Whales - The Basques Come to Labrador

Basque whalers came to the Strait of Belle Isle in the 16th and early 17th centuries to hunt the Greenland right whale (Balaena mystricetus) and the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis).  In the 16th century it is unlikely that these species would have occurred in the Strait at the same time of the year.  The Greenland right whale was probably here October to May, while the North Atlantic right whale was here mid-June to late September.

The clothing on this mannequin is an authentic reproduction of times found in a burial site on Saddle Island.  The plaid patterns was produced using naturally pigmented wools from several varieties of sheep and goats. The shoes were produced using vegetable tanned leather.  Attached are samples of the fabric used to make the reproductions.  

It is known that Basques sailors wore other items of clothing than those reproduced here. These items may not have been buried or if they were, they may have disintegrated over time.  A Basque whaler’s complete set of clothing normally included an overcoat, jacket, trousers or breeches a linen shirt, undergarments stockings; cloth for leggings, boots or shoes, gloves and cap or hat.

Barrels that whale oil were used to store and shipped back to Europe in.  Whale oil lite much of Europe at the time.

Artistic representation of a tryworks based upon archaeological remains.  The tryworks was the main structure at the shore station.  It was used to render whale blubber into oil.  Some sixteen tryworks have been identified at Red Bay.