided by the Horta's port authority. Although the budgets were very limited, the determination was unstoppable and gradually, the feast attracted the attention of regional, national and even international yachtsmen. Multiple cultural and entertainment activities emerged, allowing the festival to proceed with more sponsors and resources.



Recently Horta's Municipal Council with the help of official entities took the responsibility of organizing the Sea Week, mainly due to the fact that the religious and street feasts joined the sea competitions. Every year the festival has grown bigger and bigger, not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively. There are more days, more water competitions, more exhibitions throughout the town, more promotion, more decorations, more shows, with artists from the continent and abroad. This is certainly the event that you cannot miss!

Following the official opening of the event, a Mass is celebrated in the chapel of Our Lady of Guia, on top of the hill of the same name and the image is then transported by boats in the Nautical Procession, passing through Porto Pim Beach, entering the Horta Harbour and disembarking in the Santa Cruz quay. The image is then carried in procession to the Church of Angústias under the alert gaze of the people with houses along the route, who exhibit their valuable mattresses out of the windows of the upper floors.

During the daytime everyone's attention is centered on the numerous nautical competitions that are carried out by the members of the archipelago's nautical clubs, filling the channel with dozens of vessels and their coloured sails. These competitions include in the yacht category the Atlantis Cup and the regattas of the Channel, of the Mermaids, of the Lonely, of the Former Participants and the Horta Trophy; the canoe races Horta-Porto Pim-Horta, Horta-Varadouro, Varadouro-Horta and of the fastest mile; the crossing of the harbour swimming competition; the regional championships in vessels of various sizes; the water games; the dinghy and rubber raft rallies; the pedal races; the Sea Week Tournament; the water polo; the sports fishing; and the whaling canoes sailing and pedaling races. Late in the afternoon the participants get together in the bar of the nautical club for a happy-hour gathering, during which the prizes are awarded.

At night the animation returns to firm land the marina fills up and the decorated navy frigate lights up. Part of the seaside road is closed to traffic carts of popcorn, stalls owned by gypsies who every year sell the same knickknacks, a church fete and the stall of the local radio station that sells T-shirts are set up; several huts that sell drinks and light snacks are opened in front of the nautical club and in the seaside garden; and that area is filled up with so many people that it is said the island rolls towards that side due to the excess weight…. In the evening, exhibitions and handcraft and book fairs are also opened to the public in the high school compound and the souvenirs and crafts there are cheaper than their usual prices in shops. Until 10:30 p.m. various folkdance groups, bands and pop music groups from all around the Azores perform on the stages of the marina and the Infante Square. This enables all those sitting on the seaside wall watching the crowd walk by to turn round and watch the acts while updating their conversations. By this time the bars of the marina, of Peter Café Sport, of Canto da Doca and the cafés Volga, Internacional, Papapizza, Nevado, Bico Doce and the food stalls are inaccessible due to the great number of tourists and locals that fill them.

The biggest disadvantage in arrangements of this kind is certainly the traffic jams generated. Note that if you pretend to get to the festival by car, you should be prepared to leave your vehicle parked on the other side of town. Owing to the road detours, all those going by car from the parish of Angústias to the other side of Horta will have to climb the very steep streets of the cemetery and return through the narrow streets of the Carmo church, a big upset and unnecessary waste of time. It is therefore very important to arrive at the site as early as possible, especially if you want to watch the concerts of the imported bands. Those who wish to have a good perspective of the show should position themselves right in front of the large stage, jump a lot to be like the crowd, put up with the pushing and, above all, have fun! The residents of that area are grateful around midnight when the daytime festival ends and the people start to disperse and either return home or head to the various bars and discos until the sunrise. On the last night, after listening to the usual new Sea Week Song, the event is officially closed with a grand firework display in the Horta Bay. The best place to watch this is from the rocks of the marina seawall, which is filled with happy people, but don't you be disappointed if this pyrotechnic display is delayed for some time...


At Night - Bars and Pubs - Faial - Azores

Horta is by nature a relatively calm place, and that is reflected on its nightlife, which doesn’t mean that there isn’t a fair number of excelent places where you can relax and enjoy the best part of the day. Following is a list of existing pubs, discos and cafés.

Peter Café Sport
One of the most famous pubs in the World, where yatch crews and tourists from every nationality go for a pleasant night out in its distinctive environment. In addition to having the best gin tonic around, it also serves light snacks, but usually everyone has a bag of peanuts. Service is quite good although prices are high, but as you will soon realise, it’s always full. It’s located at Rua Tenente Valadim, next to the Pico ferry boats.

Clube Naval da Horta
It’s the pub of the Aquatic Club, it serves light snacks and has a good environment, quite full with all kinds of people every weekend and during the whole Summer season. Reasonable prices although service is a bit slow. There is an outdoors area with excellent view over the harbour, as well as pool tables. From time to time there is live music or karaoke sessions. It’s in Rua Vasco da Gama, next to the Stª Cruz Fort.

Bar da Marina
Also serves light snacks, prices are relatively high because it’s part of the Peter Café society. It´s customers are mostly tourists during the week mainly due to it’s location, which, as the name indicates, in the the corner of the Marina. Service could be better, especially in the outdoors section.

Discoteca Rocks
Recently renovated disco, located in Lajinha, just outside Horta, in the parish of Feteira. The facilities are quite good and there is also a pub which serves light snacks. In addition to its wide range of music styles, it sometimes also introduces new bands on stage or invites artists from the continent. The service is quite good although prices are high, and it’s open every Friday, Saturday, and the eve of public holidays. The inconvenience is it’s location out of town, although there is sometimes a dedicated bus service, and the minimum spending is 3.5 euros for men and 1.75 for women, subject to change.

Pub Horta Latina
Located next to the Capote restaurant, pub is open every Fridays with live music, and the environment is also quite good. It’s a small space, but always full. Prices are reasonable and being on the seaside avenue in Horta is a definite advantage.

Retiro dos Frades
Pub with music, prices are relatively high, and its customers are usually teachers and youger people. Located in Praia do Almoxarife.

There are also cafés throughout town which complement the above places. These include Bombordo, Internacional, Volga, Pastelaria Ideal, Jack Pote, and the Sta Cruz Inn.


Other Swimming Pools - Faial - Azores

Other excellent natural pools are the quays of the parishes of Castelo Branco, just go around the airport runway and park the car in front of the picnic area, there are barbecue places, changing rooms, and sometimes a food stall. Other such pools are those in Porto da Eira in Cedros and just across from the camping site in Salão. In Horta, in the zone of Alagoa, there is an artificial indoors swimming pool which can be used all year round, and is ideal for swimming.


