And I would like to thank…

volunteers prepare surface staging area in Bell Island MineIn case you ever have to juggle “leadership”aspects of an underwater enterprise with many moving parts, and a whole bunch of so-called key personnel, each accomplished in their field. Here’s a secret tip to getting it off to a good start.

First and foremost, hope for quality support from the folks who really matter… the ones who do all the prep work for nothing more than the camaraderie, and a sandwich.

With that in place, the rest is a breeze.

As Jill Heinerth and I sit in the warm, coffee in hand, drawing up the framework of Mine Quest’s SOPs, a team of Golf cart for carrying supplies to water's edgefolks are working in the cool and damp putting the finishing touches to surface infrastructure in the mine. And from the pictures we seen, they have far exceeded expectations. I cannot imagine a better way to start a project, than to have these folks getting things ready for us.

Of course, it’s not all about Mine Quest. One of the project goals is to finally open Bell Island Mine as an adventure dive tourism destination, to complement and enhance the attraction of the four historic WWII shipwrecks resting a few hundred metres away on the bottom of Conception Bay South.

To be successful on that score, several pieces have to fit perfectly in place when we “go live” on February 15. However, thanks to the work of our support team, Bell Island Mine is starting to look like a really top-knotch dive destination!

Many thanks to all… but special gratitude to the folks wielding pickaxes, shovels, hammers and saws :

Ros Hurley, Jack Wood, Marcia and Mark McGowan, John Olivero, Nick Dawe, Kyle Morgan, Teresita and Des McCarthy, Ron Reid, and Bonnie and Tom Spracklin, Cecil Johnson, Holly Green, Debbie and Jillian Stanley, and others.

Every Project Needs a LOGO!

Bell Island Mine Quest
Jill’s excellent rendering of team project logo

During yesterday’s team conference call (team members make their homes 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…

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

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!

Mine Quest 2.0 Sponsors

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

ScubaForce:
Made by Divers for Divers

Florida, USA…
SF2 eCCR, and Reels

RAID Diving:
Excellent Diver Training

UK & USA
Logistical support