Red Bay National Historic Site
In the 1500s, the waters of Red Bay were thick with thousands of Basque whalers hunting right whales and bowhead whales for export to Europe. On Saddle Island, an island at the mouth of the bay, the remnants of whale oil rendering ovens and cooperages sit where Basque hands first built them. Today you can wander around the former whaling town of Red Bay and explore the history that drapes it.
Take a hike along the beach and skip rocks where Basque whalers celebrated their catch. Step into the interpretation centre and see an eight-metre chalupa, used by whalers young and old to set out into the ocean to harpoon their giant catch. To get a full appreciation for the size of these whales, compare the chalupa to the assembled collections of whale bones displayed in the centre. These displays depict a time of prosperity and dangerous adventure, illustrating their way of life long before our time.
If you take a boat or kayak trip to Saddle Island, you will find the remains of a time miraculously preserved.
Where once stood the home of the first large-scale whale oil production in the world, now lies piles of red clay roof tiles – 500 years later. Here, you can picture perfectly what this place was like; people working day and night to process whale oil for transport. And barrels moved from place to place while folk loaded and unloaded small boats at the shore.
As you travel to Newfoundland and Labrador, make your way along the winding roads to Red Bay, walk where the whalers walked, and step back to a whaler's time. You can visualize the day the San Juan sank in 1565, only 50 metres away. And stand at the whaler's burial ground where their 140 colleagues and friends were laid to rest with loving hands.
Red Bay National Historic Site is part of the Labrador Coastal Drive. It can be reached via ferry from St. Barbe, Newfoundland to Blanc Sablon, Quebec, and just an 82 kilometre/1-hour drive.
For more information visit the Parks Canada official website for Red Bay National Historic Site of Canada
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