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

Hydraulic jack and saw being used to dismantle frame timbers from the San Jan wreck. (CNW Group/Parks Canada)

Underwater archaeologist conducting close-up photography on the San Juan site. (CNW Group/Parks Canada)


    ST. JOHN'S, April 4 /CNW/ - 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.


    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at http://photos.newswire.ca.
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at http://photos.newswire.ca. Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/




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