S.S. P.L.M. 27
Bell Island Wrecks, Newfoundland, Canada
All four wrecks off Bell Island were sunk as a result of torpedo hits by German submarines sneaking into Conception Bay during WW2. The wrecks were English-built merchant ships designed to carry iron ore from the mines on Bell Island to their final destinations across Atlantic. At the time of its sinking PLM was steaming under French flag (the other three were Canadian-owned). All four were built in a similar fashion with the superstructure located amidships and two massive cargo holds placed between the superstructure and bow/stern. Loading and unloading was done with the help of derricks located in the middle of each cargo hold.The length of all four ranged from 400 to 455 ft, and tonnage from 5500 tons to 7500 tons. Guns were added later due to realities of war time and were located at the stern.
PLM went down on November 2, 1942, two months after Saganaga and Lord Strathcona, and on the same night as Rose Castle, both struck by torpedoes fired by German U-boat U-518. Rose Castle and PLM were hit almost simultaneously and sunk within minutes.
There is a curious side story to the PLM's demise. Some time before she was hit and sunk, her Captain sold a piano from the ship to the person called Michael Kelly. Many years later, his nephew, Owen Kelly donated the piano to the local Bell Island museum and our group were the first visitors to see it. The piano was not the only part of PLM on the Bell Island. The anchor and chain from the ship was part of the seaside memorial to the sailors that died in torpedo attacks on Bell Island wrecks.
Near that memorial was some rusty wreckage that I initially thought to be part of one of bell island wrecks, but a past resident of Bell Island shared the following story with me: "After the mines closed in 1966 a man by the name of Granville Hunt began a business of salvaging metal. He bought an old ship called the Northern Ranger, had it towed to what was the Lance Cove wharf (now gone) and began to dismantle it and sell the scrap. It was never totally removed and the remains are what are in the picture".
With depth ranging from 50 to 100 ft, PLM 27 is the shallowest of the four wrecks, which allows lots of time for exploration. Unfortunately, being the shallowest, the top of her superstructure got in a way of an iceberg or two and it is now flattened down and the upper deck is a picture of utter destruction. While not as intact as the other three, PLM is a refuge of choice for various fishes and critters with flounders resting on every possible surface of the wreck and crabs crawling in the rumble (see my Newfoundland macro album as well). Her forecastle and poop deck are relatively intact offering some interesting penetration opportunities and finds like the complete bathtub.
Topedo hole is near amidships and offers some interesting angles. There is also a lifeboat off the side that is reduced to bare bones and what's left is covered in marine life. The main attraction of PLM is unquestionably her prop - the only one of four to escape salvages of the early years. Water temperature was also quite warm compared to deeper wrecks - 45F almost all the way to the bottom.
2013 update: The wreck got a lot more beat up over the intervening years, with lifeboat down to bare ribs and a lot more damage to the top of the wreck. The visibility right on the wreck was spotty with some white haze hanging around, but the prop was still magnificent though.