A Natural Connection to the Azores

Overview and Objectives

This Learning Center focuses on using entries from the logbook of a whaling ship, the brig Sullivan, to teach latitude and longitude, while getting a sense of the marine species seen on whaling voyages between New Bedford, Massachusetts and the Azores island chain.

This Learning Center provides an opportunity for students to learn geography, currents, taxonomy, and a snippet of Yankee whaling history. It also reinforces the fact that connections between New Bedford and the Azores remain strong.

Enduring Understandings and Big Ideas

  • By using primary sources we can recreate historical whaling voyages, plot latitude and longitude and learn about the animals the whalers saw on their trips.
  • Along with the human, cultural, and historical trading and whaling connections shared by the U.S. and the Azores, there are species that are common to both regions.
  • The common names used for animals seen in previous centuries may be different from the names used currently.

Time required

This program is designed to be completed in 90 minutes.

Extension activities could include investigating sperm whale skeletal and general anatomy, and products made from sperm whales (this is part of the program when it's conducted in the New Bedford Whaling Museum), learning the Portuguese names for the species, creating food chains for some of the animals discussed, or reading more about the Azores and its people.

Classroom resources

  • world map
  • Atlantic Ocean map. A PDF version of a North Atlantic chart can be found within the lesson. 
  • markers (dry erase if you're using a laminated map)

All other resources are provided within this Learning Center.

Learning Objectives

  1. Students will learn the concepts of latitude and longitude.
  2. Students will learn mapping skills by plotting coordinates provided from a whale ship's log book.
  3. Students will learn the geographical location of the Azores.
  4. Students will learn about the historic, economic and cultural connection between Massachusetts and the Azores.
  5. Students will learn about marine creatures encountered during whaling voyages.