Red Bay Basque Whaling Station

UNESCO World Heritage Site #256: Red Bay Basque Whaling Station
Red Bay Basque Whaling Station: My 256th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station:

Situated in Labrador, in north-eastern Canada, on the shores of the Strait of Belle Isle, Red Bay was an Arctic maritime base for Basque mariners in the 16th century. It is the earliest, most comprehensive and best preserved archaeological testimony of a pre-industrial whaling station. It was used for coastal whale hunting in the summer, the butchery of the whales, and the rendering of the oil and its storage. The whale oil was sold in Europe primarily for lighting purposes. The property includes the remains of rendering ovens, cooperages, a wharf, living quarters and a cemetery, together with the underwater wrecks of vessels and whale bone deposits.

Red Bay Basque Whaling Station

As of my visit in September 2013, Red Bay was Canada’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was added to the list at the meeting in Cambodia in June.

The Red Bay site commemorates the whaling station which was established by Basque whalers in the 1530’s, which if you do the math is only a few decades after Columbus arrived in the Americas. There have been rumors that Basque maybe have visited North American several decades before Columbus but kept it a secret so no one else would fish in their cod waters.

Red Bay is the oldest confirmed Basque settlement in the Americas. The evidence of human habitation is obvious if you walk around nearby Saddle Island. Harpoons, clay tiles, graves and other items have been found and dated to the 16th century. Researches have identified areas where the blubber was boiled in large cauldrons, barrel making sites and other parts of the whale oil manufacturing process.

The greatest treasures, however, were found under the water. Several sunken ships have been found in the area which have shed insight into how the Basques lived and worked.

Despite Red Bay being a very small community, there are 3 different buildings with displays and interpretative. There is a Parks Canada building near the entrance to the city, the community center, and an interpretive center which is on the water.

Any visit should include a trip to nearby Saddle Island. It is only a 3-minute boat ride from the interpretative center and it costs $2. A reasonable visit including a walk around Saddle Island and visiting the interpretative center should be 90-120 minutes.

As Red Bay is one of the more difficult world heritage sites to visit in Canada, it is worth bundling it with a trip to the L’Anse aux Meadows in the north of Newfoundland. You can either travel between the two sites by car ferry, or there are short flights from St. Anthony, Newfoundland and Blanc Sablon, Quebec, which is on the border with Labrador.

Both L’Anse aux Meadows and Red Bay have thematic similarities of early European settlements in North America.


Red Bay Basque Whaling Station

The Red Bay Basque Whaling Station is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Canada. It is located in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and was inscribed in 2013. The site is also a National Historic Site of Canada and was added in 1979.

Red Bay Basque Whaling Station is a fishing village and once the site of the Basque whaling stations. It is located in the southern coast of Labrador. The fishing village flourished from the early 16th to the 17th century and served as a major whaling area. During the time of its operation, the village had 3 Basque whaling galleons and 4 small chalupas. These were used in capturing whales. The recognition of this abandoned site came to be after the discovery of these vessels. This made Red Bay one of America’s most important underwater archaeological sites.

About the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station

Red Bay Basque Whaling Station

The Red Bay Basque Whaling Station is situated on a natural harbor on the bay of the same name – Red Bay. The name was formulated due to the red granite cliffs that were prevalent in the region. Due to the sheltered location of the harbor, it became a mooring site for naval vessels during the Second World War. There are two main islands in this World Heritage Site: Penney and Saddle Islands. Both of these islands were used as part of the whaling operations while it was still active. San Juan is the sunken vessel that was uncovered at the site and is located near Saddle Island.

During the time of its operation, Red Bay Basque Whaling Station had sailors from northern Spain and southern France would come here to do whaling activity. They had more than 600 men and 5 whale ships in an effort to catch bowhead and right whales – two of the most common types of whales found in the region. The San Juan vessel sank in the Red Bay during 1565 due to a storm. Aside from this large vessel, there are also several other smaller vessels that had been recovered since the Red Bay was named a UNESCO protected area.

Cultural Significance

Red Bay Basque Whaling Station

The Red Bay Basque Whaling Station was added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site during the 37th session. The inscription signifies that this site is of outstanding cultural and universal value. It also serves as a commitment to protect Red Bay and its surrounding areas linked to the heritage of whaling in the region.

