Divers find WW2 bomber in Newfoundland lake

Newfoundland landing gear
First sight: the B-24’s landing gear (Jill Heinerth)

Last Updated on June 1, 2023 by Divernet

A technical dive-team have discovered a long-sought WW2 heavy bomber in Gander Lake, Newfoundland. Four air crew had been aboard the Consolidated B-24 Liberator on 4 September, 1943, when engine failure caused it to barrel-roll into the deep lake waters on take-off.

Diver Jill Heinerth was co-leader with Russell Clark of the 15-strong Canadian, US and French expedition team that carried out six dives on the wreck. The project was supported by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS), for which Heinerth is explorer in residence, the Shipwreck Preservation Society of Newfoundland & Labrador (SPSNL) and Ocean Quest Adventures.

Also read: Anchor & chest found at Chinese shipwreck site

The initial survey dive was carried out on 5 September, and video and stills of “Liberator 589D”, produced with what was described as state-of-the-art imaging equipment, confirmed an earlier 3D sonar scan produced in July by Kirk Regular of the SPSNL.

Newfoundland plane wreck
Kirk Regular's 3D sonar scan from July 2022 (SPLNL)

The aircraft lay upside-down on a steep ledge at a maximum depth of 48m. Heinerth said that her first sight had been of the inverted plane’s landing gear, with what appeared to be fully inflated tyres. An emblem on the stabiliser section of the tail, a .50-calibre machine-gun, ammunition and instruments had allowed a positive ID to be made. 

Newfoundland plane wreck
A diver reaches the front of the fuselage (Maxwel Hohn)
Instruments Maxwel Hohn
Instruments that helped to ID the aircraft (Maxwel Hohn)
Newfoundland plane wreck
Turret gun and ammunition (Mawel Hohn)
Ammunition Maxwel Hohn
Ammunition (Maxwel Hohn)
Inspection hatch
Inspection hatch on a wing (Jill Heinerth)
Wingtip light
Wingtip light (Jill Heinerth)
Stabiliser
Stabiliser with RCAF markings (Maxwel Hohn)

Precarious drop

After the crash in 1943, military hardhat divers had descended to the wreck-site in a bid to lift the plane and recover the bodies, but it had slipped to hang precariously over a drop to as much as 250m. 

The military persisted with their efforts for 12 days but were eventually beaten by the diving conditions – poor visibility, extreme depth and cold water.

They succeeded in bringing up the remains of Squadron Leader John Grant MacKenzie but the pilot, Wing Commander John Maitland Young, Flying Officer Victor Edward Bill and Leading Aircraftman Gordon Ward remained lost. The aircraft had remained undisturbed ever since.

Dark waters
Diver in the dark waters of Gander Lake (Maxwel Hohn)

Gander Lake is the third-largest lake in Newfoundland and lies in the centre of the Canadian island. Maximum depth is almost 300m and it is noted for being particularly challenging to dive. The 2022 divers experienced water temperature of 5°C and visibility of less than 1m in “dark tea-colour water”.

Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft were stationed at the extensive Gander airbase just north of the lake during the war, and for the past nine years local researcher and scuba diver Tony Merkle had been trying to confirm the location of the ill-fated Liberator.

Tony Merkle
Tony Merkle (Jill Heinerth)

“It is a really special dive for me,” he said. “I’ve never dived on a plane and since I discovered the site, it means a lot to me to share this part of Newfoundland history.”

The stills and footage obtained have been donated to the SPSNL for future educational outreach. The society was also contacting descendants of the crew to share the imagery.

heinert and Stanley
Expedition leaders Jill Heinerth and Russell Clark (Robert McClellan)

After the dives Heinerth visited the home of Robert Maher, who is restoring a B-24 Liberator from the same squadron but which crashed in Goose Bay, to help identify images captured by her and videographer Maxwel Hohn. 

The Liberator 589D expedition was part of a broader RCGS-flagged project, “The Great Island Expedition”, which is taking the divers to various locations across Newfoundland.

The team has been documenting two US Navy WW2 shipwrecks, USS Truxton and USS Pollux, in the Burin Peninsula on the south coast, and exploring underwater sites near Gros Morne National Park to the west. 

