Witness the construction of a big whaleship of the XVIth century:
An incredible adventure

Project San Juan whaleship from Albaola Faktoria on Vimeo.

San Juan:
the legend of the whaleship

Basque Country, 1565. The San Juan whaling ship is built in Pasaia, Gipuzkoa. Two years later the galleon sinks in Red Bay, off the coast of Canada. The legend is born.

Whaling ships like the San Juan were the first transatlantic cargo ships in history, bringing about the epic story of Basque sailors in the North Atlantic. The San Juan is the best preserved and best researched whaling ship to date, and has become the symbol of Underwater World Heritage of UNESCO.

Basque-canadian scientific adventure

Canada, 1978. After four hundred years under the cold waters of Labrador, the San Juan whaling ship is discovered. The archaeologists of Parks Canada study the wreck in an underwater excavation without precedent in the field of marine archaeology: an exemplary work of scientific thoroughness carried out over a thirty-year period.

Thanks to the collaboration of the Canadian government, the Albaola Foundation can take on a scientific challenge never before attempted; a project linking continents and sharing a passion: the sea and its history.

The re-birth of the San Juan whaleship in Pasaia

The project is promoted by the Donostia/San Sebastian European Cultural Capital 2016 Foundation and by the Albaola Foundation, a team of experts in the fields of the recovery of historic maritime construction and Basque maritime technology. This project aims to recover a key chapter in World maritime history, and reveal it to the public.

Itinerant embassy of the European Capital of Culture

Donostia/San Sebastian, 2016. The city will be the European Capital of Culture. In keeping with the mission of the Cultural Capital (coexistence, participation and social transformation) and of its promotion of the transmission of positive human values, the rebuilding of the whaling ship will be an integral part of the Cultural Program as one of its itinerant embassies and one of its symbols.

The San Juan whaleship is a project of DSS2016.

A ship for coexistence in Europe

As a nomadic trade mark, the whaling ship San Juan will sail through European waters in 2016 to promote knowledge and collaboration between different peoples, looking towards the future from the basis of a shared past.

On her maiden voyage the San Juan will carry the message of the European Capital of Culture Donostia/San Sebastián 2016, weaving a network of relationships among diverse proponents of minority languages.

Her cargo: minority languages and coexistence.

The San Juan 2016 Network, a participatory international challenge

Brittany, Rioja, Aragon, Labrador, the Pyrennees, the Basque Country, Newfoundland...

As well as recovering the trades and the maritime techniques of the 16th century, the age-old relationships between regions and countries providing materials for shipbuilding and the outfitting of Basque whaling ships will re-established during the construction of de San Juan. Sailcloth, ropes, tar, ceramics, timber and other elements will come from the same places mentioned in historical sources of the time.

These relationships will take shape within the framework of the San Juan 2016 Network, a cultural network of agents created for this project, offering the chance of getting to know a rich technological universe that includes many people and places, beyond the limits of Basque shipyards. This Network will allow you to travel in time through a country that lived and worked with the sea in mind; it will guide you through forests, mines, iron mills, historical cider houses, places and long forgotten trades.

ALBAOLA, the Sea Factory of the Basques

The San Juan whaling ship is being built in a magical place, in ALBAOLA, The Sea Factory of the Basques.

Located in an old shipyard overlooking to the mouth of the port of Pasaia, the Factory is a vast space, open to the public, where different activities related to maritime culture take place.

Be a privileged witness of the building of the galleon, and of this unprecedented adventure.

How to get to Pasaia (Basque Country)

Technical data


Ship: San Juan whaleship, XVIth Century.

Building period: June 2013 > May 2016

Location: Pasaia (Basque Country)


Collaborating institutions:

Tourist information