Red Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador

Red Bay is a fishing village in Labrador, notable as one of the most precious underwater archaeological sites in the Americas. Between 1530 and the early 17th century, it was a major Basque whaling area. Several whaling ships, both large galleons and small chalupas, sank there, and their discovery led to the designation of Red Bay in 2013 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[2]

Red Bay
Red Bay seen from above
Red Bay
Location of Red Bay in Newfoundland and Labrador
Red Bay
Red Bay (Newfoundland)
Coordinates: 51°43′55″N 56°25′32″W
Country Canada
Province Newfoundland and Labrador
RegionNunatuKavut (unofficial)
  TypeMunicipal incorporation
  Total1.58 km2 (0.61 sq mi)
10 m (30 ft)
  Density110/km2 (280/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC-3:30 (Newfoundland Time)
  Summer (DST)UTC-2:30 (Newfoundland Daylight)
Area code(s)709
Official nameRed Bay Basque Whaling Station
Criteriaiii, vi
Designated2013 (37th session)
Reference no.1412
State PartyCanada
RegionEurope and North America
Official nameRed Bay National Historic Site of Canada


Red Bay is a natural harbour residing in the bay that gives it its name, both names in reference to the red granite cliffs of the region. Because of the sheltered harbour it was used during World War II as a mooring site for naval vessels. In the bay are Penney Island and Saddle Island, which were used by the Basques for their whaling operations. The location of the sunken vessel San Juan is near Saddle Island.


Between 1550 and the early 17th century, Red Bay, known as Balea Baya (Whale Bay), was a centre for Basque whaling operations. Sailors from southern France and northern Spain sent 15 whaleships and 600 men a season to the remote outpost on the Strait of Belle Isle to try to catch the right whale and bowhead whales that populated the waters there, according to Memorial University of Newfoundland.

In 1565, a ship—believed to be San Juan—sank in the waters off Red Bay during a storm. Other, smaller vessels, such as chalupas, have also been recovered from the waters.

Another galleon was found 25–35 feet below water in 2004. It was the fourth trans-oceanic ship to have been found in the area.

A cemetery on nearby Saddle Island holds the remains of 140 whalers. Many of the people buried there are thought to have died from drowning and exposure.

Historians believe that a decline in whale stocks eventually led to the abandonment of the whaling stations in Red Bay. Today, an interpretive centre in Red Bay explains the history to visitors.

Local legends of Red Bay make reference to a hidden treasure buried in a body of water known as Pond on the Hill 51°43′43″N 56°26′56″W at the foot of Tracey Hill by the infamous pirate Captain William Kidd. An attempt was made to find the treasure by residents of Carrol Cove by draining the pond. The attempt failed.

Red Bay has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada since 1979,[3] and since 2013 it is one of Canada's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.[4]


  Population in 2001    264  
  Population change from 1996    -4.1%  
  Median age    39.6  
  Number of families    80  
  Number of married couples    65  
  Total number of dwellings    90  
  Catholic    3.8%  
  Protestant    77.3%  
  Land Area (km².)    1.58  
Source: Statistics Canada 2001 Census[5]

Tourist attractions

  • Basque whaling stations
  • Iceberg and whale watching
  • Hiking
  • Local entertainment and cuisine
  • Fishing

See also


  1. Statistics Canada (2006). "Red Bay Community Profile". Retrieved 2008-03-16.
  2. "Labrador town of Red Bay gets World Heritage Site status". 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-22.
  3. Red Bay. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  4. "Red Bay Basque Whaling Station". Unesco World Heritage List. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  5. Red Bay Community Profile - Statistics Canada 2001 Census

Further reading

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