After traveling through Newfoundland and Labrador in search of the remains of the Basque presence in their waters, as we mentioned a few days ago, the whaling route of the Pakea Bizkaia has taken her to their next stop, the Azores.
There, they are looking for signs and remains of a possible Basque whaling presence in those waters. The Azores, for centuries, was whaling land, but it is not known if they learned their whaling techniques from the Basque, or Biscayne, whalers, who, from the 12th century on, had become the most skilled whalers in the world.
But there must be something there, because at the end of the 16th century, a preeminent Baiano, Gabriel Soares de Sousa, wrote a report on the situation of the Portuguese colony of Brazil:
“(…) se à Bahia forem Biscainhos ou outros homens que saibam armar às baleias, em nenhuma parte entram tantas como nela, onde residem seis meses do ano e mais, de que se fará tanta graxa que não haja embarcações que possam trazer à Espanha.”
“…If there are Biscaynes or other men who know how to arm the whales in Bahia, nowhere do so many enter as there, where they reside six months of the year and more, which will make so much grease that there are no boats that can bring to Spain.”
At the beginning of the 17th century, the Governor General of Brazil, Diogo Botelho, invited Pedro de Urecha and a group of Biscaynes to introduce whaling to Bahia. For years, several boats were chartered by Basque-Biscayne captains who set sail from the Basque Country on their way to the Brazilian coast to devote themselves to hunting whales from June to September. It just so happens that the majority of the sailors came from the area around Bayonne. The whaling industry extended along the whole of the Brazilian coast, from Bahia south to Santa Catarina. These practices fell into decline at the end of the 17th century, through they lingered on until whaling was prohibited by the Government of Brazil in 1980.
It’s obvious that if the inhabitants of the Azores excelled in this activity in those days, it’s most likely that they would have been called to go whaling in Brazil. Additionally, the arrival of the Biscaynes to Brazil coincides with the first references to whaling in the Azores.
So, perhaps, if they want to follow the trail of the Basque whalers, Unai Basurko and his crew should change course and head out to Brazil, to find the remains of the Biscayne whalers in South America.
We’ll leave you with the TV report from RTP about the arrival of the Biscaynes to the Azores, as they once again follow whales with interests, though now they are much more in line with the preservation of the environment.
RTP -1/9/2011 -Portugal
Investigadores do País Basco procuram vestígios da caça à baleia nos Açores (vídeo)
Uma equipa de investigadores do País Basco está nos Açores à procura de vestígios da caça à baleia. O projeto está a ser desenvolvido num veleiro.Depois de 3 meses de expedição na Gronelândia e no Canadá, o veleiro Pakea Bizkaia, do País Basco, está a fazer a rota das baleias.