Natural swimming pools of Varadouro and Capelo - Faial - Azores

Places of extraordinary beauty in Faial are the natural sea water pools all around the island that were formed between the rocks, when the molten lava flowed down the coast. One of them is located in Varaduro, in the parish of Capelo, enjoying a breathtaking view of the Castelo Branco coast. It was recently improved, having now a smaller pool for children and indoor showers and washrooms at the entrance, being also very close to two restaurants. Another excellent natural pool in Capelo is near the volcano site, in the quay of the parish. It is usually very quiet and the waters are crystal clear. Another advantage is that the sun sets on that side and so that site remains illuminated until very late in the afternoon, but the inconvenience is that there are no houses or bars nearby, so you'll have to bring your own supplies. If you also remember to bring along a fishing rod and the appropriate bait, you won't return empty-handed.

Praia do Norte - Faial - Azores

In case you happen to be in the countryside, more precisely in the parish of Praia do Norte, or if you like to be far from the crowds, then try the beach of Praia do Norte, located in the lower part of the parish. You will have a spectacular view of Faial's northern coast and its rough waters. Fishing and scuba diving are some of the most entertaining past-times that can be practiced here but remember to stay near the shore in order to avoid strong sea currents. The washrooms and showers at the entrance are not that well kept and there is a bar a short distance away. Along the coast there are some natural pools between the rocks and fishing there during the high tide can be fun. As in the case of Almoxarife, occasionally this beach is filled with rocks.

Almoxarife Beach - Faial - Azores

The whole parish is named after this beach that lies between the Espalamaca headland and the village's quay. The stretches for a large area, allowing crowds to be easily avoided. From time to time the tides bring along with them big round stones that completely fill the sand shore, but this doesn’t prevent a very pleasant sunbathing session, with the omnipresent island of Pico just across the channel. There are several good restaurants nearby and if yours is a camping trip, remember that the camp is just across the long seaside street.

If however snorkeling is one of your favourite sports, cross the quay and you will find a tiny hidden beach called the Englishmen Beach. To reach it you should head trough the street on the right of the square and then turn right again into a narrow alley that will take you to the beach. Don't let yourself be carried away by sea-currents and the best time of the day to go there is in the morning when the water temperature is warmer. With luck, you will have the whole cozy beach all for yourself….


Conceicao Beach - Faial - Azores

This small beach is also known as Alagoa and it is located in the far-north end of Horta, near the park of the same name that includes an artificial indoors swimming-pool, two tennis courts and picnic grounds. Although the shore is quite short, the sea there is often very rough and the water turns cold quickly with the absence of enough sunshine. In the summer time it serves as stage for the fans of jet-sky and parachute divers.

Porto Pim Beach - Faial - Azores

This is in my point of view the most graceful of all the beaches in Faial and it is surely where the sea is the most peaceful. On the other hand, this beach is an exception as far as its appearance is concerned - its sand is much brighter and fine, the sea bottom is also sandy and not rocky like the others and its transparent waters reflect the bright blue sky forming an amazing scenery. Although its excellent location - right beside the city of Horta - do not make it the ideal place for those who search true quietude, as this is the one most people go to. Near the entrance on the side of Guia Hill are a large car-parking area, the washrooms and a Walls ice-cream stall that usually opens in the summer season and, not far from the entrance of the opposite side there is a mini-market. On the water, occasionally, special care should be taken to avoid being stung by jellyfish. One of the best alternatives to reach the beach is by boat, turning around the Guia Hill and laying anchor at bay. Don't miss this great beach!

Museums and Exhibitions of Faial - Azores

Capelinhos Museum
Opening Times
Tuesday to Friday: 10:00 – 13:00/14:30 – 17:30
Weekends and holidays: 14:30-17:30
Estrada Regional, Capelinhos

Horta Museum
Opening Times:
Tuesday to Friday: 10:00 – 13:00/14:30 – 17:30
Weekends and holidays: 14:30-17:30
Next to Matriz Church, Horta

Sacred Art Museum
Opening Times:
Tuesday to Friday: 09:30 – 12:00/14:30 – 17:30
Weekends and holidays: 14:00-17:30
São Francisco Church, Horta

Scrimshaw Museum
Opening Times:
Whenever the bar is open.
Peter Café Sport

Centro do Mar (Old Whaling Factory)
Opening Times:
Monday to Friday: 09:00 – 12:00/14:30 – 17:30
Guia Hill, near the beach of Porto Pim

Handcrafts - Traditions - Faial - Azores

Scrimshaw – engraving on whales’ teeth, was an art born of loneliness onboard 19th century whaling ships, and has been an Azorean art since the seventies. In order to produce a scrimshaw work, the first step is to create a surface on which to work. The ridged tooth is sanded smooth and a polish is used to coat the tooth. A layer of India ink is applied and the surface to be engraved is now black. Delicate scratches are made, the needle cutting through the ink, the polish and into the tooth. The scratches then appear white. Ink is applied a second time and this time it enters the unwaxed scratches that form the image. The first coat of black ink is then removed. What remains is the fine, black engraving of the scrimshaw, a unique art form destined to be more valued as additions to the body of work become increasingly rare.
The art form is disappearing because the supply of old teeth, dating from before the ban on whaling, is diminishing. Prices range between 50 and 1250 euros, but if you wish to take a similar though cheaper souvenir, you can also get works with engravings on bones, which are also typical of the islands. The Scrimshaw museum, located in Peter Café Sport, has a permanent exhibition of the best works ever made, making this a visit that you cannot miss.


The works in fig pith consist of miniature sculptures produced from the raw pith extracted from November to February from the interior of the branches of adult fig trees. This is the period when the sap no longer rises, and the inner bark is white and dries within an hour in the sun. To execute this type of work, a variety of tools are used such as lenses, pincers, pocket knives, pins, compasses, rulers and sanders. The extracted fig pith is cut into small and very fine sheets and divided into fragments, which are put together with glue applied by the tip of a pin until the desired form is acquired. The glue used is gum arable that is very pure, and is prepared with water, which rests for two days and is then strained. It must then be kept out of the sunlight which makes it turn yellow.

