Spanish maritime experts plan to reconstruct a 16th-century Basque whaling galleon, creating a replica of the oldest shipwreck ever found in Canada.
The 90-foot, three-masted San Juan sank in Red Bay in Labrador 450 years ago, just offshore of a 1560s-era whaling station in the Strait of Belle Isle.
The ship was part of a fleet that brought millions of barrels of whale oil to Europe, a treasure every bit as valuable at the time as the gold taken by Spanish conquistadors from more southerly parts of the Americas, according to Postmedia News.
Now plans are in place for the San Juan to be resurrected by a Spanish team which is seeking to construct a full-scale, seaworthy model of the original vessel.
Archaeologist Robert Grenier discovered the wreckage in 1978 and said the reconstruction project will be one of the world’s first, according to the CBC.
“Transforming these 3,000 pieces of wood we found in Red Bay, Labrador, into a very fateful, precise scientific replica of the original – this is more than a dream come true for me,” he said. “This will be the first time that the Spanish or Basque galleon is reconstructed that way in the world.”
Archaeologists in Labrador have unearthed the bones of Basque whalers who died more than 400 years ago.
They were uncovered in a cemetery in the coastal Labrador community of Red Bay where whale oil was produced from the mid- to late- 1500s.
Right and bowhead whales, common in the area at that time, drew Basque whalers there from across the Atlantic.
Archaeologist Jim Tuck and his team have uncovered more than a hundred human skeletons, or pieces of them, and brought several dozen back to the Newfoundland capital of St. John’s for additional study.
Researchers have also found Basque vessels that sank near Red Bay.