Remembering Selma Huxley Barkham: historian and geographer specialising in Basque connections to Can

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Selma Huxley Barkham (March 8, 1927 May 3, 2020), was a historian and geographer of international standing in the fields of the maritime history of Canada and of the Basque Country

The yellow tent was up and straining on its guy ropes in the Labrador wind. The black flies were viciously biting. Rain poured down. They were cold and soaked to the bone. But Selma Huxley Barkham, with her two youngest children in tow, was ecstatically happy. She had found what she was looking for: eroded pieces of red roofing tiles scattered on the shores, in vegetable patches and in gardens.

The locals called the red tile red rock, and some, as children, had used it to write on school slates. But Selma knew that the tiles had been brought in ships across the Atlantic from the Basque Country in the sixteenth century. On the way over to Terranova, the New Found Land, the tiles were used as ballast. On the return journey, the ships hulls were filled with barrels of whale oil, and sometimes with dried or green salted cod. The tiles were left in Terranova where they were used to construct roofs over shelters, and the ovens where whalers boiled down whale oil.

Selma now knew her excursion to Labrador in the summer of 1977, funded by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, to identify Basque whaling sites in the 1500s & 1600s, was a success. In each port she had so painstakingly identified as having been used by the Basques in the 16th and 17th centuries, she had found tiles. Years of interest, m....

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