Red Bay Basque Whaling Station is a symbol of the largest and most complete industrial-scale activity for whaling in the world. There are also many artifacts and tools that were discovered at the site. These artifacts provided a glimpse into the whaling process itself, which was instrumental to the growth and expansion of the whaling industry in this part of Canada.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Nov 9, 2017 @ 6:51 pm

Photographing Vietnam’s Rainy Season

My friend and two-continent club member Sherry Ott is a prolific travel photographer and blogger. She recently visited Vietnam during the rainy season. While that might be a deterrent for most people traveling, Sherry managed to find inspiration and beauty in the rain. Here is Sherry…

I often get people who tell me they are skipping a country in Southeast Asia because it’s rainy season, monsoon season, or it’s ‘just too hot’ at that time of year. Little do they know that traveling in rainy season is one of my best-kept travel secrets and I always wonder if I should tell them what they are missing when they skip countries or locations due to a less than desirable weather season.

From a cultural experience and photography standpoint, inclement weather seasons are wonderful opportunity to see how the locals really live in situations that we would deem less desirable. You get a true feel for the country and local culture and traditions through the ‘tough’ times. On top of it, you get introduced to a number of new products that are used in that inclement weather season that you probably never even dreamed of. In Vietnam, you’ll see surprising products such as the double-headed ponchos or ponchos with a headlight window.

On my recent trip to Saigon during the rainy season, I was lucky enough to have the skies open up and pour down their wrath on city streets. I was on a motorbike myself, so I had a great perspective for photography and luckily I had proper rain gear for my camera. I watched as the streets flooded rapidly and the Vietnamese locals didn’t skip a beat. Rain doesn’t stop them – and it shouldn’t stop you.
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Impressions of Wisconsin

One of the fundamental truths I’ve learn from traveling is that everyone is proud of where they are from.

I am no exception.

I grew up in Wisconsin like circus elephants, you can take the boy out of Wisconsin, but you can’t take Wisconsin out of the boy. Even thought I haven’t lived in Wisconsin full time for almost 20 years, I still have an immense amount of pride in where I am from.

I spent the last week in August driving around my state, visiting many popular attractions and destinations. It was a trip which let me get back to my roots and see places that I haven’t seen in a long time.

Here are some of the first impressions from my trip as seen from my iPhone.

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Announcing the North American National Parks Project!

As most of you know, during the last 6 1/2 years of traveling around the world, I’ve set to visiting as many UNESCO World Heritage sites as possible. One question I always get is if I plan on visiting them all, and the answer is, no. I’m not sure it is possible as they are always adding about 20 new sites every year. Moreover, some of them are extremely remote and difficult to visit. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever done it or even come close.

In the back of my mind however, I have been also attempting something else: To visit and photograph all the National Parks of the United States and Canada.
Continue reading “Announcing the North American National Parks Project!”

Exploring Wisconsin

Milwaukee Museum of Art
Milwaukee Museum of Art
This week I’m going to be doing something a bit different. I’m going to spend it exploring my home state of Wisconsin.

Usually, when I’m in Wisconsin I’m here to relax and catch up on work. Like most people, I’ve never visited many of the significant things in my state because I felt like it was always something I could do. I’ve seen this time and time again all over the world. Locals never visit attractions they live next to. I’ve met people who have lived their whole life in New York, for example, and have never been to the Statue of Liberty.

This week I am going to rectify that problem by driving around the state for five days.

Monday, I’m starting in Green Bay, which is only about 25 miles from where I grew up. I’ll be taking a tour of Lambeau Field as well as visiting the Packer Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, I’ll be in Milwaukee to visit the Harley-Davidson Museum, do a brewery tour, watch the wings on the art museum close, and attend a Brewers game.

Wednesday, I’ll be heading to the capital of Madison to take a tour of the capital building and visit some of the Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the area and his studio Spring Green: Taliesin. (they will probably be put on the world heritage list in a few years).

Thursday I’ll be in LaCrosse and driving up the east side of the Mississippi River, taking photos of the bluffs.

Friday, I’ll be finishing the trip by heading to the north woods to the town of Cable.

I’m excited to do this and to share a region that most people know little about. You can follow along on Google+ and I’ll also be posting images to Facebook and Instagram.

Let me know your favorite thing to see or do in Wisconsin!