Once the island’s second largest town, São Roque still shows many signs of its historical importance in its various remains, such as its heritage of religious buildings and its many interesting houses that were built very much in their own particular style. At Cais do Pico, there is a commercial port and an old fishing harbour that played a major part in the historical activity of whale hunting, one which has a long tradition in these parts.
Pico began by providing harpooners to the American whaling boats, which came here to hunt for sperm whales until the end of the 19th century. After this, the activity was then continued at the initiative of the island’s own inhabitants, who ventured forth to sea in narrow rowing-boats.
There are two museums that have remained to tell the history of whaling. One is the Museu da Indústria Baleeira (the Whaling Industry Museum), housed in the old Whaleboat Factory in the town of São Roque, which was in business from 1946 to 1984. This museum was opened in May 1994 and is internationally considered to be one of the best industrial museums of its kind, exhibiting boilers, furnaces, machinery and other equipment used in the exploitation and transformation of whales into oil and flour. It offers you the chance to make an interesting discovery about the ancient practices linked to a now extinct activity, which only a very few people actually know about.