School Visits with the RCGS Explorer in Residence

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Royal Canadian Geographical Society School Visits in Central Canada

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Jill Heinerth was visiting Calgary to speak to school kids about exploration and geography. Students at Alice Jamieson Girls Academy, Stanley Jones School, Dr. Martha Cohen School and New Brighton School had a chance to meet Jill and hear her multimedia presentation about exploration and science. She met with small groups to coach interested kids in topics including journalism, photography, career planning, fear, failure and discovery learning.

Jill’s talks are made possible through support from the Weston Foundation.

Explorer in Residence

By | All Posts, Bell Island, Newfoundland, Cave Diving, Rebreather Diving, Sedna Expedition, Sidemount Diving, Underwater Photo and Video, We Are Water, Women Underwater | No Comments

In June 2016 I was named the first Explorer in Residence for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. One of the major goals of the program will be to find funding that will enable school visits and online outreach to kids across Canada. I’ll be sharing the journey of exploration and encouraging kids to dream and discover their world. I’ll also be offering critical lessons about water literacy along the way. I created this video to support fundraising efforts in progress.

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Canadian Geographic Covers Women Explorers

By | All Posts, Bell Island, Newfoundland, Cave Diving, Rebreather Diving, Sedna Expedition, Sidemount Diving, Underwater Photo and Video, We Are Water, Women Underwater | No Comments

RCGScoverJill Heinerth graces the cover of this month’s Canadian Geographic Magazine. The edition hits newsstands July 4, 2016 and covers Canada’s Greatest Women Explorers. Jill Heinerth is featured as the new Explorer in Residence for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

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Lord Strathcona

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The wreck of the Lord Strathcona leaves one speechless. It has become remarkable artificial reef. The anemones celebrate the fact that no men were lost on this ship. The crew was able to abandon ship and safely reach shore. Today the site has become incredible habitat and a colorful museum of war history. Wrecks in Newfoundland are well protected and today you can still see a radio on the upper deck, phonograph records and silverware inside the ship. Thanks to the conservation ethic, many more divers will be able to share in the beauty.

Sandra Clopp views the stern deck gun on the Lord Strathcona, adorned with life. The ship was sunk by U-513, under Kapitän-Leutnant Rolf Ruggeberg on September 5, 1942.

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Beating the Winds

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June 20, 2016

The solstice gives us the longest day of the year but we needed to start early to beat the howling winds that built through the day. Our first dive was on the Free French Vessel PLM27. It was sunk quickly and 12 crewmen were lost. The Uboat U-518 captained by K/L Friedrich Wissmann snuck away, escaping undetected beneath a corvette Drumheller and two Fairmile fast boats patrolling Conception Bay.

This was the second attack in Conception Bay and locals thought a spy had been involved. The captain of the PLM was not onboard the night his ship was sunk and had recently sold his piano to a Bell Island local. People wondered whether his loyalties were genuine since the Germans were occupying France. Perhaps the Nazis had turned the captain?

The second dive was on the Saganaga. This ship was sunk on September 4, 1942. U-513 captianed by Rolf Ruggerberg followed the Evelyn B into the Bell Island anchorage on the night of September 3 and waited quietly in 75 feet of water. In the morning it rose to periscope depth and sunk the Strathcona and the Saganaga. 29 crewmen, all form the Saganaga were killed while U-513 escaped on the surface.

My diving partner Sandra Clopp was using a Hollis PRISM2 rebreather. The rebreather recirculates our exhaled breath and removes carbon dioxide. We inject small bursts of oxygen to maintain a safe breathing gas. The device has an exothermic reaction that keeps us a little warmer that we would otherwise be in the near freezing water.

The anchor and the massive torpedo hole in the side of the PLM27.

A lumpfish guards his mate’s eggs.

