Friday, April 04, 2008

 

Government of Canada releases major underwater archaeological report on Red Bay, Labrador

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CNW Group
April 04, 2008


ST. JOHN'S - On behalf of Canada's Environment Minister John Baird, Mr. Norman Doyle, Member of Parliament for St. John's East, today launched a major scientific report entitled: The underwater archaeology of Red Bay: Basque shipbuilding and whaling in the 16th century. This much-anticipated report paints a detailed picture of Basque whale hunting techniques, and of the Basque contributions in European shipbuilding and the development of transatlantic trade routes in the mid-16th century.

"Through the Red Bay project, Parks Canada's underwater archaeologists have set a great example in their field," said Mr. Doyle. "Our Government is proud to recognize their hard work, which will give Canadians a better understanding of Red Bay's history."

For a good part of the 16th century, the Basques engaged in the whaling industry on Canada's East Coast. Years of archival research by historical geographer Dr. Selma Barkham helped identify Red Bay, Labrador, as a site of intense Basque activity. Red Bay was the largest shore whaling station, where vestiges of the Basque presence tell a compelling story of commerce and
courage.

Artifacts profiled in the report include four galeones or naos (ocean-going vessels), one of which is believed to be the San Juan that sunk in 1565. Using pioneering techniques, the San Juan was systemically excavated, raised and recorded in pieces on the surface, reburied and monitored ever since in order to ensure its preservation for centuries to come.

"This report describes the most comprehensive underwater archaeological research project ever undertaken in North America, an invaluable addition to the subject," continued Mr. Doyle. "Our Government appreciates the support received from the residents of the Red Bay area, numerous international experts in the field and the Basque Province of Gipuzkoa."

Findings presented in the 1600-page, five-volume report are based on eight successive seasons of fieldwork led by Parks Canada's Chief Underwater Archaeologist Robert Grenier. Other work includes Dr. Barkham's archival research and the land-based archaeology carried out by Memorial University of Newfoundland under the leadership of Dr. James Tuck.

The report describes the methodology used to excavate and document the underwater site at 0 degrees Celsius and to carry out subsequent studies. The completed underwater archaeological work paints a complete picture of the rich history contained in Red Bay National Historic Site was included on Canada's priority list for consideration by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2004. That United Nations body adopted the San Juan as its logo representing the Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.

Copies of the Red Bay underwater archaeology report may be obtained through Publishing and Depository Services, Public Works and Government Services Canada; ISBN 978-0-660-19652-7; Cat. N0.: R62-389/2007E; Web: http://publications.gc.ca/.

For further information: Pamela Gautreau, Communications Manager,Atlantic Region, Parks Canada, (902) 426-5871; (Also available on the Internetat www.pc.gc.ca under Media Room.)



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