16th-Century Spanish Basque Coopering Technology

  • Lester A. Ross
Part of the The Springer Series in Underwater Archaeology book series (SSUA)


In the early 16th century, Spanish Basques began exploring the North Atlantic fisheries off the coast of present-day Labrador, then known as Terranova. By the 1540s they had established annual fishing expeditions and had also begun exploiting the vast untouched whale populations in the area. Leaving from the Basque country in early summer, whalers arrived in Terranova in midsummer, established shore facilities, and proceeded to hunt Atlantic right and possibly bowhead whales from small boats. Kills were towed to shore to be butchered, primarily for their blubber which was minced and boiled for its oil. After clarifying, the oil was drawn into wooden casks, loaded aboard ship, and sent back to the Basque country, England, or Holland in early winter when the whalers left Terranova (Figure 1).


Basque Country Bowhead Whale Tool Mark Graphic Reconstruction Maritime Archaeology 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

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  • Lester A. Ross

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