Every Project needs a LOGO

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Steve Lewis – Tech Diver Training


During yesterday’s team conference call (team members make their Bell Island Mine Questhomes across North America and Europe), Jill Heinerth, our group’s renaissance woman, unveiled our project logo. We love it and hope you folks do too.

One of the project sponsors is Fourth Element. These folks have supported the efforts to map Bell Island Mine since we first started exploration in 2006. They have been super generous and have supplied team members with various bits of essential kit.

And now, they will be supplying us with hoodies adorned with our brand-spanking new “project identity!”

A BIG thank you. Fourth Element Equipment for adventure


Prepping our playground

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Steve Lewis – Tech Diver Training


Mine Quest Bell Island Heritage

Many things set expedition diving apart. One issue is that successful expedition diving is always the result of a team effort, and the outcome of a dive can depend as much or more on the individuals schlepping gear, and pumping gas, than it does on the folks laying line or surveying. Another thing to consider is that every moment spent in the water is bought with the effort of several hours work by many, many more people than the few who “get wet and glorious” in the water. Needless to say, in expedition diving, especially of this type, the term “dive team” covers everyone… even the folks making sandwiches and tea.

To illustrate the point, here’s a precis of a recent posting by Rick Stanley of Ocean Quest (the main project sponsor). It tells us a little about the clean-up process in the mine shaft where we will be basing our operations in February. By the way, the main shafts in Bell Island mine are not vertical as they are in many mines. In Bell Island, they slope at about 10-degrees from horizontal… both above and below water. Makes for an interesting challenge in both environments.

“Another successful day with another third [of the prep work] done, with volunteers Mark and Marcia McGowan, Johnny Olivero, Nick Dawe and myself. Belle Islands Staff Volunteers Bonnie and Tom Spracklin and Teresita (Teddy) McCarthy all on hand.

“We cleaned up big area where large picnic table will be going along with an area around the Rib 32’ for a gear set-up work bench and storage. We cleaned down walking area down the slope to the water’s muddy edge. We installed steel supports over a deep trench to attach our platform and for a gangway to floating dock. ( Docks and platforms yet to be built).

Bell Island Mine Newfoundland“Lunch today was prepared by Marcia in the cafeteria of the mine…fantastic sandwiches cakes and cookies…and she’s coming again tomorrow with special chilli…..going to keep her on…and you should see her moving iron ore…the miners were turning over in their graves today…ha, ha, ha!

“In the afternoon we continued working on bridge area and cleaning slopes… We edged the walkway with iron ore chunks and old Powerline posts that were nearby for safety to keep folks on track walking down slope. We cleaned away iron ore off old water pipes as they are artifacts and to have that nice line looking down the shaft to the water.

“Good day had by all and tomorrow we work on lighting, diverting water running down slope and installing a water pump and hose for wash-down area. Also beautification will continue ;-)”

Investigation into Bacterial Growth

Monday, January 11, 2016

Steve LewisTech Diver Training

Steve Lewis exploring the Water Pipe Tunnel
Image: Jill Heinerth

One of the scientific tasks our team will undertake during the Bell Island Mine project this February is collecting samples of bacterial mats, sediment, and water at various collection points throughout the exploration area, and sending them for analysis to Dr. Cheeptham, in the microbiology department of Thompson Rivers University, B.C.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that because daylight does not penetrate caves and mine shafts, these environments support no life at all. However, this is far from the truth. Life will find a way to thrive even in conditions that seem harsh to surface-dwellers. Certainly in the dark, underground environment of Bell Island Mine, life is tough and organisms must find an alternate energy source to sunlight. But we noted very prolific bacterial growth on equipment and fixtures during our initial exploration.

Fascinated by this, we contacted Dr. Cheeptham, who has several papers published on cave life. Our hope was she had a grad student willing to research exactly what’s made its home deep in shaft #2. Luckily she agreed. Thanks Ann!

Bell Island mine an ‘underwater museum’ awaiting discovery

Sunday, January 10, 2016


A diving company is getting ready to launch an unconventional trip in Newfoundland: an underwater adventure in the abandoned Bell Island mine in the middle of Conception Bay.

