An international team of divers has discovered the wreckage of a World War II B-24 Liberator bomber in Newfoundland’s Gander Lake.
Nearly 80 years after the B-24 Liberator bomber crashed and sank in Lake Gander, its wreckage has been found. This was done by an international team of divers, who located the remains of the plane at a depth of about 50 meters. The wreck is in pretty good condition and is located on a steep rock shelf.
But where did the wreckage of a B-24 Liberator bomber come from at the bottom of a Canadian lake in Newfoundland? Archival information shows that on September 4, 1943, shortly after takeoff, the machine had a malfunction and crashed into the surface of the water. The crash resulted in the deaths of four airmen who were on board.
Exactly seventy-nine years and one day later, an international team of divers has reached the wreck. The entire expedition was supported by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the Shipwreck Preservation Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and Ocean Quest Adventures. The joint effort paid off, and as a result of the documentation collected, experts identified the wreck.
The machine functions among those familiar with its history as “Liberator 589D.” The wreck lies on a steep rock shelf almost 50 meters below the surface of the water. The small amount of light and the temperature, which is about 6°C at this location, have kept the wreck in good condition.
Shortly after the disaster, in the fall of 1943, the military conducted expeditions to reach the wreck. All underwater activities were carried out by professional divers, who had specialized equipment such as diving helmets. Unfortunately, operations were abandoned when the wreck subsided and fell to greater depths, where it rests to this day.
It’s a very technical dive because the wreck is deep and in very dark water. We dived with cameras in really difficult conditions to see if we could find anything – said Jill Heinerth, a diver on the Expedition and Explorer-in-Residence team from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
The team took the first steps leading to the wreckage in the summer of 2022. In July, specialists performed 3D sonar scans that helped determine the exact location of the plane. Then it was time for divers to verify the object. During six dives, two-person teams went underwater to collect photo and video documentation of the wreck.
The idea, of course, was to gather as many distinctive features as possible to help identify the aircraft. The wreckage of the Liberator itself is covered with silt and rests on the bottom of the lake upside down with its landing gear. Among the items found at the bottom are a machine gun with ammunition, landing gear and survey instruments from the plane.
On board the aircraft at the time of the crash were Wing Commander J.M. Young, who piloted the plane, Squadron Leader John G. MacKenzie, Flying Officer V.E. Bill and Leading Aircraftman G. Ward. According to available information, there was an engine failure at takeoff. The aircraft then made a slow turn and descended into Gander Lake. Squadron Leader MacKenzie’s body was found during a search in 1943. Unfortunately, the remains of the other crew members remained inside the wreckage, which rolled deeper.
Photo by Maxwel Hohn, Jill Heinerth
Without a doubt, the Donegal coast has become synonymous with wreck diving for technical divers. Among other things, due to the wreck of the SS Empire Heritage, which we wrote about in the 17th issue of the DIVERS24 quarterly! The digital version of the magazine is available free of charge, while you can purchase the printed version in our online store.
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