This type of work in fig pith is still one of the few traditional crafts of Faial today which is regularly practiced. The artifacts in fig pith probably came from the heart of the religious convents known in the city of Horta, that were active between the 16th and 19th centuries. Here, the tranquility would have provided the atmosphere necessary for such persistence and delicacy demanded by the fragility of the material. The pieces presented in the exhibition in the Horta Museum are by Euclides Silveira da Rosa, who was born on Faial Island in 1910 and died in São Paulo in Brazil in 1979. It was this artist who created the greatest variety of forms in this fragile material. He was certainly the most patient, capable craftsman, a technical perfectionist who was unequalled in sculpting fig pith.

Other examples of typical handcrafts made in Faial, are the works using fish scales, the linen embroideries, and the straw hats, which can be found throughout the island. On the ground floor of the Capelinhos Museum, you can not only see an exhibition of such items and learn its history, but also see how they are manufactured live, and buy them as souvenirs.

Cuisine - Gastronomy - Faial - Azores

Here the meat and dairy products are of excellent quality, since all the local cattle is raised in the most natural conditions. From the imense sea around come the fresh fish and seafood and, although the numbers are decreasing, this is also applicable to fruit and vegetables grown on the island.

Blood Sausage over Pineapple

The specialties of Faial that are served in practically ever restaurant include mouthwatering dishes of linguiça (sausage) and inhames (yams), molha de carne (roast meat), delicacies like morcelas and torresmos de vinha-de-alhos that one can only perceive after having tasted, sopas do Espírito Santo (Holy Ghost soup), fish soup, caldeirada (a must try), polvo guisado com vinho (octopus stewed in wine), and accompanied by pão e bolo de milho (corn bread and cake), and massa sovada. Moreover, there is a wide variety of seafood and shellfish available such as lobster, cavaco, deep-water crab and rice of lapas, all extremely well prepared and delicious. There are fine homemade liqueurs of coffee and milk, but the wine comes from Pico.

Feasts - Faial Traditions - Azores

Although various celebrations, mostly religious, take place in Faial throughout the year, it is in the summer time that the most important festive events occur. These are attended by people from all around Faial and not only by those from that particular village, as it happens with the Holy Ghost feasts that happen from Whitsuntide to August. The religious celebrations or functions in devotion to the third person of the Blessed Trinity that take place in the daytime, include a Mass, a procession and a large meal of Holy Ghost soup, roast meat, massa sovada (beaten dough) and arroz doce (sweet rice). At night near the Império, (Holy Ghost chapel), the ladies meet for some conversation, the men drink a beer together, the young ones group in pairs and dance to the rhythm of the rock or pimba music, and the even younger ones spend their parents’ money in the church fete, all this under the coloured lights and flags and the noise of the fire works.

Saint John of Caldeira is the patron saint of Faial and so his memory is marked with a holiday on June 24th and celebrated with a grand feast the night before in Jaime Melo Square, in Flamengos. It is here that, in front of St John Chapel, once surrounded by a dense forest, that a stage is mounted to accommodate the regional pop group that provides the music for the dance. There are food stalls and a church fete between the roadside trees and that area covered with strings of coloured lights, fills up with people from around the island anxious to have fun. A large fire is made and from time to time the bravest ones try to jump over it. At the same time several other fires spread around the fields of the Flamengos Valley.

On the following day, the year's longest, families and friends get together in picnics and lunches near this square or close to the border of Caldeira, even if it is densely foggy, as it often happens.
During the rest of the year there are festivities of the patron saints of each parish, like for example the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, in Castelo Branco on August 15, or the feast of Our Lady of Hope in Norte Pequeno on August 16, and so on, the St. Anthony College feast, the scouts and high school students' parties, and the weekly summer concerts organized by Horta's Municipal Council in Infante Square in Horta.


Faial - Geography - Azores

Faial is an island in the Central Group of the Azores Archipelago, formed by nine volcanic islands and located in the heart of the North Atlantic Ocean, at about 932 miles (1500Km) from Lisbon and 2423 miles (3900Km) from the American Eastern Coast. The island, having the shape of an irregular pentagon and an area of 67 square miles (173.42 Km2), lies between the coordinates 38º 31'-38º 39'(North latitude) and 28º 36'-28º 50'(West of Greenwich longitude). It houses approximately 15,000 people, according to figures from SREA, spread by its 13 parishes and its only town - Horta. The relief is irregular, including steep cliffs, small hills, green valleys and black sand beaches. Dominated by Caldeira's volcanic cone, the island has its highest point at Cabeço Gordo, with an altitude of 3422 feet (1043m).


In the Azores it is usual to say that all the four seasons can occur in a single day and Faial is not an exception. In the morning a sunny day may be expected, but at lunch time possible heavy showers will unable you to see anything. In the afternoon the rainbow may appear but the humidity level rose so much that you won't be able to breath properly and, at night the sudden decrease in temperature is accompanied by strong winds… but don't be scared! It is true that the weather becomes quite rainy during the winter and spring periods but the only snow will see should be the one over Pico's peak, although it did snow in Faial before.

As Prince Albert of Monaco had already commented in his sea expeditions to the archipelago a century ago, the Azores is a region in the centre of the Atlantic whose constant changes in atmospheric pressure influence the climatic conditions over a vast area, and are almost blamed daily for the bad or good weather felt in Europe and North America. Humidity is usually very high, around 90% - and the temperature is mild and temperate, never reaching extremes, varying between 17 and 25 degrees Celsius (62 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer months between 13 and 17 degrees Celsius (55 to 62 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the rest of the year.

Severe storms are frequent but usually only leave traces of fallen trees and energy cuts. Owing to the proximity of Pico, whose peak of 7713 feet (2351m) is only 3 miles (5Km) from the sea, the people of Faial usually predict the weather of the following day by observing its cloud formations. If however a more reliable source is preferred, visit the Regional Weather Station.

So, if all you're looking for is sunshine, beach and fun, come here in July and August, when the sea is calm, the sky is clear and the animation at its best. If on the other hand you'd like to understand why writer Raúl Brandão called Faial "The Blue Island", come during the feast of St. John on July 24, when every field and road side of the island are covered by big bushes of beautiful blue hydrangeas, forming a breath taking scenery. August is the peak season for tourism, with daily festivals taking place in every island (some even at the same time) and it is therefore more difficult to find vacancies in planes and hotels. This is not the case during the rest of the year but the bad weather may turn out to be a nuisance.

