16th-century Basque galleon to be resurrected

Basque whalers in labrador

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.”

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Plymouth Rock: public relations, Pilgrim-style

Plymouth Landing Bacon

Plymouth Rock, the purported landing place of the Mayflower pilgrims on their voyage from Europe to the New World in 1620, remains among the most enduring symbols of American history.

Located in Plymouth Harbor, Mass., it is reputed to be the spot where the pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony disembarked from the Mayflower on Dec. 21, 1620, and continues to be visited by tens of thousands of tourists annually.

However, whether the large boulder actually played any part in the famed landing is questionable.

Surviving records from the period do not mention the rock, and, in fact, the story comes from a third-hand account that wasn’t recorded until 1832, more than 200 years after the Pilgrims landed in America.

The legend of Plymouth Rock stems from a 1741 incident, according to the Baltimore Sun.

“Hearing that a wharf was planned to be built over the rock in Plymouth harbor, Elder Thomas Faunce, a 95-year-old Mayflower descendant, asked to be carried in his chair down to the harbor,” the Sun reported. “As recorded in the ‘History of Plymouth’ (1832), he pointed out the rock and told those assembled that he had been assured by his father that this was the very rock that ‘had received the footsteps of our fathers on their first arrival and which should be perpetuated to posterity.’”

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Special code used by Roger Williams broken


Spurred by the work of Brown University students, a shorthand code used by 17th century religious nonconformist Roger Williams has finally been unraveled.

The coded writings are in the form of notes in the margins of a book at the university’s John Carter Brown Library. The nearly 250-page volume, “An Essay Towards the Reconciling of Differences Among Christians,” was donated in the 1800s and included a handwritten note identifying Williams as the notes’ author, according to The Associated Press.

The book’s margins are filled with clusters of curious foreign characters – a mysterious shorthand used by Williams, Rhode Island’s founder and best known as the first figure to argue for the principle of the separation of church and state.

The code went undeciphered for centuries.

Among topics Williams touched on in his shorthand: one of the major theological issues of the day: infant baptism, said senior math major Lucas Mason-Brown, the undergraduate student who played a key role in unlocking the mystery.

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Plymouth, private property and human nature

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and with it a handful of articles asserting that what ultimately saved the Plymouth Colony from failure was its willingness to embrace private-property rights.

The Café Hayek blog, however, is one of the few that actually makes an effort to identify the source behind that idea.

George Mason University professor Don Boudreaux uses as his source information taken from the Massachusetts Historical Society’s 1912 edition of William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation:

To finance their voyage, the Pilgrims formed a joint stock company with London investors. At the investors’ insistence, the settlers agreed to pool output, land, capital, and profits during their first seven years abroad. From this “common stock,” residents of the colony were to receive food and other necessities, and at the end of the seven-year period, the land and other assets were to be “equally divided betwixt” the investors and the settlers. The colonists initially complied with the spirit of this contract. Although they planted household gardens almost from the start, they collectivized initial field and livestock operations. The setters had some agricultural successes, but they were unable to grow corn in their common field. Within six months of reaching Plymouth, almost one-half of the population had perished from disease.

The colony was founded in late 1620, but by 1624 the Plymouth colonists had deviated from investors’ plans and assigned each family from one to 10 acres, depending on the number of family members, according to Boudreaux.

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La Salle expedition wreck being restored

Researchers in Texas are freeze-drying the remains of French ship that, when it sank more than 320 years ago, ultimately altered the course of North American history.

The La Belle was captained by Rene-Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle, who had hoped to colonize Texas for France.

When the 54-1/2-foot vessel foundered in 1686 in a storm on Matagorda Bay, about midway between Galveston and Corpus Christi, La Salle’s colony was fated for oblivion.

“When La Belle sank, that doomed La Salle’s colony and opened up the door for Spain to come in and occupy Texas,” said Jim Bruseth, who led the Texas Historical Commission effort to recover the remains.

By placing the ship in a constant environment of up to 60 degrees below zero, more than 300 years of moisture will be safely removed from hundreds of European oak and pine timbers and planks, according to The Telegraph.

The operation, taking place at the old Bryan Air Force base several miles northwest of College Station, Texas, is the first such undertaking of its size.

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