Saint Sebastian, European capital of Culture 2016, is building a whaling ship, as one of the 16th century, for sailing to Canada. In 1978, historian Selma Huxley discovered a wrecking galleon from 1565, Saint John, at the bottom of Red Bay sea (Newfoundland). This discovery certificated the strong Basque whaling activity in front of the Canadian coast.
STRANGE RED ROCKS
Red Bay is a natural port at the East of Quebec, Canada, in Newfoundland. It is a dilapidated town since fishing industries closed and the habitants had been forced to emigrate.
As far as they remember, the little red rocks have been always there. But neither they are red nor native. “We did not know it until Sema Huxley came -by the late ’70s- and told us they were tiles”. They neither were common tiles, but ones with a curved form, dated back for more than 400 yearst and made in the Basque Country, in the North of Spain.
The british historian, settled in Canada, went to Reb Bay in 1978 with a diving team and desinterred a galleon that was sunk since 1565: Saint John.
After 10 years studying the files of the Basque Country, Selma Huxley certified that, during the 16th century, the Basques had developed a strong whaling activity in front of the Canadian coast and Red Bay was their main base.
St. John had sailed from the “Pasajes” port, near Saint Sebastian, to Newfoundland. When it came back,it carried the habitual load: the precious whale blubber. But, according to Guipuzcoa files, a storm caught St. John by surprise at Red Bay outlet. They were no victims among the crew who returned to Spain in other ships.
After Huxley’s investigation, suddenly everything made sense in Red Bay: the calmness of the sea, the bones at the beach and the red pebbles.
The tiles were used to build the oven where they assembled the barrels in which they saved the blubber. It was very wanted in Europe to make high end candles, which were used for the lighting of palaces or churchs, because they had a low smell and a low consumption.
HERITAGE OF HUMANITY
The discovery of the ship placed Red Bay in the center of underwater archaeology. Canada proclaimed it a national place of interest in 1979 and built a museum “in situ”, Red Bay National Historic Site. The school was called Basque Memorial School and the town council is known as Huxley Village Center. At 2013, that area was proclaimed as Heritage of Humanity.
Saint Sebastian, European capital of Culture 2016, picked up the baton of the other side of the Atlantic ocean and various public and private institutions of Spain and Canada, as well as UNESCO, will build a copy of St. John for travelling to Canada in 2020.
July, 31, 2016, EFE/PracticaEspañol