Politicaly, Faial is one of the nine Portuguese islands that form the Azores Autonomous Region, integrated in the European Union, with the Euro as its official currency. Horta is head of the district, which includes all of the island's 13 parishes, and the President of its County Council is Dr. Rui de Jesus. As part of being one of the most important islands, Faial houses the Azores Legislative Parliament and several regional government departments.

Faial Island - Pan American Clippers at Horta in 1940

The invention of liquid fuel lead to a decrease in the number of visiting ships but a new chapter in Faial's history began - Sea aviation. The First seaplane to set down in Horta was owned by Captain Albert C. Read, in 1919 and many others followed his trail to the New World. Until the end of the Second World War, it was usual to see numerous Pan American's giant clippers or Lufthansa, Imperial Airways and Air France seaplanes anchored in the harbour.


Faial History - Eruption of the Capelinhos in 1957 After the War

Once more modern technology determined the end of the need to stopover at Horta, but its people did resign easily. The population became poorer and became totally dependent on whale hunting and agriculture. On September 27, 1957 erupted the Capelinhos Volcano and lasted for over a year, destroying the surrounding agricultural fields due to the dense sand and ash covering and provoking serious damages. Then came as help measure from the Massachusetts Senator a permit allowing the immigration of 4500 people to that US state from the parishes of Capelo, Praia do Norte and Cedros. In the seventies the opening of the airport woke the tourism industry and the archipelago's autonomy favoured and stimulated the population. Joining the European Community brought development with it and the average lifestyle has greatly improved since then.

Faial History - America whaling ships anchored at Horta in 1911 The Golden Years

In the XVIII century the village grew with the help of its excellent harbour that, in addition to being a merchandise market also served as a refueling centre of the international shipping routes of the post-industrial era. In 1837 the wine and whale exportation industries reached its maximum and following a new source of employment and profits was born - the American whaling, initiated by its consul who greatly helped Faial’s development, Charles Dabney. Afterwards started the civil war between Portuguese Liberals and Absolutists, being the first strongly helped by the people of Faial and promoting Horta to the category of town on July 4, 1833. Coal storage companies were installed to supply the new steam-engine ships but, in 1857 a severe cyclone lead a new immigration spree of 1523 people who had been left penniless to Brazil, USA, Britain and France. The number of steam-engine and wind ships did not stop increasing and in one of them arrived Prince Albert of Monaco, who spent some time in Faial promoting several scientific expeditions. At the start of this century submarine cables became essential to telecommunications between America and Europe and it was in Horta, owing to its excellent strategic position, that British and German cable companies decided to install their intermediate stations. The city develops and becomes urbanized, the harbour's dock is built, roads are surfaced and the public electric network is inaugurated.

Faial History - Horta as seen by Edward Wright in 1589 Difficult Times

During the sixty years of Spanish occupation of Portugal, the archipelago became an easy prey for pirates and privateers that infested the Atlantic, searching for riches. In 1583 a Spanish fleet captured Faial and so the enemies of Spain became then also enemies of the occupied Portuguese. Among the British and French that attacked Faial were the squadrons of those of the Counts of Cumberland and of Essex that, in 1589 and 1597 respectively, pillaged defenseless populations, taking everything on their way, burning churches and convents and leaving traces of extreme violence, not only in the village but also in the rest of the island. To prevent such incidents from ever happening again, an impressive set of fortified walls was then built across the island, including the forts of Greta, São Sebastião, Stª Cruz, Boa Viagem, Bom Jesus, Alagoa, etc, totaling 21 in the XVIII century. Even though, the Cabeço do Fogo Volcano in 1672 made the island aware of its vulnerability, and although its economy remained stable, it suffered great damages and the loss of 400 people who immigrated to Brazil.

Faial History - Discovery and Settlement

Although it cannot be proved, it is said that Faial, firstly called Ventura, was discovered together with all the others in 1427 by Diogo de Silves, pilot of the King of Portugal. In 1432 Prince Henry then ordered the Flemish nobleman Josse Van Huerter to take charge of the island and to proceed with its settlement, although there was already a small Portuguese community from Terceira in the Cedros. The Flemish firstly settled in Almofariz Beach, but did not find any water supply there, and so moved to the valley which still holds its name in their memory - Flamengos. The Prince renamed the island São Luís and the arriving Flemish and Portuguese settled in Porto Pim (from the Flemish "safe port") and in Conceição, near the Espalamaca headland (from the Flemish "needle tip"). The Orta Village was then formed (the name was probably taken after Huerter), and the island was given the name of Fayal, due to the large number of trees of that species existing there. With the very profitable pastel plantations (dyeing plant), more Portuguese arrived and after some time the Flemish influence faded away.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Capelinhos Volcano - Faial - The Volcano That Came From The Sea

27 September 2007 marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Capelinhos Volcano at the western end of Faial, one of the islands in the Azores.

There were huge limitations on the study of underwater volcanic activity until it became possible to study the planet in a wide variety of ways from more or less sophisticated satellites after the 1980s. For reasons known only to Mother Nature, the Capelinhos Volcano broke through the island’s crust along the same fault as genetically similar predecessors (such as the Costado da Nau Volcano) at the westernmost end of Faial.

After so many years, Capelinhos can still be considered unique in the world of volcanological science, as it was photographed, observed, studied and interpreted right from the beginning (around 7 a.m. on 27 September 1957) until it “fell asleep” on a quiet afternoon of 24 October 1958. All this attention was the result of the proximity to Faial of an inimitable local engineer called Frederico Machado (Director of the District Public Works Department) and the team that he set up while the volcanic activity and the erosion period lasted. His work was, of course, authorised by the Civil Governor, Freitas Pimentel, a physician by profession. He was sensitive to nature’s manifestations and concerned for the safety of the local inhabitants for whom he was responsible.


All the departments of the General Council of the Horta District and the central government, represented by the Minister of Public Works, Arantes e Oliveira, sent substantial financial resources to the island. In reaction to the economic and social catastrophe, the Azorean community living in the United States used its influence to open an extraordinary quota of emigrants (the so-called “volcano victims”) which reduced the island’s population by around one half in little over a year.

After almost 50 years, the new land in Capelinhos, attacked by winters of differing rhythms and intensities, is much smaller (less than 50%) but it will still be one of Faial’s landmarks for another few years yet (for visitors and scientists finding explanations of active-phase phenomena in the interior of volcanoes being destroyed by erosion).

