History > White Fleet
The name White Fleet comes from the white hulls painting of Portuguese ships during World War II. As Portugal was a neutral country in that conflict, the white painting worked as a code for the submarines crossing the Atlantic, not to attack, recognizing the Portuguese vessels by their white hulls and the national flag painted over. This measure also turned easier the sight of the vessels in convoy or under fog.
The Portuguese cod fishing fleet was the last major world fleet to use sailing vessels for the commercial exploitation of an economic activity. In the 1950s, when trawlers were already used in the seas of Newfoundland and cod was scarcing, the Portuguese kept the tradition - and the proud! - sailing with their schooners further north to Greenland. There, in Davis Strait, above the Artic Circle, the Portuguese fishermen stayed long hours in their dories fishing cod with hand lines.
The Portuguese explored the coastal waters of Newfoundland since the XV century but their international recognition only became known pretty later due to the writings of a man: Alan Villiers, who took part in a campaign aboard the “Argus” in 1951. That trip inspired him to write two articles published in the National Geographic Magazine, "I sailed with Captain Portugal's Courageous" and "The Lonely Dorymen” and he also wrote a book of reference about that activity: "The Quest of the Schooner Argus".
The White Fleet kept its traditional way of fishing until the mid of the 1970s, when socio-political changes happened in Portugal simultaneous with the growing concerns of Canada about schools reserves, and the power of jurisdiction over their adjacent waters, dictated the end of the longline cod fishing campaigns. After 1986 Portugal joined the EEC/EU and saw its cod quota reduced. Consequently many ships were slaughtered to the fleet, including “Santa Maria Manuela”, which hull was preserved.