Thursday, July 13, 2017

Day 54 - Touring Bell Island

Today we had planned to take a tour of Bell Island. We found out about Bell Island from a retired school teacher in Stephenville, who was born on there. We knew about the submarine iron ore mine and of the sinking of four ore ships by a German submarine during WW II. Two really good reasons for a visit. 

Our guide, Darrin Steele, from Newfoundland picked us up promptly at nine o'clock and we were off to pick up more tourists before heading to Portugal Cove to catch the ferry. We discovered this morning that although there is a ferry schedule, the schedule is extremely flexible and can change on a moments notice. The island is serviced by two ferries that carry 33 vehicles each that are to be replaced by one 66 vehicle ferry. The new ferry is currently in service at Fogo Island until they get their own new ferry. The docking facilities here at Portugal Cove and at Bell Island are currently being upgraded to handle the bigger ferry. 

The cliffs of Bell Island

Nearing the Bell Island ferry dock.

Our multi talented dancer, singer, musician and tour-guide, Darrin Steele

On the drive to the island, Darrin captivated us with his in-depth knowledge and contagious enthusiasm about all things Newfoundland. We could have listened to him all day. After a brief stop at Harry's lookout, we were off to the #2 Mine Museum. At the museum, we were met by Teresita McCarthy who is good friends of John Basha (Stephenville) who told us about Bell Island.

Helene ready to head down into #2 Mine, to a depth of 100+ feet

Looking back at the entrance to the mine, we walked down a 10%
grade for about 650 feet

The horses and Newfoundland ponies stalls. The animals
worked a month on and were taken above ground to rest for a
month before doing it all over again

Water inside the mine limits the depth that the tour can go.
There are scuba diving tours of the mine

The mine operated from 1895 to 1966. At the time of its closure, Bell Island was Canada's longest continually operating mining project. The work week consisted of 10 hour days six days a week, with only the Sunday off. Before the use of machinery, all work was done by done by hand. The work was physically demanding and dangerous. Once the iron ore was removed from the rock face, it had to be shoveled by hand into a trolley by a team of two miners. Your day was done when you had filled 20 trolleys. When the mines were running all out, the population of the island was around 13,000 now it is around 2,700 people living in the Town of Wabana, Lance Cove and Freshwater. 

The boss would mark out where the holes had to be drilled, the holes were drilled and dynamite inserted and the rock face blasted. A scraper would use a metal bar to remove remaining loose rock and the ore on the ground would be shoveled by hand. Blasting would be done when the folks using shovels were off shift.

(From L to R) Picker, driller and shoveler

Our guide turned off the lights to give us an idea of how dark it is in a mine. We could not see our hands. To find out more about iron ore mining have a read of this CLEVELAND IRONSTONEMINING. It is about mining in the UK but I think it must be similar to how it was done in #2 Mine.

Bell Island is one of the few locations in North America that German forces directly attacked during the Second World War. German submarines sunk four ships.

Yousef Karsh was hired by the mining company to take pictures

Bell Island light house. It used to be near we were standing for the
 picture. It was moved due to erosion. 

Something to consider for our next visit to Newfoundland, a small
gas motor on our bicycles.

Monk Lane, even steeper than the street we photographed a few
days ago. Look at all those steps

Front display window at Jenkins & Puddicombe Sheet Metal Ltd

On our way back from Bell Island, we were dropped off at the grocery store where we did a little shopping for some local food stuff. We bought some of the ingredients needed to make Fisherman's Brewis when we get home. 

(From L to R) Jam Jam, Salt Fish and Hard Bread 

We had planned to pedal to Bell Island but after the tour we took on Tuesday, we decided that we would get more out of an organised tour and we were not disappointed. 

Tomorrow are doing a self guided walking tour of downtown St. John's and have a number of places we want to visit.


  1. Un régime PURITY... sans Bières?

    1. André,

      On va combiner les ingrédients pour faire du "Fisherman's Brewis" ( et prendre ça avec de la bière.