VOLCANOLOGICAL SUMMARY
Like all the other islands in the Azores, Faial is of volcanic origin and developed in four stages at different times. The oldest stage must have begun around 800,000 years ago and was responsible for the horsts in Ribeirinha, Pedro Miguel and Ponta da Espalamaca. The most recent stage, the growth of the island, involves a line of volcanic cones in the Capelo area, with its western end marked by the Capelinhos Volcano.

The Capelinhos Volcano is proof that many of the islands in the Azores are divided into volcanically active sectors. In practical terms, this means that volcanic episodes are going to occur in different parts of the islands over the centuries.

The Capelinhos Volcano is one of the best examples in the world of vulcanology, not only because people continue to observe it but also because of the originality of its development. In other words, Capelinhos was a sequential example of the birth and development of the Azores. It began as an underwater volcano and ended up as a land volcano.

Capelinhos did not appear from one moment to the next. It was preceded by periods of seismic activity that began in early May 1957 and reached their peak on 16 and 27 September 1957.

On the morning of the 27th, the earth was shaking and the whale spotters at Costado da Nau, a few metres above the Capelinhos Lighthouse, saw the ocean churning to the west, half a mile from the shore. Alarmed, they ran down to the lighthouse and warned the lighthouse keepers and their fellow whalers at Comprido harbour. This was no whale or other creature, the sea was boiling and there was a foul smell!

The authorities were called and launches and whaleboats set off for Castelo Branco. Families bundled up their belongings and went down to the whaleboats.

At 7 a.m. the ocean was billowing smoke, and the first ash appeared at 8, like bursts of Japanese cedar. That’s how the underwater phase of the Capelinhos Volcano began. Another three vents appeared a few hours later to make four in all. By the end of the day, there was a column of steam more than four kilometres high visible from all the central islands.

In early October, there was so much ash (sand and dust with occasional blocks of basalt) that it created a horseshoe-shaped islet opening to the southwest. It was given the name of Ilha Nova (New Island). When the wind veered to the west the ash fell on Faial and destroyed all the vegetation. As time went by, it began to cover houses, gardens, pastures and roads.

The first Ilha Nova disappeared on the night of 29 October but further activity in early November repeated the phenomenon (bursts of ash, blocks and clouds flying high or darkened with sand) and the second Ilha Nova was born. Until then scientists had been unaware that there was extensive movement of the seabed during this type of eruption. This was the first lesson learned from Capelinhos...

In November the new islet joined the old Capelinhos islets (left over from a similar eruption in the past) and formed an isthmus to Faial, making it bigger.

On 16 December 1957, to everyone’s amazement, instead of ash the Capelinhos Volcano began to spout bright showers of molten basalt – a breathtaking spectacle!

In late December the ash returned and once or twice there were signs of lava, especially along the lines of craters. The earth shook all the time. It was a volcanic tremor, a phenomenon explained by the scientists who came from the four corners of the earth.
Among them was Tazieff, the famous Belgian vulcanologist, who made friends with the Faial people and with whom I spent time for many years.

In the first three months of 1958 there were mostly episodes of underwater activity, with pointed, cypressoid jets, some of them impressively large and high. When the wind blew from the west, life on Faial was unbearable. The ash reached Horta and the smell of sulphur pervaded everything.

The volcanic centres moved more to the east, coming closer to the “old island”. The lighthouse was bombarded with ash and basalt blocks and it was only by chance that none of the many onlookers were hit as they stood on their viewpoint more than a kilometre away.

In the first four months of 1958, there were several variations in underwater activity at Capelinhos. The isthmus grew and Ilha Nova was now part of Faial, the “old island”. Long beaches were formed and filled the bays of Varadouro and Praia do Norte.

In May 1958, the landscape of the Capelinhos Volcano changed drastically. The underwater phase gave way to strombolian eruptions and incandescent lapilli. On the night of the 12th, a lake of lava with high jets of molten basalt appeared. Meanwhile, the centre of the Caldeira Volcano erupted and belched very fine, greyish ash. Fortunately this volcanic phase was limited to Capelinhos and the caldera did not follow suit.
On the night of the 12th, Faial was shaken by a violent earthquake and some geological faults moved. Some faults in the outer caldera area rose 1.5 metres and two-metre-wide clefts opened up in parts of Praia do Norte. All the houses in Praia do Norte collapsed and many homes in Norte Pequeno and Capelo were severely damaged. No-one was killed because that evening Frederico Machado advised Governor Freitas Pimentel to evacuate people from their homes. It was a remarkable but risky decision! I remember the warnings very clearly.

From May onwards, the Capelinhos Volcano moved into its land phase, emitting incandescent lapilli and long rivers of pahoehoe and a’a lava.

This phase, which substantially increased the area of “new land” and built a cone of lapilli that can still be seen today, lasted until October 1958. It emitted 24 million cubic metres of molten basalt.

The last strombolian eruptions of reddish lapilli occurred without warning on 24 October 1958. The degasification, cooling and erosion process began on the 25th and has lasted to the present day.

Victor Hugo Forjaz
Vulcanologist at the University of the Azores and the Azores Volcanological and Geothermal Observatory

More information in Vulcao dos Capelinhos

Friday, January 4, 2008

Handicrafts - Popular Art - Pico Island - Azores

The hands of the women of Pico create fine crochet lace using traditional or more modern designs, straw hats and rush mats.


The hard tooth of the sperm whale serves as the raw material for the scrimshaw techniques brought over a century ago by the American whalers who came to the waters of the Azores to hunt and recruit harpooners who were famous on the seven seas. The themes carved on these small but valuable works of art are sailing ships, scenes of combat with the great sea mammals, the feminine figures that fill mariners' dreams. But the cachalot also gives rise to other curious pieces. From its teeth, bones and jaws, skilled hands make small sculptures recalling its asymmetrical profile, tails that seem to sweep the ocean and rings, ear-rings and pendants.
Connected with whale hunting are also the delicate and complete miniatures of the elegant whaling-boats, worthy to appear in museums, produced by some of their former crew members.


Gastronomy - Pico Islands - Traditional Food Specialties - Azores

Torresmos de porco (small browned rashers of bacon), morcela (blood pudding), linguiça com inhames (Portuguese sausage with yams) and molha de carne (a meat speciality) are the main dishes of a cuisine which, with caldo de peixe (fish soup), polvo guisado em vinho (octopus stewed in wine) and bolo-de-milho (prepared with maize), delights ail hearty eaters. Those who like shell-fish will find worthy companions for their appetite in the local lobsters, deep-water crabs and cavacos. The soft, white fresh cheese of Pico is a good start to a meal, which can end with the typical, delicious cheese of São João, with its yellow rind, soft interior and intense smell, produced from cow's milk.

