Shipwreck Preservation Society

of Newfoundland & Labrador

SQ20

SS Charcot was a steel whaling ship built in Tønsberg, Norway in 1923 for the A/S Hvalen whaling company. In 1943, it was sold to the Polar Whaling Company (owned by Christian Salvesen) and was based at the Hawke Harbour whaling station in southern Labrador. In 1956, Charcot was sold to the Hawke Harbour Whaling Company (owned by Johan Borgen) and it remained catching whales in southern Labrador. The Hawke Harbour whaling station burned down in 1959 and Charcot ended up in Conception Harbour, where it was berthed during the 1960s. Between 1968 and 1970, Charcot broke its moorings and ran aground on the beach in Conception Harbour, where it remains today.

In 2013, the Shipwreck Preservation Society surveyed the three whaling shipwrecks in Conception Harbour and identified this ship as Charcot (it had previously been mistakenly called the Sposa by many in Conception Harbour). This wreck is visible from shore and is a favourite with photographers.

 Southern Foam

SS Southern Foam was a steel whaling ship built at the Smith Dock Company in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, England in 1926 for the Southern Whaling & Sealing Company, Liverpool, England. It hunted whales for more than 10 years based at South Georgia Island in the southern Atlantic. In 1940, it was requisitioned by the Royal Navy to serve as a minesweeper in World War II. It joined the 104th Minesweeping Group, based in Dundee, Scotland and later in North Shields, England. After the war, it returned to whaling with the South Georgia Company, and hunted the ocean near Antarctica for half the year and in southern Labrador for the other half. In 1956, Southern Foam was sold to the Hawke Harbour Whaling Company (owned by Johan Borgen) and it remained catching whales in southern Labrador. The Hawke Harbour whaling station burned down in 1959 and Southern Foam ended up in Conception Harbour, where it was berthed during the 1960s. Between 1968 and 1970, the Southern Foam broke its moorings and sank beside the wharf in Conception Harbour, where it remains today.

In 2013, the Shipwreck Preservation Society surveyed the three whaling shipwrecks in Conception Harbour and identified this ship as Southern Foam. This wreck is underwater and not visible from shore. It lies just behind the wreck of Charcot, which is partially above water.

Southern Foam plans small

Hms raleigh

HMS Raleigh was a light cruiser commissioned in the Royal Navy in 1921. It became the flagship of the Atlantic and West Indies Squadron under Vice-Admiral William Pakenham. On August 8, 1922 it left Hawkes Bay on the northern peninsula of Newfoundland on a short trip north to Forteau Bay in southern Labrador. Apparently, the officers wanted to do some fly fishing there. Nearing Forteau Bay, the ship encountered fog and soon after ran aground close to the Point Amour lighthouse. Out of the crew of 797, 11 were lost in the shipwreck. The hundreds of survivors were taken into the homes of the lightkeepers and local families. The ship's captain and navigator were found responsible for the shipwreck in the subsequent court martial.

The crew salvaged belongings, supplies and classified materials in the weeks following the shipwreck. The Royal Navy salvaged machinery and guns until 1926, when the Raleigh was used for gunnery practice by other Royal Navy warships. The aim was a "cosmetic demolition". Over the following decades, different salvage operations further destroyed the wreck's structure. In the 1960s, extensive use of explosives for salvage left only a debris field, including large quantities of unexploded 7.5 inch shells. Since then Royal Canadian Navy divers have surveyed and removed unexploded ordanace on several occassions. In 2012, divers from the Underwater Archaeology Society of British Columbia conducted initial surveys of the wreck site.

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Sumba 1930 photo

SS Sukha was a steel whaling ship built by the Smith Dock Company in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, England in 1929 for Christian Salvesen & Company, Leith, Scotland. It hunted whales for 11 years based at South Georgia Island in the southern Atlantic. In 1940, it was requisitioned by the Royal Navy to serve as a minesweeper in World War II. It joined the 161st Minesweeping Group, based at Scapa Flow, Scotland. After the war, it returned to whaling with the South Georgia Company, and hunted the ocean near Antarctica. In 1948, Sukha was catching whales for the Polar Whaling Company, based at Hawke Harbour in southern Labrador. In 1956, it was sold to the Hawke Harbour Whaling Company (owned by Johan Borgen) and remained catching whales in southern Labrador. The Hawke Harbour whaling station burned down in 1959 and Sukha ended up in Harbour Grace until 1960. It was berthed in Conception Harbour during the 1960s. Between 1968 and 1970, Sukha broke its moorings and sank beside the wharf in Conception Harbour, where it remains today.

In 2013, the Shipwreck Preservation Society surveyed the three whaling shipwrecks in Conception Harbour and identified this ship as Sukha. This wreck is underwater and not visible from shore. It lies just beside the wreck of Southern Foam, which is also underwater.

The photo above shows a sister ship of Sukha called Sumba whaling at South Georgia Island around 1930.

 

Darmouth Willem Van de Velde the Younger small

HMS Saphire was a 5th-rate frigate commissioned in the Royal Navy in 1675 (many references use the modern spelling Sapphire). It left Britain in April 1696 commanded by Captain Thomas Cleasby, to escort English fishing vessels to Newfoundland. England and France were at war at the time in Europe and North America. In August or early September 1696, a French fleet of nine ships led by the Governor of Placentia, de Brouillan, cornered Saphire in Bay Bulls. Captain Cleasby put up a strong defence from Saphire and on land, but he and his crew were out-numbered and out-gunned by the French force. To avoid capture of his ship, Cleasby burned Saphire. One British account (Oldmixon 1741) claimed that 40 French sailors boarded the burning ship to try and save it as a prize, but they were all killed when the powder magazine exploded. Captain Cleasby and his crew retreated overland to Ferryland, where they were later captured by the French and shipped to France as prisoners of war.

The sketches above and below are of HMS Dartmouth, a 5th-rate English frigate of similar size to HMS Saphire (sketch above by Willem Van de Velde the Younger, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England).

The wreck of HMS Saphire was discovered by salvage divers in the 1960s and three cannons were removed from the wreck and sold in 1972. To protect the wreck from further looting, concerned divers formed the Newfoundland Marine Archaeology Society (NMAS) that same year. The NMAS surveyed the Saphire wreck and two others nearby. In 1974, NMAS did a preliminary excavation in three areas of the Saphire wreck and recovered 304 artifacts. Underwater archaeologists from Parks Canada did a more extensive excavation of the Saphire in 1977 and recovered 2721 artifacts.

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Dartmouth colour sketch