Bell Island Newfoundland History

This remote island situated just North of St. John’s in Conception Bay is known for its natural trails, mine ores and unique rock formation. The spectacular scenery is a delight for backpackers and photographers. Looking back at the history of Bell Island, this destination was initially settled by the farmers in the 1700s. The discovery of iron ores in the late 1800s created a thriving mining community. Nearly 40 years ago, Wabana was one of the busiest mining communities in Newfoundland. – The Book of Newfoundland – The Epic Tragedy of Bell Island by Peter Neary – Families of Newfoundland – Bell Island, Conception Bay, Newfoundland

Google Books – The Newfoundland and Labrador Pilot – 1887 – Pilot guides

Stepping Back into History of Newfoundland Mining

Did you know that Bell Island was one of the world’s major iron-ore producers from 1895 to 1966? Here’s a little flashback into the history. Back in the 1500s, Bell Island located on Conception Bay was one of many fishing stations. Fishing and farming were their main source of living until the end of the 1700s. Soon they discovered the potential of iron ore and mining.

The island soon began to prosper and became a hub for mining industries. In 1893, a representative of the Nova Scotia Steel and coal corporation examined the land and purchased it from the Butler family. Further, they went on to obtain a mining lease in the Northwestern portion of the island. Soon enough, a new town was being constructed in the area and was named Wabana. As mining operations began, nearly 100 tons of iron was loaded daily with the help of 150 local miners. As production started to increase people from around the province and the world including countries like Germany and China soon migrated to Bell Island. 

Battle of Bell Island

A piece of World War 2 history is still alive in Bell Island. This little island was the victim of enemy fire during the historic war. One crucial event that is still etched in the history of this island is that Captain Ruggeberg sank two freighters anchored at the island as they were waiting to load the world’s richest iron ore. And in 1942, the island was attacked twice by the German U-boats that caused four ore boats sinking with many dead. Adolf Hitler commended this attack and awarded him with Germany’s highest military recognition too. 

Historical remains and landmarks

If you are a history buff like us, we have curated a special recommendation of sites you must visit. Some of these sites give you a glimpse of the historical World War II. 

Bell Island WWII Seamen’s Memorial

Built-in 1995, Seamen’s memorial intended to commemorate the sailors who lost their lives during torpedo attacks on iron ore carriers by U-boats in World War II. Located at Lance Cove Beach, the stone monument has a brief description of the attacks in 1942, along with the names of the seaman lost. 

Sunken Ore Wrecks from 1942

The shipwrecks are not only a part of the history but also a part of the water adventure experience that has now overgrown with marine life. Swimming through these shipwrecks is an immersive yet challenging experience for divers. Every ship underwater has a different story to narrate. Several artifacts were recovered from these ships and are now being featured in the museums located on the island. 

WWII Coastal battery

This was the first World War II military station located outside the main Canadian bases. During your visit to the landmark, you’ll see two 4.7 inch quick-firing guns on concrete platforms that were used during the attacks. 

Apart from the remains and landmarks left behind by World War II, Bell Island also features an ice rink that was built in 1913. This indoor ice rink is located on Scotia Ridge. The hall of fame currently displays memorabilia from Bell Island’s rich sporting history. That’s not all, you could reminisce about the history with a mine tour and museum situated on the island. Listen to some of the fascinating stories from the past, enjoy a good cup of coffee. It’s one of those amazing travel experiences that must not be missed!