Friday, 30 June 2017

1953 Logy Bay Helicopter Rescue, Part 2

Also posted at

Last week's post was about a helicopter rescue off Logy Bay where three men were lost on the ice. Two of the men were rescued, one by local fisherman and the other by the combined effort of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), United States Air Force (USAF), Canadian Coast Guard and the United States Navy. At the end of last week's post, William Dunn, was still missing.

Dunn had gone out sealing with two others on the evening of March 28th, 1953. The two other sealers came back around 11pm, but Dunn went missing. His companions said he had become ill at some point. After the adventures of March 29th, Dunn was still missing, although his brother and another sealer, Frank Olsen, were safely off the ice. The USAF helicopter brought in from Harmon Field, Stephenville, had to call off the search when it got dark.

Logy Bay, spring 2017. Photo by Lisa M. Daly.

On March 30th, the search continued. The helicopter was piloted by Captain Lamar Willis of Springfield, Ohio, and Lieutenant James Stevenson of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Early on the 30th, the helicopter made an attempt to search, but the morning fog off the coast sent them back to Torbay. Later in the morning, Willis made a second attempt and searched the area from Red Cliff north to Red Head and ten miles out to sea. That afternoon, the helicopter went out again and searched from Red Head South to Sprigg's Point on the south side of Freshwater Bay. Overall, the helicopter spent 5 hours searching the ice at a height of about 250 feet. They found no trace of Dunn.

The pilots who took part in the search. Left to right: USAF pilots Willis and Stevenson, RCAF pilots Vincer and Hinton. From The Evening Telegram.

That afternoon, the helicopter was joined by two RCAF Cansos. Canso 9830 and Canso 11024 flown by First Officer Jack Vincer and First Officer Hal Hinton flew the two aircraft. Along with the USAF helicopter, a combined time of 9 hours and 5 minutes were spent searching that day.

Canso at the North Atlantic Aviation Museum in Gander. Photo by Lisa M. Daly.

While the air search was happening, reports were coming in of a man being sighted on the since some distance off the shore. These areas were check by air, and also by an RCMP team who were searching the ice from the land.

On March 31st, the weather was poor and no flying was done out of Torbay. By this point, Flight Lieutenant Carl R. Ensom of 103 Search and Rescue Squadron Torbay (SAR) determined that any further search would be futile.

Dunn, from Tunis Court in St. John's, was 31 at the time, and the father of either 5 or 6 children (the newspapers give conflicting reports). He was known to the RCMP as we himself was a former member of the police force, and he served with the Navy in the Second World War. His current employment was at the Car Shop of the Canadian National Railroad.

Ice at Middle Cove, spring 2017. Photo by Lisa M. Daly.

Ensom also issued a statement that "the air rescue service was not provided for the purpose of picking up people who are foolhardy enough to take a chance on dangerous ice". This statement was not in relation to the Dunn brothers and Olsen, but rather in reaction to children playing "copying" in St. John's Harbour. This is a game where kids would jump to a pan of loose ice and leap to another before the first one sinks under their weight. This is a particularly important warning seeing as SAR was having difficulty searching for the missing sealers due to weather conditions.

Enson, C.R.
1953 130 "R" Unit Det Torybay Nfld. RCAF Base Diary, 24 March 1953 - 31 March 1953. On file: LBMCOC Museum.
Unknown Author
1953 Cancel Search for W. Dunn. The Evening Telegram, 31 March 1953, p. 1.
Unknown Author
1953 Find No Trace of William Dunn On Drifting Ice. The Daily News, 30 March 1953, p. 3.
Unknown Author
1953 Search and Rescue Official Warns the Foolhardy. The Daily News, 31 March 1953, p. 1.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

1953 Logy Bay Helicopter Rescue

Also published at

In the 1950s, helicopters were still a relatively new sight around Newfoundland and Labrador. The first helicopter rescue in Newfoundland was in 1946 with the rescue of the survivors from the crash of Sabena OOCBG near Gander. In 1953, helicopters were much more reliable and safer, but their use in any sort of rescue operation, like today, makes for an exciting and dramatic story.

