Basques Build the Replica 16th
Century Whale Ship SAN JUAN
How Basque Shipbuilding Changed My Understanding
Of the History of the Americas Story and photographs by Richard Frisbie
in San Sebastian, Spain, in May to help celebrate its being named the
2016 European Capital of Culture. I ate, very very well, as San
Sebastian's restaurants have the highest concentration of Michelin
stars in the world, drank the excellent
local wine, visited many museums and enjoyed walking the
charming old city as the festivities occurred.
Museum director with a model of SAN JUAN
But I have to admit that the strangest thing was to
travel to the Basque region of Spain to learn the truth about North
America's early exploration, stranger still to explore where it all
began: Albaola, the Sea Factory of the Basques, located at the entrance
of the Bay of Pasaia, in San Sebastian. That is where they are building
the replica of one of its most famous of Basque ships, the 16th century
whale ship SAN JUAN.
When the British arrived in Newfoundland in 1610 they
found ships of many nationalities anchored in the harbor, attracted
there by the abundance of cod and whales. Nevertheless they had the
hubris to claim the land for Great Britain. At that time all the fishermen
in Newfoundland knew that only the Basques understood how to hunt the
many whales congregating in these waters. Using ships built in San Sebastian,
Spain, where the museum Albaola is located now, the Basque people explored
the world, most notably the Outer Banks of the United States and the
Canadian Maritimes. They brought home many barrels of whale oil and
so much salted cod (the cod was salted and dried to preserve it for
the long voyage) that Spain is still known for its cod dishes.
The ribs and planks shape the outline of the replica
The Basque fishermen were well-known to the Native Americans
of both countries, so much so that Basque was the lingua franca
of the New World. So much trading and interacting occurred between them
in Basque that fishermen of other nationalities learned enough Basque
to communicate, too. In fact, Basque fishermen were fishing in American
waters when Christopher Columbus "discovered" America.
Drawing of the oak harvesting and shaping
In the converted ship factory Albaola, now a museum,
the largest sailing ships of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries were
built. Using wood from a nearby oak forest, first just harvesting it,
but later shaping the trees as they grew to provide the correct angles
and curves, centuries of Basques earned a reputation as the best ship
builders. The other Basque product, the widely drunk hard apple cider,
was how the sailors avoided scurvy in their travels to and from distant
fishing and trading grounds.
The tedious and exacting hand work of ancient shipbuilding
In the 16th century the Basque whale ship SAN JUAN
sank in Newfoundland. Its recent discovery, perfectly preserved in the
frigid waters, gave archeologists the best look at the complex construction
techniques and materials used by the early Basque shipbuilders. Beneath
the hull they also found a complete whaling boat. Drawings and photos,
along with exact measurements, are being used at Albaola to build a
replica of each. The large open-room of the museum is a ship building
showcase where volunteers use ancient hand tools to measure, cut and
shape the oak ribs and planking for the replica.
By coincidence, I visited the museum on the 115th anniversary
of the killing of the last whale by the Basques (the skeleton hangs
in the nearby Aquarium) lending this visit more significance. I was
one of nearly 100,000 visitors expected this year, all of whom will
see the replica SAN JUAN being built, rib by rib and plank by
plank, as ships were hand-built there for centuries. Many will learn
a greater awareness of the Basque influence on the history of the Americas.
I know I did.
For more information on this and other attractions of
San Sebastian (Donostia in Basque) during the European Capital of Culture
visit this website.
Let Richard know what you think about his traveling adventure.
* * * * *
Hey Richard - another winning series of words, all put
together in your usual brilliant, and very creative format. And hey,
love those glorious photos - Wow, what scenery - looks like some sort
of paradise. What a super life you lead!!!
--- John Clayton, Palos Verdes CA
* * * *
I want to go there!!!!!!! Mmmmm! Yes! Love the photos
and your article, Richard! Have read the book, seen the play several
times and now dream of seeing these historic places. I've been wanting
to go to Spain for some time. Now at 12:30 a.m. I'm heading off to bed
with songs from Man of La Mancha ringing in my mind. Thanks!
--- Betsy Tuel, Rosendale, NY
* * * *
You are fortunate to have Richard on your staff. Richard
is a fantastic writer and a wonderful person. Congratulations to Richard
and to you.
--- Denise Dubé, New England
Eugene Chaplin Introduces Chaplin's World Museum
in Vevey, Switzerland
Lake Geneva/ Matterhorn Region and Switzerland Tourism
recently blew into Los Angeles with the most esteemed guest, Eugene Chaplin.