The mine, which closed in the mid-1960s, is a key part of the history ofCasPhotoCOnceptionHarbor4648lwm Bell Island, which is also the site of several Second World War shipwrecks that have long fascinated divers.

During the war, a German U-boat sank the SS Saganaga and SS Lord Strathcona in 1942, and later that year sank the SS Rose Castle and the free French vessel PLM27.


Now the focus is on the abandoned mine itself.

The Hidden Geography of Newfoundland from Jill Heinerth on Vimeo.

“It is a dive into history because of course there [are] a lot of artifacts left down there and you’ve got that great sense of adventure, so you have that recipe that these divers are coming to look for,” said Rick Stanley, owner of Ocean Quest, adding that work has been ongoing to get ready for the big dive in tunnel two, planned for mid-February.

Local company offers scuba diving in Bell Island mine tunnels

Local company offers scuba diving in Bell Island mine tunnels 10:14

“It’s not just a tunnel, it’s an underwater museum. There’s so many things to see down there.”

“We’re going to be laying some more permanent lines down in the mine shafts. We’re also going to be doing some scientific data on the human body in extreme environments, we’re also going to be building a destination,” he told CBC’s On The Go.

‘It’s not just a tunnel, it’s an underwater museum.’ – Rick Stanley

Stanley said this kind of destination doesn’t yet exist in Newfoundland and Labrador, and will hopefully appeal to history and diving buffs around the world.

The spot where the dive — called Mine Quest — will happen is a section of the mine closed in 1949, ahead of the mine’s complete closure in 1966.

Stanley said there are rails, an iron ore car and tools still in the mine.

Diver died in 2007

Stanley said plans for the mine have been underway for a long time, but the death of an American diver at the site in 2007 derailed them.

According to Stanley, his friend Joe Steffen died from an air embolism, caused by a tumour, that killed him during a dive at the mine.

“Of course that slowed down the whole process of getting Mine Quest underway … it was a sad day,” said Stanley. “It could have happened anywhere, not necessarily in that mine.”

Stanley said despite the loss, his friend was a big supporter of the project and would have wanted it to proceed.

Not for just anyone

While the group is hoping to attract professional divers from all over the globe, Stanley said it’s not for just anyone.

“You go down there, you must be ready for it and of course you must meet our criteria before we’re even going to let you down there to begin with,” he said.

“It’s not like an opened dive site that you can jump in and take your chances … There’s a check and balance to it all.”

Ocean Quest divers lay wreath at site of shipwreck

A crew of divers with Ocean Quest took a wreath underwater to lay at the site of shipwrecks off Bell Island on Remembrance Day in 2014. (Philippe Grenier/Radio-Canada)

The Mine Quest adventure’s appeal is the ability to dive in an abandoned mine and a shipwreck all in one place.

“They have that diversity to come here for a week’s holidays,” said Stanley.

“We’re not expecting them to be coming in droves … but we are expecting that this is going to be a great addition to what we’ve already been successful doing with the Bell Island shipwrecks.”

Mine Quest 2.0 Sponsors

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Steve Lewis- Tech Diver Training

Royal Canadian Geographical Society BELL ISLAND MINE

Projects of this type are realized in part by volunteer efforts: each team member making a significant personal commitment of time and expertise. Most are also largely self-funded, and without team members making the required financial investments to cover travel, equipment, and other expenses, projects such as this simply would not happen.
However, another important contribution to the viability of any endeavor on this scale is made via the generosity of many companies and equipment manufacturers who support both individual team members as well as the team as a whole.

Many thanks to the folks who have supported and sponsored me in the past, and for this particular project:

Many Thanks to All
Many Thanks to All


Ocean Quest Adventures
Newfoundland, Canada
Primary Sponsorship for MineQuest 2.0

O’Three Ltd.
Come in from the Cold

Dorset, UK…
Drysuits, and Thermal Protection

Deep 6:
Expedition Dive Gear

Georgia, USA…
Regulators, and Accessories

Light Monkey:
High-Quality Technical Diving Equipment

Florida, USA…
U/W Lighting Systems, and Batteries

Made by Divers for Divers

Florida, USA…
SF2 eCCR, and Reels

RAID Diving:
Excellent Diver Training

Logistical support