Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wet rocks

I have returned to the calm of home and northern Europe doesn't feel so cold anymore. Spain was wonderful but so unbelievably wet. It is not for nothing that their northern coast is called green. It was a week of learning about the landscape and experiencing the places first hand. I am researching the Basque whalers from approximately 1530 to 1610. Part of the reason for this is that it ties in with my earlier work in Newfoundland. I will be working in Newfoundland and Labrador later this year where the Basque fishermen hunted for whales in this period.

The Basque region is a country that feels enterprising and industrious particularly on the Spanish side. Basque sailors were the first to create factory ships when in the mid 1600s they built whale oil refineries onboard their ships. The same passion for invention extends today and the region around San Sebastian and Bilbao is rich in factories.

Walking from Pasaia to Hondaribba
I was working in Pasaia, a deep natural harbour that was one of the most important whale fishing ports. The narrow entrance to the port between huge vertical sloping rocks meant this port never silted up, unlike some of the neighboring ones. The place is now far sleepier than in its heyday. It has charm, it is an old port hugged by indifferent urban development. Gorgeous 16th century houses are followed by anonymous apartment blocks. There is a strong feeling of being in a living environment, people really work and play here, the old centre hasn't yet been re-created for tourists.

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