Red Bay National Historic Site

The first industrial complex in Canada was based at Red Bay in the 16th century. By 1550, the Basques had established a major whaling enterprise in the northwest Atlantic that include the Strait of Belle Isle and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

An island in the middle of Red Bay, named Saddle Island for its distinctive shape, was the centre of the Basque whaling operation that is believed to have been one of the most important of its kind in the world during the last half of the 16th century. At its peak, more than 1,000 men worked at the Red Bay site harvesting right whale, bowhead whale, and perhaps other whale species in order to supply oil to the lamps of Europe.

In the early 1970s, historical geographer Selma Barkham discovered information on the location of Red Bay and many other Basque whaling stations while studying 16th century Basque legal documents in northern Spain.

Underwater and land-based archaeological excavations took place at Red Bay during the 1980s, where evidence was uncovered of a substantial whaling operation. A Basque cemetery was located, as well as three sunken galleons and several oil rendering ovens.

Today, these discoveries are explained in a modern visitor centre, along with artifacts found during the excavations. The centre also includes a small theatre. Another nearby building holds a restored chalupa, one of the small boats the Basques used to hunt whales.

Season: Jun 15 - Oct 8

Location: Route 510, Red Bay

The first industrial complex in Canada was based at Red Bay in the 16th century.

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