Student Dive NL and Ocean Quest Adventures gathered in Conception Harbour Sunday morning to explore the shipwrecked S.S. Charcot, S.S. Southern Foam and S.S. Sukha.
Student Dive NL is a group of university students with an interest in scuba diving. At 11 a.m. Sunday, they gathered with Ocean Quest Adventures in Conception Harbour for a shore dive.
Conception Harbour, located about 16 kilometres northwest of Holyrood, houses three shipwrecks. The S.S. Charcot’s hull is visible above water, but both the S.S. Southern Foam and the S.S. Sukha are completely submerged. Manufactured for whaling, each ship was active for four decades before sinking in the harbour in the late 1960s.
Caitlin LePatourel, Geoff Zbitnew and Garrett Clement geared up to start their dive. They congregated at the hull of the Charcot before diving under the water to explore the other ships.
Rick Stanley has been diving since 1992. He established Ocean Quest Adventures in 1997 with the goal of providing quality services to the scuba diving community of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Now, Ocean Quest is affiliated with Student Dive NL and offers services and support to the students. Often, participants of Student Dive NL will accompany Ocean Quest on dives, and vice versa.
“It’s important that there is a Student Dive NL… especially with our marine biology departments and so on,”
Stanley said. “There are great opportunities.”
LePatourel said groups such as Student Dive NL give students opportunities they don’t normally have. She said scuba diving isn’t something you can do on your own.
“You need a good group of people to go out,” LePatourel said. “With Newfoundland, we want to make it as accessible as possible so that everyone can enjoy it.”
Discovering the passion
Zbitnew is a dive master with Ocean Quest who has been diving for 20 years. A physician for the hyperbaric medicine unit with Eastern Health, he said it was important that he understood diving while training to treat illnesses related to diving.
“I’m from the prairies, so I didn’t think I would enjoy underwater activities,” Zbitnew said. “But it turns out, once I went in the pool and got the weightless feeling, I was hooked. I’ve been diving ever since.”
LePatourel started diving a year ago. Now working with Ocean Quest, she is working towards her qualifications to instruct.
“The first time I did it, I fell in love. Head over heels. This is my new passion.”
Clement is a master’s student in applied oceans technology at the Marine Institute in St. John’s. He is also an underwater videographer who has been diving for three years. He said taking up diving was the best decision he ever made.
“The amount of experience and general joy it’s brought me over the years, I wouldn’t change it for the world,” he said, as he put on his scuba gear.
Stanley is still an active diver, attending about 100 dives annually. On Sunday, he was in Conception Harbour to support the younger divers.
Having explored more than 25 shipwrecks in Newfoundland, Stanley has one that he keeps returning to.
“My passion is the Bell Island shipwrecks, which were torpedoed during the war. I’ve been building that destination for 25 years, in conjunction with the Bell Island Heritage Society.”
Ocean Quest expanding shipwreck dives
Undocumented sinkings and dangerous oceans can make finding the wrecks difficult. As a result, of the 10,000 documented shipwrecks in Newfoundland, only five percent have been discovered. Sites such as Conception Harbour are great for learning how to dive a wreck and prepare for bigger adventures.
Next month, Ocean Quest will be hosted by the community of Triton as divers explore a shipwreck they have not surveyed before.
Stanley said local knowledge will aid them. “The fishermen there know where the shipwrecks are. We bring in some of our local divers to help with the exploration.”
Student Dive NL and Ocean Quest encourage students with an interest in diving to get involved. They aid students in getting their open water certifications, which allow them to dive with others.
They all agree that diving gives people a better appreciation for the environment and life around them.
As Stanley put it, you can “speak for the fish.”