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Explore World War II Freighter Wrecks in Bell Island, Newfoundland

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Four massive superstructures rest quietly just two miles off shore from Newfoundland and while most divers expect poor diving conditions when it comes to wreck diving, these four WWII era freighters attract underwater photo enthusiasts from all over the world.

Quick Recap on the History of Conception Bay, Bell Island

On September 4th, 1942, the German submarine U-513 slid quietly into the bay, waited until morning and unleashed a fury of torpedoes on the various boats, all of which had large amounts iron ore in their cargo. It was crucial that this raw good be delivered for the war effort but the sneaky submarine was able to take them down and escape into the Atlantic undetected. In total, twenty-nine men died in the attacks. Almost seventy years later, the blood coated memories of that uneventful night are hardly noticeable since they now serve as vibrant artificial reefs.

The Wreck s

The SS Lord Strathcoma, SS Saganaga, PLM-27 and the SS Rose Castle, all sunken by the German U-boat, rest at the bottom of the

SS Saganaga Anchor Chain

bay in excellent condition. All of these war machines are more than 120 meters long and are home to various anemones, colourful starfish and lots of other interesting invertebrates. The ships are pretty much intact with minimal signs of the torpedo attacks. The Lord Strathcoma´s deck gun is fully intact and accessible via the stern. Many cool sunken treasures, such as radio sets, ammunition and other WWII era relics are sprinkled about the ship. The SS Saganaga seems like a ghost ship since its thick rusty anchor chainsnakes about a third of its structure. Follow the chain and you’ll cross the length of the central superstructure, a cargo bay and you’ll eventually reach the ginormous anchor, all the while spotting remnants of the fatal day such as boxes of bullets and five inch shells. The shallowest

ship of the group, the PLM-27, is the only ship left that has its propeller intact and marine wildlife has grown cozy here. Soft coral wraps all throughout the wreck, making the former floating coffin a vibrant sunken cradle of life for so many marine species. You might even spot a Humpback, Narwhal or Beluga whale during your surface interval here since they arrive for feeding at certain times of the year (June, July, August).

A Bit of Advice

If you decide to visit this unique dive site, take a camera with you and adhere to a few basic tips for shooting wrecks in these conditions. Definitely dive in a dry suit, since the more comfortable you are, the less likely your photos will suffer. Also pack some diving gloves that permit full dexterity so you can manipulate camera settings with ease. More light exists here than in tropical destinations so use a slower shutter speed and wider aperture to brighten up your photos. Lots of rusticles and other sediments are disturbed easily in the dive sites causing your auto focus to go berserk so use manual focus and your best judgement instead.

Here are a few dive operators for anyone interested in visiting Newfoundland:

Ocean Quest Adventures: (709) 834 – 7234

E & S Diving Services: 709-596-4479

Photo Credit: Vlada Dekina

Article by Michael Dawson from Diving Discoveries

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  • scubadivingmalta said:

    Very nice article indeed! Around our islands there also a lot of shipwrecks some of which belong to the second world war! very interesting sites to explore apart from the nice fish that live in our waters.


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