DIVE INTO HISTORY IN NEWFOUNDLAND, CANADA
The destination is Bell Island, home to what was once the world’s largest iron ore mine and the shipwrecks just offshore which were attacked whilst carrying the ore to support Canada’s war-effort during World War Two. World-class wreck diving is combined with the chance to explore a flooded mine that only a few have ever seen as you immerse yourself in history, led by Jill Heinerth world leading explorer.
- Explore an abandoned mine system
- Learn new techniques
- Dive wrecks that rival Truk Lagoon and Scapa Flow
- Experience Newfoundland hospitality and culture
Few people have dived the Bell Island mines and the adventure will culminate in dives that take you deep into history. In 2007, the Minequest expedition mapped several portions of the mines, and in 2016 a carefully selected team extended this mapping, laying line in several new passages to give a better understanding of the network of tunnels, remaining artefacts and other remnants of an earlier age. Fourth Element’s MineQuest Adventure allows unprecedented access to these mines under the guidance of one of the World’s eminent explorers Jill Heinerth, the Canadian Geographic Society’s Explorer in Residence.
This iron ore deposit was mined from the mid 1800’s and was of huge strategic significance in World War 2 as it supplied the raw material for almost a third of Canada’s production of steel for the war against Nazi Germany and the Axis powers.
This year, Bell Island Mines are once again in the spotlight as the destination of the Canada Geo Expedition of the Year. Follow in the footsteps of some of the world’s most intrepid explorer’s including Jill Heinerth and fourth element team diver Phil Short and be the first to see what they uncovered.
MINEQUEST 2017 - The first part of the adventure moves off the coast of Bell Island to explore the tragic results of the battle to protect this supply chain, four ships sunk by a German U-Boat whilst transporting this Ore or protecting the convoy. World class shipwrecks sit in recreational and shallow technical depths in astounding condition. Marconi stations remain intact within the Marconi rooms, and telegraphs sit proudly inside the ship’s engine room offering a very vivid glimpse into our recent maritime history through breathtaking diving.
Moving on to Bell Island itself, the adventure concludes with dives into an underwater museum: an Iron Ore mine, abandoned in the mid 1960’s, floods, effectively stopping time, leaving behind a snapshot of what it must have been like to work underground in this remote part of Canada’s coastline.
TRAGEDY IN CONCEPTION BAY - On the night of September 4th, 1942, a German U-Boat followed the ore carrier Evelyn B into anchorage at Wabana, Bell Island. The next morning and under the guns of the Bell Island Battery, the U-Boat sank two ships: SS Saganaga and SS Lord Strathcona. Twenty-nine men were killed in the attack, all aboard Saganaga. The attack had occurred in broad daylight, in an in shore protected anchorage. The Battle of the Atlantic had suddenly come close to home.
Just a few weeks later, another U-Boat made it past defenses and fired two torpedoes at the SS Rose Castle. The Free French vessel PLM 27 was next; in the ensuing confusion, the U-Boat escaped. In a ten-minute attack, two ships, along with forty men, had been lost.
The sinking of the ore carriers at Bell Island not only had strategic repercussions, but the sheer audacity of the attacks clearly demonstrated to Newfoundlanders that they were at the front lines of the Battle of the Atlantic.
This dive site is a truly awe inspiring glimpse into the WWII history. As spectacular as the High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow, it is world class wreck diving.
BELL ISLAND MINES - The mine, which closed in the mid-1960s, is a key part of the history of Bell Island, having been the driver of economic prosperity on the island, and a pivotal resource in Canada’s war effort.
As a dive site it offers not only the intrigue of an almost completely unexplored site, but it is a snapshot taken of lives lived 7 decades ago.
"It is a dive into history because of course there [are] a lot of artefacts left down there and you get that great sense of adventure: you never know what you are going to find. It is the perfect recipe for adventure.” Rick Stanley, expedition leader and coordinator of the ongoing MineQuest Project, adding that the exploration project is ongoing and anyone diving in the mines joins just a handful of others who have made many remarkable discoveries already.
"It's not just a tunnel, it's an underwater museum. There's so many things to see down there."