San Juan / Red Bay Shipwreck, Canda (1565)

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One of three galleons found in Red Bay, Canada, it was excavated by Parks Canada under the direction of Robert Grenier. The five volume final publication was released in 2007 by Parks Canada.1

This wreck is believed to be the remains of the San Juan, a Basque galleon with three full decks and three masts that sank in Red Bay in 1565 with a cargo of 900 to 1,000 barrels of whale oil.

Description of the Site

The hull is extensively preserved: keel, keelson, maststep, posts, transom, planking, ceiling, footwales, stringers, and deck structures.

The vessel had a T-shaped keel amidships and was constructed very similar to the Highborn Cay and Molasses Reef wrecks.2


Keel

The keel is complete, measures 14.75 m, and was carved from a single piece and shows an unique shape for an Iberian ship, having the garboards carved together with it. There was a couce on the stern. The keelson is also complete and shaped from a single piece, notched over the frames. The maststep was an expanded portion of the keelson extending over 4 floors and supported by 4 buttresses on each side. No dimensions are given. The sternpost was scarved to the couce and 23 cm sided and raking 72-73º.

Frames

The (only) midship floor is fastened to two pairs of futtocks, fore and aft, determining the framing pattern – the futtocks joined to the faces of the floors that look to the extremities of the ship. It is located slightly abaft the mortise of the main mast step. Seven frames abaft and six before were pre-designed and pre-assembled with dovetail joints before being placed over the keel. There is evidence for the use of battens before and abaft these pre-assemble frames.

Planking

No information.

Ceiling, Thick Stuff and Wales

No information.

Fastenings

Frames/planking: 2 iron nails and two treenails.

Caulking

No information.

Ballast

Round stones around the oil casks.

Size and Scantlings

The San Juan was a 3 masted vessel of 250 tons with 3 full decks (including the false – orlop – deck), 22 m at the water deck level, 3-3.5 m draw, 14.75 m of keel, and 7.5 m of bream. No scantling list is available for this ship.

Wood

The keel was carved from a beech log. The keelson and all the remaining structure were made of oak. Castles may have been built of soft wood planks.


References

1. Grenier, Roberd, Stevens, Willis, Bernier, Marc A. "The Underwater Archaeology of Red Bay", Parks Canada: Ottowa, 2007.


2. Richard Steffy, INA Shipdata Project, Texas A&M University.


Grenier, Robert “Basque whalers in the New World: the Red Bay wrecks”, in Ships and Shipwrecks of the Americas : 69-84. Ed. George F. Bass. Thames and Hudson. London, 1988.

Grenier, Robert, Lowen, Brad and Proulx Jean-Pierre "Basque Shipbuilding and Technology c. 1560-1580: The Red Bay Project". Proceedings of the Sixth International Symposium on Boat and Ship Archaeology Roskilde 1991, ed. Christer Westerdahl, Oxbow Monograph …, 1994.

Grenier, Robert "Excavating a 400-year-old Basque Galleon" NGM (1985) July, 168.1:58-68.

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