This past spring the island saw a lot of pack ice. Middle Cove and Outer Cove became popular destinations for folks who wanted to see the ice, and some who decided to go out on the ice. In 1953, William Dunn of Tunis Court in St. John's, took to the ice with two unnamed companions to hunt seals. When Dunn didn't return that evening, a search started. His brother, John Dunn, set off at 5am on Saturday, March 29 from Logy Bay, and within an hour was marooned by slob ice about 150 yards offshore.

Ice at Middle Cove Beach this past spring. Picture from bitstop-nfld.
At the same time that John Dunn was leaving to try to find his brother, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Rescue Unit, the United States Air Force (USAF) and Coast Guard were putting a search and rescue plan into motion. Flight Lieutenant Ensom of the 103rd Rescue Unit Detachment of the RCAF at Torbay, was contacted by the RCMP to help rescue a man stranded on the ice near Logy Bay. Ensom checked the weather and determined that it was too poor to attempt to fly a Canso to the area. A while later, Major Rich, Operations Officer of the 6th Air Rescue Unit at Fort Pepperrell offered his assistance. He had gotten the story from other sources. Ensom passed on the offer to Inspector Porter of the RCMP who said there were now others caught on the ice in the same area.

By 11am, the weather was still too poor for the Cansos, so Ensom contacted Rich who ordered a helicopter from Harmon Air Force Base in Stephenville. Added to the order was a line-throwing rifle from the US Coast Guard in Argentia.

One of the buildings left in Stephenville from the Harmon Field days. Photo by Shannon K. Green, 2013.

All of the equipment arrived by 2pm and a rescue party was formed to rescue John Dunn. The crew consisted of Porter, Ensom, two RCAF Para-Rescue personnel, Trent and Courtourier, Lieutenant Carmichael of the Coast Guard and a Navy seaman who could use the line-throwing equipment.

While this was happening, fishermen from Logy Bay determined that there was too much ice and the swells were too high to put out dories to reach John Dunn. Instead, Pat Malone, a veteran sealer, lead Frank, Dan and Coleman Cadigan's efforts to rescue Dunn. The fishermen used a system of planks, gaffs, and ropes to reach from pan to pan and guided Dunn to the shore. John was just making it to the shore as the large rescue team arrived in Logy Bay.

The rescue crew and John Dunn. From to left corner clockwise: Dan Cadigan, John Dunn, Paddy Malone, Uncle James, Tim Malone, Willie Cadigan, Francis Cadigan. From The Daily News, 30 March 1953, p.1. (note, the caption reads Jack Dunn, but the article in The Daily News and The Evening Telegram say John Dunn).
Gaffs in the museum collection at the LBMCOC Museum. One was donated by Francis Cadigan, could it have been used in this rescue?

While these rescue efforts were going on, the RCMP received word that another sealer, Frank Olson, was stranded off Sugar Loaf Rock, off Small Point, about two miles south of Logy Bay. RCMP and civilians had tried reaching Olson with a line, but to no avail. At one point, Olson caught the line, but dropped it in the water where it was immediately caked in ice and broke.

At 6:15, the helicopter arrived piloted by Captain Wills of the 52nd Air Rescue Squadron. Wills picked up Enson, who showed him where Olson was located. The helicopter hovered over Olson and lowered a harness. Olson fitted the harness under his arms and was lifted off the ice and hauled on board the helicopter. He was then let off at Small Point where the RCMP took care of him. The helicopter then left to search for William Dunn.

Sugarloaf Path, part of the East Coast Trail, takes hikers past Sugar Loaf Rock and Small Point. From Hiking the East Coast Trail (and Beyond)
By 7:15, the weather was poor again. While it was nice on shore, the ice was shrouded in fog and made it unsafe. The Evening Telegram reported that, weather permitting, the search would resume the following day and the helicopter search would be joined by at least one Canso from Torbay. Further research is needed to see if William Dunn was found.
*More research was done, and the rest of the story can be found here.*

The Canso outside the North Atlantic Aviation Museum in Gander. Photo by Lisa M. Daly. 2013.

In an interview, Ensom did warn sealers that if they go out on the ice, they do so at their own risk. Search and rescue operations can pose a risk to the aircrews and aircraft and that the air rescue service was not designed with "the purpose of picking up people who are foolhardy enough to take a chance on dangerous ice."

