A wonderful article by Steve Lewis on Diving the Bell Island Wrecks and the Iron Ore Mine! http://t.co/VkO1htl9A8
Ocean Quest is very proud to protect the Bell Island shipwrecks. After 13 years and a lot of hard work, the ships are still in great condition, and many artifacts litter their decks. All four shipwrecks are registered archaeological sites and protected by law.
As such, we ask that guests employ a very strict "take only pictures, leave only bubbles" attitude when diving the wrecks, as Ocean Quest has a zero-tolerance policy for anyone removing or disturbing artifacts in anyway.
Aside from Ocean Quest's own policy, it is illegal to remove or disturb underwater artifacts at any identified or suspected archaeological site, under the Historic Resources Act. As noted, this Act protects the Bell Island shipwrecks.
In-water dive guides are not included with the dive charter, but they are available for an additional fee. Please reserve the services of an in-water dive guide in advance to ensure that we can properly schedule our staff to provide you with a great dive!
Ocean Quest's main dive operation can accommodate single divers, however additional arrangements may be necessary. This may include buddying up with divers already booked, provided a match in skill and intended dive plan is available, or an additional fee for an in-water dive guide.
Solo divers with appropriate solo diving certification from a recognized training agency are welcome on our dive charter.
As with any dive, Ocean Quest will require you equip a suitable set of standard gear: regulator, BC, exposure suit, mask, fins, and snorkel. Divers should also include a knife and dive computer in their kit.
Ocean Quest also recommend divers also equip a reel, light, and surface marker buoy or lift bag.
Dry suits are highly recommended due to the cold temperatures expected at depths. In the event that a diver wishes to use a wet suit when water is at its warmest, a 14mm on the core and 7mm on limbs configuration will be necessary, and Ocean Quest reserves the right to limit use of a wet suit based on conditions.
Due to the depths of the Bell Island shipwrecks, Ocean Quest can only take divers with advanced certification or a combination of deep specialty certification and a significant amount of dives. These certifications, or equivalents, must be awarded by recognized training agencies.
If a wreck charter is not scheduled, Ocean Quest's dive charter can bring you to alternative dive sites suited for a Basic Open Water diver. These include Chimney Cove and the Bell and Clapper.
Yes. Ocean Quest requires a minimum 24 hour notice for any dive charter, at which point a 25% deposit will be processed.
Guests are advised to book well in advance to confirm a spot on the dive charter due to limited availability.
Approximately 6 hours, but this may vary depending on conditions, surface intervals, length of dive, etc. Normally arrival time at the dive shop is 3:00pm, but please set aside the entire day for the dive charter.
The dive charter runs daily. Guests with bookings are asked to meet at the dive shop at 8:30am for a 9:00am scheduled departure.
Ocean Quest's main dive charter operation on the MV Ocean Quest is based in Conception Bay South, departing from the Foxtrap Marina. Predominantly, the MV Ocean Quest will transport you to the Bell Island shipwreck dive sites, however requests for other dive sites in Conception Bay near Bell Island can be accommodated.
In addition to our main dive charter, Ocean Quest operates a rigid hull inflatable boat that can transport groups to dive sites all around the Avalon peninsula, including iceberg diving and whale snorkeling expeditions.
Ocean Quest's dive charter includes 2 dives on the Bell Island shipwrecks (or another site within Conception Bay), lunch, tanks (80 cuft alum), weights, air, and shuttle service to and from the dive shop.
Please note that equipment rentals, Nitrox, steel tanks, and twin sets will incur additional fees, and should be reserved in advanced along with your dive charter reservation.
This is a tricky question, and it really depends on why you want to dive.
If you are looking for great visibility, photo opportunities, or cold water diving, we recommend between May and July.
If you are looking for warmer temperatures and don't mind a bit of reduced visibility, August through October is the best time to dive.
Bookings and Reservations
Ocean Quest lodge can accommodate up to 12 people in 6 bedrooms. Bedding can be arranged as two twin beds or a king bed in each room.
Ocean Quest also has an additional room apart from the lodge reserved for leaders of escorted groups.
Yes, we do offer discounts to group travelers and dive groups! Benefits of traveling with a group can include group-wide discounts or free vacation packages.
We also extend a rewarding commission structure to dive shops, escorted groups, and other organizations that conform to tourism regulations within their area!
These benefits are specific to the size of the group and the services they require, so if you have a group coming to Newfoundland, please contact us for more details!
Ocean Quest understands that should you make a reservation, circumstances may occur where you will not be able to visit. To help in these situations, Ocean Quest has a refund policy for paid deposits as follows:
Over 120 days prior to original date – full refund of deposit, minus $35+ tax administration fee.
90-120 days prior to original date – 50% refund of deposit or, Full deposit amount may be applied to an equivalent package on alternative dates up to 1 year from cancellation date, subject to availability or 50% of the deposit amount may be applied to other Ocean Quest products, ie online store, etc for up to 3 months from cancellation date.
