Whale-hunting base, Sesimbra, Portugal

Visited 12.-13.7.2014 by jonahi. Whaling is a topic that nowadays makes almost everyone feel disgusted and shocked: how can anyone possibly kill those magnificent, intelligent sea mammals, that are also highly endangered? Past is past, and still some traditionally living populations by the Arctic Ocean depend their daily lives on whale-hunting, but what I cannot understand is how some industrialized countries still continue to do this with no real need.

Small-scale whaling started in Portugal in the 12th century, but the commercial land-based whaling industry was going on for only 89 years in the shores of Portugal in the 20th century, and in this time it managed to destroy the populations of the great whales. There were two main periods of whaling on the mainland shores, in the years 1925-1927 and 1944-1951. This whaling base I visited was probably used in one or both of these periods. The whaling industry on the mainland coast, however, was small compared to the islands of Azores and, less so, Madeira. However, it was far more operational, using steam boats and deck-mounted cannons shooting explosive harpoons, while on the archipelagos, the whaling was more traditional-style using open oar or sail boats and hand harpoons. Portugal was not the only country whaling on these waters; also hunters from Spain, Morocco and United Kingdom were operating here, but the statistics do not tell anything about these concurrent whalers. Whaling began to decline only after the exploited whaling grounds started to be empty of whales and the catches were smaller in number and size. The last whales were hunted in 1987 in Azores, with only 3 whales being caught. The species hunted in the Portuguese mainland coast were mainly sperm and fin whales, the latter being more important catch. These species haven't recovered since.

I found a good article about land-based whaling in Portugal, so if you are further interested in this topic, click here to read the article by C. Brito. I used it as a source of this blog post as well.

I felt very controversial while camping overnight on this whaling beach that is accessible only by boat or a canoe. On the other hand it was situated in a beautiful, naturally rocky bay that had a floor of shiny white pebbles. On the other, the sad history of the place made it somewhat gloomy, especially in the light of the full moon shining brightly from the sea and painting shadows on the rocky walls. I spent the night in a tent that was set up inside the now roofless shelter of the whale-hunters. Just next to it was the slot to where the whales were dragged from the sea after being caught. Now the slot was growing bushes, and I didn't want to know what had once been under them. There wasn't anymore any sign of all the blood that had once stained the place, but I just couldn't stop thinking about it. Anyway, the hunters staying in this base probably were just normal people doing their job to make a living for their family, without a full understanding on how they were affecting the whale populations. And we have to remember that many of our daily acts of Western lifestyle combined actually do the same for many species, it just more hidden and doesn't feel so brutal.


Gold mine buildings, Pirkanmaa, Finland (Part 3)

After sympathetic wooden buildings we moved on towards not-so-cosy concrete walls. The contrast was enormous. Pitch-dark, empty and bleak rooms looked like old dungeons - there was even bars on windows. I couldn't figure out the purpose of them. In the rooms were only a little stuff inside, for examble a grocery cart and scaffoldings. I found the atmosphere desolate, maybe because I have very similar photos from a concentration camp.
   The floor of the highest building was half-filled with greenish water. There was a road made from decayed planks leading to a mysterious door. I was so curious about it I took a risk and walked to it. Planks were slippery and sinking under my feet and I felt there was so much mold in the air it was dangerous even to breathe. At the same time the roof was so beautiful with all the color hues of stone and snow-white mold dripstones. It reminded me of the universe. Behind the door was endless darkness and immeasurable deep drop. I never learned what was hiding there.
   After gloomy concrete buildings the light outside felt almost too bright. We went back to the tower and wondered birch trees with bloody leaves. I've never seen a plant disease like that so in my mind it strengthened the enigmatic ambiance of the place. When we walked outside we noticed saw dumbed child-size swim fins and a hand-made hanging in the bush. Another story which will stay unsolved.


Gold mine buildings, Pirkanmaa, Finland (Part 2)

First time I spotted this place was on our school trip to the forest nearby. Warning sings proclaiming "dangerous area", deteriorated buildings and nature slowly overwhelming the area were so tempting I couldn't get this place out of my mind. Two weeks later we packed our rucksacks and drove there. It was late spring and I remember picking spruce sprouts on our way.
   Getting to the area was easy. Instead of driving away warning signs usually work as an invite for me. I have noticed that "Do not enter" can be translated as "There is something interesting that you really, really need to see". This place wasn't an exception.
   The first thing we went to see was a tower which was inhabited by a jackdaw community. We spent some time trying to figure out how to climb up safely but all the ways were blocked and I didn't want to take any risks. So we didn't disturb jackdaws' peaceful life this time.
   Some of the buildings had become sooty because of fire and in many rooms floor or roof was half'-decayed and there was no chance to walk on it. The most well-preserved building had a turquoise roof and beautiful oblique light coming from the windows near the roofline. Somebody had drawn expressive faces on the walls to guard the place. Rusty lines over the sinks next to the blue ceramic tile made an impression of an American flag.