'Tell them,' F.Lt. Ensom said, 'that they are completely on their own when they go out on the ice.' -The Evening Telegram, 30 March 1953. 

Ice at Middle Cove in spring 2017. Photo from

Unknown Author
1953 Back from the Rescue. The Daily News, 30 March 1953, p1.
Unknown Author
1953 'Copter Pulls Man to Safety. The Evening Telegram, 30 March 1953, p.1.
Unknown Author
1953 Two Men Rescued From Ice; Third is Still Missing. The Daily News, 30 March 1953, p.3.

Friday, 16 June 2017

The Whale in Outer Cove

Many of you have probably seen on the news, or in person, the whale that washed up on Outer Cove Beach. It may not seem like the sort of thing that a museum would be interested in, but it is part of our culture, and is certainly a historic event, so why not record it while it happens.

The whale first washed up on Outer Cove Beach on May 22, 2017. Photo by Michelle Hickey, 2017.

Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove is a community linked to the water and the land. There is a rich history of fishing and farming in this area, which continues on to today. If you live on the North-East Avalon, where do you first think to go when the capelin come in but Middle Cove Beach. Over the spring, many people flocked to Marine Drive to see the pack ice and the icebergs, and in the summer, whales can often be seen off the coast.

Ice on Middle Cove Beach. Photo by Lisa M. Daly, 2017

This spring also brought an unusual sight to Outer Cove: a dead whale. According to experts, the whale had been dead for some time before it washed onto the beach, and because of that, determining a cause of death would be difficult. When the whale washed up, researchers went to the beach to collect data about the creatures while others flocked to the beach to see the humpback close-up, and to take pictures. A memorial marker was also erected at the beach in honor of the whale.

Marker erected at the beach to honour the humpback whale. Photo by Michelle Hickey, 2017.

While a dead humpback whale brought people to Outer Cove, it was a problem for the community as a whole. A large whale carcass is not something easy to remove, and the town struggled to figure out how to dispose of the whale. One option given was to bury it, but given that most residents use wells, that would be unsafe. Another option often given on social media was to blow it up, but that has been tried before with disgusting results (a youtube search will give some examples but be warned, they can be graphic). At one point, the whale washed off of the beach, but stayed close enough to be a hazard and still had to be removed.
The whale after it had washed off of the beach, but still remained close to shore. Photo by Michelle Hickey, 2017.
Finally. 17 days after the humpback first washed up, actions were taken to remove the carcass.

The morning of June 7, 2017, a Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) gave the official go ahead for DFO and the Canadian Coast Guard to launch two fast rescue craft (FRC), which launched from Flatrock, and a fishery patrol zodiac, launched St. John's. At this point, the whale was no longer on the beach, but against the rocks on the Doran's Lane side of the beach. At about 8:45 am the FRC vessels and the zodiac arrived at Outer Cove Beach. On shore there was a Caterpillar 336 (37 ton) excavator from J3 Construction. Coast Guard and DFO made numerous attempts to hook the whale to move it out to the water and away from the rocks. By 10am, the whale was moved to about thirty feet from shore.
The whale once it was moved onto the beach. Photo by Paddy Dyer, 2017.

Staff onshore unpackaged a net and spread it out on the beach. The DFO officer in charge requested that the excavator gently move the whale into position so that the net could be pulled under the whale once the net ropes were attached to the FRCs. Once this was done, the FRCs and zodiac began to pull the whale to deeper water. Offshore personnel attempted to wrap the netting around the whale, but by 11:15am were unsuccessful because there was not enough weight on the outside of the net to allow it to sink under the whale. The net was brought back onshore and weights were added to one end and cork to the other. In the meantime, the FRCs returned to St. John's Harbour for minor repairs and refueling.
The whale being moved up the beach. Photo by Paddy Dyer, 217.