Massa sovada, rosquilhas, vésperas and arroz doce are the typical sweets of the island, connected with the Holy Ghost Festivals. They are completed by the Carnival sweets, the filhoses, coscorões and sonhos. Fig and local brandies, made in old copper stills, are digestive beverages that are much appreciated. For those who like sweet drinks, Pico can offer the typical angelica.

Inhames

A famous "verdelho"
Born on the soil of lava, protected from the wind by walls of rough, dark stone, warmed by the rays of the sun, the bunches of grapes acquire the sweetness of honey. Squeezed, they produce a dry white wine with an alcoholic content of 15 to 17 degrees which, after ageing serves as an excellent appetiser. In the last century it was exported to many countries in Europe and America and even reached the tables of the Russian Court. The vineyards, which mark the landscape of the island, also produce a dry, fresh, light and fruity wine that is the ideal companion of a dish of shell-fish or fish, and also the red vinho de cheiro whose presence is compulsory on tables on feast days.

The orchard island
The ground made of lava, the sun and the dry climate make Pico the orchard of the Azores, where apple and pear trees, damson and peach trees, plum and orange trees flourish and produce sweet, juicy fruits that are taken early in the morning on the fruit boats to the town of Horta by the men and women who sell them there. But it is the figs, with an interior that is as red as rubies, a true delicacy for gourmets, that best symbolise the delicious fruit of Pico.

Festivals - Pico Island - Azores

Festival of Bom Jesus - São Mateus
Well attended. The parish is colourfully decorated for the occasion. Music supplied by bands. One of the most important religious festivals in the Azores, the high point being the Ecce Home. Every year on 6th August.

Festivals of the Whaling Men - Lajes do Pico
Dates back to 1883, with the arrival of an image of Our Lady of Lourdes. The whaling men gradually took part in the festival over years. Splendid religious procession. Evening festivity with music and dancing. Last week in August.

Festival of St. Mary Madalene
Traditional festival with a varied programme, including a procession and other liturgical ceremonies, festivities with music, dancing and illuminations. 22nd July. Grape harvest festival in the second week in September.

Holy Ghost Festivals - Pico Island - Azores

A tradition brought by the first settlers and deeply rooted in the population since the aid of the Holy Ghost used to be requested to hold back the streams of lava that devastated houses and crops, these festivals have retained the charm of former times in Pico. The curious ceremony of the "emperors" carrying the crown and sceptre in procession, and the "function" that marks the feast day itself, are repeated in every parish on the island from Whitsun. The processions, with such delicacies as rosquilhas, bolos de véspera and pão doce which at the end of the festivities are distributed among all those present and passers-by, maintain all the colour of limes gone by.
The "empires", which are simple constructions having the white dove of the Holy Ghost at the top of the roof, are present all over the island and are an interesting example of folk architecture.

Holidays - Pico Island - Azores

The crystal blue ocean surrounding Pico is an invitation to fish and to practise underwater observation of the rock formations and rich sea flora and fauna. Swimming is possible in the various natural pools along the coast. The numberless rabbits that hop around the island are able to provide several days of pleasant hunting, with the certainty that you will return every evening with dozens of these soft-skinned rodents (since there is almost a "plague") of rabbits, the law allows them to be hunted all year round.


The hunter will also have a chance to aim his rifle at partridges, snipe, pigeons and quail, which can be found or the island though not in large numbers. Those with resistant legs will want to climb up Pico mountain, a task which can be more or less difficult according to the access chosen.

People interested in speleology have long caves to climb down and discover, although they should always be sure to take a guide with them. But it is the simple charms of the island of Pico, made up of green pastures, maize fields, sweet-smelling orchards and dark mistérios, that excite those who seek to discover, by walking, all the attractions of this island born of fire.

The "maroicos" - Pico Island - Azores

The volcanic stone prevented the fields from being cultivated. So through year after year of toil the inhabitants of Pico erected the truncated pyramids made of thousands of stones - the maroiços which still constitute dark spots in the scenery, mainly in the western area of the island.

The Vineyards and "Currais" - Pico Island - Azores

The ground was hard, dark lava. But the hand of man transformed it, at the cost of hard work, into vineyards producing wine with a delicate flavour called verdelho. In witness to this are the maze of walls made of stone on top of stone - the currais and canadas - where one or more shoots of vine are made to grow. The vineyards stretch all over the western coast of Pico, particularly at Madatena, Bandeiras, Santa Luzia, Criação Velha and Candelária, and also to the south up to Manhenha in the parish of Piedade.

Volcanic Curiosities - Pico Island - Azores

Pico mountain, the lava beds of the mistérios and the caverns and grottoes that pierce the solidified magma are not the only visible results of volcanic activity in the island. If you walk over the plateau area, with an average altitude of 800 metres, you will find dozens of small volcanic cones and craters covered by basaltic slag, dominated by Pico do Topo with a height of 1,007 metres. On the cone of Pico mountain, at an altitude of about 1,500 metres, there is a series of secondary craters called Furnas where people usually spend the night when they climb the height. In the channel separating the islands of Pico and Faial there is an enormous underwater crater with a diameter of about 4 km.


Quinta das Rosas - Matos Souto - Pico Island - Azores

Quinta das Rosas
Park with a great variety of species of trees, including many exotic ones. Belvedere.

Matos Souto
Forested park, with some rare species of trees and an appreciable garden. A place to spend your leisure time. Magnificent earthen pots with species that are being carefully grown and tested.

Arcos do Cachorro - Pico Island - Arches of the Puppy - Azores

Impressive group of lavas next to the sea, perforated by many grottoes and tunnels. Volcanic arches over the sea. Rocks with curious shapes, one of them resembling the muzzle of a dog which possibly gave the place its name (Arcos do Cachorro means Arches of the Puppy).




The Grottoes and Caverns - Pico Island - The Charm of the Landscape

The cooling of the lava and the escape of volcanic gases caused the appearance of cavities that take the form of grottoes covered with volcanic stalactites and stalagmites or long corridors stretching into the depths of the earth. Deserving a visit, accompanied by a guide and suitable equipment, are the caverns (furnas) called Frei Matias (connected with the legend of a hermit), Silveira (with long galleries) and Montanheiros.

