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It is not hard to trace the ancestry of these Portuguese fishermen. The New Englanders, in their ever-widening search for whales, began fishing the Azorian grounds as early as 1774. They would call in at the islands to reprovision and take on recruits. So it was aboard the American whaleships that the islanders first learned the art of whaling, a tradition that they finally carried back to their homes to adapt to the conditions of island life.
With them they brought also a new vocabulary, whaling jargon of which there was no equivalent in their own language. Such terms as blackskin, humpback, killer, bull, stern-oar, spout and a score of others are now Portuguese words. "Bloz!" the boatheader cries, meaning "Thar she blows!" and he would be surprised if you told him that it was not native to his people.
In the huddled fishing village of Cani�al it is foredawn. Doors rattle open, followed by the patter of bare feet on cobbles, a sound which multiplies swiftly until it becomes a continuous rustle of movement. Twenty-seven men are hurrying up through the grayness to the whaling station.
The 28th, Jo�o Costo, harpooner, is late. He was down on the beach unloading his night's catch of espada when the rocket signal went up. Now he dashes to his cottage, snatches a loaf and bottle of wine and runs.
By the time he reaches the whaling station the first boat has already been swung out on the davits and lowered into the water. Jo�o and his crew slither down the steps into one of the other three boats, take up their oars and pull strongly toward the powerboat which will pull them to the whales.
"Where are they?" Jo�o asks.
"Cape Gir�o," Antonio grunts. Antonio is the boatheader, a lean, hard man with a family of eight. "A school."
"Good." Jo�o tries to look pleased, but he is tired and a school means back-breaking work. The others laugh.
The powerboat slows. Jo�o shakes himself out of his oilskin and grasps the end of the whale line. He passes it around the loggerhead in the stern and carries it forward the length of the boat, gathers 20 feet of it in to him and coils it on the harpoon platform.