The following information and photos was contributed by Miriam Winthrop (19 Mar 2014):
Starting in the seventeenth century, some of the whalers of Ribeiras, mostly concentrated in Santa Cruz but also with some in Santa Barbara and Lajes, contributed to a special fund at their "whalers brotherhood." The money was to be paid out to their families should they die at sea. The records of contributions and disbursements still exist, and these are in the hands of a person by the name of 'Costa.'
In 1892, the S. Bernardo (owned by my great-grandfather and my great-great grandfather) and the Santa Cruz (owned by the grandfather of Rosa Soares-Sousa) went to Terceira. Among other things, they were bringing oranges back. They never returned. Months passed, and the rumor was that they had all deserted their families and gone to America. Then, a large trans-Atlantic ship came into Horta, and its captain told a story to O Telegrafo, a newspaper, about having been off the coast of Ribeiras when a storm came up off the coast of Ribeiras in August. The men were going down, and he could see them with their hands raised to plea for rescue. He got close enough to read the name on one boat, S. Bernardo, but he could not reach them before all were lost. The local priest happened to be in Horta soon after the newspaper published the account; he saw the newspaper and returned to the villages to tell the families of the men what had happened. That all jibes with the only story I had been told about my great-grandfather: that he had gone down to the sea. His death and the deaths of the other men were never recorded anywhere that I found.
At the waterfront, very close to the dock, in Lajes, there is a large stone memorial with the names of those who went down to the sea engraved on it. Funds from the old whalers' fund helped to finance it. The names are only of whalers and fishermen and include all those recorded as lost, just some of those lost. I do know that whalers who did not pay into the fund did not have their names added if they died.
These are small, thumbnail images of the monument. Click on each one to see a larger version.