Red Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Red Bay
Red Bay seen from above
Red Bay seen from above
Red Bay is located in Newfoundland and Labrador
Red Bay
Red Bay
Location of Red Bay in Newfoundland and Labrador
Red Bay is located in Newfoundland
Red Bay
Red Bay
Red Bay (Newfoundland)
Coordinates: 51°43′55″N 56°25′32″W / 51.73194°N 56.42556°W / 51.73194; -56.42556
Country Canada
Province Newfoundland and Labrador
RegionNunatuKavut (unofficial)
 • TypeMunicipal incorporation
 • Total1.58 km2 (0.61 sq mi)
10 m (30 ft)
 • Total142
 • Density90/km2 (230/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC-3:30 (Newfoundland Time)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-2:30 (Newfoundland Daylight)
Area code(s)709
Highways Route 510 (Trans-Labrador Highway)
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 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]


Saddle Island, Red Bay, Labrador

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.


A Basque chalupa recovered from the waters of the bay and on display in the museum.

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[who?] 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 / 51.72861°N 56.44889°W / 51.72861; -56.44889 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]

In 2016, the Google Street View imaging service uploaded images of Red Bay. Red Bay is one of the few communities in Labrador with images on the service.[5]

In 2021, the local school, Basque Memorial School closed due to no enrolment.[6]


In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Red Bay had a population of 142 living in 65 of its 69 total private dwellings, a change of -16% from its 2016 population of 169. With a land area of 2.31 km2 (0.89 sq mi), it had a population density of 61.5/km2 (159.2/sq mi) in 2021.[7]

Tourist attractions[edit]

Basque whaling station on Saddle Island. The location of the sunken vessel San Juan (1565) is near the wreck of Bernier, which grounded in 1966.
  • Basque whaling stations
  • Iceberg and whale watching
  • Hiking
  • Local entertainment and cuisine
  • Fishing
  • The Whaler's Restaurant (Fish & Chips and related cuisine)

See also[edit]


  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. ^ "Google Street View maps more of Canada's north". 9 May 2016.
  6. ^ Smyth, Jeff (2021-06-14). "NLESD Closes Three NL Schools with No Student Enrolment". VOCM. Retrieved 2021-06-15.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Population and dwelling counts: Canada, provinces and territories, census divisions and census subdivisions (municipalities), Newfoundland and Labrador". Statistics Canada. February 9, 2022. Retrieved March 15, 2022.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Discovery in Labrador: A 16th-Century Basque Whaling Port and Its Sunken Fleet". National Geographic. Vol. 168, no. 1. July 1985. pp. 40–71. ISSN 0027-9358. OCLC 643483454.
  • "The Underwater Archaeology of Red Bay: Basque Shipbuilding and Whaling in the 16th Century". Parks Canada. 2007. ISBN 978-0-660-19652-7. OCLC 86005349.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°43′55″N 56°25′32″W / 51.73194°N 56.42556°W / 51.73194; -56.42556