The Mysteries - Pico Island - The Charm of the Landscape

Lava beds originating in eruptions that took place after the settlement of the island, they have locally been given the name of mistérios or "mysteries" since the people knew no explanation for the volcanic phenomena and mainly for the effects of the eruptions which destroyed cultivated lands, making them inproductive. Covered by more or less dense woods, they are spread all over the island, the dark lava marking the surrounding landscape. The mistérios of Prainha (1572), Santa Luzia/Bandeiras and São João (1718) and Soldão (1720) are spectacular.

The lakes - Pico Island - The Charm of the Landscape

The lakes of Capitão, Caiado, Rosada, Paúl, Peixinho, Ilhéu, Negra and Landroal are situated in the central plateau area which stretches to the eastern tip of the island. Of modest size, they are surrounded by the original vegetation of the island cedars, laurels and the tree called vinhático.

The mountain - Pico Island - The Charm of the Landscape

Majestic volcano dominating the island, with an altitude of 2,351 metres. It is crowned by Pico Alto, a round crater with a perimeter of about 700 metres and a depth that reaches 30 metres. At the extremity of the crater lies the volcanic cone Piquinho or Pico Pequeno, with a height of about 70 metres and with fumaroles at its base, and which constitutes the summit of the mountain. It is covered with thick forests up to about 1,500 metres, but above this altitude the vegetation is reduced to shrubbery ending at 2,000 metres. After that there is only the cone of bare, naked lava, which is covered by snow in the winter. Provides magnificent views, including glimpses of the islands of Faial, São Jorge, Graciosa and Terceira. Sunrise viewed from the top of the peak is a spectacular and unforgettable sight.

Whalewatching in the Azores - Pico Island - The Island of the Whaling Men

Whale-watching has replaced hunting as a source of income on Pico, says Cathy Packe

Lajes, on the south coast of Pico, is a sleepy little village. The main street, which runs north to south, is rarely packed with shoppers, and the mother church, as the main religious building in each Azorean settlement is known, looks disproportionately large for the needs of what must be a small and dwindling population. But along the seafront are two reminders that this was once one of the most important places on the island.
The concrete and marble structure at the end of the quay is the whaling monument; three interconnecting boat houses on Rua dos Baleeiros now house the whaling museum. Apart from the signs advertising whale-watching trips from the village, these are the only indications that Lajes was once the centre of an industry that flourished in the Azores, and mainly here on the island of Pico, for more than two centuries, until the late 1980s.
Whaling was introduced to the Azores by whalers from the east coast of the United States, who arrived in the islands during the 18th century, driven further and further south by a decline in the numbers of sperm whale to be found closer to their own shores. They stopped in the Azores in search of supplies and human reinforcements, and a logistical support industry grew up around the harbour of Horta, on Faial. But the local fishermen quickly realised that there was money to be made in hunting large cetaceans and an Azorean whaling industry began to flourish, based on the islands of Flores, Faial and, particularly, Pico.

Lajes do Pico

The whale first had to be identified from the shore by keen-sighted whale-spotters who kept watch from huts, or "vigias", on the cliff-tops. Many of these structures can still be seen around the islands. These men would send up flares to alert the whalers that they needed to get ready to go to sea. The boats set out in pairs, and once boat and whale were alongside each other, the whalers harnessed them together by spearing the creature with an eight-foot harpoon, and then killing it with a lance which pierced its heart.


After the whales had been brought ashore, they were cut open and taken to a nearby factory for processing. One of these was at São Roque do Pico, on the north coast of the island, which has now been turned into a Whaling Industry Museum. The tanks on display here were once used to melt the blubber - an unappetisingly smelly procedure - and to turn it into sperm oil, a valuable commodity which could be used in cosmetics, lubricants, paints, wax and many other products. This was the most useful part of the whale, but nothing was wasted. The meat was ground and the bones crushed to make animal feed and fertilisers and the liver was ground to produce an oil rich in vitamins A and D.

The sight of the old ship on display in the island's other whaling museum, back in Lajes, highlights the dangers that the whalers were subjected to in order to bring these vast creatures ashore. It seems remarkably small, given the strength of the ocean and the size of the whales that it went out to pursue. Open boats like this one offered little protection from the either the weather or the whale itself, although they continued to be used in Pico longer than anywhere else.
Whaling was finally abandoned around the islands some 20 years ago and the whalers were forced to look elsewhere for work. But whales continue to provide the Azores with some of their income. Whale-watching has become a popular activity, with trips available on a daily basis from several of the islands during the summer months. A three-hour trip from Lajes with Futurismo on Avenida Marginal (00 351 292 672 000) will cost €45 (£32). There is a full refund if no whales are sighted, although this rarely happens. The company sends whale-spotters to the old look-out posts on the cliff-tops, but these days when they see a whale they communicate direct with the boat by radio instead of sending up a flare. These trips take place from April to October, although the company also operates year-round trips from Ponta Delgada (00 351 296 628 522). Companies that operate from Horta include Norberto, based at Rua do Paiol 12 (00 351 292 293 891; www.norbertodiver.com).

One aspect of the ancient whaling tradition still persists in the Azores. Scrimshaw is the art of engraving whales' teeth with intricate carvings. Its origins were prosaic. Cutting patterns into teeth pulled from captive whales kept bored whalers occupied while they were at sea. But much of the work that they produced has lasted, and there are displays in the gallery above Peter's Café Sport on the harbour at Horta on Faial and in the Whalers Museum at Lajes do Pico. The original technique was simple. Once a design - often a scene depicting the harpooning of the whale - had been scratched into the ivory it was rubbed with lamp-black to bring out the detail. The process eventually became mechanised and, now that whales are no longer hunted, the art of scrimshaw is gradually dying out. But there are still some scrimshaw artists at work, like John van Opstal, a Dutchman who has made the Azores his adopted home. He welcomes all visitors to his studio at Banda da Vila 17c, in Conceição, on the road that heads north just above Horta (00 351 292 392 720).

The Whalers' Museum (Museu dos Baleeiros) at Rua dos Baleeiros 13, Lajes do Pico (00 351 292 672 276) opens 9am-12.30pm and 2-5.30pm Tuesday to Friday, 2-5.30pm at weekends. Entrance costs €1.25 (90p).
The Whaling Industry Museum (Museu da Industria Baleeira) at Rua do Poço, São Roque (00 351 292 622 147) opens 9am-12.30pm and 2-5.30pm Tuesday to Friday, 9am-12.30pm at weekends. Entrance is free.