A man of remarkable lineage, he is the fifth child of Oona O'Neill and Sir
Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, the grandson of playwright
Eugene O'Neill, the brother of Geraldine Chaplin and father of actress/model
Discovering Art, Culture and Cuisine in Lancaster
Lancaster has always been one of those cities that I pass
through on the way to some other destination. But last week was different.
I finally took the time to explore the place and wow, was I surprised!
I discovered a downtown full of charm, culture, cuisine and community
spirit. My recent getaway began when a friend and I drove about 60 miles
north of Los Angeles toward the Mojave Desert and checked into the Towneplace
Chuuk + Wrecks = Scuba Divers' Paradise
As we dropped down to 25,000 feet I saw one of the
most extraordinary panoramas I'd ever been lucky enough to witness. The
majesty of it all and the stunning vistas that lay below and before me were
spectacular. It was as beautiful as spring's first rose, and it made me
understand why so many pilots on commercial jetliners love their job; they
get to see so many awe-inspiring sights from the cockpit. My view was that
of a vast vista of the Pacific.
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's
In the 1840s, the population of California was only
14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived
from all over the world and they came for one reason: gold. James
Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutters Mill in El
Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.
Lake Charles Family-Size Low-Key Mardi Gras
The Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras in Lake Charles,
the second largest in Louisiana, does not need parents there to avert their
childrens eyes. This is family entertainment and children are very
much part of it. The main office of the Lake Charles CVB has costumes from
last years Mardi Gras but it also has figures to fascinate little
ones from country boys fishing for their dinner to alligators who have already
fed and are rubbing their stomachs.
Cedar Hill: Frederick Douglass' Home is as Imposing
as the Man who Lived There
Having recently received a misguided shout-out from
the president during Black History Month Frederick Douglass has done
an amazing job... it seems a good time to revisit the cultural icon's
legitimate place in history. And a visit to his home in Washington, DC
surely a place the current president might want to consider visiting himself
would be a good place to start.
The enormous Sonora Desert, a colossal 120,000 square
miles of splendor that spreads like a great tapestry of textures and colors
across international boundaries from Arizona into the State of Sonora
in northern Mexico is one of North Americas grand, untrammeled natural
treasures. The complex, sun-blessed region of bright dry heat, brilliant
low-hanging stars, and long, ever-changing shadows that shift with the
sun as they drape like endless silhouettes across craggy walls, mountain
ridges and hidden canyons, is a vibrant land with tales to tell.
La Paz, Baja California Sur
Photographer Deb Roskamp focuses her camera on La Paz,
Baja California Sur. The resort property is CostaBaja, and the boat tours,
which include snorkeling at the UNESCO protected site, Isla Espiritu Santo,
were conducted by Fun Baja. The photographs are intended to speak for
Japan: Bullet Trains, Monkey Shows and Whale Steaks
Last month, I went to Japan for three things... Ok,
let me back up a little bit already. The #1 reason I went to Japan was to
visit my girlfriend, Yuki, and she will kill me if I don't say that, so
there it is. Hi Yuki! Anyway, so after that, reasons number 2, 3, and 4
were the following: I wanted to ride a bullet train, go to a monkey show,
and eat a whale steak. That's right. That's right.
Film Review: "My Hero Brother" A Tribute
to the Human Spirit
I just spent five days attending the Santa Barbara Film
Festival and for the most part, the features, animated shorts, and documentaries
were quite professional and compelling. That said, "My Hero Brother,"
a documentary that was particularly outstanding, told the remarkable and
inspiring story about a group of Down syndrome young men and women who
go on a two-week trek through the Himalayas with their non-Down syndrome
Crooked Eye Tommy: 'Butterflies and Snakes'
When you load the CD Butterflies and Snakes into your
sound system, you know from the onset Crooked Eye Tommy isn't your run-of-the-mill
blues band. The entire recording is based around multiple styles, assorted
genres and two lifetimes of influence. From the swamp-like vibe of the
opening track through the weeping steel guitar highlighting the finale
there's a brand new, old school familiarity that resonates throughout
each one of the 11 original songs.
NOLA: New Orleans, Louisiana
Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, the Garden District,
the streetcar (now a bus) to Desire, the jazz clubs, the beignets at the
Café du Monde and breakfast at Brennans come to mind when you
think of New Orleans. But thats not all there is to this unique American
city, filled with treasures both culinary and cultural.