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S. S. Rose Castle

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. All four were designed 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. During the war time, they also acquired the guns located at the stern.

Rose Castle went down on November 2, 1942, two months after Saganaga and Lord Strathcona, and on the same night as PLM, both struck by torpedoes fired by German U-boat U-518. Rose Castle and PLM were hit almost simultaneously and sunk within minutes of each other.

With depth ranging from 100 to 150 ft, Rose is the deepest and coldest of the four wrecks, with temperatures ranging from 32F on the bottom to 45F above the last termocline in the middle of the summer. Despite the cold temperatures, the marine life on this wreck is stunning. She even has the multicolored soft corals!

Being the deepest, Rose is a lot more intact compared to her sister wrecks. The superstructure in the middle is intact with three levels of decks open for penetration. It is possisble to access the engine rooms and see one of the highlights of this wrecks - the telegraph. The forecasle on the bow is also in good shape. But the main attraction of this wreck is actually off the wreck - the torpedo! See the bottom of this page for pictures.

2013 update: We spend a week doing as many dives on the Rose as we could. There outside is definitely more beat up that seven years ago, but the speed of deterioration is a lot slower that that of the shallower wrecks. Inside, she is still looking quite good, although the bulkheads that used to be unpenetrable had started to collapse, creating new swimthrough opportunities. I revisited the telegraph and the fishing nets covered in soft corals, my favorite spot on that wreck. We spent one whole dive inside the superstructure exploring various rooms.

Telegraph, engine room and nearby compartments plus soft corals on the fishing nets. We found two air scoops inside storage rooms next to the engine. The fishing nets drape the structure next to the engine room and they are covered in soft corals.

Bow and the forecasle enclosure

Stern, gun and top deck.

Inside and outside the superstructure in the middle

Old Shots:

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The superstructure was in pristine shape and still had an intact radio (Marconi) room with the remains of the equipment in it. Closer to the bow, there was another interesting room. Stern had more rooms, with toilets in some. Curiously, the marine growth covered all of the outside surfaces with the thick coat but the insides were mostly bare.

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Her bow and upper decks were incredible. Some of the cargo holds still had hatch covers which had an interesting scalloped shape - Lord Strathcona had the same ones as well. 

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In 2006, I finally made it inside the engine room. Had to do it twice as I missed the telegraph on the first try. My buddy told me I swam past it several times as I circumnavigated the engine room, but did not see it. Can't blame the gas as I was diving trimix, but can blame the visibility - it was so murky inside the hold, I had to find the crack that leads to engine room by feel. The visibility inside the hold cleared completely in 24 hrs and second engine room dive was much less disorienting - I went straight for the telegraph and made sure I got pictures of it.

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The nets near the entrance to engine room were covered in soft corals. The first four shots are of the same spot. The first one is from 2005, the next two are from my first Rose Castle dive in 2006 when I had to find the entrance to engine room by touch. The rest were taken 24 hrs after. Visibility cleared right up. An the soft corals were beautiful!

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However, the prime attractions of that wreck were at the stern and about 100 ft off the stern on the bottom. A significant part of one of the U-boat torpedo was sitting on the bottom within swimming distance - needless to say, I made a detour. The torpedo was also very densely populated with wolf eel guarding the open compartment and crab patrolling the area around. Sadly, the stern gun that was covered by anemones in 2005, was almost bare in 2006 - what a difference the year makes! Torpedo was still unchanged though. 

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