Archeologist Ragnar Edvardsson, project leader of the excavation of a Basque whaling station from the 17th century in the Strandir region on the coastline of the eastern West Fjords peninsula, says the remains are of international significance.
Edvarsson has been working on the project for the past four years and in summer the burial ground of the whale hunters was discovered, Morgunbladid reports.
The three main buildings of the whaling station have been excavated on the seashore of Steingrímsfjördur fjord: a station for melting whale fat, a workshop for building barrels for the whale oil and a building with a hearth where the whale hunters ate and slept.
There is no written documentation about whaling stations in Iceland from that time because such operations and almost all communication with foreigners were prohibited during the Danish monopoly on Icelandic trade 1602-1787.
Edvardsson said that his research is creating a new chapter in Iceland’s history. His research indicates that Basque whale hunters operated the oil melting station to begin with and later Dutch hunters took over.
According to Edvardsson, the whaling station is the only remnants of foreign residency in Iceland in the 17th century.
Local company Strandagaldur and the West Fjords Nature Institute are sponsoring the excavation project which is still ongoing. Edvardsson said that the remains of the whaling station will be preserved and hopefully made accessible to visitors.
Although foreign whaling stations in Iceland were not documented in the 17th century, there are written sources on whaling by foreigners in Icelandic waters. The most famous and darkest chapter of that story is the killings of Spanish (or Basque) whale hunters in 1615.
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