Pico is one of the central group of the Azores islands and has a population of about 15,000. Its position on the mid-Atlantic ridge means that it is close to very deep water which was hunted for sperm whales by whalers from New England from the late eighteenth century. Whales were also hunted by local communities. Crews were called together whenever a suitable whale was sited. Whaling remained a feature of the island’s economy until 1992. It was first proposed to commemorate the whaling industry in a museum in the 1960s and a temporary museum was opened in 1979. The history of the museum is now covered in two museums.
The Museum of the Whaling Industry in the village of Sao Roque occupies a former factory used for extracting oil and other products from whale carcases. It opened in 1946 and closed in 1984 when it was the last to operate in the Azores. The machines used in the various processes have been conserved, together with boilers, furnaces and the equipment used for the extraction of vitamins. Displays explain the use of waste materials in fertilising the volcanic soils of Pico, as well as the various uses of whale bone. One of the largest exhibits is the giant jaw bone of a sperm whale. Several of the small boats used by communities for whaling are displayed and on the exterior of the building is a sculptor of a whaler with a harpoon in a small boat.
The Whaler’s Museum (Rua de Baleeiros 13; 9930-143 Lajes de Pico) in the village of Lajes is located in a set of three whalers’ houses, and opened in 1988. One of its chief exhibits is an Azorean whaling boat. There is a replica of a smith’s shop that made harpoons and other whaling equipment, and displays illustrating ship-building on the island and whale art.