NEWS FROM THE BELL ISLAND HERITAGE SOCIETY AND OCEAN QUEST ADVENTURE RESORT
MINE QUEST 2007 - UNDERWATER EXPLORATION OF THE BELL ISLAND MINES
Conception Bay, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada. Between 29 January and 09 February 2007, a team of international cave divers from Canada, United Kingdom, USA and Egypt will carry out an exploration project in the abandoned and now flooded Iron Ore Mines in Wabana, Bell Island. The project follows an initial dive made in July 2006 and is mounted by Ocean Quest Adventure Resort in association with the Bell Island Heritage Society. It will provide information on the integrity of the mine shafts underwater, hazards, artifacts discovered and overall suitability for establishing a full-time cave diving operation in the mine.
Mine Quest is the brainchild of Rick Stanley, owner of Ocean Quest (Canada’s National Award Winning Dive Centre and the only 5 Star TDI Training Facility in Atlantic Canada), who has spent 10 years planning, preparing and training in the hope of obtaining permission to mount the expedition. It’s story is closely linked with that of the Bell Island Shipwrecks, 4 Allied Ore Carriers sunk by German U-boats in nearby Lance Cove during 1942. The wrecks and the history surrounding them attract divers from around the World and many ask about the possibility of diving in the mines - the source of the sunken ships’ valuable cargo. The No2 Mine Tour in Wabana currently provides the only opportunity for the Public to visit the disused mines but now the possibility to offer a full range of Technical and Recreational diving and a mine tour with a difference - giving the complex a new lease of life in the Adventure Tourism industry - is well within reach. Rick commented “After diving in the mine last July and on the Bell Island Wrecks for so long now, my respect and understanding for the Island, it’s people and their culture has grown immensely. I see this expedition as a great opportunity to increase awareness of the island’s unique history and of the 170 people who lost their lives in the mines and on the ships”.
The Bell Island Heritage Society (BIHS), operators of the surface tour in the abandoned mine, are very excited about the venture. They are confident it will increase tourism to the Island, help the business community and create many new employment possibilities. Committed to spreading the word about Bell Island’s rich heritage, the BIHS hope that Mine Diving will be a way to reach a group of people the area would probably otherwise never see.
The possibilities for exploration in the nine square mile submarine complex are “endless” according to Dive Team Leader Steve Lewis, Director of Product Development for Technical Diving International (TDI), USA who are supporting the venture. They plan to develop a unique ‘Mine Diving’ specialty for cave divers which would be conducted exclusively in the Bell Island Mines. The 17-strong project team comprises many prominent cave diving professionals from around the globe, including a member of the exclusive Explorers Club and all are excited about the prospect of venturing ‘Below the Bell’. Fittingly, the word Wabana is a native word meaning "Place of First Light" – in this case it will be high intensity light held by some of the World’s foremost underwater explorers as they go where no-one has been since the closure of the vast mine complex several decades ago, illuminating a dark hole below a small island but putting extreme diving in Newfoundland & Labrador very much in the spotlight!
For further information on the exploration project and its progress, visit the Mine Quest Blog Site bellislandexpedition.blogspot.com or go to www.oceanquestcharters.com. Alternatively, contact Rick Stanley or Steve Moore at Ocean Quest via 709 834 7234, Skype steve.oceanquest or firstname.lastname@example.org.