All posts for the month June, 2017

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.

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.


Also posted at the Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove blog

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. Photo 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 (who had parachuted to the B-36 crash in Burgoyne’s Cove), 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 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 Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove 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.

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 Beach this past spring. 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.