Basques are believed to have been the first nation to exploit whales for commercial purposes and they monopolized whaling in the middle ages. Around 1600 they started whaling around Iceland and Norway. During 1613-1615 it is believed that close to 90 ships at a time were haunting whales in the Icelandic Westfjords. During this period, pirating was common and Icelanders wary of the dark-skinned seafarers. In 1615, three Basque whaling ships shipwrecked in a storm and as a result, a scenario began that is unique in Icelandic history with the slaying of 31 of the survivors of the shipwrecks and connecting these two small nations forever.

In the early summer of 1615, many whaling ships were seen at Hornstrandir, most of them kept going away but at least three of them were left fishing. Those ships perished in a storm on the 21st September 1615 in Ytri Naustvík, Reykjarfjörður at Strandir. Their captain's names were Peter de Aguirre, Stefan de Tellaria and Martin de Villafranca. Icebergs drifted into the fjord and broke the ship of Peter and Stefan. Martin's ship drifted ashore and broke there. Three crew members perished but some goods were saved. Several small whaling boats were still ashore when the ships perished and 82 or 83 shipwrecked survived.

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