60-90 days prior to original date - 50% refund of deposit or, 75% deposit amount may be applied to an equivalent package on alternative dates up to 1 year from cancellation date, subject to availability or 50% of the deposit amount may be applied to other Ocean Quest products, ie online store, etc for up to 3 months from cancellation date.
30-60 days prior to original date - 25% refund of deposit or, 50% deposit amount may be applied to an equivalent package on alternative dates up to 1 year from cancellation date, subject to availability or 50% of the deposit amount may be applied to other Ocean Quest products, ie online store, etc for up to 3 months from cancellation date.
Within 30 days prior to original date - No refund of deposit or, 50% deposit amount may be applied to an equivalent package on alternative dates in the same year as the cancellation date, subject to availability or 25% of the deposit amount may be applied to other Ocean Quest products, ie online store, etc for up to 3 months from cancellation date.
Full payment for any service is due upon arrival at Ocean Quest, prior to participating in an activity or making use of our facilities.
For any booking, whether for the lodge, dive charter, our vacation packages, or any other service, Ocean Quest requires a 25% deposit at the time of inquiry. If a deposit is not received at the time of booking, Ocean Quest cannot consider your service booked, until a payment is made.
Newfoundland and Labrador has a wide variety of weather conditions in each season, due to the province's location in the North Atlantic.
Ocean Quest guests are encouraged to pack layered clothing and a set of rain wear, as weather tends to fluctuate day-to-day, and even the best forecast should be taken as advice. It is not unheard of to have a summer day at 10 degrees Celsius, only to see it sky-rocket to 25 degrees Celsius the next!
In general, summers are warm to hot, and winters are milder than much of Canada. In all seasons, prepare for precipitation.
Fortunately, it is a rare occasion that an activity or a dive will be rescheduled or canceled due to weather.
Aside from breakfasts and lunch on activity days, Ocean Quest visitors have many options for dining during their stay.
Ocean Quest Lodge has two kitchens for our visitors use. There are two grocery stores nearby as well as farms and seafood markets, and Ocean Quest staff will gladly help pick local favorites to infuse your stay with traditional flavors.
"Mid-range" restaurants are also nearby offering conventional dishes suitable for most tastes.
Fine-dining establishments are located a mere 15 minute drive from the lodge in historic downtown St. John's and are a perfect addition to a night on the town.
For specific recommendations and more details, please inquire when making your reservation.
Renting a car while staying at Ocean Quest is entirely optional when taking one of our vacation packages. Ocean Quest is pleased to offer complimentary airport shuttle services to all guests taking a vacation package lasting 7 nights or longer. Ocean Quest also offers shuttle service to and from the Foxtrap marina for divers on our dive charter. Ocean Quest is also happy to provide additional transportation not included in our vacation packages for an additional fee during your stay.
However, guests who want a little more flexibility during their stay can certainly rent a car while in Newfoundland. Should you want your own transportation, Ocean Quest recommends making reservations early with an appropriate rental car company to ensure that a car will be available during your stay.
Ocean Quest is pleased to offer many elements in our vacation packages that will make our visitors trips much easier and convenient.
Each 7 night vacation package from Ocean Quest includes: airport shuttle service, shuttle service to activities, breakfast every morning, lunch on activity days (unless otherwise noted), and equipment rentals (unless otherwise noted).
Each 7 night dive package also includes: dive charters, tanks (80 cuft alum), weights, air, and lunch on dive days.
Ocean Quest is also pleased to provide many additional services and products, but visitors should note that the following is not included in the price of vacation package and will incur additional fees: Nitrox fills, twin sets, steel tanks, and in-water dive guide service.
Being on the extreme east coast of North America, this is a common question. Visitors of Ocean Quest have a variety of ways to make it here:
By car: Marine Atlantic offers two different ferry routes from Nova Scotia, North Sydney NS to Port Aux Basques NL and North Sydney NS to Argentia NL. Deciding which route to take is a matter of taste. The ferry to Port Aux Basques lasts approximately 5 hours and will take a 9-10 hour drive to Ocean Quest, whereas the ferry to Argentia takes approximately 15 hours with a 1.5 hour drive to Ocean Quest.
For UK travelers, Air Canada offers direct flights from Heathrow Airport to St. John's.
For US travelers, Continental offers direct flights from Newark, NJ.
Please follow the links to the transportation providers for more details, as Ocean Quest cannot comment on specific schedules, ferries, or flight times, and the above information is subject to change by the companies referenced. For more specific travel advice, please contact Ocean Quest, and we will do everything we can to assist your travel plans.
Icebergs and Whales
We can only give a broad range of dates for the anticipated yearly arrival of icebergs. With Mother Nature, you can never be exact, so the best chance that you will see icebergs is between early May to about mid-July.
