Folklore and History

Check out the third Public Archaeology Twitter Conference at #PATC3. Below is a transcript of my contribution.

Public Archaeology Twitter Conference #PATC3

Title

Garden Hill, Newfoundland and Labrador

Aircraft Wreckage, Site Use, and Local Museums

by Dr. Lisa M. Daly, PhD

#PATC3 #PATC #aviation #archaeology

Photo credits: top left: Barnes et al. 1944; bottom left: Lisa M. Daly; right: Shannon K. Green

Slide 2 – Aviation History in Newfoundland and Labrador

Many NL communities have stories of aircraft overhead, famous aviators, missing flights, and plane crashes. Some communities were created or shaped by aviation and the building of aerodromes in the Second World War #PATC3

Map from Toporama 2019

Slide 3 – The Crash of USAAF 42-107427

USAAF C-54A 42-107427 crashed on the Port-au-Port Peninsula en route to Harmon Field, when sloppy weather blew it off course. 9 or 18 crew died on site, 3 later in hospital. Survivors walked to a nearby town where locals helped them. #PATC3 https://bit.ly/2Sck2ui


Slide 4 – Documentary & Archaeological Record

The site has been disturbed, the archaeological record is fragmented. The accident report is available & is a mix of technical language and witness statements. One newspaper article from 1944 rightfully worried about damage if a highway is built nearby #PATC3

Slide 5 – Public Presentation

At a presentation at the Stephenville #museum, I shared the info I had (arch and report), while the community shared related stories. The @western_star carried an article “archaeologist researching […] through local responders” #PATC3

Stephenville Regional Museum of History and Art. Photo by Lisa M. Daly

Slide 6 – Public Engagement

This engagement allowed me to hear the story of the museum’s propeller. It was recovered from the wreck and the tip removed to make spinning wheel spindle. It stayed in the craftman’s yard until the museum opened and a resident offered to collect it #PATC3

Photo by Lisa M. Daly

Slide 7 – Personal Touches

Witness statements tell how the crash was experienced “there was no confusion among the passengers” “I could hear the trees cracking” “the plane made a jerk like it hit an air pocket or something” “whether I walked through or was thrown though, I don’t know” #PATC3

Slide 8 – Map vs. Aerial Photo

Hand-drawn maps show what the author considered important to relate but do not capture the chaos and confusion seen in aerial site photos that show the actual wreckage. Personal, but at the same time, controlled. #PATC3

Slide 9 – Site Use

Since the crash, besides the propeller, the site was rarely visited. With the construction of a nearby road, the aircraft material has been mostly removed, a sign directs people to the site, a bench, campfires and decoratively arranged ceramics show site use #PATC3

Photo by Shannon K. Green

Slide 9 – Multidisciplinary

Combining all these elements gives a more complete story and makes it easier for people to engage and relate to the story, especially family and community members. Information is more accessible, less sterile, more personal. #PATC3

Slide 10 – Bias

This approach helps address bias, even your own. Sharing many elements of the story encourages others to share, and all the information can be critically assessed. Being open to new information encourages others to contribute, especially the public #PATC3

Slide 12 – Newfoundlanders as Storytellers

Newfoundlanders & Labradoreans love to hear & tell stories. Combining the archaeological, documentary, & folkloric elements to create the story of the site makes information accessible to interested parties & encourages others to share their part of the story #PATC3

Site Specific References

Barnes, George E., Barnie B. McEntire, and Robert H. Augustinus

1944 U.S. Army Forces Report of Aircraft Accident: Vicinity Cape St. George, Newfoundland. War Department: Harmon Field, Newfoundland.

Daly, L.M.

2015 Aviation Archaeology of World War II Gander: An Examination of Military and Civilian Life at the Newfoundland Airport. Doctoral thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland: Newfoundland.

Daly, L. and S. Green

2014 Garden Hill: The Crash of a USAAF C-54. Provincial Archaeology Office 2013 Archaeology Review, 12: 22-24.

Gale, Frank

1994 Association Wants 1944 Crash Site Preserved. The Western Star, 21 September 1994, p. 3.

Hurley, Corey

2013 Archaeologist Researching Crash Hill Through Local Responders. The Western Star, 09 August 2013 (online).

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Also posted on the Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Museum blog.

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.

Sources:
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.

Thank you to Darrell Hillier for passing on the relevant page from the base diary. It is now on file at the museum. I happened to be at the library when it was sent, and decided to look for the results of the search in the local papers.

 

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