A Natural Connection to the Azores

Historical background

Whale ships that sailed out of New Bedford, Massachusetts into the Atlantic Ocean would quite often stop at one or more of the Azores islands to pick up crew members, fresh food and water. Most often, they would visit the islands of Faial and Pico. 

This chain of nine islands is situated 2422 miles (3900 km) from the east coast of the United States and 930 miles (1500 km) from Portugal. (A plane flight from Massachusetts would take between five and six hours.) The islands' location in the Atlantic Ocean is in the path of prevailing winds and the Gulf Stream. Thus, they were a logical port of call for these ships.

Captains and first mates kept daily, and if necessary, hourly records of events during these voyages. Any whales struck and/or killed were noted. Sightings of other marine animals may have been written in as well. The locations of these events were plotted with latitude and longitude coordinates.  Ship owners, who did not typically participate in the voyages, could retrace what happened to their investments by reading through these documents.

At the end of these voyages, many Azoreans chose to settle in New Bedford and surrounding towns rather than return to their island homes. In later decades, immigrants from the Azores moved here to work in the textile and fishing industries. Their cultural influence is visible throughout southeastern New England in festivals, restaurants, other businesses, and media.