At around 2pm, the FRCs were back and again attempted to pull the net under the whale. By about 4pm they were successful, and began pushing the whale back to shore. By about 5pm,. the whale was back to the shore. Earlier in the day, a makeshift slipway had been built to make it easier to get the whale back onto the beach. Bishop's Crane, a 35 ton crane, was already set up on the beach parking area and the crane straps were attached to the netting. The excavator was used to pull the whale to the top of the beach so that it could be reached by the crane. One strap that was attached to the whale was attached to the crane, and another was connected the tail and the excavator. Given the size of the creature, this was not enough to be able to lift the whale into the truck, so the crane lifted the whale enough so that onshore staff could slide a section of chain link fence under and around the whale. A cable was run around the fencing and attached to the crane. The fencing also acted as a stronger form of netting than just the net that had been used in the water.
A video of the whale being placed in the truck for final removal. Video by Paddy Dyer, 2017.
At about 7pm, the crane and the excavator lifted the whale into the back of a semi dump truck. The crane was equipped with a scale, and the operator said that whale, net and fence weighed in at about 20 tons (40,000 pounds). By 8pm, the whale was in the truck and on its way to the Sunyside dump, allowing the town to reopen the roads in the area.

A time-lapse video of the whale removal. Video by CBC NL.

But what is the aftermath of this whale washing up on the beach? For one, it is a significant cost for the community to have to pay for the removal of the whale. For another, having the whale on the beach was a concern to public safety. The rotting body of the whale poses risks to anyone getting close, from bacterial contamination to the added slickness created by the oils coating the beach. Warnings were issued regarding public safety as people ventured to the beach to see the creature.

LBMCOC mayor John Kennedy discussing the cost of the removal. Video by CBC NL.

Another concern is that capelin season will soon be here. Researchers warn that because the whale was on or near the beach so long, the oils have permeated the area, so unless there is some significant rainfall before the capelin come in, any fish caught on the beach might have a whale taste. So, when you head out to catch capelin this year, you might want to think about trying a different beach.

Bartlett, G. and S. Kinsella
2017 Whale Watch From Afar: Outer Cove Crowds Told to Back Off Dead Humpback. CBC NL, 22 May 2017.
Bartlett, G. and S. Kinsella
2017 Whale Woes Wrap Up: Carcass Leaves Outer Cove. CBC NL, 07 June 2017.
Dyer, P.
2017 "Whale Removal June 7, 2017". Report on file at the town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove.
Gibbons, J.
2017 Dead Whale Removal Underway at Outer Cove Beach. The Telegram, 07 June 2017.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Museum Highlights: Model Aircraft

In 2015, a new exhibit was opened in the Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Museum by then museum coordinator, Katie Harvey. It seems fitting that I find myself looking at our new exhibit about a plane crash everyday seeing as I have been researching Newfoundland and Labrador's aviation history for the past few years as PlaneCrashGirl. A lot of work went into creating the exhibit, including collecting stories from locals who remember the crash (Mena and Charlie Power, and Mary Roche), searching the field where the Stack House once stood, as well as putting the exhibit together.

The 1956 Outer Cove Plane Crash Exhibit

This post looks to focus on one object in that exhibit: a model of the aircraft.

On a foggy 09 January 1956, Col. Carl Payne of the United States Air Force petitioned his superior officer to let him take off is poor conditions as he was due to be at a conference in St-Hubert, Quebec. The small aircraft took off, and subsequently crashed into the home of Richard and Kitty Stack in Outer Cove. The house caught fire, but luckily no one in the home was injured. Col. Payne was less fortunate. His remains were found still in the aircraft. The majority of the plane was not recovered, and while mechanical failure could not be ruled out, the cause of the incident was ruled as pilot error. More information can be found here.

This model was created by Tony Bowdring of the International Plastic Modellers Society, St. John's Branch. It is an accurate representation of the Lockheed T-33A-1-LO, serial number 53-5143, which was flown by Col. Carl Payne on 09 January 1956. This aircraft was a two seated, training version of the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star which was the first operational jet fighter of the United States Air Force.

A closer look at the model

This model has all of the markings of the aircraft including the fine detail on the tail fin. For a detailed explanation of the model, please visit IPMS St. John's post on their blog.

A closer look at the model

The model is an important part of the exhibit as nothing remains of Richard and Kitty Stack's House, and is currently housed under the stories of Mena Power, Charlie Power and Mary Roche alongside artifacts from 642nd AC&W Squadron 64th Air Division, North East Air Command (NEAC), Red Cliff, Newfoundland.