Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Diving into history

shipwreckDiving enthusiasts can enjoy the underwater world just about anywhere, but not all vacation spots provide a history lesson to boot like they do in Conception Bay. There, visitors experience a neat dive, as well as a special sense of the past.

In 1997, the Ocean Quest Adventure Resort – a family business – started by offering advanced divers a tour of four intact shipwrecks in the depths of Conception Bay.

The tours offered in a 27-seat charter boat that was converted from a lobster boat explored what is locally known as the Bell Island Shipwrecks. These four iron ore carriers found their way to the local seabed in 1942 after being torpedoed by German U-boats in two separate attacks.

“We wanted to take stewardship and ownership of those wrecks to showcase them to the world,” says Rick Stanley, Ocean Quest’s owner.

While their main offering the dive to the shipwrecks quickly gained popularity, Rick believes that the secret to his successful tourism business has been diversification.

Today, the company which employs close to 30 people in peak season offers bed and breakfast accommodation, a year-round spa, day tours and packages and a host of other local services.

Rick and his family have repeat visitors from across Canada and around the world, including Australia, Germany, England, The Netherlands, the United States, and China.

But the lure of the sea is not limited to visitors. Ocean Quest recently helped more than 200 locals achieve basic diving certification and they’ve started a scuba club to help people maintain their enthusiasm for the activity.

“We have a great resort where the camaraderie is so special. You can have mixed groups of people here – French, German and English visitors, all here together in the same week,” says Rick.

Ocean Quest also offers other adventures for adrenaline-seekers such as diving under icebergs and snorkeling with humpback whales and all offered in a safe manner.

Rick said that over the years, their expansions couldn’t have taken place without ACOA’s help, and the connections they facilitated were useful, too.

“Our account manager has been very good with his advice, he’s given us some ideas and helped us partner with other clients. He wants us all to be successful.”

Currently, the company is focused on building a bigger boat, which will be launched this spring, to give the motor-coach crowd a tour of the bay after the diving tours in the morning.

Thanks to a unique mix of culture, heritage and history, visitors from near and far can dive in as never before to explore the mysteries of a sea-faring town.

Published August 15, 2013