The Abbe Museum will host a Pop Up Program by Xabier Agote from the ALBAOLA, Basque Maritime Heritage Foundation on Thursday, August 20 from 7 – 9 pm. The discussion will focus on 16th century Basque whalers in North America and the San Juan whaleship replica currently being built in Spain. The program is free and open to the public.
“We are really just beginning to get a better understanding of how important the interactions between the Wabanaki and the Basque were, and how they shaped the longer history of interaction and colonization,” said Julia Clark, director of collections & interpretation at the Abbe Museum. “This program is a great opportunity to learn more about the Basque side of the story.”
Built in Pasaia - which is located in the Basque Autonomous Community of northern Spain - in 1563, the San Juan whaling ship is an example of the first transoceanic ships that set sail from the Basque Country to Newfoundland. It reflects the splendor and worldwide domination of the Basque maritime industry. It sank off the coast of Canada, in Red Bay, in 1565.
Over 400 years later in 1978, the Canadian archaeological team from Parcs Canada found the wreck of the San Juan and investigated it in an exemplary underwater excavation for the maritime archaeological world. After studying it for more than thirty years, it is the best known 16th century ship and has become an icon symbolizing UNESCO Underwater Cultural Heritage.
The Nao San Juan reconstruction began in 2013 in Pasaia within the Donostia/San Sebastián European Capital of Culture 2016, and is backed by the Canadian Government. Just as it joined Europe with North America in the 16th century, the Nao San Juan will allow these two countries to sail into the future together working from their joint past.
Xabier Agote is a shipwright and specializes in the construction of traditional and historical boats. He is the Founder and Director of ALBAOLA, where he has developed a research and education program that includes the construction of Nao San Juan; built a school for boat-building and seamanship; and generated a revival of public awareness of the long and rich Basque relationship with the sea. He is a graduate of the apprentice program at the Maine Maritime Museum, built several gigs for the Atlantic Challenge International Seamanship Program for The ApprenticeShop, Rockland, and has led several open boat expeditions along the coasts of Canada, Ireland, and Spain.