Friday, August 06, 2004


Basque galleon discovered at Red Bay - Galeão Basco descoberto em Red Bay (Canadá)


Mais um navio baleeiro Basco encontrado em Red Bay...

Another 16th century galleon found at Red Bay Harbour

Tourism, Culture and Recreation Minister Paul Shelley today announced an exciting new find associated with the underwater archaeological resources at Red Bay, Labrador. What appears to be another 16th century Basque galleon — a trans-oceanic whaling ship — was recently discovered in Red Bay Harbour, the fourth vessel of its kind to be located there.

"This most recent discovery is significant and contributes to the rich history and culture that makes Red Bay unique, both to this province and the rest of Canada," said Minister Shelley. "The discovery adds to the ever expanding inventory of significant archaeological resources in the province and represents another piece of history that ties Newfoundland and Labrador to Europe."

Discoveries like the newest galleon are made possible through a successful collaborative approach by all levels of government to protect and present the heritage of Red Bay. The Town of Red Bay, through its environmental protection policy, is committed to protecting the abundant cultural resources found within its boundaries. The town works with the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, who are responsible for the protection of provincial resources on behalf of the people of the province, and with Parks Canada who, on behalf of all Canadians, manages Red Bay as a national historic site.

It was during a periodic review being conducted by Willis Stevens and Peter Waddell, members of Parks Canada’s underwater archaeology unit, to determine the status of the submerged cultural resources at Red Bay that this most recent find was made. The team was in the harbour last week to monitor wrecks that were previously located when the new discovery was made 25-35 feet below the surface.

Stéphane Dion, Minister of the Environment, said that as part of its management commitments to the national historic site, Parks Canada is proud to continue its research and monitoring efforts at Red Bay. "This work will ultimately mean that the significance of Red Bay can be appreciated by Canadians of today and tomorrow."

Until the 1970s, not much was known about the historical role Newfoundland and Labrador played in helping to meet Europe’s demand for whale oil. A highly lucrative commodity, whale oil was sought after for everything from lighting lamps and making soap to fabricating furnishings and fashions.

Minister Shelley said that Dr. Selma Barkham’s study of records from the Basque region of southern France and northern Spain contributed to revealing that the Basque had carried on a large-scale whale fishery in the Strait of Belle Isle during the 16th and early 17th centuries. They established at least 16 shore stations along the south coast of Labrador and Quebec’s lower north shore. Red Bay, or ‘Butus’ as the Basques called it, became one of the largest and most used of these stations because of its deep water and sheltered harbour.

At the peak of the Basque whaling period, dozens of galleons, each with a crew of 50 to 75 men, would cross the ocean each spring in pursuit of the large numbers of bowhead and North Atlantic right whales.

Fourteen seasons of archaeological research, conducted by Memorial University of Newfoundland under the direction of Dr. James Tuck, and Parks Canada under the direction of Robert Grenier, uncovered thousands of artifacts that paint a picture of the hard conditions surrounding the life and work of the 16th century Basque whalers in Canada. They included tryworks (or ovens) where the whale oil was processed, the remains of cooperages and a cemetery where 140 whalers were buried.

As a result of Parks Canada’s underwater archaeological program, the remains of nine Basque ships and boats were found, including one batel, five chalupas and three galleons. The first galleon, located in 1978, is believed to be the San Juan. The vessel was raised piece-by-piece, recorded and returned to the harbour where it had been preserved for so long. The San Juan was loaded with 800 to 1,000 barrels of oil when its anchor broke and it sank in Red Bay Harbour during a storm in 1565.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has found the underwater archaeological work conducted at Red Bay to be an inspiration in this field and used the outline of the San Juan to be the sole and permanent symbol for heritage ship wrecks around the world. The UN adopted the image for use in a logo to represent its convention for the protection of submerged cultural heritage. Red Bay was also placed on Canada’s tentative list earlier this year for future consideration by the international body for World Heritage Site status.

Minister Shelley said the collection of Basque ships and boats found at Red Bay are considered by archaeologists and historians to be the world’s best-preserved examples from the period. "They have contributed greatly to our understanding of the evolution of ship design and construction during the 16th century," he said. "It remains to be seen what the newest, and fourth galleon to be discovered, will tell us about this fascinating piece of our provincial and Canadian history."

Media contact:

Tansy Mundon, Tourism, Culture and Recreation, (709) 729-0928
Robert Grenier, Chief, Underwater Archaeology Unit, Parks Canada, (613) 990-7103

O primeiro navio baleeiro basco a ser encontrado... em 1978.

San Juan

San Juan was a Basque whaler lost in Red Bay, Labrador, in 1565. Owned by Ramos de Arrieta y Borda of Pasajes (de Fuenterrabia), she was part of the Basque fleet that sent as many as thirty ships a year in the mid-sixteenth century to work the Strait of Belle Isle whale fisheries between Newfoundland and Labrador. According to documents filed in Spain and archaeological evidence gathered in the 1980s, San Juan was apparently loading barrels of oil for the return to Spain when a strong north- erly wind drove her onto the rocks near Saddle Island. Whether anyone was lost with the ship is unknown, but another whaler, La Concepción, embarked most of the crew together with what supplies could be salvaged from the ship. In addition, according to Simon de Echaniz, "the outfitter of the ship, Joannes de Portu, returned to Red Bay the following year in another ship ... and took all the barrels that he could from the lost ship and sent them back to Spain and other places."

In 1978, government archaeologists located the wreck in Red Bay, near one of three known encampments that the whalers used during the whaling season. Parks Canada began excavation the next year. Finds on the site included barrel staves and tops, the jawbone of a whale (apparently stowed in the hold at the time of the sinking), the ship's capstan, fragments of ceramic pottery, and pieces of the ship's pump and pump well. Between 1979 and 1984, archaeologists carefully disassembled the remains of the ship for conservation and study ashore. These included approximately 3,000 individual timbers comprising 44 ceiling planks, 210 exterior planks, 230 futtocks, 50 floor timbers, and other structural and miscellaneous elements. At the same time, archaeologists from the University of Newfoundland have been studying the nearby Basque whaling station found on Red Bay.

Tuck & Grenier, "Sixteenth-Century Basque Whaling Station in Labrador." Waddell, "Disassembly of a Sixteenth-Century Galleon."

Part of the San Juan
discovered at Red Bay,Canada
© Parks Canada

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