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All About Portugal | January 17, 2021

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Pico Island history

Pico Island
Clara Campos

Pico Island history begun in the 15th century when the first settlers arrived from Continental Portugal. Wine growing and whaling were the main activities.

Pico Island history started around 1480 when the first settlers arrived, coming from the Northernn areas of Continental Portugal.

The newcomers first established their base at Lajes village and then, in 1542, founded a settlement in São Roque village. Throughout the centuries several villages were founded along the coastline.

As it happened in most Azorean Islands like S. Miguel or St. Maria, for instance, agriculture was the main activity of Pico Island’s settlers. Wheat and woad, a dye-yielding plant exported to Flanders, where the main productions.

However, fishing and the vineyard culture, which landscape is considered World Heritage Site by UNESCO and one of the ex-libris of the Island, soon took the lead on what it comes to economic activities of the Island. The economic panorama of Pico Island remains almost untouched nowadays.

Pico Island’s development

Vineyards Pico Island

Photo by Galeria de Ulrich Thumult

The economic development of Pico Island was boosted by the island’s harbor located at Madalena. It was, and still is, the main exit for the exports. It was from this harbor that Verdelho, Pico Island’s wine, sailed away to different countries like England, USA and Russia. Besides, this port ensured the connections with Faial Island.

In 1723 Madalena was raised to city thanks to the importance of its harbour and to the fact that housed the Island’s most important owners of the large vineyards.

Pico Island faced troubled times between the 18th and the 19th centuries. First due to several earthquakes that hit the Island and then by the plague that destroyed the vineyards. The recovery of the wine growing industry has been slow and still endures.

Whaling in Pico Island

Whaling became an important activity in Pico Island by the end of the 18th century, when American whalers arrived to hunt cachalots. Soon locals engaged in this activity that became one of the most important sources of income for the Island. The heritage of those days may be found at Museu dos Baleeiros (Whalers Museum). It is the perfect place to discover how the Pico Island’s whalers sailed away on small rowing boats to hunt the huge whales that crossed the Azorean waters.

Where is Pico island?

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Pico Island: 38.458049, -28.322816

Main Image Credits

Photo by Galeria de Ulrich Thumult

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