In February 2007, Joe Steffen suffered a massive embolism while exploring the Bell Island Mine, and passed away a few metres from the surface in the main shaft were today a memorial cross bears his name. Joe, a popular and respected figure in both the cave and wreck-diving communities, had an undiagnosed health issue, which was discovered during the medical examination following his death. The original exploration team’s medical officer (Dr. David Sawatzky), suggested that Joe’s passing would have been instantaneous, and probably caused by an ascent that would not have been an issue for a healthy diver.
The family Joe left behind, the original exploration team, the Bell Island Heritage Society, Bell Island Mine Museum, and the community of Bell Island, decided to continue the expedition back in 2007. We figured we owed it to Joe to push on.
This February, almost exactly on the ninth anniversary of Joe’s death, another team will be continuing the work begun in 2007. The hope remains that by opening the submerged area of the mine to guided tours similar to those conducted above the water line, a new group of visitors will have access to something truly unique in Canada.
With that in mind, and with the permission and support of Jennifer, Joey, Lindsey, and Linda, the members of the 2016 Mine Quest Team are dedicating this year’s expedition to Joe’s memory… RIP, mate: we think of you often.