Final post up on NG and goodbye from the Azores!

Greetings from my last day in the Azores – it’s been an incredibly fast six-plus weeks since I arrived from Tuscany. I had a wonderful gathering tonight with old and new friends here to say goodbye, which was a beautiful way to end my time here. I definitely couldn’t have accomplished what I was able to in the end without the help of people here, and it was wonderful to have so many of them gathered around the same table. While I’d like to write more about what this past week has held for me, I’m going to leave you now (as it’s 1a.m. and I need to be at the airport at 10…) with my final post that went up on National Geographic’s Explorer’s Journal today. Unless there’s free wi-fi in one of the Azorean airports tomorrow, my next contact will be from Boston! It’s been a fantastic time here and I just want to give a truly heartfelt thanks to all who’ve been involved for their support. More to come soon…!

A wooden harpooner stands poised in the bow of an old whaling boat during the Semana dos Baleeiros festivities in Lajes do Pico. Photo by Gemina Garland-Lewis.

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Stories of rivalry and the economic hardships of whaling…

Hello all!

My most recent post just went live on NG’s Explorer’s Journal site. Check it out for more stories! The days are dwindling for me – only five more! Today is the first day of orientation for my graduate school program – hard to imagine myself in Massachusetts right now but I better start getting used to the idea…. Hope to have more for you soon!

Francisco Xavier Simas, age 83, shows me the painting inside the whaleboat house in his village of Ribeiras on Pico. While not based off of any particular story, the depiction of the whale breaking a boat was well within the realm of truth. Photo by Gemina Garland-Lewis.

Emotions behind the last whale hunt

Hello all!

My latest post went live on Nat Geo’s site a couple days ago. Enjoy! I’ve just come back from three days on Pico island and now have another ten interviews under my belt – more to come soon!

Francisco “Barbeiro” Joaquim Machado, age 92, whaled for over 50 years and was the official in the whaleboat that killed the last whale in the Azores on November 14, 1987 – three years after whaling had officially ended on the islands. Photo by Gemina Garland-Lewis.

Hello world!

Family, friends, and web-wanderers, this will be the simple blog I’ll keep during my National Geographic Young Explorer’s Grant (and beyond…?) to recount some details of everyday life. Posts exclusively related to my YEG will go up on NG’s Explorer’s Journal blog, which I’ll post links to when something of mine goes up.

As a bit of background, I’m in the Azores from July 13th to August 29th to complete a project on the whalers in this region. My work will mostly be carried out on the islands of Faial and Pico, but I’m hoping to get a trip to São Jorge in as well. For those of you who have no idea where the Azores are, you can find me here, on these little dots between Europe and North America in the middle of the north Atlantic. I first came to Horta (the town I live in on the island of Faial) four years ago during my travels as a Thomas J. Watson fellow to study different cultural connections to whales. I became so intrigued by the whaling culture here, which ended in 1984, that I knew I had to find a way back here to better record their stories. The opportunity presented itself in the form of a Young Explorer’s Grant from the National Geographic Expeditions Council, and here I am! Throughout the next six weeks I’ll be interviewing ex-whalers, participating in sailing and rowing practices in the old whaling canoes, documenting festivals for the patron saints of whalers, and immersing myself in the stories of this unique culture. I’ve only been here five days and already there’s a lot to tell, but for now I’ll leave you with a shot of Jonah, the stray cat who made himself at home at the old whaling factory in Horta (and was aptly named by the staff there!). Até já!