Today, Selma Huxley, the historian, researcher, and friend of the Basques our nation owes so much to, has passed away.  With her passing, we will now never be able to thank her for her work and her commitment to our history.  Neither the country nor us personally.

This Anglo-Canadian, born in London in 1927, now holds a place of honor in the history of our country.  Her work on Basque whalers and fishermen in Canada in the 16th and 17th centuries has had, has, and will have value for our people that will be impossible to measure.  With her, with her research, our position in the history of Europe and North America changed: she situated us, gave us our relevance.

But, even more than that, she helped the Basque recover and learn about an extraordinary part of their history, of the times when our sailors helped light Europe with the whale oil they obtained in their annual trips to the other side of the North Atlantic.

Thanks to her research, we’ve been able to understand the extraordinary importance that naval adventure had in our country’s history.  It’s something that allows us to understand why we say that for centuries, the North Atlantic was the “Sea of the Basques“, even though we Basques at home are quite unaware.

She spoke of the Basques.  She studied and described the Basque journey, with Basque protagonists.  She narrated the adventure of the Basques who left from ports on the Basque Coast, on either side of the Bidassoa.  It was a Basque adventure, and that’s how she understood it, and told it.

Our blog would not be what it is without Selma Huxley.

  • Thanks to her work, this little corner of the Internet is full of references to the epic journeys Basque sailors had as they went hunting whales and fishing cod in the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • Thanks to her, it’s full of references to Red Bay, the Canadian town that was the location of the first Basque whaling station in Labrador, and which has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
  • Thanks to her research, the wreck of the San Juan is the image of the Underwater Cultural Heritage program at UNESCO.  The ship builders Albaola are now building a replica of that ship in Pasaia, and it has become an international hotspot.
  • Thanks to her, those of us writing here know more about our own history.

We Basques owe so much to Selma Huxley.  She received important awards throughout her life, and we’re sure she will continue receiving them posthumously.  But more importantly, what really makes all those years of hard work and warmth for our country worthwhile is knowing that that story, that part of our history, is known and understood by us in its full splendor.  That will mean that she and the protagonists in this part of our history are always alive with us.  We owe this to her, and to those Basques of centuries past who set sail across the North Atlantic.

Agur eta Ohore

In addition to the references we’ve already included in the text, we’re also linking to some articles and videos that give us a profile of her as a researcher and her amazing contributions to our country.  One of them was even written by her son, Michael Barkham.


CBC – 2018 –  Canada

It started as a love story

Their love for each other; his love for the Basque Country; her love of research.  It all led to the discovery of a little known slice of time when 16th century Basque whalers plied the waters off Labrador.  In 1954, a young architect met a librarian.  In 2013, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inscribed the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station on its World Heritage List.

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Mujeres con Ciencia – 13/3/2018 –  Euskadi

El caso de Selma Huxley

Fue Julián de Zulueta y Cebrián un médico español, nacido en Madrid en 1918, que durante la mayor parte de su vida profesional luchó contra la malaria desde instituciones internacionales. Era sobrino de Antonio de Zulueta, zoólogo y autor de la mejor traducción al español de El origen de las especies, de Charles Darwin, publicada en 1921. Entró en la Organización Mundial de la Salud en 1952 y, hasta su retirada en 1977, fue responsable de las campañas contra la malaria. Recorrió muchos países y era conocido como Señor de los Mosquitos.

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The  Conversation – 5/11/2019 – 

Selma Huxley, la historiadora que descubrió cómo los balleneros vascos llegaron hasta Canadá

Si pensamos en balleneros es fácil que nos venga a la cabeza el Pequod de la famosa novela Moby Dick de Herman Melville, ese barco que surcaba el océano en una obsesiva caza a una ballena blanca. Selma Huxley nunca ha perseguido ballenas, pero sí ha rastreado durante años la historia de otros barcos balleneros, los procedentes de puertos vascos que, desde el siglo XVI, pescaban en las lejanas costas de Terranova.

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La investigadora Selma Huxley recibe el galardón Lagun Onari (2014)