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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World’s rarest whale found, studied

Lest one thinks there remain few living creatures on our planet that man has not studied in detail, a whale previously only known through bone samples was recently found in New Zealand, where a mother and her calf were examined.

The spade-toothed whale had not previously been seen in the flesh and because it was known only from remains, it was unclear if the species was extinct or not, according to Agence France-Presse.

The whales were found stranded on Opape beach in New Zealand in December 2010. The whales died, but researchers were able to collect measurements and tissue samples which helped them identify the species.

The whales were initially misidentified as the much more common Gray’s beaked whales, but their true identity came to light following DNA analysis, which is done routinely as part of a 20-year program to collect data on the 13 species of beaked whales found in New Zealand waters, according to the Daily Mail.

A team of researchers from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland sequenced two mitochondrial DNA regions and compared them to existing bone specimens and found that the pair were never-before-seen spade-toothed whales, according to Scientific American.

The adult female was more than 17 feet long and the young male was more than 11 feet long.

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