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Expedition of the year

Bell Island Newfoundland

Jill Heinerth, Steve Lewis, Cas Dobbin, John Olivero, Rick Stanley, Trisha Stovel, Russell Clark

Few people know that Bell Island, Newfoundland was attacked by the Germans during World War II. In 1942, German U-boats twice raided the island in an attempt to disrupt the flow of high grade iron ore being transported from the island’s mines.  The Germans knew that if they could disrupt the flow of ship building materials, even temporarily, then the Allied war efforts would be seriously affected. In two separate attacks, U-boats sunk the SS Saganaga and SS Lord Strathcona followed by the SS Rose Castle, Free French vessel PLM 27 and the Bell Island loading wharf. Experienced technical divers will document the remarkable war graves of the 70 men that were killed and explore the WWII shipwrecks now resplendent with colorful marine growth.

Jill Heinerth, an RCGS Fellow and the inaugural recipient of the RCGS’s Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration, will lead the expedition to Bell Island.  The exploration site is spread over 16 kilometers and has 100km of tunnels plunging beneath the sea floor of Conception Bay where the WWII wrecks reside. Abandoned decades ago, these mine passages are now flooded. Jill and her team will explore new areas of the submerged mine tunnels that contain mining relics, pipes, heavy equipment and remarkable graffiti that tells the story of miners who died and document their findings. The story of the Bell Island shipwrecks and mines is an important chronicle in Canada’s history.

The first phase of the expedition commenced in mid-February 2016 with the next phase scheduled for June 2016.

For more information about this expedition:

Expedition website

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