As that time approaches, you can follow the progress of tracked icebergs via Iceberg Finder. Please note that Ocean Quest is not responsible for this application as it is operated by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and it cannot be used to accurate depict the location or size of an iceberg. It is best used for an indication of iceberg activity.
We can only give an approximate set of dates that will give you the best chance of seeing whales, which would be between early July and mid August, although it is not unusual to see whales well into the late summer weeks.
Yes you can, however, as with any form of scuba diving the key to a great experience is risk management. Ocean Quest requires a minimum advanced scuba diver certification with a dry suit specialty, and we do reserve the right to limit access to an iceberg via scuba if in any way, shape, or form, we are not confident a diver is ready for the experience.
Also, Ocean Quest offers scuba diving on certain types of icebergs. Icebergs considered too big, of irregular shape, or appear unstable upon inspection will be considered unsuitable for diving. When scuba diving near an iceberg, it has to be of moderate or small size (which is still gigantic!), of regular shape, and appears whole and stable.
You can, however, Ocean Quest recommends snorkeling with whales instead. This is for two reasons: regulator bubbles can spook a whale, and staying at the surface allows for communication with the boat. Whales do tend to swim all over the place, and putting you in the right place facing the right direction is key to a good close encounter with a whale!
If you so choose, you can go in on scuba, assuming you are willing to forgo the benefits mentioned above.
The normal snorkeling with whales trip will attempt to put you in the water with the humpback whale. They are numerous, incredibly friendly, and frankly, they like to show off. They are certainly the most consistent in terms of providing a great show for our visitors!
Previous Ocean Quest visitors have also been in the water with beluga, narwhal, white beaked dolphin, and minke whales, however these species of mammals are either much more rare or less likely to stick around with someone in the water. While the possibility exists of a close encounter with these species, please be aware that it is much less likely than with the humpback whale.
Fortunately, this is a infrequent situation, but it does occur. On all of our iceberg and whale trips, we advise visitors that we cannot guarantee a specific experience. Ocean Quest can only give our visitors the best chance possible to experience close encounters with icebergs and whales.
Sometimes, we are able to see icebergs or whales, but circumstances are such that it is not safe to get in the water. Only certain types of icebergs are diveable, and sometimes a whale's temperament or behavior (for example, if it is feeding) will prevent a close encounter. Again, these are infrequent occurrences but the possibility exists.
Our best advise to improve the likelihood of getting in the water with icebergs or whales is to book towards the middle of the expected times for icebergs or whales, and to book multiple iceberg or whale excursions.
That all said, as long as we are in the appropriate times for icebergs and whales, the vast majority of guests get to enjoy an experience of a lifetime.
Our normal dive charter will take in 2 of the 4 Bell Island wrecks on any given day. We normally bring first time visitors to the PLM-27 and SS Saganaga, with the two deeper wrecks SS Lord Strathcona and SS Rose Castle on subsequent days.
Ocean Quest also visits other wrecks on our two week long once-a-year expeditions: The Atlantic Canada Challenge and Expedition Labrador. On the Atlantic Canada Challenge, visitors will normally take in the Ascania, sunk in 1918, and the Stalbas sunk in 1974, where as Expedition Labrador will take in the Catalina Seaplane Z240 sunk 1942.
If you have any inquiries concerning other shipwrecks in Newfoundland and Labrador, please let us know. Should enough information concerning the dive site be available, Ocean Quest can prepare a custom trip for you.
Depths of the decks of the four Bell Island shipwrecks range from 50 feet to 120 feet, and depths of the seafloors range from 100 feet to 165 feet.
Very little current exists on the wrecks, and visibility ranges from 150+ feet in winter to 30 feet in late August.
All four wrecks are covered in sea anemones, and are home to many species of invertebrates and fish.
Each wreck is fitted with a mooring allowing for easy descent and ascent.
The Bell Island wrecks are indeed very special shipwrecks. All four, the SS Saganaga, the SS Lord Strathcona, the SS Rose Castle, and the PLM-27 were all iron ore freighters sunk in 1942 by German U-boats. They are within 2 square miles of each other, and all are intact and upright on the bottom. They're also very large -- all over 400 feet long, offering opportunities for multiple dives.
What makes these wrecks stand out, though, is their accessibility (all decks are within recreational dive limits) and their preservation. Many artifacts are exactly where they were when the sunk nearly 70 years ago, and the even the rigging on the SS Rose Castle is still in place.
We are confident that these wrecks will quickly be included in your "best wreck dives" list!
No, you cannot. It is illegal to remove or disturb artifacts at shipwreck sites in Newfoundland and Labrador under the Historic Resources Act, and all the shipwrecks Ocean Quest visits, including the Bell Island shipwrecks, are registered archaeological sites.
Ocean Quest enforces a very strict "take only pictures and leave only bubbles" policy on wreck dives. This is to preserve the wrecks' integrity as underwater museums, while providing reason for future divers to visit them. The quality of these wrecks depends on the continued presence of artifacts on their decks, and the removal of any artifact spoils that quality.