Category: Basque whaling

Discover the Basque Country: The Sea Factory of Basques

For those of you who may be lucky enough to get to visit the Basque Country sometime, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite places with you.

Albaola, The Sea Factory of the Basques in Pasaia, Gipuzkoa, is an institution dedicated to preserving Basque seafaring technology. It is a living history site in which nautical craftsmanship and technology is showcased.  The site itself includes a boatbuilding school, seamanship school, ship modeling workshop, young sailors’s club, and a “Theatre of the Sea” performing arts program. For anyone interested in maritime history and technology, and specifically in basque contributions to shipbuilding design and technology, this is a must see place.


Albaola, the Sea Factory of Basques, Pasaia, Gipuzkoa. The dredger “Jaizkibel” is on the right. Photo by Euskaldunaa, via Wikimedia Commons

Basque maritime history, and in particular the Basque contribution to the opening up the Pacific Ocean, is explored in Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean by William A. Douglass. In the work, Douglass emphasizes the fact that it was not just Basques themselves, but Basque maritime technology and Basque ships that were at the forefront of this exploration.



Iceland Conference Digs Deep into Whaling and Basque-Icelandic Cross-Cultural Exchange, Seeks to Heal Some Very Old Wounds

In September 1615, a group of 31 Basque whalers who had been stranded on the coast of Iceland after their ships were destroyed in a gale, and who had then clashed with local Icelanders, were slaughtered. This year is the 400th anniversary of what became known as the “Spanish Massacre” and in commemoration the Center, various institutions of Basque government including the Extepare Institute and the provincial government of Gipuzkoa, the University of Iceland, the Icelandic government, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the AIB, the Association of Icelandic Friendship in the Basque Country. The conference features, as reported by the Icelandic media outlet a “symbolic act of reconciliation” that will feature the Center’s own Xabier Irujo, a descendant of one of the Basques who died, and Mag­nús Rafns­son, a descendant of one the per­pe­tra­tors of the “Span­ish mas­sacre.”

According to Wikipedia (in an uncited article), this was the last documented massacre in Icelandic history. The conference marking its commemoration will delve well beyond the massacre however, bringing in researchers from around the world to discuss the rich Basque-Icelandic cross-cultural exchange. In addition to the global scholars, dignitaries including  Martín Gar­i­tano, Deputy-Gen­eral of Gipuzkoa and Il­lugi Gun­nars­son, Icelandic Min­is­ter for Cul­ture will be in attendance. Among the many events, the conference will also hold an event to celebrate the publication of William Douglass’s new book, Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean, available now!

Click here to see a program of events for the full conference and here to see more Extepare Institute information (in Spanish). In addition to the academic and commemorative events, there will also be, on April 22, a concert featuring Basque musical group Oreka TX and Icelandic musicians.


A view of early seventeenth-century whaling.