Criacao Velha - Sao Mateus - Candelaria - Sao Caetano (or Prainha do Sul) - Pico Island - Azores

Criação Velha
Of advanced age, as its very name indicates (Criação Velha means Old Creaton), it is still the true home of verdelho wine, with golden grapes that ripen on large beds of lava at the place called Lagido. Place to visit: Church of Nossa Senhora das Dores.

Moinho do Frade - Lajido da Criação Velha

São Caetano (or Prainha do Sul)
It is still called Prainha do Galeão (literally, Little Beach of the Galleon) because of the ship built there by Garcia Gonçalves Madruga in the 16th c. to pay debts owed to King João III. Magnificent bay.
Belonging to the parish is the locality called Terra do Pão, with a small church dedicated to St Margaret.
Place to visit: Church of São Caetano.

São Mateus
One of line oldest villages in the island. Its foundation dates back to 1482. An alternative port for connections with Faial and one of the last existing bases for whale hunting. Land of lace-makers, who produce excellent crochet work.
Place to visit: Church of São Mateus.

Candelária
Picturesque village in an area or vineyards and orchards. Birthplace of the late cardinal, José da Costa Nunes. Place to visit: Church of Nossa Senhora das Candeias.

Lajes do Pico and Sao Joao - Pico Island - Art and History

Lajes do Pico
The first settlement on the island. Important fishing and commercial port. Whale hunting centre with a centuries-old tradition. Old houses, with dressed stones and balconies running the length of the facade, revealing past prosperity. Picturesque views of the port, with its houses by the sea, and of the volcano of Pico. Curious plant for making dairy products.
Place to visit: Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição; Chapel of São Pedro and Whalers' Museurn. Set up in the former Boat-House. Whaling-boat with its equipment. Products of the whaling industry. Important collection of scrimshaw made from the teeth, bones and ivory of the sperm whale. At the place called Silveira, the only source of mineral water in the island.

São João
Set between two mistérios, destroyed by the volcanic eruption of 1718 which buried its original church, it has a small port, one of the first that was used as a whale hunting base. Its inhabitants, whose men work on land and or the sea like most of the people of Pico, have won fame for making the savoury cheese that bears the name of the parish.
Place to visit: Church of São João Baptista.

Santo Amaro - Ribeirinha - Piedade - Calheta de Nesquim - Ribeiras - Pico Island - Art and History

Santo Amaro
Small village stretching from the small beaching-place for poets to the heights of Terra Alta. Main shipbuilding yard in the Azores, using old manual techniques.
Place to visit: Church of Santo Amaro.

Ribeirinha
The youngest parish in Pico (1980). Places to visit: Church of Santo Antão and Sitio da Baixa, a characteristic example of the summer sea-side resorts preferred by the inhabitants of Pico.

Piedade
Village situated at the eastern extremity of the island. Interesting vistas of the sea and the inland areas. Lovely, curious park of the Forestry Services.
Place to visit: Church of Nosse Senhora da Piedade.

Calheta de Nesquim
Important old port. Typical base for whale hunting, with tug boats and elegant canoes. Place where the first base for hunting the sperm whale was set up in 1876.
Place to visit: Church of São Sebastião.

Carlos Fontes Gallery
Wineries of Feteira de Baixo, in the picturesque village of Calheta de Nesquim. The houses and garden walls built out of black basalt blocks. A peaceful place in a gentle landscape.


Ribeiras
One of the first settlements in the island. Fishing port with long traditions and experienced sailors. Worthy of visits are the churches of Santa Cruz and Santa Bárbara (which replace a 17th c. place of worship), as examples of the rural-style religious art of the Azores.

Santo Antonio - Sao Roque do Pico - Prainha do Norte - Pico Island - Azores

Santo António
Named after the great Portuguese-born saint, the parish includes the small villages of Santana and São Vicente, with their chapels.
Church of Santo António. Small place of worship, founded towards the end of the 17th century. Unlike most churches in Pico, it has only one tower.
The place called Furna, where arriving birds perch, displays a curious combination of volcanic forces and the fury of the ocean waves.

São Roque do Pico
Old town, with characteristic and interesting houses, Commercial port at Cais do Pico, connected with the whaling industry and the site of the only whaling factory in the archipelago.
Church of São Roque and Convent and Church of São Pedro de Alcantara are good places to visit.

A monument for the Azorean whalers in São Roque do Pico.

Prainha do Norte
The second settlement founded on the northern coast of the island.
Church of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda and Large edifice, with an interesting facade (18th c), are good places to visit.
Typical old wine cellars, connected with the centuries-old production of verdelho wine, mainly in the area of Canas bay. Close to a large mistério (mystery), a lava bed covered with trees, resulting from an eruption in 1572 and, in the woods overlooking it small but bucolic Lake Caiado.

Madalena - Bandeiras - Santa Luzia - Pico Island - Art and History

Madalena
The trading and communications centre of the island Its position facing Faial and the town of Horta has made it, since line initial settlement period, the port that ensures links with the neighbouring island. Even nowadays picturesque coasting vessels connect the two fishing ports. Typical town. Fishing port. Daily connections with Horta by motor-boat, Facing the town lie the curious islets "Deitado" (Lying Down) and "Em pé" (Standing), where a birds have their nests.
At Areia Larga, a traditional summer resort you may enjoy the sight of some of the oldest manor houses of the "verdelho" cycle.
You can visit the Church of Santa Maria Madalena; the Town Hall and the wine Museum set up in the former Carmelite convent.
At Areia Larga a traditional summer resort, one may find the largest cannery in the Azores and a co-operative wine cellar.



Bandeiras
A village connected with the "wine cycle" and the prosperity it brought to the island in the 18th and 19th centuries. Resorts at Cais do Mourato and Cachorro. At the latter place there is an old chapel, the destination of tin most traditional penitential pilgrimage of the people of the Azores. The locality called Cabeço Chão has a outstanding micro-climate in the mild weather that is enjoyed all over the island.
Here, too, is one of the most characteristic rural chapels, in which the artistic wood carvings of the altar are outstanding.
You can visit the Church of Nossa Senhora da Boa Nova; Construction dating from the middle of the l9th century. Excellent facade made of good dressed stores.

Santa Luzia
Characteristic village. Close to the small, picturesque sea-side villages of Lajido and Cabrito. Have a look at the place called Ribeira Nova - a recently abandoned small village - where you can still enjoy tin sight of some basaltic constructions with original characteristics.


You can visit the Scrimshaw shop of the artist Fátima Madruga and Church of Santa Luzla.