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Scouring the sea floor
Author: Nicolas Croucher,, 09-09-2010

Raymond LeRiche has recovered many relics from the depths of the ocean floor surrounding the southwest coast of Newfoundland, but one of his more interesting finds is a 1000-pound torpedo. It now lies in some brush a short distance from his home in Cape Ray.



The torpedo was first hauled ashore by two men in the 1950s off of Rocky Barachois. One of the men had expertise in explosives and decided to detonate the device by dynamiting it out in the ocean, in case it was still active. The explosion caused it to sink back into the water. Through word of mouth, Mr. LeRiche was able to rediscover the shell in the 1970s.            




However, the torpedo is not his most prized discovery. A 600-pound canon that he hoisted from the ocean near Fox Roost is a memento from his past that he is still searching for today.After obtaining the large remnant of colonial warfare, he set out to the mainland for work and left the artifact on his father’s lawn. His father sold it to a passerby because it was in his way. Mr. LeRiche is not bitter about losing the item because it is the adventure of diving that he loves. An aspect of diving along the southwest coast that captivates him is the vast number of wrecks that sleep undisturbed along the sea-bed.

“You really never know what you’re going to find,” he said.   His advice for anyone interested in taking up diving as a hobby is to invest in an underwater camera because of the sheer beauty one can see while explori“One day my friends and I were down in 70 feet of water. It was overcast when we went down and the sun started to come up while we were down there. As we were coming up the sun began reflecting in such a way that it seemed like a burst of diamonds was surrounding me. It was the most beautiful thing I ever saw while diving,” he recalled. Aside from diving for historical objects or for pleasure, he volunteered his skills to the RCMP and the Canadian Coast Guard for body recovery after he became certified by the Bay of Islands Scuba Club in 1972. 

Before the RCMP or the Coast Guard had a specialized diving unit in Newfoundland, it was done by local volunteers.“It was hard work mentally, but we did it for the good of the communities,” said Mr. LeRiche.His first diving job was a body recovery operation that occurred in South Twin Lake, just outside of Deer Lake.There were 14 men who were involved in the recovery. They spent a full week scouring the lake’s bottom but to their dismay, the bodies they were seeking could not be found.   After becoming certified, Mr. LeRiche along with other divers from Port aux Basques founded the Southwest Diving Club where they taught scuba diving to those eager to learn.In the 1970s, the course to obtain proper certification was nine months long. Mr. LeRiche feels that the six week course required today to become certified is not as effective. He believes that anyone learning how to scuba dive needs to build a high confidence level that is gained through a great deal of practice to ensure knowledge and comfort of the erratic physics of water.   In his opinion, the most important aspect of diving is developing an open-minded and safety conscious attitude. “During those times you wouldn’t even put on an oxygen tank or a regulator until about three months into the course. They made sure you knew the basics first. You’re down there in an unknown environment and if you do not know exactly what to do, you or someone else could die,” he warned. “It’s easy enough to become tangled on the ocean floor.”

In contrast, Winston Keeping from Port aux Basques had a natural interest in diving and never took a formal training course.“I picked it up as I went along. I just bought the gear and jumped overboard,” he laughed.

The thing he loves most about diving is the sport of it.“From March onward in Newfoundland the water is very clear. There is a lot of visibility and it makes for a good dive,” he said. “There are a lot of mussels to be picked too.”In his younger years he dove many wrecks including the R.M.S Ascania, which sunk off Cape Ray in 1918. He also explored wrecks off the coast of Labrador and St. Mary’s Bay.

The most famous wreck he searched was the U.S.S Pullox that grounded near St. Lawrence in 1942. This incident was famous for the compassion and equality the residents of St. Lawrence showed an African-American crewmember who nearly died. 

When he became a commercial diver, Mr. Keeping worked often for Marine Atlantic but he found it infringed upon the recreational aspect of diving.  “It took a lot of time away from diving for pleasure,” he said.