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Back to Bell Island

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Thirty-five knot winds kept us off the boat today, but we took the opportunity to take new team members over to Bell Island to the mine. We met our dear friends Ed, Bernie and Bonnie and had some coffee and sandwiches before heading into the mine for a tour. We saw the plans for the new museum building which has just begun raising funds. They will need a lot of community support to reach their goal. They’re knitting hats, offering tours and working hard to find creative fundraising solutions.

It is hard to imagine the strength of the miners at Bell Island. They loaded 20 carts a day of 1.5 tons per cart before they were able to go home. On Fridays they tried to load 30 so they could go home early on Saturday and have one precious day at home before heading back to the mine Sunday night.

We had traditional fish and chips with dressing and gravy at Dick’s on the Wharf and then went off the road to the Grebe’s Nest to do some dry caving and exploring of the original mines that were cut at sea level. The rocks are a little treacherous and seeing tons of shale pancaked on top of ancient tram rails and machinery was a little sobering. In the distance we watched a grounded iceberg and hope we can dive it when the winds calm down.

It is good to be back here!

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Jill Heinerth Appears on The Social

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Why We Do It

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Carol daughter of Harold BickfordlPeople have often asked me why we explore places like the mine on Bell Island, Newfoundland. The project was named Expedition of the Year by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, but it is not honor and glory that compels us to explore. For me it was totally personal.

In 2013, my husband Robert McClellan and I bicycled across Canada sharing my film We Are Water in efforts to spread water literacy. When we neared the end of our ride, I phoned Rick Stanley who owned Ocean Quest Adventure Resort in Conception Bay South. Could we complete our ride at his business and home? Could he extend us the generosity of a warm bed at the end of a three month journey. Rick opened his arms wide, helped us arrange more outreach opportunities to tell our story of water conservation and introduced us to Newfoundland at the same time. It was the one corner of my country I knew very little about.

I did not know Rick Stanley, other than by reputation, prior to that phone call. But as with most Newfoundlanders, he practically gave us the shirt off his back and welcomed us in to a wonderful new family. Rick put us in his Zodiac boat and drove us to Bell Island. He showed us the war memorial and told the story of the shipwrecks sunk by Uboats in the nearby harbor. He took us to the mine and described the economic hardships that the islanders had faced. He was a proud, strong and affable character whose personal convictions could not help but sweep you off your feet.

StMichaelsSchoolGemma5643lI knew I needed to give back. The people of Newfoundland welcomed me into their homes and lives and now I want to share their story with others and give them more tools to develop their local economy. 15,000 people resided on Bell Island when the mine was fully operational. 3,000 strong souls remain today. Bell Islanders are a picture of what it means to be Canadian. When the mine closed, they struggled on. When the cod fishery collapsed, they helped each other prevail. Each time the economy fails this corner of our nation, they prove what being good neighbors is all about.

I was recently contacted by a man named Paul. He wanted to gift a photo to his Mother-in-Law Carol, daughter of Harold Bickford who toiled in the mine. Did I have a suitable photo I could share with them that could help her remember her Dad and connect with his sense of place? Carol shared her new picture that is now proudly hung on the wall of her home. It gave me goosebumps. If we can help connect more people with their sense of place and share this gem with more Canadians and the world, then our mission is accomplished.

Photos: Carol and her new wall art (top). Gemma Smith, team member, describes diving gear to kids in Bell Island during one of our school visits (bottom).

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Canadian Geographic Posts Explorer in Residence News

By | All Posts, Cave Diving, Rebreather Diving, Sidemount Diving, Uncategorized, Underwater Photo and Video, We Are Water, Women Underwater | No Comments

It has been a whirlwind week of activity surrounding Jill Heinerth’s appointment as the first Explorer in Residence for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Canadian Geographic Magazine offered this update.

Jill appeared on the popular television program on CTV called The Social. Jill Heinerth at The SocialThe lengthy segment covered everything form Jill’s genesis in diving to plunging deep under Antarctic icebergs.

Heinerth was celebrated at a VIP luncheon at Massey College in Toronto, where she was officially installed in her new role.

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