Red Bay, up the rugged coast of Labrador, is one of Canada’s newer UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Awarded the UNESCO status in 2013, this sheltered bay was once a thriving whale fishery, driven by the demand for whale oil used for lighting and manufacturing in Europe.
Between 1530 and the early part of the 16th century, Basque people from Spain and southern France would travel over in the spring, setting up what was the world’s first industrial scale fishing industry, producing what was believed to be up to 20,000 barrels of whale oil during peak years. By the early part of the 17th century, whale numbers had been decimated, thereby ending Basque whaling in Red Bay.
Since 1977, underwater exploration has revealed four sunken 16th century whaling vessels in the Red Bay Harbour, along with several smaller boats.