Although our island appears to be under a thick
layer of permacloud, around whose edges the sun can be seen shining down, we're
not allowing ourselves to become dispirited on Pico. Oh no.
Instead, we clambered aboard a local bus this
morning to go to the island's second town: Lajes, home to the whaling museum.
The drive was along 30 steep kilometers on the flank of the unseen volcano.
Here, walls of loose lava and pumice divide vineyards into tiny
parcels of a few vines, tended by hand. There is usually more wall than vine,
and yields are pretty low. The co-op we visited yesterday has 220 members
producing about half a million bottles of vino a year. Their best seller is a
watery number that lasts for about 10 minutes once the bottle is open. We
purchased one for wary sampling, but have yet to summon up the
Anyway, we were on our way to the whaling museum.
Though run on a shoestring compared to its Nantucket brother, this establishment
boasts a much better display of whale killing equipment, and an incredible,
grainy 1950s film of a whale hunt on the island. Sperm whales were the chief
quarry here, but by the 50s there was so little money in whale oil that whalers
all moonlighted as farmers, barbers and schoolteachers, leaping into action only
when one of the island's spotters spied a beast. They used fast wooden sailing
boats and harpooned the whale by hand in the old way. The boat's crew would tug
hard on the rope attached to the spike in the whale's side to try to prevent him
from sounding. And, when it resurfaced, they would repeatedly thrust a
sharp lance at it until, pierced a hundred times, it would give up the
fight. The hunt was apparently as much a proof of manhood and an antidote to
boredom as it was an economic activity. It was desperately sad to
In fact, I'm certain I spied a whale from afar as
we bounced down the hill in the bus towards the museum. However, the sighting
was unconfirmed and goes down as a question mark. In other exciting news, we
supped on octopus last night in honour of Elise's 23rd birthday. After a
suspicious start, she ended up thoroughly enjoying it. First Mate Biffle went
for a plate of grilled limpets (unexpectedly good and expensive, presumably due
to their exceeding reluctance to leave their rocks). Finding a local outlet of
the excellent Portuguese Pingo Doce supermarket today, we have stocked up on
lulas (squid) again, and I am plotting a grilled squid meal tomorrow night.
Chris is already carboloading cereal bars in anticipation of a
Tomorrow we backtrack three miles to Horta, one of
the biggest towns in the Azores, located just across the channel on Faial. We'll
be arriving in time for the festival of the sea, which could be fun. Hopes are
high for obtaining a hire car and driving up to the island's magnificent
caldera. And by Saturday, the cloud should have blown away for excellent views
of the volcano here on Pico that we can feel but not see. I would anticipate
more cephalopod-based meals before we get back under way for the 1,200 miles
back to Blighty on Monday.
Sperm whale jawbone
Back in Pingo Doce, with everybody's favourite