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Subject > Armed Forces > Naval Forces and Merchant Navy

Date > 1500

Mid-sixteenth century ship

Type: Image

This picture of a ship is engraved on a plank of the galleon San Juan, which sank in Red Bay, Labrador, in 1565. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

Spanish galleons in a North Atlantic storm, circa 1560s-1580s

Type: Image

The weather shown hitting these Spanish ships was encountered by the Basque whalers based in Labrador during the second half of the 16th century. Occasionally, ships were lost. One such was the San Juan, sunk in Red Bay, Labrador in 1565.

Site: National Defence

Portuguese ships, early 16th century

Type: Image

Such ships would have carried the Portuguese who explored what is now Canada’s east coast. (Museu de Arte Antiguo, Lisbon)

Site: National Defence

Voyages Of Discovery

Type: Document

Many European expeditions were sent to explore North America during the sixteenth century. The explorers were armed, and their ocean-going ships were a revolutionary technology.

Site: National Defence

English sailor, 1570s

Type: Image

A fur cap and baggy breeches were characteristic items of clothing of English sailors during the late 16th century.

Site: National Defence

Sixteenth-century galleon

Type: Image

The crewmen of this 16th century galleon are using several devices to discover their position. Tools like the arbalete and nocturlabe were used at night to measure the position of the stars in the sky. Based on these measurements, navigators could determine where they were on the globe. (National Library of Canada 18025)

Site: National Defence

A Spanish Ocean

Type: Document

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the European wars that had touched the eastern coasts of North and South America left the Pacific untroubled. From the European point of view, the region was largely unexplored, despite being bordered by Spanish colonies.

Site: National Defence

The Decline

Type: Document

English disruption of Spanish power at sea helped force the decline of the Newfoundland fishery. English pirates made many attacks on the Basques.

Site: National Defence

Basque Whaling Fleets on the Labrador Coast

Type: Document

During the later 16th Century, large Basque fleets hunted whales off Labrador. Seasonal settlements supported this lucrative fishery.

Site: National Defence

Conflict Amongst the Basques

Type: Document

There was sometimes fighting between the northern (French) Basques and the southern (Spanish) Basques. As well, war between France and Spain also affected the armed fishing fleets. The Inuit ashore were also hostile to the fishermen.

Site: National Defence