Pasaia (Basque Country)

UNESCO officially sponsors the San Juan whaling ship project


Today UNESCO’s full support to the project of building the replica of the San Juan whaling ship from 1563 which is taking place in the Basque Sea Factory Albaola in Pasaia was presented to society.

Xabier Agote, president of Albaola, Izaskun Gómez, Mayor of Pasaia, Imanol Agote, Director of Cultural Heritage of the Basque Government, and Denis Itxaso, First Deputy General Deputy and Cultural Deputy in the Guipúzcoa Provincial Council have presented this support of international nature in the auditorium of the Koldo Mitxelena in Donostia.

Each of the participants has emphasized a different aspect with regard to this official recognition of UNESCO:

Xabier Agote, President of Albaola, began his speech by contextualizing this sponsorship, as well as allowing the use of the logo in all actions arising in the project itself, supposing a full support which is consistent with the goals of UNESCO and contributes the objectives in its programs, such as it’s the case in the Convention of the Underwater Cultural Heritage of 2001, whose logo is just the silhouette of the wreck of the San Juan. He has also indicated that to deepen this relationship, Albaola has already initiated discussions with UNESCO in order to organize an official visit of its representatives in spring 2016  to meet in situ the construction of the whaling ship next spring and move forward in this relationship with joint collaborations.

Xabier Agote has continued to describe this sponsorship as “extraordinary impulse in the project of the construction of the San Juan which we are developing in Pasaia”. He added that this recognition is a great reward for a work begun many years ago in the enhancement of the basque maritime history and in particular the history of the sixteenth century Basque whalers in Canada; reflection of the work of many years where scientific strictness and quality of execution have been the basis where Albaola has founded the project of the San Juan.

Izaskun Gómez, Mayor of Pasaia, has literally pointed out that “as the San Juan is taking shape in the factory of Albaola in Pasaia, we immersed ourselves in history to emerge in our tradition of shipbuilders and whalers, an aspect, which made us being recognized beyond the seas and reconciles us with our maritime and naval culture; cultural commitment we want to value, because we are fully convinced that should be the element that makes flourish a new and prosperous future for our municipality.”

Imanol Agote, Director of Cultural Heritage of the Basque Government has emphasized that this UNESCO recognition highlights the ongoing work Albaola is realizing with the recovery and dissemination of maritime heritage in the Basque Country. “A historically important heritage, as reflected by the fact of the existence of only over 30 shipyards in Gipuzkoa that were operating between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries," he reminded. “The ships built in shipyards have reached a dimension and international influence, as in the cases of the San Juan, the Victoria ship or the recently in the waters of Colombia located galleon San Jose”.

In the words of the director of Cultural Heritage of the Basque Government, the recognition of UNESCO is based on two reasons. On the one hand, the importance the replica has as an element of dissemination of the San Juan, which has been declared as world heritage. On the other hand, the authenticity of the replica. “The criterion of authenticity is one of the basic principles in the policies of cultural heritage. It is not a mere recreation sustained hypothesis lacking historical basis. This is the exact reproduction, in full scale, of the original ship. The construction is being carried out based on the planes prepared from information obtained in the archaeological research conducted by Parks Canada. Additionally, along with the planes, the same materials and construction methods used for building the San Juan are being used for constructing the replica”, emphasized Imanol Agote.

Denis Itxaso, as deputy of Culture of the Provincial Council of Guipuzcoa pointed out that this international recognition is the ultimate guarantee that justifies the strategic importance of this shipbuilding factory and recalled that this summer has been one of the solutions that has worked best.

Itxaso highlights the heritage and cultural value of the Factory besides tourism and hoped that in the coming years the project forms and gets stability, because it is generating cultural and tourist wealth.

San Juan whaling ship project video presented to UNESCO:

Text of the official letter of UNESCO:

7 sept. 2015

“I am pleased to note that this project to reconstruct an accurate rendition of a 16th Century whaling ship is consistent with the priorities of the Organization aimed at protecting cultural heritage and, more particularly, underwater cultural heritage. I also am pleased to note that the San Juan shipwreck was selected for the logo of the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. Moreover, we hope that the opening to outside visitors of this historic and highly symbolic shipyard will contribute to generating a wider public awareness on the importance of protecting and safeguarding the underwater cultural heritage. Finally, I am confident that the international cooperation of scientific experts and volunteers will help enhance the visibility of the 2001 Convention.

For these reasons, it is with pleasure that I grant UNESCO’s patronage to this activity, and that I authorize the use of the Organization’s logo, together with the emblem of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. Please find enclosed the General Conditions for the Use of the Name and Logo of UNESCO in connection with Patronage.

Irina Bokova"

foto rueda de prensa