Expedition team
Great Island Expedition team (Robert McClellan)

The team also plan to conduct dives to commemorate the 80th anniversary of U-boat attacks at Bell Island in 1942. The location is one of the few North American locations to have been attacked by German forces during the war, in a bid to prevent materials being supplied to the Allies from its iron-ore mine.

Four ships were sunk by two U-boats in raids in September and November 1942, resulting in 70 deaths.

Deaths at Bell Island

A spate of deaths of scuba divers in a similar age-range have occurred at Bell island this summer. On 7 June, Coast Guard rescuers found a 60-year-old male diver from Ontario unresponsive in the water near Lance Cove beach on the south side of the island, and he later died.

A fortnight later on 21 June, again near Lance Cove beach, a 56-year-old American shore diver surfaced showing signs of distress, lost consciousness and was declared dead after being taken for treatment in the capital, St John’s.

Most recently, in early August, a 60-year-old woman from Maryland, USA was recovered after getting into difficulties but pronounced dead after being taken to the mainland at Conception Bay South. The Chief Medical Examiner for Newfoundland & Labrador was investigating the causes of death.

Also on Divernet: Diving Newfoundland At Amazing Bell Island, Wreck-Diving The Bell WayDivers Half-Clear Bell Wreck Explosives

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The information in this video is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional SCUBA Training. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained in this video is for general information purposes only and does not replace training from a qualified Dive Instructor.

This week, it looks like DPV manufacturer ScubaJet has begun insolvency proceedings. PADI has distributed half a million dollars in their Project Aware campaign. Dorset coastguard have called off the search for a missing diver. And the Pearl Fleet has commented on a viral video of a shark-dive that didn’t go so well
https://taucher.net/diveinside-insolvency_proceedings_at_scubajet-kaz9246
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/conservation/padi-aware-distributes-500k-in-mission-hub-grants/
https://www.scubadivermag.com/raid-launches-ots-full-face-mask-programme/
https://www.scubadivermag.com/dorset-coastguard-call-off-search-for-diver/
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/health-safety/search-for-diver-off-dorset-stood-down/
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/health-safety/pearl-fleet-hits-back-as-maldives-shark-dive-slammed/
Diving Into The Darkness Link:
https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/mzsd


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#AskMark hi! I was hoping you could help me understand the interchangeability of a DSMB and a simple SMB if I only plan to use it when I deploy it during my safety stop at 5 meters. I used the simple version for this purpose during my last liveaboard and despite occasionally having to reinflate at the surface due to some air escaping while being deployed underwater, it didn’t seem to be too problematic and so I was wondering if it’s necessary to have a DSMB for this purpose? The issue for me is that somehow I tend to end up misplacing my SMB quite often and so the price difference between the two makes it a more acceptable loss when it’s replacing the SMB regularly rather than the DSMB at double the cost
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Diving Into The Darkness Website:
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@emilyZA460
#AskMark hi! I was hoping you could help me understand the interchangeability of a DSMB and a simple SMB if I only plan to use it when I deploy it during my safety stop at 5 meters. I used the simple version for this purpose during my last liveaboard and despite occasionally having to reinflate at the surface due to some air escaping while being deployed underwater, it didn’t seem to be too problematic and so I was wondering if it’s necessary to have a DSMB for this purpose? The issue for me is that somehow I tend to end up misplacing my SMB quite often and so the price difference between the two makes it a more acceptable loss when it’s replacing the SMB regularly rather than the DSMB at double the cost
#scuba #scubadiving #scubadiver
LINKS

Become a fan: https://www.scubadivermag.com/join
Gear Purchases: https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/dive-gear
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Website: https://www.scubadivermag.com ➡️ Scuba Diving, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Scuba Gear Reviews
Website: https://www.divernet.com ➡️ Scuba News, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Travel Reports
Website: https://www.godivingshow.com ➡️ The Only Dive Show in the United Kingdom
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We partner with https://www.scuba.com and https://www.mikesdivestore.com for all your gear essentials. Consider using the affiliate link above to support the channel.

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