Red Bay, Labrador: Canada’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site
story and photography by Keith and Heather Nicol, Saltscapes Magazine
Red Bay, Labrador joins the famous pyramids of Egypt and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Red Bay Basque Whaling Station became Canada’s 17th UNESCO site in June 2013, joining the historic Viking site at L’Anse aux Meadows and Gros Morne National Park and its geological wonders with this impressive designation. As Gros Morne and L’Anse aux Meadows are both on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula and Red Bay is in southern Labrador, it will be relatively easy for visitors to see all three of these UNESCO sites on the same journey.
The mandate of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites is to preserve and protect natural and cultural features that are considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. Red Bay received UNESCO World Heritage status as the largest remaining example of 16th century Basque whaling operations.
Cindy Gibbons is site supervisor at the Red Bay National Historic Site and says Red Bay was the largest and most important whaling station in the world through the 16th century. “This area had an abundance of bowhead and right whales at the time and the Basques knew the value of whale oil. In Red Bay, and other places along this coast, the whale blubber was rendered into oil and then shipped in barrels to light the cities of Europe.
Although the residents of Red Bay had long found pieces of red tile in their gardens and had seen whale bones along the shore, it took the dedicated work of geographer Selma Barkham, working in the Basque archives in Spain, to piece together the story of whaling in Red Bay.
Read the full story here: A whale of a history – Saltscapes Magazine
Atlantic Canada lays claim to six of the 17 Canadian UNESCO World Heritage sites. Besides Red Bay, there are two others in Newfoundland—Gros Morne National Park and L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, which preserves the only documented Viking site in North America. The other three sites are located in Nova Scotia—Old Town Lunenburg, Joggins Fossil Cliffs and the historic landscape of Grand-Pré, designated in 2012.